Crossing Out Dragons


     Okay, I’ll just come right out and confess it: I am addicted to maps. I’m not sure what they call that addiction (cartoholism?), but whatever it is, I have it and I don’t really want to be cured. 

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That Beautiful 'Crack'


*Every Liberty Bell should be cracked! 

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"The Gates Shall Not Prevail"


      The distance between Taipei and Southern California is only a quarter of the way around the globe, but on one particular day, I felt like I'd fallen off the edge of it. I think it goes down as the loneliest, strangest moment I've ever experienced.  

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Da Vinci's 'Roadblock'


 

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Your Lifeboat! Get In!


I've read shocking things about the sinking of the Titanic; I wonder if you have as well. When the celebrated "Unsinkable" suddenly went down—"Why, not even God Himself could sink this ship"  was how one employee of the White Star Line had put it; did you know?—but when it went down into the icy waters of the Atlantic, it took 1,527 people along with it.

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Who Rescued Jessica Lynch?


      Back in 2003, we were all deeply moved by the details of the heroic rescue of Jessica Lynch. The US Army Private First Class was injured and captured during an ambush of her convoy while crossing the Euphrates near the town of Nasiriyah, during the invasion of Iraq. 

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No Time To Waste




     

      Last Sunday was awesome! I'm so glad we did this. It was so good to be together again and it was a very important start! Of course, it wasn't what we are all accustomed to, but we'll try to return to full normalcy just as soon as we possibly can.  

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These Doors Will Open


 

 

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His Image...in You!


 

      I read the most wonderful story about a devout follower of the horrible Peter Singer. Perhaps you've heard the name. He is the so-called 'scholar' at Princeton University who teaches all his students not only that abortion is perfectly fine, but that infanticide should be legal as well if ever a child is 'unfit' for normal everyday living, or even just an 'inconvenience' to the parents. 

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Singing Through the Uproar, Winging Through the Turns

don't suppose I fit the stereotype of a 'birdwatcher'—and I'm not one, really. I'm a hundred pounds too heavy, not that easy to conceal and way too impatient. That's always been my impression of bird-watching anyway. But that day in the Rockies, when I came across that Water Ouzel, I must admit I was enthused! 

I'd read about this amazing bird from one of John Muir's books—he devotes an entire chap-ter to it in The Mountains of California. And—just like a new vocabulary word that, once you've learned it, confronts you everywhere you look—not long after I had read about the Water Ouzel, I saw one!

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Apocalyptic?

few weeks ago, as life trudged on under the shadow of the "V", one troubled soul came up to me and sadly asked: "Do you think we are in the end times, Pastor? The news keeps using the word 'apocalyptic'".  

Oh, now why am I not surprised at that? This from the same group that used the word 'Carmageddon', a few years ago, to describe congested freeways in LA.

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No 'Titans' Needed

Speaking of this marvelous, courageous missionary—Darlene Deibler Rose—(I did last Sunday. Did you miss it? Check out the asterisk * below), there is a delightful moment, right at the very beginning of her incredible journey, that reveals how graciously our God works in our lives. Yes, in spite of our weaknesses and limitations. Or, rather, let's say using our weaknesses and limitations. Oh, yes! In fact, He delights in doing so. Can you remember that dear Christian, when you find yourself feeling weak and ineffective?

She was 21 years old and just one into her marriage with Russell when they arrived on the mission field. It was 1938. In fact, they stepped off the ship at Java on their first anniversary. A few days later it was on to Macassar, where Darlene remained at the mission's headquarters, studying the native languages of New Guinea (can you imagine?). Russell plunged into the jungles to explore the numberless unreached tribes and villages that dotted the rivers below Wissell Lake. It was just too dangerous for her to go in with him. It would be a seven month separation. 

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The Top of the Trail

All this talk about—well, the "v"-word; I'm not gonna say it; I'm sure you don't want me to and my mom taught me not to—has got me thinking about that Gore Creek Trail. Oh, there's no risk of "v" up there! 

Of all the wonders of Colorado, that beautiful Gore Creek tops the list, in my estimation. I once counted 56 different wildflowers, each blooming like crazy in the middle of August, and I wasn't even halfway to the top.  

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The Latest (I Think)...

Well! I'd like to keep you up to date but, for the life of me, I don't know what that means any more. Do you? And as I write this, it will change anyway. But here goes. Please read carefully because because there are a lot of changes here. God willing, they will be very temporary. We will have to cancel our in-person Sunday Worship time and other gatherings for the present. It grieves me deeply to do so, but I want to be a good steward of the Lord's protection upon our congregation and our entire community. I want to observe the President's call (and Mr. Pence's) to avoid gatherings of ten or more. As I write this, Orange County is just reporting its 22nd case of the virus and the County Board is discussing a ban "on all gatherings". It hasn't passed yet, but I'm sure it will; we will have to comply with it. So here is what we have come up with: Our Sunday morning and evening worship services will not take place in person. At 8:45, 10:30 AM and 5:00 PM they will be streamed on YouTube for you and your family and a small group of friends to worship at home. We hope and pray that will suffice for the time being. In fact, I hope it will be a time of growth and encouragement for you as you share the opportunity with close friends and family. You know? We're very close to starting a series on the wonderful Book of Acts, where the Gospel exploded around the world from people who had gathered in housechurches. We'll have our own experience as a backdrop. Here is another important option dear ones: I want you to know that this House of God will always be open to you. Our sanctuary has always been open 9-5 Monday through Friday, and that is not going to change. But now it will be open to you at anytime on Sundays from 9:00AM to 6:30 PM You are welcome to come at any time on Sunday to pray, worship and encourage a few others. This is the Lord's House, and if you belong to Him, it is your House too. Please use it! Be blessed when you do. No one is going to be turned away from the House of the Lord. We simply ask that you observe our President's—and the CDC's—guidelines by keeping each group to less than ten. There are four corners of our sanctuary, an entryway and other rooms that we can use. We will have an Elder, a Deacon or Deaconess present just to watch over our Sanctuary and keep it open if no one is present at the time. Now, we're closing up in the evening, just to keep our facility and equipment safe, but—you know?—if you are a member of our church, you can have a key and come anytime you want! I'm serious. Like I said: this is His House, and for you who are His, that makes it yours! Every Sunday, if it is used in this manner, our sanctuary will be stringently sanitized at 10 AM, 12:00 PM, 2:00 PM and 7:00 PM. Our beautiful FightNight will be effected the same way (like I said: I'm grievin'!). We will have to practice the same "open church" approach: there will be no dinner and no official gathering. Our Sunday and Wednesday children's programs are closed for the time being but will be available through digital Sunday School lessons. Last Sunday was so awesome! So many of you came and it was such a sweet time of worship. I went home so blessed, assuming that we could do that forever. My how things change! You know, back in 1918, when the socalled Spanish Influenza struck with such force, Americans everywhere were forced to endure the very same shutdowns and restrictions in a desperate effort to stem the contagion. Churches had to shut down then too. The virus raged for over a year, claiming 600,000 lives. Do you know what is happening in the wake of all this? Americans are learning: they are not in control. We are not the "masters of our fate"; we are not the "captains of our souls". We are also learning how utterly fragile and precarious is the sense of well-being we have enjoyed all these years. And may Americans, everywhere, learn one more thing from all this: to fall on our knees before God and repent of our personal and national sins. It is certainly time we did! Love you dear OT. RAS

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Hold on to That Key!

"Come!" says the Master in one of Jesus' wonderful parables, "Inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world!" Mt 25: 34  

What a marvelous promise this is to us all. Yes, to you too, dear faithful believer!—this promise includes you! God has prepared a Kingdom for you, from the very "foundation of the world." And your faith in Him now is the key to it all! 

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The Butterfly Effect

 An interesting thing happened in the lab of a well-known MIT meteorologist, way back in the 60's. It has resounded throughout the scientific community ever since. 

It was 1961, to be precise, when quite by accident, Edward Lorenz made an incredible discovery. He was working on a computer model that would generate predictive weather patterns. In this particular case, he had already run the numbers once, and the computer had given him it's predictive scenario; but of course, he was supposed to double-check the work so he ran the numbers a second time.  

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Right-Side-Up At Last!

The story of Liz Curtis Higgs is an amazing one, and it drives home what we are dealing with here, dear faithful OT, whenever we proclaim this matchless Savior! 

Liz Curtis Higgs was one of the best-known disc jockeys in America at one time, but perhaps I should call her  "one of the most notorious". Liz was known for her wild, ungodly, profane presence behind the mic. In fact, on several of her stations, Liz' show followed Howard Stern's show every morning and one day, during the switch between shows—you know how they kind of 'hand-off' to one another—Howard Stern jokingly said: "You know Liz, you really do need to clean up your act."   Now, when Howard Stern lectures you to clean up your act, you're in serious trouble! 

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He Turns it Into a Rescue

There was a brief period, during our ministry days among the Hakka, in Taiwan, that I now look back upon as a kind of 'dark ages'. Not that the work wasn't always a challenge. But at one point, a sad conflict erupted within our team and—oh!—the more I tried to solve it, the worse it got. Our prowling Enemy hated what we had started in that town, and he was working overtime to rip our little church apart. 

We tried our very best to conceal it from the boys, but I'm sure they could sense it. For Sharilyn and I, it was a dark time, as one thing after another just conspired to plunge us into despair. 

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The Power of a Pure Heart

Last Wednesday, after Pastor Steve Barke's beautiful grave side service, I spent most of the drive back up from Oceanside thinking of what a great champion of Truth he had been. Oh, yes!—throughout all the days of his ministry at Beacon's Bible Church in Encinitas. Steve and I began our ministries at about the same time: I've always viewed our two as sister-churches because of that. And because of our kindred spirit. Steve never hesitated to speak Truth to this world that is so tossed and torn by lies and slander. He made no apologies. He would never yield ground to any so-called 'thought police' even if they came poundin' on his door! God bless him for that! And God bless you, too dear Renee: you are so much a part of what Steve is! About half-way up the coast, my thoughts turned to Dr. Stockman: another great, unapologetic champion of Truth. Steve was just like him. I'm referring to the great protagonist in Henrik Ibsen's wonderful play—my favorite of them all—An Enemy of the People. There are a lot of wonderful Norwegian literary works, but this one tops the list in my book. If you haven't read An Enemy of the People, go get yourself a copy. You won't regret it. It's easy to read—only 90 pages long—and you probably won't put it down once you get started. The story is all about "purity" and "pollution" and the deadly difference between the two. The "pollution", as the story begins, is seeping into a quaint little seaside resort, but in the end you suddenly realize: no, it's been seeping into the hearts of these people. And the "purity"? Oh, that will be found in the heart of one man—and one man only, of all the men in town. His name is Dr. Stockman! I won't spoil the story by telling you the details, but something terrible is happening to this charming little town. Dr. Stockman is the man who discovers it and he doesn't hesitate to make it known. And, of course, that gets him in trouble. People don't want him to warn about the pollution. For the sake of the town's lucrative tourism industry, everyone thinks he should hush things up. Pretty soon, Dr. Stockman is incredibly unpopular: he loses his practice, loses all standing in society and finally ends up being hated by everyone in town. In their eyes, he is "an enemy of the people." The central theme revolves around two burning questions: Do you do what is right, even when it is costly to do so? Do you speak the Truth when Truth is despised? I'm sure, you know how Dr. Stockman answered those questions. The final scene—and I absolutely love it!— takes place in the doctor's living room, with his wife and three kids all huddled around him, on the floor, behind a sofa. Rocks are crashing in through the windows. There is shattered glass all over the floor. And Dr. Stockman has his arms around them all, hugging them to himself. There is defiance in his eyes and exultation in his voice, as he calls out to his kids: "Save those rocks, we'll one day make a monument with them!" I love it! The last thing you see, as the curtain comes down, are the looks on the faces of Mrs. Stockman and the kids. They are looking up at the world's most hated man, and what they see...is an absolute giant! The common denominator for people like Stockman?—or Steve Barke!—a "pure heart". It's just that simple. People of pure heart don't mix with "guile" and "subterfuge". Oil will mix with water before that ever happens! A pure heart is a powerful thing, no matter how hard the world tries to crush it. "His strength was like the strength of ten, because his heart was pure," we read about one of Tennyson's knights. Jesus said something even greater, in this regard: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God!" Mt 5:8 Oh, yes they will! When no one else can see Him, they will! Peter tells some of the women in his church that their unbelieving husbands "... will be won over without a word...when they see the purity and the reverence of your lives." 1 Pet 3: 1-2 And Paul tells us all, in his letter to the Philippians, that the pure in heart will... "...shine like stars in the universe, blameless and pure, children of God, without fault in a crooked and depraved generation." Phil 2: 15 America was founded by men and women who longed to be pure in heart; and who longed to be right with God. They taught their kids to long for it too. And that, dear family, is precisely why God has blessed this nation for so long. But—oh!—will He bless her still? How alarming, the "pollution" that is seeping in now, into every quarter and corner of our land! And the two great burning questions, dear family of Christ, have not changed in the slightest: Will you do what is right, even when it is costly? Will you speak the Truth when the truth is hated? Yes? Oh, then you have a "pure heart" too! See you Sunday! RAS

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Currents of Discontent

       Every morning Sharilyn and I read our Bibles together—we're still in Isaiah—then we pray for the day ahead before I head out for the office. And always we pray with thankful hearts for you, dear faithful OT! What a treasure this dear House of God is to us. 

Then in the evening, I read her a chapter from a book. TV is out for us: ever since HDTV came out, blasting the living with some kind of particle stream, Sharilyn has not been able to tolerate it. 

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