Monday, April 26, 2010

Rebuilding More Than Houses - Part 3

Proverbs 14:31 He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.
Each morning, our work team from “Little Church in the Pines” would go to the cafeteria of the “Volunteer Village” in New Orleans for breakfast and pick up our box lunches for the day, then pile into the van with our tools to drive to the Upper Ninth Ward area, to the work sites. One project was the building of a laundry room of a house owned by the New Salem Baptist church that, once renovated and refurbished, would be the residence for homeless senior citizens – a ministry of the church. This area was under six feet of water from the Hurricane and associated flooding. The second project was the “Musicians Village” Habitat for Humanity project, just two streets away from the first project. The project is called “Musicians Village” because successful local New Orleans musicians are funding much of the construction and a percentage of the houses being built are designated for less fortunate local musicians to purchase and own. If you do not know how the Habitat for Humanity organization works, I encourage you to go to their website @ and read what this outstanding institute is all about. Both project sites were excellent opportunities to restore the community and forward the recovery of the people that lost everything they owned and not enough finances, equipment, material or resources to restore their homes and lives on their own.

The first day, all of us worked at the Habitat for Humanity building site, on framing a house for a musician of Jamaican style music. It is required that the future owners of the houses being built actual work a minimum amount of hours on their house beside the volunteers, so we worked with the owner and another team on the exterior walls that day. We also discovered that New Orleans, in July is hot & humid, so the work environment was difficult. There was mandatory water breaks every hour in order to stay hydrated, but I have never seen such dedication, devotion and desire to work through whatever situation or circumstances were set before us, because the ten or more work groups there, made up of College students, church groups, and volunteers from all over the United States, were there for a common reason and goal, which was to put out all their effort, ability and strength to help build these houses for the people of New Orleans. There were no excuses not to move forward, no roadblocks that we couldn’t get around, or any reasons to stop what we came there for. We worked together. What an awesome feeling!

The rest of the days, I bounced between the two projects, helping wherever I could, and there was plenty to work on. One of the greatest memories was, when I walked from the Habitat job site to the New Salem house to have lunch with the rest of the team. I was hot and tired, as I lugged along the couple streets between work areas. But local residents that were working on their own houses, tearing out and replacing the interior walls and flooring, came out to shake my hand and thank me for coming and helping the community relief efforts. They didn’t know where I was from, but they knew that I had come to help them, and they were appreciative of the gesture of compassion, charity, aid and assistance. They saw that they were not forgotten or abandoned; that was demonstrated just by my being there and lending a hand, working to help rebuild their homes, their community and their lives. I needed no more than to see the joy in their faces and the happiness in their voices, as they thanked me for being there to help. When I flew into the airport at New Orleans I saw volunteers from all over the United States who just finished their missions trip, and as I waited to fly home a week later, I saw many new volunteers arriving to take my place and do their part to help. Continual waves of caring individuals with a common goal ... working together and to give all they could to help make the lives of the citizens of New Orleans restored to the best of their ability. Loving their neighbor.

Why rebuild New Orleans? Because people live there, people like you & me, that need our help!

Psalm 140:12 I know that the Lord secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy. 13 Surely the righteous will praise your name and the upright will live before you.

In Christ, Brian

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Rebuild More Than Houses - Part 2

I met up at the Airport with two members from my dad's church, “The Little Church in the Pines” @ Bass Lake, California, who were a part of the small mission’s team going to New Orleans to help in recovery and restoration efforts. One of the greatest parts of trips like this is the people that you meet, work with, and get to know. Wonderful relationships develop through different personalities bringing forth their individual gifts, experiences and prospective in a common venture, towards a mutual goal of simply helping people and touching lives for the better. Memories that last a lifetime and awesome stories that cut to the heart, yet bring a smile, of the visions, experiences and the people there.

Pastor Tracy was experienced in the volunteer Hurricane Katrina relief process from previous mission trips, so all the arrangements for lodging in the Volunteer Village Dorms, food, week’s agenda and anticipated work schedule was well organized, yet time built in for us to explore the city, understand what went wrong there and a get a feel of the people, the city and the charm of the Bayou culture. When asked, what we’d like to do in our “free” time, we asked if we could be taken to each of the Levee breaks to see and try to wrap our minds around the flood and its impact; to grip and grasp the reality of the devastation that would drive our will and desire to do whatever we could for these fellow Americans in great need. It helped to understand that, in New Orleans, the original width of land between the Mississippi River and Lake Ponchartrain was much smaller in the past. In order to produce more building space, an earth dam was built along the lake and the bayou water pumped out. Lake Ponchartrain opens to the Gulf of Mexico, so since the lake is at sea level, any land that was established by pumping out the water is below sea level. On top of that, as the drained Bayou land dried out it settled and sunk even lower. These areas are still sinking today. Ground water intrusion, storm drains, rainfall, etc. had nowhere to go either, so canals were dug that drained towards the lake and the excess water is pumped back into the lake. Recipe for disaster? When Hurricane Katrina’s Storm Surge topped the canal walls and breeched, the lake flowed back in, reclaiming the area that it originally occupied. Unfortunately, thousands of residences now inhabited these areas, many lives were lost and many more displaced and shattered. To look at these homes destroyed and feel the true desolation, imprinted so much more than mind's intellect could grasp in mire reading or News reports. It touched the very soul. My words can not paint the situation accurately enough to give it justice; you had to be there, but I try to articulate and give you a glimpse. We were motivated with passion, for the love of Christ and the compasson, for the love of our neighbors in New Orleans - who seriously needed our help. Next, we start to work. I shall continue with what happened next, next post.

DEUTERONOMY15 10-11 Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.

May God speak to you today through His Holy Word and may His name ever be praised.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


A few months ago, We saw our old Pastor and his wife (just finishing a Pastorial Missionary assignment in Slovokia and now received a call to Pastor at a church in Los Altos, California) and they told me how much a particular message that I wrote on my experience with the Hurricane Katrina Relief & New Orleans Rebuild effort a few years ago had touched their heart. Since I signed up to help with the Habitat For Humanity project in Fullerton with the Lutheran church this September, I thought that I'd post my message on rebuilding New Orleans again for those that hadn't seen or heard of the essay of the truth that I discovered there. Read below and watch the videos (highlighted) to get a true idea of what really happened there and what's happening there still today. Here's the message:

Hurricane Katrina struck the New Orleans area early morning August 29, 2005. The rising water breached the city's inadequate levees and strom walls at multiple points, leaving 80 percent of the city submerged, tens of thousands of victims clinging to rooftops, and hundreds of thousands scattered to shelters around the country. It would take almost two months for the floor waters to reside and the residents to return … to devastation.
I received an e-mail in March of 2006 from Hillary (the daughter of my best friend, Tim, who is now in heaven). She wrote and told me of her College’s Spring Break trip to New Orleans to provide volunteer help for the Hurricane Katrina relief effort. It was six months after the hurricane struck and she wrote of how it seemed to be a ghost town with massive damage and of the hard work to clean the houses out for rebuilding. But Hillary also spoke of meeting the home-owners and the hope that they saw to start over. She wrote:” It was the hardest work I've ever done, but it was also one of the best times I've ever had.” From that point, not only did she find direction for herself, but she challenged me to step out and get involved in Missions work to rebuild New Orleans also.
So many people that I talked to, told me that they felt that rebuilding New Orleans was just a waste of time and money. The land was below the bordering Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain, and still sinking annually. They hear that the whole Levee & pump system is inadequate, so the same flooding will occur during future hurricanes.
Many people asked me: “What great lose is there in the elimination of a high crime, drug infested, immoral area and the massive welfare state there?” But these are social problems. When we have social problems, do we allow natural disasters solve those problems? What about the good people living there, the children, and the potential for those to change? No, despite the problems, there needs to be compassion and caring assistance to those that have lost all, except hope and faith.

I think about how none of those Louisianans could have imagined how quickly and thoroughly their lives would be changes by Katrina's waters overpowering the flood walls that protected the city and their lives. 1800 people killed, 90,000 square miles ravaged and 100,000 houses damaged or lost. A New Orleans population of 511,000 before the hurricane to a population of only 216,000 today. Those who have returned must now contend with closed hospitals, lost friends and either inadequate insurance payments that don’t even come close to covering the cost of reconstruction or no insurance at all. All these statistics are well documented, but what about what Hillary talked about … hope.

Physically and emotionally, Katrina continues to take a heavy toll on survivors. Many still live with relatives or in camped FEMA trailers in half-deserted neighborhoods. Their houses are uninhabitable; their savings gone; their friends and relatives scattered. Depression and stress disorders are common. This is their home. This house and hope may be all they have. And isn’t God there?!
My thoughts go directly to the Word of God. Romans 12:9-13 "Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love . Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality .
1John 3:16 "By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?

They need help. Hope is what they have. We need to rebuild New Orleans, Louisiana and lives. With all this in mind, I made a choice. I made a choice for hope. I contacted Pastor Tracy Hearnsberger of Little Church in the Pines @ Bass Lake, California (my dad’s church) and joined a small group going to New Orleans for Habitat for Humanity & Project Noah Rebuild New Orleans in Hurricane Katrina Relief work. I had to see and experience this myself. What I found was beyond my imagination and changed my thinking. I’ll tell you more in my next letter.
Take a look at this piece of a video of an upcoming documentary to see some of the true efforts and progress to rebuild more than houses: rebuilding lives. (click on this link below & see) The big guy in the red MLB "ANGELS" cap in the documentary is me. It was the experience of a lifetime.

Brian – Worker in the Kingdom of God. Let’s all help in the Katrina's around us today and touch lives!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Thy Kingdom Come

Matthew 6:9b-10 “After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.”

The familiar words of “the Lord’s Prayer” bring comfort in communion with God to millions of faithful Christians daily. I never really thought about or visualized properly the meaning of the word “kingdom” or “the kingdom of God”; probably because we in the United States with a Democratic Republic. We know that the people within those counties which have monarchies (the Subjects of that kingdom) are under the power, rule and control of the king and his decrees throughout his entire kingdom; the king has dominion and lords over his domain. The word “kingdom” is literally the combination of the two words “king” & “domain”, meaning “the king’s domain”; the territory ruled by a king.

As the royal king or queen of some foreign county is sovereign (supreme) power within their kingdom, our loving Father God, who created Heaven and Earth (all that lives, breathes and exists), has sovereignty, dominion, supreme power & authority over all His creation and the creation is subject to His sovereign authority and rule throughout His domain. Our Lord God watches over His people and daily rules and directs the actions of His kingdom of Heaven and Earth. How awesome is that?!

Psalm 103:19-22 “The LORD has established His throne in heaven, And His kingdom rules over all. Bless the LORD, you His angels, Who excel in strength, who do His word, Heeding the voice of His word. Bless the LORD, all you His hosts, You ministers of His, who do His pleasure. Bless the LORD, all His works, In all places of His dominion. Bless the LORD, O my soul!

Next time that you pray the Lord’s Pray, think about the meaning of that “not-so-little” word "kingdom". Thy Kingdom Come. The kingdom of God, the kingdom of Heaven, which those who confess with their mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in their heart that God has raised Him from the dead, are citizens of and ambassadors from, for eternity.

In Christ, Brian

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Don't Say the "B" Word

Psalm 16:11You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

I remember years ago, spending time with my goddaughter and seeing first hand the affects of busyness on children in our society. Busyness that I didn’t see in my two sons, but there were a couple parents that we knew that had their kids running from one event or sport to the next. They were the exception though. I grew up playing outdoors in the yard with friends or at their houses and on my dad’s Little League baseball team, and our boys did pretty much the same, learning to be contented with where they were and what they were doing ... finding joy with what they had. If there was nothing to do, then find something, because, truly, there are plenty of great things to do, if you look. Busy does not mean physically active and something relaxing with a good book or The Good Book is the best things. The kids have been so conditioned that they need to be constantly active and engaged with some exciting interaction, that when the time comes where the activities stop, boredom set in. My goddaughter would not get the words out, “I’m Bor...”, before I say, “Don’t say the “B” word. We need to teach our kids contentment and be an example for them ... walking the talk and showing them the joy stepping out of the fast-paced life of entertainment and enjoy some peace, value times of quiet solitude, and precious moments with their Lord.

I started reading again a book on Blaise Pascal’s Pensees titled “Mind on Fire”. In the chapter “Man’s Boredom”, he writes “A definition of man is of a being of dependence, longing for independence, and having needs. Man finds nothing so intolerable as to be in a state of absolute rest, without exercising any passions, being unemployed, having no diversion, and living without any effort. It is then that he thinks he faces emptiness, loneliness, a sense of inadequacy, feeling dependent, helpless, and living a meaningless life. Then there wells up from the depths of his being a sense of boredom, pessimism, depression frustration, resentment, and despair. The philosophers say: Go back into yourselves; there you will find the good life; for it is there that you will find peace.” This is just not true. Others will say: “Go out of yourselves; look for happiness in some distraction.” And that also is not true. Happiness is neither outside nor inside us. It is in God, both outside and inside us. For the right way is to know what God wills. Christ alone leads us to it, “The Way, the Truth” (John 14:6).” Blaise died in 1662, yet the “B” word was a problem, then as it is now. And the answer is also the same today as it was in his time.

Galatians 2:20I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

In Christ, Brian

Saturday, April 10, 2010


Proverbs 22:5-6 Thorns and snares are in the way of the perverse; He who guards his soul will be far from them. Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.”

I was fielding a job to replace a closure that had been hit by a car, on the side street of a local High School. School had just ended and the classrooms let out the students, who walked by me on their way home as I took my measurements. To my shock, these young ladies were carrying on a conversation with each other using the filthiest language and subject matter imaginable without thinking that they were doing anything wrong ... and this was a Catholic High School. Not only are the children being taught that “wrong” (in the eyes of God) is “right’ (in the eyes of society), but also taught that there are no moral laws of God that they are accountable to. Ignorance of Biblical Truth, Authority of God, Lordship of Jesus Christ and eternal destiny has produced irresponsibility in our youth is epidemic in our culture and America is reaping the consequences of godlessness. Grace rejected is grace removed. This can be, and must be turned around today. Proverbs gives the formula for remedy and righteousness - parenting. God is on the throne, sovereign in control, and involved in His creation and the events of the days that He, alone, ordains.

Isaiah 5:20 Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” As darkness is the absence of light, spiritual darkness is the absence of the Light of God revealed in Jesus Christ. If a foreign nation came into the United States and taught our children atheistic immorality and godless existentialism, it would be proclaimed “an act of war”. But we are corrupting this nation from the inside by not properly parenting and not teaching the Word of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the foundation of life and living. I read this lately: “Corrupt the young. Get them away from religion. Get them interested in sex. Make them superficial; destroy their ruggedness. – Quote from the first plank of the communist strategy for revolution - confiscated in Dusseldorf, Germany in 1919. Are we there now? Nation, Family & God are being replaced by tribal-like, social peer groups that have lost the sight of what sin truly is. The definition of Sin is: Any lack of conformity to, or transgression of the Law of God. By pretending that there is no God (Creator of Heaven & Earth, Author of Life, supreme and resolute Lawgiver, our ultimate Father), then is no law and no sin, except measuring up to “man”, to be obligated and responsible to. But fantasy is not reality; God exists, rules His creation and we are obligated and responsible. To sin, literally, means to “miss the mark” or “falling short” of the perfect righteousness of God. The Law of God is a mirror that reflects, reveals and displays His character and nature, designed to allow us to see our own true moral character and nature – our sins of omission (not doing what we should do for God) and sins of commission stepping over the line of His standards, for any reason). Not to drive us, by conviction of not measuring up God’s perfect standards to the sinful and perverted standards other men and women, but to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, for forgiveness, redemption, restoration and salvation. There we find, love, joy, peace and contentment in life. Our youth are receiving the “wrong” message. Who will give them the “right” one?

I watched a politician on TV the other day, talking about biblical morals and godly values that affect our society, wrongly say, “There are still fellow citizens, perhaps neighbors or even family members and loved ones, who still hold fast to worn arguments and old attitudes.” The Word of God in the holy scriptures of the Bible is the standards and authority for every individual and society, always and forever, because it was given by the Author of Life and Creator of All. We, the Children of God, are not in a Christian Cocoon and must get out into our society to affect our culture for Christ and the growing of the Kingdom of Heaven. Train up a child in the way he should go ... with God.

1 John 6-7: “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His son cleanses us from all sin”

In Christ, Brian

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Death, Burial, & Resurrection - Pt.2

Continuing my notes from Pastor Tracy's Easter Sermon @ Little Church in the Pines ...

John 12:23-26Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds; The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be.” There is a daily battle between the desires of our flesh and the Holy Spirit which indwells the Believer, but we are called to walk in the Spirit rather than fight the things that we choose to die to and not bury, when we say no to this sinful world, the flesh and the devil, and yes to Jesus. We lay sin aside and bury the ax. Not leaving the ax handle sticking out of the ground, so we can easily pull it back out later. Put them away, physically, mentally and spiritually, so that we cannot get to them. We are dead and buried, because (figuratively) we roll the stone over the tomb opening to our old dead life, so that the stone can then be rolled back away, open by God in the resurrection of our life in Christ.

Philippians 2:5-15 tells us, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing , taking the very mature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed – not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence – continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. Do everything without complaint or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life.” Death, burial & resurrection of self daily from the flesh, born again/ born from above, to newness of life, showing forth the forgiveness and good fruit of sanctification, growing in grace. With humility, giving out the blessings of Christ, and over-flowing with the light of righteousness into the darkness of this sinful & lost world.

With denial of self and trust in God, dying to the flesh and walking in step with the Spirit in obedience to the holy Word, the reconciliation of our soul in salvation and the knowledge of our eternal destiny in the kingdom of heaven produces "good" and "godly" fruit. Jesus said, “It is finished!”, and we can do nothing to add to the work of the cross for our salvation, but we can allow the cross to transform our lives more into the likeness of Jesus Christ, our Lord & Savior in new life daily. Head-knowledge misses the heart by 18 inches. Know, live and experience Easter by taking up your cross every day. Hallelujah, He is Risen!

In Christ, Brian

Monday, April 5, 2010

Death, Burial & Resurrection - Pt. 1

Romans 6:2-10We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

What does Easter mean to you, personally, today? How does Easter change our life? These were questions asked by Pastor Tracy this Easter Sunday, as we visited my dad for the weekend at Bass Lake, California (near Yosemite National Park). We were challenged today to go beyond our knowledge of the gospel accounts of holy week and reflect upon how the death, burial & resurrection apply in our thinking and lives now. By taking a fresh look at these three elements of Christ’s passion, we find understanding and relevance in our daily Christian lives.

Luke 9:23-25Then Jesus said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self.” We hear that we need to deny ourselves, take up our cross daily and follow Jesus, but how do we take up our cross daily? The cross applies to us yesterday, today and tomorrow, because on this side of heaven we must decide to choose to die to sin and go the way of Christ every day. We could mindful tells ourselves that we will try to live godly lives by our own will and power, but unless we crucify our personal sins, we continue to live in them as slaves; not in Jesus. Is there a class that we can take titled, “How to Die”? Who would sign up, yet, spiritually thinking, we must. We must give up sin, turn loose of our sinful flesh desires, and let them go … nailing them to the cross and lose that old life in death with Christ.

Hebrews 12:1-2Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” When we die to self, we are dying to those things that hinder us from following our Lord and the sin that so easily tempts and entangles our flesh in this race, called life. Yet death is only the first step. Unless we bury that old self, who has died, the abundant new life cannot take place. But what is meant by "bury"?

This was a great Sermon, and looks like I had better break this into two posts. I'll pick this up right here next time.

Blessings, in Christ.