Friday, September 6, 2019

Dealing with Change - Part 1 - Finding Direction

Mid July I retired from a California state prison, where I served as chaplain.  The five years I spent there were transformational for me. Learning to work with inmates was quite different from pastoring a local church.  I poured my heart into it, and loved the contribution I was privileged to make, both for inmates and the institution as a whole.

Two weeks later we had moved out of our house, two more weeks we worked on preparing our fifth wheel, and finally we were more or less ready to hit the road!  So the big adventure finally started, August 17, 2019! (For those who do not know, our plan is to travel North America in our fifth wheel, initially for 12-18 months).

Our mobile home - a 5th wheel!
Our mobile home - a 5th wheel!

This has been quite a transition for both Dianne and myself.  It was like running at 60 mph and then coming to an abrupt stop!  Suddenly, a lot of the structure of life was removed. We miss our ministry at the prison, the busyness of life, we miss having a stationary house with room to put things (!), and the backyard we loved.  We miss the routines we had become settled into, our friends living close by, and the familiarity of our little town, Susanville CA. This does not mean we regret our decision to follow this road, we are excited about our future.  The point is, there has been a lot of change.

But we are not alone.  I think all of us experience change in life.  There are the normal changes that happen, like finishing school, leaving home, getting married, going to college, and so many other things.  Some changes are voluntary, some are involuntary. We may choose to find a better job, with improved prospects or a higher salary. Or we may be downsized, and found ourselves searching for a new position out of necessity.

Change is awkward, and can be difficult to negotiate.  In this series, we are going to look at some keys to dealing with change.  The first and most important key is from where we seek direction.

Key 1:  Find direction

Proverbs tells us: "Without vision the people perish" (1).  We seem to have an inner need for wanting to know where we are going.  But did you know that the word translated vision in this verse, actually has to do with prophetic revelation from God, rather than traditional vision-casting and goal-setting?  We need God to define the direction of our life, not just us making our own plans. Another verse that speaks to this tells us "The steps of a righteous man are ordered by the Lord" (2).  Also, "In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths" (3).

So how can we make this practical?  

The initial thing to remember is that wherever we are in our walk with God, when we turn to him, he listens and responds.  

Maybe we have not yet experienced the excitement of seeing God's direct involvement in our activities, and don’t really expect God to listen to us. In these verses God invites us to turn to him, acknowledge him in the things we do, recognize him as who he is, and that we ask him to direct our paths.  

What will this look like?  Whereas before we may have not been all that interested in God, we may now feel a new interest in knowing him better.  We may look back on our life and decide we want our future to be different, more purposeful, honorable, straight. Acknowledging God as being bigger than us, and able to change the direction of our lives, is a starting point.  

On the other hand, maybe we have known God for a while, but are at a loss for which direction to choose, when we face a crossroads.  We want our life direction to be in sync with God's purposes. The starting point in finding out what God's plan is for our life, is to ask him to direct our path.

I used to wonder, how do I know if I am going the direction God has planned for me, or if I am doing things according to my own human wisdom.  A pastor friend gave me some good advice regarding this. If I ask God to direct my paths, then I can trust him that he will do so. So I make decisions as to the direction I need to go, on the basis of trusting that God is directing me.  I also consider what biblical principles are involved, and live a life that is obedient to God. Then I can trust and believe that the Lord is guiding me. There are more things to consider, which we will examine in this short series of posts, but the starting point is to acknowledge God and seek his direction.

The next post is going to be about Making a Plan!  Watch this space!  

On the journey with you,

Pastors Gerry and Dianne ><>

P.S.  If you recognize you need to turn the direction of your life over to God, why don't you pray this simple prayer.  Pray with sincerity and the Lord will listen and respond:

"Dear Father in heaven, thank you for sending your Son Jesus to die on the cross in my place, so that my sins can be forgiven.  I ask you to cleanse me, and wash away my sins.  I surrender my life to you, asking you to direct my steps.  Please send your Holy Spirit to empower me to live the life you have called me to.  I pray this in the name of Jesus.  Amen".

1.  Proverbs 29:18  
2.  Psalm 37:23   3.  Proverbs 3:6

Friday, March 29, 2019

Someone close passed away ...

During the past two weeks, two people very dear to me passed away.  I grieve with their close family, particularly.  It is so painful when a person we love, with whom we have spent countless hours, is suddenly gone out of our life.  The hurt and loneliness is intense.

Though I was not direct family, it hit me more deeply than I expected.  First of all, Dianne's cousin died, suddenly.  I had not had a lot of contact with her and her husband, but the moments we did connect were special.  When he and I met and talked at the funeral last Thursday, the closeness was right back there again.  I grieve and pray with him as he navigates this journey.  Friday evening and Saturday I was rather depressed myself, a natural part of grieving, questioning a lot of things.

Then, a few days later I heard that my former employer had passed away on Sunday, after his second open heart surgery.  It shocked me to my core.  I was not aware of his medical condition.  I had not spoken to him in some time. And yet, it hit me hard. He had been more to me than a boss.  I had always seen him as a brother, both of us being pastors. After I heard of his passing, the words of David after Jonathan his friend had been killed, echoed round and round my head.  "How are the mighty fallen ... I grieve over you, my brother" [1].

During the last couple of days, the new reality has been settling in.  Life is different without these people there.  I am so sorry for those dear ones who are missing Darla and Rick.  I pray for your comfort.

Navigating this week personally, leads me to share with you some Bible scriptures about this subject - what happens when a loved one dies?

First of all, the Bible teaches us that we as human beings consist of spirit, soul and body [2]. The Bible describes our physical body as a tent, a temporary dwelling in which we live [3].  Another way of looking at this is that we are spirit, temporarily housed in a physical body.  When we die, this spirit goes to be with God who gave it [4]. 

The book of Revelation gives us a tiny insight into what our spirit will be like in heaven.  Our spirit will be in God's presence, able to communicate, is given a white robe to wear, will sing praise to God, is waiting for the resurrection [5].

When Jesus returns to this earth [6], the dead in Christ will be raised first, with a new glorious spiritual body [7], we who are alive will be changed, and together we will meet Jesus as he descends to this earth [8].  This is when we will be reunited with our loved ones.

There will be no more tears, pain and hurt.  The old things will have passed away [9].

Our loved ones have not departed for ever, rather we will be reunited with them and then spend eternity together, serving our Lord and King who loved us with such an amazing grace!

I pray that these words will bring you comfort as they do me, as we navigate our personal journeys of grief.

1.  2 Samuel 1:17-27
2.  1 Thessalonians 5:23
3.  2 Corinthians 5:1-4
4.  Ecclesiastes 12:7
5.  Revelation 6:9-117.  Revelation 7:9-17
6.  Zechariah 14:3-4, Acts 1:9-11
7.  1 Corinthians 15:51-53, 40-44
8.  1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
9.  Revelation 21:1-5, 22:1-5

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Getting to Know God

Good morning!  I want to share about something that has been on my heart for a while.  Actually, for a very long time.

When I was a 12-year-old whippersnapper, I read through the story of Abraham as described in Genesis.  I was captivated by the fact that not only did Abraham talk to God, but God actually spoke back to him!  This communication was so clear that Abram (his birthname) was prepared to leave his urban house in Ur (with hot and cold water and indoor plumbing), to go live in a tent on a one-way trek through the desert.  Without asking for confirmations (like Gideon), or dillydallying along the way.  He just did it!

God's communication must have been crystal clear.

This birthed in my heart a hunger to have this same kind of communication with God.  For a long time, this was swept under the rug, I was not in an environment where you did this.  Age 45, however, there was a huge change in my spiritual walk.  God broke through with truth, and a lot of the cobwebs were swept aside.  I learned that there were actually a lot of people who heard from God.  I started to read books about the subject, and learned to quieten myself down and be open and listening actively for God's communication.

This then started a search for God, wanting to know Him deeper and deeper.  Believe me, there have been many ups and downs along this journey, I do not consider myself particularly special, with the exception that I have a unique set of fingerprints!  However the Holy Spirit continued to carry me on, along this quest to know God. I am still on this quest.  I pray that maybe you will be inspired by my experiences, and have an amazing testimony of your own, getting to know our heavenly Father in a whole new way!

Have a blessed day!

Friday, December 14, 2018

Prepare for Battle

We are preparing for Christmas! We celebrate the birth of Jesus as a human being. Babies seem so peaceful and calm. Yet even at Jesus first coming, the enemy sought to destroy Him, the Savior of the world [1].  The Advent, or Coming of Jesus is accompanied by spiritual warfare.

Jesus birth however, was only one of two Comings prophesied.

We are on the verge of Jesus second Advent! And this Coming will be accompanied with a cataclysmic battle which will dwarf anything we have ever seen.  It will be the ultimate battle between good and evil!

At this time, the realm of darkness including Satan and his demons will be ranged alongside mankind's society in actively opposing the second Coming of the Messiah. This opposition has already started.  This is a time of Satan's wrath, and he makes war on the church [2].

Christians will be on Messiah's side. We fight against Satan. But we are only a little flock, we do not have great power of our own. We need God and His angels to fight on our behalf [3]. We stand and watch as Jesus overcomes the enemy of our souls.

The enemy is out for our destruction. Right now he is plotting how to take us down.  But we are on the Lord's side [4]. And He will ensure our victory.  God is faithful, and will not allow the enemy to succeed [5].

But time is running out. It is timeprepare for this cataclysmic battle, which will be global as well as personal. It is time to make ourselves ready.

1. Revelation 12:4
2. Revelation 12:12
3. Exodus 14:14
4. Exodus 32:26
5. Psalm 121

Thursday, December 6, 2018

There is Hope!

Around 540 BC Cyrus had issued his edict allowing the Jews to return to their homeland, thus bringing to an end their 70 years of exile.

They had gone back in joy, looking forward to a time of restoration, a new beginning and a fresh start to their lives.

They recognized their sins had led to their captivity, and were determined never to fall into that trap again.  So in an effort to get things right, they set themselves lots of rules, to ensure their obedience to God's laws.

These rules became a burden God never intended them to carry.  The rules took the joy out of their newfound relationship with their Creator.  Rules and legalism were never how God wanted to relate to His people.  Why?

Because when there are rules, we break them.  As human beings, we live in imperfection, and we sin.

And sin is bad.  Bad for us.  Bad for the people around us.  And bad for our relationship with God.  Sin separates us from our Creator.

So even though the Jews desperately wanted to turn a new leaf, their quest was hopeless.  They just did not have it in them to stay the course.

God however had a different view of this seemingly impossible situation.

Thousands of years before, He had decided to become one of us.  In doing so, He would make it possible for mankind to once again have a relationship with Him.

By becoming one of us, He would experience what it was like to have to fight against sin, day in, day out.  He would not give in to this temptation, though.  The consequence of sin is death.  As He did not sin, He did not need to die.  He chose to die for us instead.  He would pay the price on our behalf.

This would then restore mankind's relationship with God.

He would give us hope!

So, centuries later, the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, and told this precious young lady that she was going to become pregnant when the Holy Spirit came upon her.  That the child she would bear was to be the Savior of the world.  That through faith in Him, our sins could be forgiven.

Instead of living a life without hope, we now have a hope that overcomes all sin, all separation from God, all pain and hurt that follows from sin.

As Paul says, "Death where is your sting!"  We now have hope for an eternity in intimate relationship with our God.  Hallelujah!

Thank you Jesus for leaving heaven, and your magnificent glory, to become one of us.  Because in you is hope!  

Saturday, December 1, 2018


Welcome to Healing Shepherd Ministries!

Dianne and I started this ministry in 2003, when the Lord was making it abundantly clear that He was sending us out to bring His healing to the broken.

There are so many broken people out there.

People who have suffered loss, people who are experiencing pain and sorrow.  Perhaps that special person has gone, through whatever circumstance, and now we are on our own.  Sometimes we have brought things on ourselves.  Sometimes we seem like a victim of the world's ugliness. 

Jesus says to us, "Come to me, all you that labor and are heavy-laden and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28).  He says, "... He has anointed me to preach the [good news] to the poor, he has sent me to heal the broken-hearted ..." (Luke 4:18).

This is the starting point.  

We try all kinds of ways to deal with broken hearts and lives.

Alcohol, drugs, sex.

Each of these has its own hell of torment.  It looks attractive at first, but then it swallows us up. Until we break down and recognize it is not the answer.

"Come to me and I will give you rest."

Jesus is the answer.  He is the one who heals the broken-hearted.  He came to bring healing into your life too.  Sometimes he touches us and we receive healing instantly.  Other times there are things we have to do, to receive his touch.  

Things like turning away from our sin, surrendering ourselves to Him, being willing to be obedient.

But it is worth it.  He offers us rest.

If you want your life to be different, pray this prayer:

"Dear Lord Jesus, thank you that you paid the price for me, a sinner.  You died and gave Your life, so that my sins could be forgiven.  Would you please forgive me for my sins, whatever they may have been.  I realize that nothing is too big for you to forgive.  Please remove my guilt.  I need a fresh beginning.  I need your rest.  Thank you that you have not given up on me.  In Jesus' name, amen."

You may have prayed this prayer before, and later turned away from God.  No matter what has happened, no matter what you have done, or where you have gone, it is never too late to turn back.  Jesus heals the broken.

It is amazing to have a fresh start!

Pastor Gerry