Sunday is Gonna be Weird! Sunday is Gonna be Wonderful!

This Sunday, June 7th, 2020, the Ham Lane Church of Christ in Lodi, CA will have the first in-person worship service since Sunday March 15th, 2020. Our state and local government have given guidelines for reopening our church doors. A few of the safety restrictions in place for what church will look like this Sunday include: Having two services with less than 70 in attendance in each service; seating will maintain 6 feet social distancing (unless sitting with family from the same household); the services will last less than one hour (that means a shorter sermon… did you just “amen” that while reading this?); no passing of communion trays or collection plates; no Kids Praise; no gatherings in the church or foyer (parking lot is okay); and the hardest part for many of us will be no hugging or shaking hands. It is also recommended (although not required) that everyone wears a mask and encouraged (but will never enforce) members age 65+ to remain at home and take advantage of the livestream and online worship services. Sunday is gonna be weird.

However, this Sunday, we will be together in the same room, gathered as the family of God to worship Him together in Spirit and in Truth. We will sing and make music from our hearts to the Lord together. We will still partake of the Lord’s Supper together and will have an opportunity to give back to the Lord just a portion of how much He continues to bless us day by day. You will hear and receive a word from the Lord and I will get to preach to more than just an iPhone camera. We will still love and encourage one another and show kindness and compassion to one another in-person. We will be together in the presence of the Lord.  Sunday is gonna be wonderful.

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Opening Prayer Memorial Day 2020

Our Father who art in Heaven, today we come to You in prayer during this very unusual and troubled time. Although we must remain separated for a season, we are thankful that we do not have to remain isolated. We can still come together though we are apart as a grateful Nation to remember the men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country.  We pause to reflect on the lives lost while protecting our freedoms.  We confess that most days we are oblivious to the price paid by men and women in uniform and yet we live every day in the freedom they laid down their lives to give us.

So, on this today, we recall the words of Jesus when He said, “Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” And let us not forget that each life lost represents other lives that are left to pick up the pieces.  We lift up and pray for the widows and widowers, brothers and sisters, parents and children, friends and battle buddies of the service men and women who fought valiantly for our country.  We ask for Your peace and comfort to be upon them and never leave them.

God, we thank you for the lives of these men and women to whom we pay honor today.  May their memory, their service and their sacrifice never be forgotten.


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A Veterans Day Prayer 2019


Since our Nation’s birth, more than 40 million Americans have put their lives on the line in service to our Country.  On November 11th, our Nation will celebrate Veterans Day.  A day set aside to honor and say thank you to all who have and are currently serving in our Armed Forces.  This morning, I would like to share with you, my Veterans Day prayer…


Almighty Heavenly Father, I thank you for the Veterans of this great Nation.  I pray this Veterans Day, we would honor them for their selfless service of defending and preserving our freedom.  I thank you for those who served in times of peace, ever ready to answer the call of duty if needed.  I thank you for those who served in times of conflict, bearing the physical and spiritual wounds of war.  I ask that you bless them and heal their wounds. I thank you God for all our veterans, those of generations past and present. May we never forget what our country asked of them and what they have given in return.  AMEN.


Today, tomorrow, and every chance that you have, be sure to say thank you to our veterans and say a prayer for them.




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Compelled To Tell


2 Corinthians 5:14 teaches us that the love of Christ should compel us to tell others about the love of Christ.  We are compelled to tell.  Our theme for 2019 at the Ham Lane Church of Christ is “Compelled – The Irresistible Call of Christ.”  We opened this New Year with a series of lesson that I have entitled “Compelled To Tell” inspired by my reading of Dudley Rutherford’s book “Compelled.”

Here’s the good news, all you are compelled to tell is what you know and if you are a Christ-follower, what you know is why and how your relationship with Jesus Christ has forever changed who you are and more importantly where you are going.  What you tell is who you were before Christ, how you met Christ, and how your life has changed since you’ve met Christ.  People can argue over politics.  People can argue over sports.  People can and often do argue over Scriptures in the Bible.  But what people cannot argue over is a life that has been changed by Christ.  That’s your testimony – that’s what you are compelled (even commanded – see Matthew 28:16-20) to tell.

Showing someone the power of a changed life is very convicting, however, there are other people who have found life change in other things outside of Christianity.  People can have their lives change through false religions and ideas that can lead to life transformation.  Many people who have struggled with alcoholism have had their lives changed through programs like Alcoholics Anonymous.  Some even report finding peace and life transformation through exercise and meditation.

So what is it that makes Christianity so different and why do we who follow Christ truly feel compelled to tell others about Christ?  The answer is – The Gospel.  Our word “gospel” comes from two old English words that literally mean “Good News.”  The Good New of the Gospel is found in the Bible, the Word of God.  It is the telling of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  You see it was Jesus, God’s only Son, who came to earth and lived among men as a man, dies on the cross to take away our sins, was dead and buried and then on that Easter Sunday rose up out of the grave conquering death and forever conquering sin and death for we who accept, believe, and follow Him.  No other religion, no other book, no other group, nor philosophy in the world can claim what we claim in Christ.  That is why we are compelled to tell!

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hlc elder_shepherd_overseer

I have been in full-time ministry for 24 years now. Eleven years was with the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps, but I did full-time church ministry for 6 years prior to going active duty Army and have now been serving full-time as the Preaching Minister at the Ham Lane Church of Christ 7 years come this March.  I have served with churches that did not have elders / shepherds and I have served with churches that did. I have been involved in choosing and installing elders in two of the 4 churches where I have served prior to coming here.  The difference between serving with and serving without elders is vast. The Bible clearly teaches that God’s design for His church is to have elders who serve as shepherds and overseers (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5).


The Apostle Paul wrote, “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor” (1 Timothy 5:17).  I am so thankful that we have elders here who are truly worthy of double honor and I thank God often that I am blessed to serve with these Shepherds here at Ham Lane Church of Christ.


On Sunday morning, January 27, 2019 it will be my honor and privilege to honor and reaffirm our current Shepherds (Bob Oates, Dave McPeak, and Kevin Percival) and for us to install and ordain Ernie Yoshino as the newest Shepherd of the Ham Lane church family.  These are men who I believe will make “every effort to keep the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3) and my prayer is that we will make their work with us a joy and never a burden as the Holy Spirit has directed us (Hebrews 13:17).



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A Prayer for the United States

On June 8 (which is a pretty great day), 1783, the 1st President of these United States, George Washington, wrote a Prayer for our country that was then copied and sent to the governors of the States. With another election under our belts and with this Sunday being Veterans Day, and the 100th year anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended the War to end all Wars, World War I, it seemed fitting to share and consider his prayer:

Almighty GOD; we make our earnest prayer that Thou wilt keep the United States in Thy holy protection, that thou wilt incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government; and entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another and for their fellow citizens of the United States of America at large.

And finally that Thou wilt most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility and pacific temper of mind which were the characteristics of The Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without whose example in these things we can never hope to be a happy nation.

Grant our supplication, we beseech thee, through Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen

[From Song and Service Book for Ship and Field edited by Ivan I. Bennett, United States Government Printing Office, 1942]

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Too Good Title Slide Image

The Bible says there is a time to keep silent (Ecclesiastes 3:7) and we’ve all heard the adage, “Silence is golden.”  There is also an entertaining saying that is usually credited to Abram Lincoln or Mark Twain: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.”  Or as my Irish Grandfather would rephrase it, “It’s better to keep you mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.”  And if you read Proverbs 17:28, you’ll see that the Proverb writer basically says the same thing way back in the 700s B.C.

However, the same Bible verse that says “there is a time to be silent” also says “there is a time to speak” (Ecclesiastes 3:7).  There are somethings that you just cannot keep silent about.  Have you ever been so excited about something that you just had to share the news with someone else?  Have you ever had something that you loved so much that you just couldn’t stop talking about it? Have you ever heard some good news that was too good to keep quiet about?  I know I have and I bet you have too.

The Bible says, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger who brings good news, the good news of peace and salvation, the news that the God of Israel reigns!” (Isaiah 52:7, NLT).  This Sunday, I am beginning a brand-new sermon mini-series that I am calling “Too Good To Keep Quiet.”  For the next two weeks, we will be looking at how the early church in the book of Acts grew and was blessed by God because they knew the Good News about Jesus was just too good to keep quiet about.


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The Garden of Gethsemane

This Sunday (3/4/18), I am continuing our new sermon series, “A Resurrection Hope,” that will build up and take us to Easter Sunday.  Ron and I are preaching this series focusing on the last days of Jesus time on earth culminating with His death and ultimate resurrection on Easter Sunday some 2000 year ago.  Our text comes from Mark 14-16.  In this second lesson, we will focus on Mark 14:32ff looking at a powerful scene and time in the life of Christ – His time in the Garden at Gethsemane.

“Gethsemane” literally means “oil press,” it was located on a slope of the Mount of Olives just across the Kidron Valley from the city of Jerusalem.  Jesus went here on multiple occasions to pray.  However, in our text this morning, it will be His last visit there before His crucifixion.  Although we are focusing on Mark’s account today, it would be advantageous for you to read what the other Gospel writes have to say happened in the garden (Matthew 26:36-56; Mark 14:32-52; Luke 22:39-53; and John 18:1-11).

The events that occurred in the Garden of Gethsemane have reverberated down through the centuries. The passion Jesus displayed on that momentous night has been depicted in music, books, and films for centuries.  I invite you to join us this Sunday at the Ham Lane Church of Christ as we look at the important impact of this event in the life of our Lord


Lesson 2 The Garden

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Pastors Praying for Pastors


I meet regularly with a group of pastors and preachers from a vast variety of churches here in the Lodi, CA area for a time of prayer.  I was asked to “lead” our prayer time this morning.  We began by all sharing a “Good God Moment” in our life and/or the life of our congregation where we serve.  It was a pretty awesome time of sharing some really awesome God stuff!

Then shared a list of 9 ways we could / should pray for each other (which I adapted from “Nine Ways to Pray for Church Leaders” by Chuck Lawless).  We read over the list, I’ll attache below, and each prayed as they felt moved to do so.  It was a great time of prayer and I felt truly refreshed and re-energized from out time spent together this morning.

Let me share these nine ways with y’all and I would ask that you pray these for me, for yourself and/or for your church leaders and staff.


1. Pray we will keep our eyes on God.

King Jehoshaphat faced three combined enemy armies, and he did not know what to do – except to lock his eyes on God. That’s the answer any time we have no clue about next steps.

“For we are powerless before this vast number that comes to fight against us. We do not know what to do, but we look to You.” (2 Chron. 20:12, HCSB)

2. Pray we will not take a step apart from God’s leading.

Moses prayed this prayer when God would send only an angel to lead His people after their fiasco with the golden calf. He would rather the people not start the journey if God Himself were not leading them.

“If Your presence does not go,” Moses responded to Him, “don’t make us go up from here.” (Exod. 33:15)

3. Pray we will beware of relying on our own strength.

David, who knew the Lord is the one who fights for him (1 Sam. 17:47), trusted in his own might when he took a census of the Hebrew armies. Recognizing his sin, he prayed a prayer most leaders need to pray at some point:

“I have sinned greatly in what I’ve done. Now, Lord, because I’ve been very foolish, please take away Your servant’s guilt.” (2 Sam 24:10)

4. Pray we will be wise in leading God’s people.

When Solomon might have asked for much more, he instead asked God to give him a “listening heart” as he governed the people of God. All of us who lead congregations need this wisdom.

“So give Your servant an obedient heart to judge Your people and to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?” (1 Kgs. 3:9)

5. Pray we will weep over the sin and failures of God’s people.

The best shepherds are those who genuinely grieve the spiritual brokenness of the people they lead. Like Nehemiah when he heard about the damaged walls of Jerusalem, they are themselves broken when they see the results of spiritual decline.

“When I heard these words, I sat down and wept. I mourned for a number of days, fasting and praying before the God of heaven.” (Neh. 1:4)

6. Pray we’ll know when to push away from the crowds to pray.

Ministry is time-consuming, and needs are ever before us. Nevertheless, as leaders we must have time alone with God to be renewed for the work – just as Jesus did.

“But the news about Him spread even more, and large crowds would come together to hear Him and to be healed of their sicknesses. Yet He often withdrew to deserted places and prayed.” (Luke 5:15-16)

7. Pray we will walk worthy of our calling.

If we pray more for church leaders today, it’s likely fewer will fall tomorrow. We must pray they walk in obedience and bear fruit, just as Paul prayed for the Colossian believers:

“we haven’t stopped praying for you . . . so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God.” (Col. 1:9-10)

8. Pray we will speak the gospel boldly.

Paul wrote from a prison cell – his punishment for preaching the Word – but still he sought prayer support to continue his evangelizing. If Paul needed such prayer, surely church leaders do today.

“Pray also for me, that the message may be given to me when I open my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel.” (Eph. 6:19)

9. Pray we will finish well.

Those church leaders who finish well PLAN to do so; that is, they choose from the beginning to stand against the devil and glorify God. Pray that we can one day echo these words of the Apostle Paul:

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Tim. 4:7).

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A Veterans Day Prayer


Our Great God, it is appropriate that we should pause at the beginning of this Veterans Day service to invite Your presence among us. We ask your blessings on all who gather here today and we are thankful for all who are participating in this service of honor and remembrance.  We are also thankful for the American Legion and other Veteran Organizations in our country that are comprised of men and women who served and now continue to serve by serving others who have served.

Today God we give You thanks for our nation’s veterans. We honor them for their faithful service in defending and preserving our freedom. We are grateful to those who served during times of peace, standing ready, bravely awaiting their call to duty.  We are grateful to those who served during times of unrest, enduring conflict and bearing the physical and spiritual wounds of war.  We ask that you bless them, heal their wounds and give them peace.  We thank you God for all our veterans, those of generations past and present.  May we never forget what our country has asked of them and what they have given in return.

We pray also for the leaders of our nation. May they seek to find solutions to the difficult task of creating a peaceful world, while inviting young men and women to serve their countries in a safe and a politically supportive arena.

Instill in the hearts and minds of our young people the knowledge that love of country is more than a catch-phrase of our culture. May they be given the wisdom to value the sacrifices made by their forefathers and the strength to emulate their mission of universal peace.

On all of us gathered here, we ask your favor, Lord. May we enjoy the peace that passes all understanding and is only found in You. Through your Son Jesus we pray – Amen

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