Thursday, April 29, 2010

Destined Appointment

Last Sunday night, I worked from midnight to 8:30 am Monday morning.  We are in the midst of the big push for the follow-up in the 2010 Census.  During this "graveyard" shift, I began to talk to one of my co-workers about his faith.  Ray (his real name) told me his pilgrimage from atheism to Christianity.  I was highly intrigued and pressed him on how this transformation occurred.  He said there were many factors, but one book really hit him hard.  It was The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel.  I have read some of Strobel's works, but I have not read this book all the way through.  Strobel is a journalist who investigated the claims of Christ and turned to Jesus through his search.  Through this book, Ray became convinced of the reality of the work of Jesus Christ for salvation for all, even him!  He gave me his phone number and we will chat together more later!  It was an appointment God had set up for me that night!

On Wednesday morning, I was given the topic of "The Work of the Holy Spirit" for my morning speaking devotion time at Coronado Stone.  It was fascinating to share with those who came to the prayer time.

Wednesday night, we had our final session of the Truth Project.  This series is deep.  It is heavy.  It is like going to a seminary class setting and hearing a man talk about the issues of our culture and life that God speaks about in the Bible.  But it is right on target and powerful, well worth the time.  This last session was the wrap-up and became quite personal and emotional.  A fitting end to the series.

Thursday (yesterday) I was approached by the manager of my department to consider taking a promotion to a supervisor level in the office.  We talked at length and I accepted.  It will not take effect for a couple of weeks, but I felt honored and favored by God to be asked.  My immediate supervisor has let everyone know that I am "Pastor Galen" when I am nice, but then I am "Census Galen" when I have to talk straight and forceful to some who need to get back on task in the production time of work.  We laugh about it!

Last night, I went to Walgreens to pick up some ink cartridges I had dropped off on "Earth Day" lsat week.  They had an advertised special to refill cartridges on "Earth Day" for one dollar ($1) apiece.  I had left six cartridges, so last night I paid $6 for them, saving over $80 in the transaction.  Amazing deal!  While there, a young man standing in the photo area called me by name.  At first I didn't recognize him.  When he reminded me that he was Herbie who had lived in the Sober Houses at Coronado Stone some years ago, I knew instantly who he was.  We talked and enjoyed seeing each other.  One of the checkout ladies (in fact, the one who checked out my purchases) said, "So you are a pastor?"  Great lead line for me to jump on.  I said yes, and a discussion began about her need to get back in church.  I gave her my business card and we will see what happens.  It is absolutely astonishing how God places people in my path.

Today, Sondra's brother Alden went to a job fair in a nearby town and got a lead on a job with Chevron, a company he worked for and retired from.  He is excited.  We are asking God to open the doors for Alden in these days of his progress forward in life.

I will write more after this weekend.  Yesterday was my grandson Jace's 10th birthday in Oklahoma.  Tomorrow is my daughter (who lives close by here in Ontario) Crystal's 31st birthday.  We are going down to San Diego to stay overnight and celebrate her special day.  This coming Sunday in the worship service, we will be ordaining a young man named Jacob, who is also graduating from California Baptist University on Saturday.  What a weekend!  Hope yours is filled with joy and excitement, the kind that wells up from a glorious journey with Jesus every day.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Elephant Bar

No, I didn't go to a bar to drink!  The Elephant Bar is a chain of restaurants.  Sondra and I met up with Mr. Freeman and his wife for a little dinner tonight.  I just thought Elephant Bar would get your attention...ha ha.

This afternoon, I got a call from my brother David.  He is scheduled to be released from federal custody on Saturday, June 5.  Just about six weeks away.  I have been in touch with the California parole department and we are working out a plan to get an extra day of travel after picking David up in Texas.  We may go to Oklahoma for a half day to see family and relatives.  Nothing in concrete for plans yet, so we will wait and see in the days ahead.
The days seem to just fly by.  This past week was a blur.  In the Census Bureau office of Riverside where I work, we are gearing up for the NRFU operation.  NRFU stands for Non-Response Follow-Up.  If you didn't send in your census report, you will get a visit sometime in the next month probably.  We are putting together all the materials for the "enumerators" to go door to door and follow up to get the data on population in the area.  It really has been interesting and fascinating to see this decennial census (ten-year census) up close and in detail.

On Wednesday, our Truth Project focused on the aspect of work and labor.  God ordained the aspect of work, as he worked six days and rested.  He set the pattern for us.  We have a divine role in our labor and work.  It is a joy to behold, to see what God does through us and in us as we work.

On Friday night, I went to the VA hospital in Loma Linda for an appointment.  My doctor had scheduled me for a 9 pm appointment to have a Sleep Test.  It was to determine if I have sleep apnea disorder.  I checked in, got all "wired" up, and was put to bed around 9:30 pm, sleeping without any machines.  At midnight, just like the technician told me would happen, I was awakened to put on the mask that was hooked up to the CPAP (continuous positive airflow pressure) machine and I then went back to sleep.  I was awakened a little before 6 am, as that was the scheduled end time for this test.  The tech handed me the mask and said, "Join the club!"  I will get my CPAP machine to take home in about 3 weeks from the VA pharmacy.  The tech said that, according to the readouts, I "slept like a baby" from 2 am on through the rest of the night with the machine.  I drove home well rested!

Then, as soon as I got home, Sondra and I got ready to drive to Anaheim (but not to Disneyland...ha).  The regional meeting for the Southern California section of the Potawatomi tribe was to be at the Sheraton there in Anaheim.  Jason (our oldest who lives in Oklahoma and works for the tribe) was flown out with other administrative team members for this event.  So, we got to see him and go to dinner later.  We went to Bubba Gump's Shrimp House close by.  Fun time and good food.

At the meeting, other family members attended as well.  My brother John and his wife Cathy were there, as well as nephew John Ross and wife (Caryn) and their kids (Hannah and Seth).  Nephew Kirk and his wife Tamra and their son Kyle made it too.  We had our own little table of "Bergeron" descendants.

We also took little grand-daughter Bailey with us to the meeting, then brought her home with us to spend the night.  She is growing and walking.

Church today was a special time.  I preached on the story of Jeremiah being thrown into a mud slime pit, a prophet who was treated poorly because of his message of repentance.  When we have our times of being in "the pit" of life, we must do three things.  First, believe that God is the great creator of all, who is holy and loves his creation.  Second, we must pray in a way that asks God what his design is.  We like to "ask and get" when we pray, but we must be selfless and follow his purposes.  Third, we must wait.  It is hard to wait.  Many of us get impatient with things in life.  The seven major commands of God are go, come, wait, sit, stand, walk and run.  We need to take special time to wait for God's awesome timing.  Jeremiah had to wait, but God delivered him.

Tonight, I go in at midnight to work the "graveyard shift" at the Census office.  I haven't worked that shift for
"many moons."  Hope tonight goes well.  So, good night to you and hope you had a blessed week too!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Blessings and Ministry

It's only Tuesday, but a lot is going on already this week.

I got a phone message from AAA Auto Club and they said I won a prize in some drawing held last Saturday.  I went by the AAA office and was given a $45 book on The Art of Cruising.  I love to go on cruises, so that was fun.

Monday evening I sat down with a man who has been attending our church this past year.  He has been in a rehab complex for the last two years.  He has many issues, mainly due to Agent Orange when he served in Vietnam.  He has no one to advocate for him, so I may take on that responsibility.  He has asked me to be his appointed Power of Attorney.  I told him I would consider it.

I have been working at a training site for the Census Bureau in a nearby city yesterday and today (Monday and Tuesday).  It has been amazing how my pastoral work has become known among the people that I work with.  It has been exciting and rewarding to talk to many about my life and faith.

I got an email from a pastor friend who has a couple that is going through some relationship issues in their marriage.  They want an outside counselor to help, and this pastor gave them my name.  Wow, it really is amazing how ministry opportunities surface through friendships.

I got a phone call today from a man that I used to work with at Coronado Stone.  Both he and his wife work there still.  His wife's mother is critically ill and not expected to live very many more days.  They have asked me to come and sit with them for some serious talks about death and decisions.

I also got some phone calls from my sister and two brothers.  They had received calls from our brother David, who said he will definitely be released from federal custody on June 5!  I have not been home in the evenings lately so I did not receive his call, but I did get the recording that he tried.  In just six weeks, we will go to pick him up to bring back to California for some state parole time to finish.  We are hoping those months will be dismissed because of "good time" in Big Spring, Texas.

I may have an opportunity for a promotion at work.  I can't say much about it now, but I hope to be able to share about it in the days to come.

Lastly, I read the blog from my atheist friend asking my thoughts on more apparent contradictions in the Bible.  Just for the record, I have my thoughts and certainty on his question.  But, alas, I will not answer it in print.  If a person has that many questions and puts them out one at a time to draw attention to the queries, I am not interested in that.  There are sources to be found that give adequate and valuable answers.  My time right now is too precious to waste on silly questions that do not affect eternity.  Sorry about that.  My answers in previous blogs apparently are not sufficient to warrant a change of heart.  The answer to this latest question from me probably would not satisfy, either.  It's just a matter of playing the game of chess, only with words and thoughts and philosophies and theology.  Can't do it, my friend.

I have such joy and excitement about how God is working and living in me at the present.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sunday Observations

It is Sunday evening, and it has been a good day.

This morning in our worship service, we highlighted the five California Baptist University students who attend our church.  Of great note is that all five will be serving in various ministries and mission projects this summer.  Four are girls, one guy.

Of the four girls, one will be going to Japan to help our missionaries there for 2 1/2 months.  One will be going to Rwanda to teach English.  One is going to a Clinic Center in Arlington, Texas, to help with her nursing skills (as she is studying in the nursing program at CBU).  The other young lady will be the host coordinator at the front desk of Glorieta Baptist Conference Center in New Mexico.  We have told her of our wonderful memories of many Glorieta trips over the years.  The young man is going to Jordan to work with nationals there.

During our worship hour, I "interviewed" them all one by one in front of the congregation.  It was a joy to hear their testimonies and see how God has been preparing them even in their rebellious years of teenage life.  They shared their salvation experiences, as well as how God has called them in specific ways in this past year.  My message was about Jesus sending out his disciples with a mission, a task.  I used the letters of the word "task" for my outline.  The "t" stands for "trust," the great trust and belief in an awesome God who loves us and sends us.  The "a" stands for "adore."  We must show praise and adoration to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords each and every day.  The "s" stands for "service."  We must be about the business of serving our Master who directs our steps.  The "k" stand for "know."  We are to spend time and know the Lord more deeply as we mature in our spritual journey and grow deeper in our faith.

At the end of the worship service, I had them all stand in front of the altar, spread out evenly across the front, asking the congregation to come up individually and pray for at least one of these students.  This was our time to "commission" them to their task given to them by the Lord.

Did I tell you that all five of them have helped each Thursday afternoon to feed the homeless at Fairmount Park near downtown Riverside.  Week by week they come and feed and pray with those individuals that the world throws away and treats with dishonor.

After church, we took them all (except Jacob, as he had other plans) to the Cheesecake Factory at Victoria Gardens near our church in Rancho Cucamonga.  It was a delight to share the time of eating and fellowship with them.  And the food was delicious.  During the meal, the girls told us that the prayer time of commission and encouragement was so meaningful.  What a special day!

Oh, by the way, this is a note to Vicki Smith.  Last summer, she bought me a book while we were in Tennessee.  It was titled "The Barbarian Way," a book by Erwin McManus.  I just finished it last week.  I put it away and didn't read it for the longest time.  The timing was right, so I picked it back up and it had so much to say about "fake" Christianity.  McManus says the truth when he says we, as the Christian community, need to put away the facades and encumbrances so that we can get back to the primal way of living for Jesus.  And that is what he calls the Barbarian Way!  I loved it.

Buy it and read it.  Tell me what you think.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

San Diego Trip and More

This week just flew by.

On Monday, I went to the VA hospital for a dermatology appointment.  I had some spots on face, arms and scalp that needed looked at.  The scalp lesion is benign.  The cheek and arm spots were removed with the liquid nitrogen squirts.  My right cheek was a little red afterwards, so I asked the doctor if I needed to cover it with a bandage.  The doctor (a lady) said, "No, but you better not enter any beauty contests for at least two weeks."  I have one more week.....ha ha.

On Monday afternoon, I received an email from the Executive Director of the California Southern Baptist Convention, Fermin Whitaker.  He acknowledged the ministry we are doing at Vision Plus and gave me a word of encouragement.  He wrote that he had seen where I had Dr. Ellis (CBU) come to preach.  I then wrote back and invited Dr. Whitaker to come preach some time as well.  He said he would.

On Tuesday, I got an email from my friend who claims to be an atheist.  I posed many questions to him in the past, such as "what is good" and "where does one find the definition of good."  Interesting answers, to be sure.  It was curious that he took so little time to answer my questions, but rather took so much time to degrade the Christian answers to life suggested by the questions.  Makes me wonder.

On Wednesday, we had the Truth Project (Week 10) shown.  It was concerning the American Experiment by the Founding Fathers, with their commitment to name the Almighty God as the source of freedom and government for the early colonies.  Many documents by the first settlers incorporated the call of God to bring the gospel to this new land.  How far we have come from those spiritual and humble beginnings.

Yesterday (Friday) we left in the evening for San Diego.  We had an errand to take care of today (Saturday) with an appointment at 11 am.  So, I booked a room for $45 through Priceline, and got the Marriott in Mission Valley.  We took Alden with us for a little getaway.  After our appointment this morning, we ate breakfast at the Broken Yolk cafe in the Gaslamp District downtown.  After spending some hours walking around La Jolla Cove, we went to Ocean Beach to eat at the famous Hodad's hamburger joint.  Old and quaint and fun.  Great burgers, frings (fries and onion rings mixed) and milk shakes.  Then back home.  Quick trip, very enjoyable.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sunday with the President

It was such an honor and a blessing to have Dr. Ron Ellis, President of California Baptist University, with us this morning in our worship hour.

He is a visionary, a man with purpose and drive and has done a magnificent job of growing CBU and its facilities.  More than that, he is personable and is readily open to sharing his spiritual side of life.  He was a pastor many years ago, but felt a calling to pursue academics and the role of administration.  He has been given opportunities by God to be the president of two Baptist colleges/universities.  He has made many mission trips overseas and has also just been elected the chairman of the independent college association for California.

At the annual homecoming event this past February, I asked him to come to our little church and speak.  Many college presidents just do an overview of the challenge in the realm of impacting students for the Kingdom of God.  I was taken slightly aback when I talked with Dr. Ellis' secretary prior to setting a date for him to come.  She said, "Do you want him to speak or to preach?"  My standard answer is always, "Let him preach."

This morning his message was from Matthew 28:16-20.  Yes, you will recognize that the last two verses are what are commonly referred to as The Great Commission.  But the two verses preceding that are especially noteworthy as well.  Despite the many days and months and years with Jesus, some disciples and followers still doubted.  That has amazing implications for us too.  We may have been Christians for a long time, but we are still succeptible to times of doubt when our faith falters for a moment.

But, glory to God, Jesus never gives up on us.  He still gives the charge:  "Go!"  Even when we are not as strong or faithful or joyous in our spiritual journey, Jesus still loves us and encourages us and says, "Go!"

Have you decided to always "go" when Jesus says?

Lastly, we have five wonderful CBU students who attend.  They were so proud to have their president at their church today.  All of them are being led to serve both here in the U.S. and overseas this summer.  Next Sunday we will have a "commissioning service" of sorts to send them off.  Here they are with Dr. Ellis:

Saturday, April 10, 2010

I'm Not A Scholar But...

It seems as if someone hopes to challenge the faith and belief system of the Christian life.  My good friend in Oklahoma, the secular humanist, has taken two verses from the Old Testament that (at first glance) seem to be contradictory.  He has asked for an explanation.

There are those who point out apparent contradictions in the Bible in order to prove that it cannot be trusted for 100% accuracy. The sad thing is that many, if not most, of these people are professing Christians. It is true that our English translations may contain translation errors because the translators were not perfect, but the original manuscripts do not contain errors or contradictions.

So, if doubt is the point of this apparent contradiction, then let's put it to rest.  Again, I must say, those who are hoping to cast aspersion on Christianity will not be persuaded by logic and reasoning.  It is a thing of the heart, something that is on the other side of the spectrum of unbelief.  So, I must conclude, even if I give a plausible and clearly defined answer to a supposed contradiction, I am almost sure that anyone opposed to my faith will not be convinced.  But, it's good for me to be challenged and to present an answer.

So, let's take a look at an apparent contradiction in the King James translation of the Bible.  To do that, let us take a quick glace at the Hebrew words used in the verses from Kings and Chronicles.  (By the way, I did take Hebrew in seminary, but I still do not qualify as an expert or scholar!)

Sometimes a contradiction doesn't exist in the original manuscripts but it shows up in our English translations. How many stalls did Solomon have for his horses? 4,000 or 40,000?:

"And Solomon had four thousand stalls for horses and chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen; whom he bestowed in the chariot cities, and with the king at Jerusalem." (2 Chronicles 9:25)

"And Solomon had forty thousand stalls of horses for his chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen." (1 Kings 4:26)

This is possibly the most commonly mentioned supposed contradiction in the entire Bible. If we check the Hebrew text we discover that the numbers 4,000 and 40,000 were accurately translated, so how do we reconcile this? As it turns out, the word "stalls" in these verses is not the same Hebrew word. However, they are extremely similar to each other.

The word on the left is the Hebrew word translated "stalls" in 2 Chronicles 9:25 and the word on the right is the one translated "stalls" in 1 Kings 4:26. They are very similar, but not the same. The Hebrew word on the left has the letter "yod" in it.  It is absent from the word on the right.  This is critical to note.  The difference here is as subtle as the English difference between "stable" and "stall." They both are used in relation to the housing of horses, but a stall can be a portion of a stable.

In other words, a stable can have many stalls and I believe that is how we are to understand the difference in these verses. The Hebrew word on the left is similar to our Englih word "stable" and therefore Solomon's stables each had 10 stalls; or perhaps he had 4,000 stables, each with varying number of stalls that added up to 40,000 stalls in total.

Therefore, there is no contradiction at all in the verses cited above.  (Just for the record, I looked this up and found most of the information on and went to my Hebrew just to make sure.)

I can believe this so easily.  To me, what would be very hard for an unbeliever to grasp is the life, miracles, preaching, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus who we know from history lived on this earth a little over 2,000 years ago.  I believe that readily as it has transformed my life.  I can personally testify to it.  No one can deny or challenge that.  It is a truth within me.  I believe.

What would stop you from believing?

Easter and More

So much going on.  Working full-time again and pastoring and home life all add up to stretched time frames of life.  But, and still, life is good.

First, Easter Sunday is always a thrill.  It's not the dressing up, the wonderful meal or the phone calls.  Yes, all those things are very nice and enjoyable.  But, the emotion of Easter gets to me each time I preach on that very special day.  What an awesome God I serve who loved me more than I love myself!  The fact that Jesus would endure the cruel punishment and go to the cross for me is almost unthinkable.  And, sadly, so many around us don't believe he died for them.

I preached on the resurrection using the letters of the word "EASTER."  The first letter "E" stands for the Empty Tomb, that which provides hope because of a testimony of victory over death and hell.  "A" stands for the Angel who had the message and invitation to investigate the evidence of the risen Savior.  "S" stands for the Surprise that the women and disciples experienced, doubting and not sharing in the expectation of the presence of a living Lord initially.  "T" stand for the call to Tell others about the Good News, sharing it with one person at a time.  The second "E" stands for the Excitement by Jesus' followers on that momentous Sunday morning, seeing and talking to a Jesus who conquers sin and death and the grave.  Finally, "R" stands for the Resurrected Lord who paid the price for every single person to find salvation and peace and comfort for all eternity.

At the end of the sermon, I invited anyone and everyone to take a piece of paper and bring it to the front at the altar.  This piece of paper was printed and placed inside the bulletin, as it contained words of sin and pain and hurt in detailed words (such as selfishness, hate, addiction, pride, anger, lying, stealing, etc.).  During the week, I asked a man in the church to make a wooden cross.  So, during the invitation Sunday, I asked those who would, to come to the front with that piece of paper (torn to show their particular sin) folded up and ready to nail to the cross on the altar.  The pounding of the nails into that cross was powerful imagery of what happened to our Savior.  It was a very moving moment for me, especially, as I nailed mine as well.

On Easter Sunday afternoon, we had a wonderful time of eating.  Friends and family were here to celebrate the great day.  Right after our late lunch, God shook up the world around here to remind us of what happened on that first Easter weekend when a great earthquake shook the world to signify an amazing transformation that would happen to all who believe.  Sunday, just as a sidelight, was also our grand-daughter Bailey's very first birthday...on the very day of Easter this year.

This week has brought some special things to note.

Interestingly, I wrote a blistering letter to my congressman (Joe Baca) about receiving very little help from his office in my dealings with the prison system and legal system for my brother David.  I got an immediate response and a meeting with an aide to the congressman.  By the end of the meeting on Tuesday, I was given a promise that they will do all they can to assist in the process of helping David with parole issues once he is released.

Sadly, I received a note that I may receive a subpoena to testify on behalf of Coronado Stone as a former Human Resources manager.  Apparently, someone has filed a sexual harrassment suit, and I may be needed to testify because my name appears on the hiring papers of this individual.

Happily, a couple of days ago I received a phone call from someone I have never met.  This man called and introduced himself as a Christian lawyer in the area.  He had read the article in the newspaper about our church receiving some mild harrassment at Fairmount Park where we preach and serve a meal to the homeless every Thursday afternoon.  This lawyer said he is available to help us in any way, if necessary.  Wow, was that a shot in the arm for us.  God never lets us fight alone!

Joyfully, some members of the church heard about our need for a refigerator, and offered a fridge which was sitting in their garage.  Since Sondra and I just bought a new one, we asked them if they would be willing to donate it to the church.  One of our fridges at the church just quit!  What timing.  They said yes, and it was to be delivered already.  This is not coincidence, this is providence.  God's amazing providence.

I hope you are enjoying life and "living large" in God's amazing providence!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Interesting Reading

Today is Saturday, the day before Easter Sunday, Resurrection Day!  The single most impacting event in the history of the world happened a little over two thousand years ago.  Jesus died on a cruel cross, was buried in a tomb, and then rose from the grave showing the final victory over sin and death.

Either you believe or you don't believe.

If you believe, your faith is fulfilled through the passion of Christ as he died to give you eternal life.  It is a sure thing.  It is a done deal.  There is nothing left to do, except to follow and enjoy the abundant life of love and purpose that the Father in heaven provides for his children.

If you do not believe, your faith finds fulfillment in things and philosophies and secular events.  The things of this earth shall pass away, however, and your faith will fade as well.

It is not by coincidence lately that a co-worker has allowed me to read several books by Mitch Albom, a noted author and musician/pianist.  The first Albom book I read was For One More Day, a powerful book about loss, forgiveness and hope.  If you had one more day with a loved one (who has already passed on), what would that day be like?  Read this book to think about the possibility of how this day might turn out.

The second Albom book was The Five People You Meet In Heaven.  This book explores the continuum of relationships and the web of events and people who impact our lives along this journey on earth.

The book I am reading now (and have almost finished) is his first best-seller, Tuesdays With Morrie.  The author (Mitch) spent much time with his former professor (Morrie Schwartz), as Morrie was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease).  In amazing prose and beauty of thought, the process of aging and dying is detailed with powerful lessons of life.  One quote by Morrie, as he faced the inevitable:  "It is in dying that you find life."  He found the truth that the things of this world fade quickly in the face of the eternal.  In Christian terms, it is in dying to self that we allow God to give us life!

These books were not written as spiritual guides or as Christian literature, by any stretch of the imagination.  However, I found great parallels to my faith and foundations of life in all these novels.

They reminded me of supernatural truths.  This weekend, we think of the celebration of the truth that Jesus rose from the dead, after his death on the cross at Mount Calvary.  His pain was intense, his sorrow unbearable, but he was steadfast in his love to pay for my sins and the sins of the whole world.  It becomes personal, as each of us makes a decision to accept God's great forgiveness through the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  The depth and power and love of God is immeasurable.