A Wonderful Worship Experience

August 19, 2017

5 or 6 years ago a Baptist preacher contacted me about some members of the Ukrainian church wanting to reach out to other churches,.It seems that a member of our church had gotten acquainted with a Ukrainian man he worked with. In one of their conversations the man who I will identify Vladimir acknowledged that yes they did want an invitation. We said we would love to have them come not knowing who, how many and what they were going to do.

That Sunday this group of about 25, men women, teenage girls and boys came with an orchestra. They played several numbers and a couple of the young people did solo;s in song, violin, and flute. Then a couple of the older ladies stood up and told us the stories of their trials escaping their country to come to the United States.
We were mesmerized.
We then had an opportunity to talk to each one of them ( of course most spoke English) but for some of them it was difficult.

Recently we just heard that the Ukrainian Community had build a new church.We drove there and came upon a magnificent church with a huge parking lot. The front door said that services wee at 10:30, So one Sunday we went to the church. We were just about late and we pulled into the parking lot and there were no parking places to be had. We drove around and finally a man came out and wanted to help us.. We didn’t understand him and I said English and he said ok. I have a parking place for you he said, follow me. He led us right next to the building by the front door.

We followed him in he asked where we would like to sit, on the main floor or the balcony. We said the balcony so he took us up there and he found us seats. The balcony wasn’t completely full but the main sanctuary was. We said to ourselves , lets just enjoy the people and what was going on even tho the whole service was in Russian.

After a few minutes, a young man came and asked us if we would like an interpreter. We said yes and for the rest of the service he gave us the English version of what was  being said. They had a big choir that sang beautifully. Two other solos and two young ladies that read poems about their life in the US.

The first speaker introduced himself and said that he was from Seattle and it was his first time in this church. He gave a rousing sermon on listening for God. He used several scriptures to make his point. They were projected on two big screens both in English and in Russian. He talked for 20-25 minutes Another choir piece and the next speaker said he was from Oklahoma.

He talked for 20 minutes and his subject was being worshipful in the sanctuary and raising your children as Christians both in the church and at home. Another choir peace and then 20 minutes of announcements. The pastor then talked about missions and the youth bible class. starting that week, and why it would be helpful for the parents to have them in the class.

The last thing the pastor did was ask the missionaries and their families to come forward They honor different ones each week The congregation prayed for them and the service ended in the Lords Prayer.

Other observations. This was as wonderful a church service as I have been to in a long time.There were about 350 attending the service. All the women wore dresses and had head coverings. All the men had on nice slack and shirt. Same with the children. And children! There must have been 10 little babies, 70 5 to 12 year old’s. Another 50 teenagers. There was an abundance of 20,30,and 40 year old couples We asked how long the service was and the interpreter said about 2 hours. We arrived a little after the service has started at 10:30 and it was 12:30 when we left.

I am using this month’s blog to tell you all this because here is a church building that was less than a year old Active ministries , active participation and good bible teaching.
How much more welcoming could they have been? Our interpreter said that they usually have one or two guest preachers and the regular preacher will preach also. He said that
they are installing head phones so non Russian speaking guests can follow the worship.
In the meantime he and other young men help the guests.

A unique praise and worship time.. Thank you Ukrainian church!



July 28, 2017

This is dedicated to all teachers, and school administrators.
After being interviewed by the school administration the eager teacher prospect said:
Let me see if I have this right. You want me to go into that room with all those kids, and fill their every waking moment with a love for learning, and I am supposed to instill a sense of pride in their ethnicity, modify their disruptive behavior, observe them for signs of abuse and even censor their t-shirt messages and dress habits. You want me to wage a war on drugs and sexually transmitted diseases, check their backpacks for weapons of mass destruction, and raise their self esteem. You want me to teach them patriotism, good citizenship, sportsmanship , fair play, how to register to vote, how to balance a checkbook, and how to apply for a job.

I am to check their heads for lice, maintain a safe environment , recognize signs of anti-social behavior , make sure all students pass the state exams, even those who don’t come to school regularly or complete any of their assignments. Plus , I am to make sure that all of the students with handicaps get an equal education regardless of the extent of their mental or physical handicap. I am to communicate regularly with the parents by letter, telephone, newsletter and report card.
All of this I am to do with just a piece of chalk, a computer, a few books, a bulletin board,a big smile AND on a starting salary that qualifies my family for food stamps!
You want me to do all of this and then you tell me………


Jesus shows us how to pray

July 18, 2017

When the disciples were with Jesus they asked Him how they should pray. He said this to them: “pray like this-Our father which art in heaven hallowed be thy name thy kingdom come thy will be done as in heaven so on earth. Give us day by day our daily bread and forgive us our sins as we forgive everyone who is indebted to us and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil” This is King James version from Luke
NIV and New Revised Standard from Luke says it this way.:
“Father hallowed be your name your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our sins as we forgive everyone who is indebted to us and do not bring us to a time of trial ”

If we go to Matthew Chapter 6, the translations begin to agree. Here is what they say:
Our Father which art in heaven Hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive our debts as we have forgiven our debtors. and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil For thine is the kingdom the power and the glory for ever. Amen
Yes there are some differences even in the Matthew account of Jesus’ lesson on prayer. But Jesus has give us a pattern for prayer. First to praise him and “hallow” his name. We want to first recognize the righteousness and holiness of God. Second is to pray our priorities. That is to acknowledge the wonderful kingdom around us and to celebrate the reign of Christ. Third
is prayer for provision. That is the time to bring your petitions to God. Prayers for others and for guidance etc. Fourth is to acknowledge our debts ( or trespasses) and to forgive our debtors (those who trespass against us) Fifth is asking God for protection from temptation and evil. Sixth is again recognizing the power and glory of God.

We have probably learned this prayer as youngsters and say it every Sunday and maybe at funerals . But the problem is that it has become so routine that I question, are we praying it with our heart or just our mind. If we can internalize this prayer the pattern of all your prayers will be what Jesus gave us to follow.

I have just subscribed to a prayer study by Dr. David Jeremiah that is excellent. It is a 6-7 week study. I am anxious to delve deeper into this prayer and the pattern for us through a group study. If you might be interested , please contact me at my blog address or my email address ozarak1937@gmail.com

Medical Decisions

June 13, 2017

My blog this month is a departure from the normal theological perspective on the world. I have been stirred by the plight of people who have been going through health crisis.

Many people who are in this situation have never been in the position of having a battery of tests and listening to doctors tell them something that is foreign to them.– just so you know up front, I am a Hospice Chaplain. I see the people that come into this program that are told by their doctors that nothing further that medicine can do for them.

But lets look back when they went to their doctor with a problem that they could not figure out. Tests were run and consultations were held. Sometimes the results were not all together conclusive. The patient was told that we are going to watch what is happening and we are working on an aggressive treatment for your condition.

The patient is in a position to believe that maybe there is something to cure my condition. Unfortunately that is what they thought they heard. The doctor is just saying we will work at trying to control the symptoms. Many times the additional tests just confirm that the condition cannot be cured. (I stand with the doctors in doing this)

The problem is that the patient is not aware or informed of the disease progression. and keeping up treatment may give them hope that something will come along to cure them.That illustrates two problems 1)the patient doesn’t understand all the language and procedures 2) the doctors are hesitant many times to interpret the medical jargon to the patient. That would mean to tell them what they have is incurable.

INCURABLE is not a word that any of us want to hear. With modern medicine, we assume that something will become available to make this “thorn” (as Paul said) to go away. I understand that doctors are charged with helping people get back to health. They are wonders at treating 95% of the ills we face. But sometimes we have something that modern medicine cannot cope with.

As a Hospice Chaplain, I ask the doctors to be honest with their patients. I know you don’t want give up trying to help your patient. But honesty with them will move your patient to be able to make a decision as to quality of life. Many of the people I see said they asked for treatment to stop because of what it was doing to their mind and body.

Hospice is designed to provide the best quality of life that a person can hope for in their condition. With comfort meds and nurses that attend to their needs, these patients are so appreciative of being able to spend time with family and friends while they can appreciate them.

What is better, aggressive treatment that can be debilitating at the least to being comfortable understanding that they can have the best life they can before the INCURABLE comes to pass. My heart goes out to all who are faced with serious illness and have to go through multiple tests. When it come to not being able to cure them, I hope that they with their doctor decide that quality of life is is best for the time they have left. Amen

Getting through bad times

May 11, 2017

We all go through trials in our lifetime. We have events that affect us deeply. You can’t live a very long life until sin, sickness, tragic death, loss of a job, children in trouble or a myriad of other events hit you when you least expect it.

I want to talk about two elements of dealing with those events. You can either deal with it or let it overwhelm you. If you don’t deal with it ,your life can reflect your suffering by depression, sickness, addictive habits. lost relationships If you ignore the pain that you are going through, if you say to yourself, i’ll get over it , if you tell yourself suck it up and go on, you will most likely suffer for it.

So may I suggest you start following James 5:13-16. It says, “Is anyone of you in trouble,?
he should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is anyone of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well, , the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous man is powerful and effective”

What we may glean from that scripture is that the community of faith will be there for anyone who is going through distress. Can’t we all remember when we had a problem we could discuss it with someone we knew and trusted, they listened and were supportive. Wasn’t that a relief when you unburdened yourself? The church is our sanctuary, a place we can go to help us heal. How? Expanding on the scripture I would say that through church friends, fellow Christians, believers, through their individual concern and listening But let me suggest another church activity and that is small groups If you are a member of a small group at church whether it be bible study, Sunday School our outreach ministry, to name a few, hopefully you bond with members of that group.

The second element of dealing with these life events is grief. We could write several blogs about the elements of grief. But for this discussion I want to focus on being able to grieve. So many people deny their grief., and as I have said above, it manifests itself in unhealthy behaviors. This is where I think small groups (as well as individual Christians), play a part in getting that person to verbalize their grief. I have had many occurrences where a person in grief found comfort and solace talking about it with the people in their group

The people in your group have known you for a while, maybe have known some of your struggles and maybe have shared their struggles with you,, but most of all, have worked with you, studied with you and prayed with you, and will reach out to to help you through the valley.

Your grief may be for something that happened many years ago and you didn’t deal with it at the time. Now you have an outlet , a sounding board to help you through it. I can’t express enough the need for you to come to grips with your unresolved grief. Because of what happened to you may have frozen you in a life today that is less fulfilling because of it.

Oh you may never forget the incident, but God guides you through it and wants you to have life and have it abundantly!! Amen

Happy Eater

April 17, 2017

I want to reflect on the activities surrounding Easter and the Risen Christ.

It was on Feb 27, 1991 at the height of Desert Storm that Ruth Dillow received a very sad message from the Pentegon. It stated that her son Clayton Carpenter ,private first class had stepped on a mine in Kuwait and was dead.

Ruth Dillow later wrote “I can’t begin to describe my grief and shock.. It was almost more than I could stand. For three days I wept, for three days I expressed anger and loss; for three days people tried to comfort me , to no avail because the loss was too great.”

3 days after receiving that call, the telephone rang. The voice on the other end said, “Mom, its me, I am alive!” ” I couldn’t believe it at first. Then I recognized his voice, and he really was alive, the message three days ago was a mistake!”

She said ” I laughed, I cried, I felt like turning cartwheels, because my son, whom I had thought was dead was really alive. I am sure none of you can begin to understand how I felt”
Perhaps not. But some who walked the pages of the New Testament wold have understood how she felt because they experienced the same emotions themselves. One days the watched their best friend and teacher being nailed to a cross. They witnessed his pain as he cried out “I thirst” and “My God, my God, why have your forsaken me.?”

They listened as finally he bowed his head and said “it is finished” and “Father, into my hands I commit my spirit” They watched as his body was taken from the tree and buried. All their hopes and dreams were buried with Him. Scriptures say that early in the morning on the first day of the week, some women came to the tomb to anoint the body. But the tomb was empty., and an angel said to them, “you are looking in the wrong place, he is not dead, He is alive.. He has risen!”

Maybe we have heard this biblical account many times before. But we who are here today need to have the same emotions that Ruth Dillow and the women at the tomb had. We should be laughing, crying and shouting Hallelujah!
Have we believers become so complacent that Christ’s death and resurrection that cancelled all our sins and gave us life eternal, is just another biblical story? If Jesus Christ had not came to earth to teach, preach heal, die and was resurrected to leave us a legacy of leading an exemplary Christian life.,we would be in darkness with no hope for a future let alone life on this earth guided by the Devil and not the Spirit.

We are Easter children and our excitement at the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, should motivate us to share the Good News with others. Scripture calls us to make disciples of all the world, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,. Go forth and shine your light into this sometimes dark work. Amen

What the Lenten Season Means To Me

March 13, 2017

As a pastor and as a lay person, I have been through many Lenten seasons. Each on has made an impression on me and my walk with Christ.

Of course Lent starts with Ash Wednesday. I have had the privilege of administering the ashes to the foreheads of the faithful as they begin their Lenten journey. This rite makes me reflect on the humble, sinful persons we are and that we are in need of cleansing.

This then is the time for us to “clean house” of all the things that keep us from being like Christ. We do this with a heightened prayer life, a prayer of confession and of repentance.
As I go through the days of Lent I am constantly reminded that even though I am an imperfect human being, I am forgiven of my sins and am loved by God and he will never stop loving me.

This gives me a sense of peace, a sense of belonging, a sense of being accepted. Open your hearts and minds especially during this season to here the voice of God guiding and directing you in all aspects of your life. The Holy Spirit is the conduit of Gods direction and we should be aware of how the Holy Spirit acts not only as our guide but as our comforter.
Each day during this special time, try to discover what gifts God has given you
to use in this world to make it a better place. We may be in this world but not of it. That means that we, as believers don’t conform to the evil and depravity that we see around us. We are to be change agents, one person at a time.

So many people say that Lent is a time to give up something. How many have remarked to me, well, I am going to give up sweets or I am going to give up beer or all kinds of things that they think will show their spiritual discipline. I like to think that Lent is a time to take on something that we have not done. Like a new bible study or read a book by a Christian author, or get more intimately involved in the lives of some of the hero’s of the bible. There are many things you can do during these 40 days (not counting Sundays) to improve your spiritual life.

I look forward to this season that prepares us for the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. That day, Easter Sunday is a celebration that reminds us that those of us who believe will have eternal life and no longer be afraid of our passing from this life.
Praise God for the Gift of His Son ! Amen

Christian Communty

January 24, 2017

We talk about one of the elements of growth as Christians is our association with other folks striving to become better disciples. We associate with them to help bear each others burdens.. We call it a community of faith. We worship together, we reach out in the community together. We work in the church together.

But do we have a handle on what real community is all about. Dr. Scott Peck, who wrote such books as People of the Lie and , The Road Less Traveled. stated that although the early church was a model of community, today’s churches are harder to build community. Peck sees most of today’s church congregations as merely pretending to be communities. Why?
Because communities require work and what he calls discomfort. He sees two. main reasons for the church’s unwillingness to become real communities.

First of all, building communities requires work and time and few people are willing to give that much work and time to the church. Secondly, church congregations are rarely willing to go through the pain of times when everything seems to be falling apart, yet such times are necessary. To achieve real community, these tensions and conflicts must be openly dealt with.  Churches usually see conflict as something to be avoided.

But in real community people don’t feel that they must hide their real selves or stifle conflict. They feel free to speak of what really concerns them most. According to Peck, another important part of developing “real community” is that it must have support at the top. If so, community can be accomplished.

What ever your church, you and your congregation need to understand that God is in control. Real community is built by giving up control, then comes freedom and creativity. So what we need to do is to make a concerted effort to be a community of faith that will help shape and form, take care of and lead each other to a greater understanding  of our relationship with Jesus Christ and which will lead us to do effective ministry together.  I want to end this with a sad story. The board of a church was having a heated discussion about some project of the church. Finally the pastor said. ” I think we ought to pray to God for direction” From the end of the table came the exclamation  “What does God have to do with this!”  Well, God has everything to do with our church, our community, our family and our lives. Amen


Memories of Christmas

December 20, 2016

Christmas never fails to evoke memories. Most of us all can recall Christmases of great joy and of disappointment, of warm camaraderie and frightening loneliness.

I can remember a Christmas over 50 years ago (isn’t it funny how memory works-I can remember 50 years ago but sometimes I forget what happened weeks ago!) We had moved to Visalia California that fall. With a year old baby and a new job, we looked forward to the future. My folks had come down to spend Christmas with us. I had to work late on Christmas eve. When I got home, there was my family, parents, wife and baby all having a good time by the fire in the living room. That three days was one of the happiest Christmases I can remember.

On the other hand, many years later, after a divorce ,I was living by myself but dating a wonderful girl . We hadn’t been dating long and one evening she said to me that she was
going to her parents for Christmas, and at that stage it didn’t seem appropriate for me to come along. Of course I understood, we didn’t really know each other that well and to go to her parents for Christmas I knew was a little early (I rationalized). My parents were half a continent away and I had no brothers and sisters to spend the holiday with. So there I was in my apartment along–never having been alone at Christmas before. I was disappointed and very lonely . Right then and there I vowed to never be alone a Christmas again!!

So as we approach Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, I hope you make wonderful memories of this time of year. That you go to church to celebrate the coming of the Christ Child.. That you tell the people that mean the most to you that you love them.
After all what is Christmas but love.? God’s love for his creation, to send his son Jesus Christ into the world to love us and to show us how to love others, to forgive us for our sins and to die on a cross so that we might be in communion with God. And most of all that he was resurrected and conquered death so that we might have eternal life.

What is there to celebrate this Christmas season? The birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ but not just at Christmas, but each and every day of the year. Amen.

We Are One

November 2, 2016

We sometimes look at other denominations and say to ourselves, I am glad I am not a member of that church. Or we promote our mission projects or congregation size over the other churches in town.

But we have gotten far afield on what we as human beings made by God in His image are about. God joined us together. We are not dogs, Not wolves. So we shouldn’t be so to each other. When Jesus talked about the church, he wasn’t talking about the Baptists,l the Presbyterian, the Methodists. the Catholics, the Lutherans etc,

We as Christian believers, who walk with the Lord need to look at each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. So lets review what that means:
One Body, We are all members of the Body of Christ
One Spirit: When Jesus went to be with the Father he sent the Holy Spirit to reside in each of us.
One Hope. We are the heirs of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ
One Lord: All who claim to be Christians serve the one God, the one Lord.
One Faith: We might have some disagreement on some of the minor things but we all believe in the one faith that gives us grace and joy in this life and the life to come.
One Baptism: Again some differences but no question that we acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins and being members of his Kingdom.
One God. We all agree that there is but One God. The God who created the world and made each one of us.
Let us wrap this around scripture…. Ephesians 4: 4-6 which says:
“There is one body and one Spirit–just as you were called to one hope–when you were called–One Lord, one Faith one Baptism one God the Father of all, who is over all, in all, and through all.”
In the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen