Friday, January 30, 2009


January 29, 2009

Hand in hand the two young girls looked down at the expansive chasm in front of them. The floor of the canyon was too deep to comprehend. To fall would mean certain destruction, yet they knew they couldn’t stay where they were. The opposite edge of the cliff was some ten feet away. How could they possibly jump that far?
“It’s too far; we’ll never make it!” they cried.
“Give it your best shot,” I replied. “Salvation is waiting for you across the canyon. Somehow you have to find a way to get to the other side.”
After taking a deep breath the two glanced at each other and then leaped out into space. Tragically, they failed to make it even halfway. Their bodies had barely slammed into the ground before one of girls groaned frustratingly and tossed a bitter complaint in my direction.
“See, I told you it was impossible!”
“No, it’s not,” I answered. “Look at me; I’m standing right in the middle of the canyon and I’m not falling. You have to know the secret; you have to know where the bridge is. Come back to your starting place and I’ll tell you the secret.”
We were in the midst of a very special gathering of one of our house churches. In a few minutes we would be baptizing three adults, but they had asked us if it would be okay to immerse their daughters as well. The girls were only nine years old but had been active in church for years and seemed to really be intent on surrendering to Christ that evening. I decided it would be advantageous to endeavor to present the Gospel to the girls in a way which would be easily understood in order to make sure they new what they were doing and had the right motives. I figured it also wouldn’t hurt for the girls’ parents to hear the story of grace one more time before they were buried with Jesus.
On the wooden floor of the family room where we were gathered I marked out an area which I called, with great dramatic flair and a fake echo, the “Canyon of Doom.” I described the abyss as being incredibly deep and made certain that the edges of the canyon were too far apart to jump across. Placing the girls on one edge of the gulf I pointed to the other side and explained…
“That is heaven, God’s home. He loves you more than you can possibly imagine and He desperately wants you to be with Him on the other side so you can live with Him forever. However, you are separated from Him by this canyon. The ‘Canyon of Doom’ isn’t His idea, it’s ours. We dig this great pit when we sssssssssssssin.” As I spoke that word I did my best imitation of a hissing snake.
“We sssssssin when we do something God has told us not to do, or when we don’t do something He has asked us to do,” I continued. “In fact, if we even think about sssssssinning the Bible says it’s the same as actually sssssssssinning. Have you ever done something you knew you shouldn’t have, or even just thought about doing something bad?”
The sheepish look on the girls’ faces told me they knew they were guilty. “Then you have both helped to dig out this canyon,” I declared dramatically. It was at this point that I asked the two to attempt to jump across the abyss. After they had failed miserably and been dashed to pieces upon the ground far below I explained what they had just learned.
“You were partially correct when you said this is impossible. There is no way we can get to the other side by ourselves. But fortunately, we don’t have to depend on our own abilities to get us there. God has made a way for us. He loves us so very much that He sent His only Son, Jesus, to build a bridge across the ‘Canyon of Doom’ for all those who want to live forever with God in heaven. The Bible says that everyone who sssssssins must die. That was God’s rule which He set up when He first created man. And ever since then, from Adam and Eve all the way down to you and me, every single person has sssssssinned; everyone, that is, except Jesus.
“The ‘Canyon of Doom’ has existed almost from the very beginning of time and every one of us has done our part to dig it. We all deserve to die because we have broken God’s rule. Jesus is the only one who doesn’t deserve to die, but He died anyway, willingly. He was nailed to the cross and died, not for His own sins because He wasn’t guilty of anything, but for our sssssssins. The good news is He didn’t stay dead. He came back to life and now lives with Father God in heaven. Jesus died for our sssssssins so we would have a way to get across the ‘Canyon of Doom’ and live forever with Him in heaven.”
As I was speaking I grabbed a couple of large beach towels that had been brought out for the baptisms and placed them on the floor in the shape of a cross. I then instructed the girls to walk on the cross from one side of the canyon to the other. As they did so I quoted this Scripture. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” – John 14:6.
“There is no other way we can get to heaven,” I further explained. “You can be as good as you think you can possibly be, but just like you couldn’t jump across the canyon, you’ll never be good enough to earn a trip to heaven. The only way to get there is through the cross of Jesus. Passing through the cross of Jesus means passing through His death. Our old life which was filled with sssssssins must be done away with, put to death and buried, so that our new life with Jesus can begin. That is what baptism is meant to represent. Going under the water pictures our old self dying and being buried just like Jesus died and was placed in the tomb. When we come up out of the water it pictures our resurrection, just like Jesus came out of the tomb alive. Now, is this still what you both want to do?”
They were both enthusiastically positive. We talked for awhile about what it means to trust fully in Jesus, to follow Him wherever He leads and to obey whatever He says. Then we prayed and both girls asked Jesus to be the Lord of their lives. A few minutes later we walked out to the backyard hot tub and witnessed five people being buried with Jesus in baptism. It was especially touching to watch a brand new Christian father whom I had just baptized, turn around and immerse his own daughter. A few moments later another family was likewise united in their new faith with the mother doing the task of laying her daughter beneath the water and raising her up again. The “Canyon of Doom” was robbed of five souls that evening, and heaven was surely rejoicing!
Since that glorious night it has occurred to me that other canyons of doom lie in wait to gobble up unwary pilgrims. These great chasms are also of our own making and, tragically, they separate us from one another. But unlike the canyon which separates us from God, we can actually do something in our own strength to cross this abyss. I’m talking about the gulf that exists between the Church and the unbelieving world.
Just beyond the reach of our media-enhanced sermons, just out of earshot of our professional praise bands, just outside the limits of our dynamic youth programs, in the shadows of our stained-glass temples, and next door to our house churches exists a world of people who, for whatever reason, will likely never attend our gatherings. They may be as close to us as the cubicle next to our own work station, or the customer across the check-out counter, or the coach of our children’s little league, or the fan sitting next to us at the ball game, or the neighbor on the other side of our fence. Yet a tremendous gulf exists between them and the body of Christ. It is a canyon partly of their own making, but also largely of our own doing. It is a canyon which must be bridged or else millions of souls will fall, perishing with their sssssssins and become forever shut out from heaven.
We have divided up the Church into tightly fused, homogeneous gatherings, both large and small, whose members seem to spend the bulk of their ministry time enjoying the rich fellowship we have in Jesus. In so doing we have acquired a habit of neglecting those outside the Church who are falling into the great “Canyon of Doom” at an alarming rate. We have a tendency to look upon our gatherings as a safe haven around which we manage to dig a culturally unique moat that effectively separates us from the ones who have not yet found the way to God through Jesus Christ. It’s not that our church culture is so terribly wrong; it’s just so terribly different from the world that it requires a translation in order for those on the other side to comprehend our message.
It is high time we lower the drawbridge, cross over the moat, and find ways of connecting with the lost community that surrounds us. If God so loved the world that He sent His Son to be the bridge across the “Canyon of Doom” shouldn’t we reflect that same sacrificial love and strive to build bridges across the chasms that have been created between the Church and our communities? If we are striving to be like Christ shouldn’t we, like Christ, be sacrificing our lives in order to reach out to those who are doomed to perish, who don’t know how to cross the gulf that separates them from salvation?
Six years ago when we began the transition from a traditional church into a home gathering I struggled over the loss of my identity as a Pastor and the loss of income I had relied upon for much of my life. I felt in my heart that we were being obedient to God but I often complained to Him about the sacrifices we were making. Forced to find a way to make a living I fell back on my earlier training as a musician and began teaching private music lessons. One day the parents of one of my piano students, a Singaporean couple, began asking questions about our house church. Intrigued, they asked if it would be possible to start a gathering in their home. We were, of course, delighted to help them and soon a new church was planted.
At the first gathering of this new church I met another couple and their young daughter, all friends of the host family who had invited them. Less than a year later this second family, a mom and dad and their daughter, and my piano student and her father, were all baptized into Christ in a hot tub in the backyard of the second family’s home. It is their story I shared with you earlier in this article, a story which would not have occurred if God had not forced me out of the comfort of our own church gathering and into the community, out of the familiarity of being a member of the professional clergy and into the risky, uncertain world of self employment.
Looking back at it all now I am amazed at the wisdom of God and feel wonderfully blessed to be a part of His plan to spread the Gospel to people from a completely different culture, people I would never have met had I not escaped the confines of our own church. As we were toweling off from those baptisms the other night, we prayed that they would be just the first fruits of many who would come to Jesus through this new church. Only God knows the legacy of fruit that will be born from bridging this cultural chasm.
God has also led us to begin a church gathering in the home of a Hispanic family which has led to several of them accepting Christ as their Lord and Savior. This new church is unique in that some of them speak no English and I speak no Spanish. Love, however, seems to be a universal language which is capable of bridging the widest gap. Love needs no translation! Again, these are people who never would have been reached had we not broken through the walls of our own church and crossed over a cultural divide.
The Master Bridge Builder has been teaching us to open our eyes and look at the other side of the chasm. It is filled with people yearning to find a way across, a massive harvest waiting to be brought to the Lord. Yet between us and all that potential fruit there exists a great gulf, a “Canyon of Doom.” It is a canyon because there is so much that separates the Church from the harvest, and it is doom because if we fail to bridge the gap the harvest will be lost. Even now people very near to us are falling into the great abyss. Even now the Lord of the harvest is begging us to pray for more workers to be sent out from the safety and comfort of the barn into the harvest field.
“Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” – John 4:35. “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” – Luke 10:2. “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.” – Matthew 22:8-10. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” – Matthew 28:19-20.

Bill, a child of God bridging the canyon

Saturday, January 17, 2009


January 16, 2009

With undying determination, a spirit of adventure, and an unshakeable faith in their Lord, William and Eliza Huntington packed their earthly belongings into a covered wagon and headed west across the Oregon Trail. After what must have been a harrowing journey they settled a few miles up the Cowlitz River from where it flows into the mighty Columbia in what is now Washington State. In the shadow of Mt. St. Helens and next to a large outcropping of rock resembling a castle, they began farming the land, planted an apple orchard, and set about carving a community out of the wilderness. William became the postmaster for the area and named the small community Castle Rock. Later, he became a county commissioner, a territorial representative, a senator, and was eventually appointed to be a U. S. Marshal for the territory by Abraham Lincoln.
Okay, so he was a great man who lived a long time ago. But why am I telling you all of this? William and Eliza just happen to be my great, great grandparents. Who I am today in Christ and whatever God is able to accomplish through me in His ministry is due in part to their legacy of faith.
“Why are we getting off the freeway here?” asked my wife sleepily as she awoke from a nap and raised the back of her car seat up to a more vertical position.
“This is Castle Rock,” I replied as I steered the car onto Huntington Avenue. “Some of my ancestors were Huntingtons. I believe I have some roots here in this town and I’ve always wanted to stop and explore the place. We’ve never had the time to do so before now, but if you don’t mind I’d like to at least drive around the community awhile. I remember coming here as a small boy when we’d visit Uncle Johnny and Aunt Lida. They had a large house near an apple orchard, or at least it seemed large to me at the time. I think I remember my brother saying the house was torn down but I’d like to check it out just the same.”
We were driving from our home in the San Francisco Bay area to visit my siblings and their families in Olympia, Washington for Thanksgiving when a powerful urge compelled me to exit the highway and do a little searching for my roots. Entering the town of Castle Rock is like passing through a time warp and ending up in the 1950’s. Except for a school and a nearby church, it seems as though the entire community took a vote and decided not to advance with the rest of the world. After crisscrossing the quiet streets for a few minutes I couldn’t see any house that looked familiar. It was then that my wife discovered a little museum which doubled as the office for the local chamber of commerce.
“Why don’t we stop and see if they have any information about your heritage,” suggested my wife. “As long as we’re here, let’s do some more exploring.”
After a little coaxing I turned the car around and parked in front of a small storefront labeled “Exhibit Hall.” Inside an elderly woman greeted us and, upon learning I was related to the Huntington family, urged us to look around the museum. There on the wall near the front desk was a picture of William and Eliza Huntington along with a short biography. After reading the small print I exclaimed with a mixture of joy and pride…
“These are my great, great grandparents! These pictures were donated to the museum by my uncle Jesse Moon. He mentions they are his great grandparents so for me we can just add one more “great.”
Immediately, the elderly curator began treating us like royalty insisting we see all the other exhibits in the place. As we looked through the historical artifacts and marveled at the pictures of destruction from the eruption of Mt. St. Helens she told us what she knew about the Huntington family. Not only was William the first postmaster and a successful politician, he was also instrumental in planting the first church in the area and served as its preacher for several years. Suddenly it dawned on me why the Spirit had urged me to take a small detour from our trip. There was something more than just a familial ancestry waiting to be discovered. These intrepid pioneers had also contributed to a legacy of faith which had been passed down through the years as well.
The house I played in as a small boy no longer existed. Apparently the property was sold to the school district and the house was torn down to make room for a new school. However, the curator mentioned that we should stop by and see the Huntington memorial at the south edge of town. Happily we agreed to do so.
Resting next to the rock which gave the town its name a granite memorial stands in tribute to William and Eliza and their family. I carefully brushed the leaves from around its base in order to read the full message carved into its face.

James & Maria Benjamin & Jerusha
Jacob & Susan William & Eliza

These brothers with their families selected the Cowlitz on which to make their abode and convert a wilderness into homes for their loved ones. Loyal and devoted to their Lord and country they left a lasting example of courage and self reliance for which all following generations may well be proud. II Chron. 15:7

The text went on to mention that the memorial stands on the north portion of William’s donation land claim and states that he gave the town its name and served as its first postmaster. The memorial was presented to the city by the Huntington family in 1952 one hundred years after William and Eliza first arrived in the area.
After returning home I have been thinking about this pioneering family and the legacy of faith which they left behind. I know nothing about their immediate children but one of their grandchildren, Bessie Huntington, married a handsome young, circuit riding preacher named Everard Moon who often came by to preach at the Christian Church in Castle Rock. Bessie graduated from Castle Rock High School in 1908 (Her graduation picture is on display at the museum). She got married the same year and spent her honeymoon traveling with her groom to Africa to engage in pioneer mission efforts in the Congo. After serving in Africa for many years they also ministered in Jamaica.
Right where the Congo River crosses the equator, at the Bolenge Mission Station, Bessie gave birth to my mother, Eleanor Moon. A couple of decades later back in this country at a college in Indiana where her father was teaching missions, Eleanor fell in love with and married a young divinity student named Don Hoffman. Together they ministered in churches in Indiana, Ohio, and Idaho where I was born. Later, Don and Eleanor also entered the mission field in England.
I had heard vague stories about Uncle Billy (William Huntington) coming out west in a wagon train but I never remember hearing about his faith. Now that I know more of the history of this great man I am humbled to think that my own faith was handed down to me through at least four generations. Were it not for William and Eliza’s dedication to the Lord my own faith history might be completely different. In fact, the faith of these two has opened the door for hundreds and probably thousands of people from across Africa, Europe, the Caribbean, and throughout this country to come to Christ. Tragically, they both died without seeing how their faith has continued to spread like a virus through generation after generation. But I have a feeling they might be well aware of their legacy now as they receive the grateful accolades of their beloved Lord in heaven. The Scripture reference on the Huntington memorial seems to be most appropriate. “But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.” – 2Chronicles 15:7.
Do you find this as encouraging as I do? I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been to carve out a living on the American frontier. Yet William and Eliza did so with their faith intact, advancing the kingdom of God and leaving a lasting legacy of faith for future generations. And they did all this without having a clue as to what their legacy would be. It makes my trials seem like child’s play in comparison. My complaints about the difficulties of ministering in the Bay Area don’t seem to carry much weight any more. I am, however, rededicating myself to passing on the legacy of faith handed down to me. Realizing how hard past generations in my family have labored for the Lord makes me want to double my efforts to make certain the legacy doesn’t stop with me. I hope and pray that long after I have left this earth people who have been touched with the message of Jesus Christ through me, both my immediate family and my extended faith family, will be passing along the same legacy of faith to others.
“He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children.” – Psalm 78:5-6. “One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts.” – Psalm 145:4. “Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” – Deuteronomy 4:9. “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.” – 2Timothy 2:2.
By the way, everyone who has read this article has just become a part of a legacy of faith stretching back over a hundred and fifty years, all the way to William and Eliza Huntington. Whether your own faith heritage can be traced back for generations or it has begun with you, hundreds and perhaps even thousands are waiting for the legacy to be passed on to them. As many have often said, the Christian faith is always just one generation away from extinction. However, just as a small object when placed in front of a light source can cast an ever-widening shadow, one individual with undying determination, a spirit of adventure, and an unshakeable faith in the Lord can cast an ever-widening influence of belief across many generations and indeed around the world. The challenge is this: Don’t let the legacy die with you!

Bill, a child of God passing on a legacy of faith

Friday, January 16, 2009


January 9, 2009

"There's someone walking around in the kitchen!" Tiffany whimpered. Her statement was subdued but there was no hiding the fear in her voice.
Startled out of my slumber I glanced at the clock on my nightstand...12:30 am. Sleep would have to be postponed. My daughter needed me to come to her rescue, to provide peace, comfort and protection in the midst of her anxiety. Usually late night interruptions would annoy me, but not this time. I jumped at the opportunity to play dad, relishing in my mind the thought that she needed me once again. It had been nearly two years since I had walked her down the aisle and given her away to another "protector." Now she had returned home for a few days to help refurbish my office and rekindle a relationship that time and distance had allowed to cool.
Since my office now occupied her old bedroom (one of the perks of having children move away from home) she had been sleeping on the futon in our family room, just a few feet away from the kitchen and the terrifying sounds of an intruder. So who, or what, had awakened my daughter and created the panic that took her upstairs to be in the presence of her father? No matter, beast or burglar, I was there to protect her. Grabbing my flashlight and stepping into my slippers I bravely led my daughter back downstairs, creating as much noise as possible and flipping on light switches as we went. Perhaps we could convince the intruder that I was a 250 lb. linebacker and thus frighten our adversary into running away. Okay, so it was a stupid idea, at least all the noise and bright lights made us feel more courageous.
A quick check of the windows and doors found them all securely closed and locked. A further detailed, room by room search of the downstairs came up empty. No burglar, no murderer, no vicious animal...nothing! My fatherly duty had been accomplished; it was time to call it a night.
"It was probably just a mouse," I said matter-of-factly. Oops, wrong answer! I had forgotten that to Tiffany, murderers and mice are equally feared. Having planted the thought in her mind I had only to wait another fifteen minutes before my little blunder bore fruit. She appeared in our bedroom once again, this time carrying her pillow and planning to stay.
"There's a mouse in the kitchen!" she proclaimed. "I heard it scratching and running across the floor!"
Once again I rubbed the sleep from my eyes, reached for my flashlight, donned my slippers and headed downstairs. This time we carefully searched all the kitchen cupboards, along the baseboards, and behind the fridge looking for any tell-tale signs of rodents. As before, this search also turned up nothing.
Rather than call off our quest, we decided on a new tactic. Turning off all the lights we sat down and waited...and waited...and waited. Sure enough, after about twenty minutes of darkness and low whispers, our patience was rewarded with a tiny sound, a faint shuffling across the linoleum.
"Did you hear that?" whispered my daughter.
I sprang into action and shined the flashlight in the direction of the kitchen trash can. And there, scooting across the floor, looking ever so threatening, was a ferocious, man-eating..................MOTH!!! Without hesitation, with total disregard for my personal safety, and with all the courage I could muster I reached for my weapon of choice, a trusty fly swatter, took aim, and let the heinous intruder have the full measure of my wrath. In a split second the fire-breathing dragon lay slain on the battlefield and my damsel-in-distress was gloriously saved. As she gratefully swept up the remains of the vanquished enemy I flushed with pride over my stunning victory. Well, truthfully I nearly died laughing over wasting so much time worrying about something so tiny. Nevertheless, it was gratifying being able to come to the aid of my daughter. Isn’t that what fathers are supposed to do?
Why is it that our fears most often prove to be vastly out of proportion when compared to the reality of the dangers we actually face? Is it because we let our imaginations run wild? Or is it the result of watching too many frightening movies and TV shows? Or do we just have too little faith? I suspect all three reasons are probably true, but lack of trust in our Lord may be the greatest cause of irrational fear, or any fear for that matter.
“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” – Matthew 10:28-31. "The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?" – Psalm 27:1.
I guess it is pretty easy to be apprehensive about the future these days. With war escalating in the Middle East, India and Pakistan on the verge of a nuclear holocaust, terrorism on the march, the persecution of Christians on the rise throughout the world, a severe economic crisis in full swing, global climate change threatening our very existence, political upheaval in this country, and riots breaking out here in the Bay Area, it’s understandable that we might find ourselves entertaining a little anxiety. Yet the Bible makes it clear that faith and fear cannot coexist.
“You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” – Matthew 8:26. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33. “…for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.” – 1John 5:4.
What should we do when we find ourselves overcome by fear? Take a hint from my daughter and take your panic upstairs. Spend some time in the presence of your heavenly Father. Bring your pillow and plan on staying awhile. No other protector will do. Far from being annoyed He will jump at the opportunity to play dad and take joy that you are counting on Him to come to your rescue, to provide peace, comfort, and protection in the midst of your highest anxieties. He will also shine His light on your fears revealing how unfounded they really are. And He's certainly bigger than a 250 lb. linebacker!
“Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.’” – Isaiah 35:3-4. "For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you." – Isaiah 41:13.
So, sleep well tonight. No murderer, mouse, nor moth; no dragon, economic downturn, nor medical diagnosis; no terror in the night, termination of employment, nor trial of our faith dare threaten our peace. Our Dad stands ready to come to our aid! Isn’t that what dads are supposed to do?
“…because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.’” – Hebrews 13:5-6.

Bill, a child of God resting in His peace

Saturday, January 03, 2009


January 2, 2009

Okay, I didn’t actually hear it speak, but the message came through loud and clear just the same. It was a heavenly homily delivered in pantomime by way of an indifferent, unflappable, nearly motionless seagull perched contentedly about five feet from where I sat. The fowl expositor was magnificently robed in grey and white feathered vestments, a stunning figure silhouetted against a sparkling clear azure sky. The sermon was profound in its simplicity and penetrating in its power, the envy of any serious Bible college student. I can still remember my homiletics professor from seminary often repeating his sage advice, “The fewer words you can use to get your point across, the better.” This closed-beak elocutionist would have definitely earned high marks. As the only congregant in attendance to witness this inspiring silent discourse I sat spellbound before the rocky pulpit of the nonchalant yet mesmerizing preacher absorbing every moment of its Sunday morning lecture. Fortunately, I took some detailed notes of the sermon in order to share the winged wisdom with you.
My wife, Babs, and I were taking advantage of an after-Christmas lull in our schedules to get away for a couple of days in order to celebrate our wedding anniversary and rest up after the hectic holiday season. A two-night stay at a quaint bed and breakfast on the beautiful Monterey Bay Peninsula was a perfect cure for our weary souls. On Sunday morning, the last day of our mini-vacation, we decided to spend some time at the beach hoping to squeeze every ounce of relaxation out of our brief stay in paradise. Finding a spot where a sea-worn outcropping of rocks jutted far out into the bay, I took to exploring the tide pools while Babs stayed behind taking photographs.
The mid-morning sky was perfectly clear and the temperature was in the high fifties although a stiff northerly breeze found me zipping up my jacket to stay warm. Climbing atop a large rock near the water’s edge I sat down to enjoy the dynamic spectacle of the surf violently pounding against the shore. It was an idyllic setting, one which called up a fresh surge of love from my heart for the Creator. Before long I was singing praise songs to the Lord, thoroughly enjoying the impromptu worship service, content to know that God was the only one who could hear my exultation, or so I thought.
Turning around to check on my wife I was startled to discover a seagull standing about five feet away from me. I was amazed that it was perched so close to my position. Apparently it was totally undaunted by my presence and undisturbed by the breakers crashing into the rocks a few feet away. Looking again out toward the ocean I asked the Lord if He had any word for me. I longed to hear something from Him, a message of hope and cheer, of inspiration and direction, yet the only answer I received was silence. The pounding surf seemed to drown out everything else, including the Holy Spirit.
The violence of the waves breaking upon the jagged rocks just in front of where I sat reminded me of all the turbulence in our lives at the present time. Our own financial situation has taken a turn for the worse along with our nation’s economy. The New Year is bringing with it a cut in my wife’s hours at work which means we are losing our insurance benefits. Our retirement funds have been grossly depleted with the falling stock market. Our five-year adjustable rate mortgage is about to come due which will lead to our house payments increasing substantially. And we are just two among millions who are struggling to get by in this recession. Our government is going through tremendous upheaval with the change in administrations. War is heating up in the Holy Land. Many other conflicts are raging out of control around the world. Wave after wave of strife seems to be crashing down upon us just like the mighty breakers continue to pound against the shore. Please God, don’t you have a word of encouragement for your weary servant?
Once again I was moved to turn around and stare at the seagull perched so calmly nearby. Incredibly, it had tucked one of its legs up underneath its belly and closed its eyes. Amidst all the surrounding turbulence this amazing bird had gone to sleep. Why is this bird so undisturbed by the pounding of the surf? I thought to myself. Why is it so unconcerned with the breakers crashing so close to us? I am scared to death to take my eyes off of the waves for fear one will surprise me and wash me off this rock and into the sea. How can this bird be so unafraid?
Suddenly a passage of Scripture came to me from the book of Job. “Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb, when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness, when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place, when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt’?” – Job 38:8-11.
Finally the silence was broken and the Spirit began to download His message. The seagull was unconcerned about the waves because it knew the Creator had set a boundary for the sea. Instinctively it knew where it was safe from the turmoil. In the same way, God has also set a boundary for the turbulence in my life. He has declared, “This far you may come and no farther…” I can rest secure in the knowledge that no violence, no upheaval, no waves of adversity can sweep over me that haven’t been given permission to do so by my Creator. “You set a boundary they cannot cross…” – Psalm 104:9.
I had been looking in the wrong direction. Rather than staring at the fierce breakers with increasing apprehension, I needed to focus on the seagull, asleep amidst the chaos. Rather than dwelling anxiously upon all the turmoil surrounding me I need to fix my eyes upon Jesus and rest secure in the knowledge that He has established the boundaries for adversity in my life. “The seas have lifted up, O Lord, the seas have lifted up their voice; the seas have lifted up their pounding waves. Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea—the Lord on high is mighty.” – Psalm 93:3-4. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33.
Back in our car on the way home I shared the seagull’s sermon with Babs. “It was amazing,” I explained. “He had his tail toward the violent breakers which were crashing just a few feet away from us and his head was pointed in the opposite direction, into the wind. In the midst of all the chaos and turmoil he was sleeping.”
“Do you know why he was facing the wind?” she asked.
“I suppose it’s because he’s more streamlined that way and the wind is less likely to blow him off the rock,” I answered.
“He faces the wind because he’s ready to fly,” she responded. “Seagulls will take off into the wind; it takes less effort for them to get airborne. The stiffer the wind, the easier it is for them to soar.”
“Wow!” I exclaimed. “There is more to the seagull’s message than I first thought. God is telling us not to cower in fear when the winds of this troubled world are blowing against us. Instead, we need to face the adversity. Trials are not a sign that God has abandoned us, but rather a signal for us to be ready to take off. When the time is right the Lord will tell us to spread our wings and fly. The stronger the winds are blowing against us, the less effort it will take to get airborne and the easier it will be for us to soar.” “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” – Isaiah 40:29-31.
That’s not a bad sermon considering it was delivered by a seagull, and very timely since we are entering into a New Year filled with uncertainty. Only God knows what the next twelve months will bring. To be sure they will be filled with chaos and turmoil. We can choose to focus on the breakers crashing around us or turn our attention to the bird sleeping in the midst of the upheaval. We can choose to be overwhelmed by the trouble throughout this world or fix our gaze upon the Lord who sleeps in the back of the boat in the midst of the storm. We can put our faith in our own feeble ability to dodge the waves, or we can place our trust in the One who set the boundary for the sea.
When the wind seems to be against us it isn’t time to panic or question the goodness of the Lord. It simply means we need to face the wind and be ready to fly. Faith is born from adversity. The stronger the wind, the higher we can soar. “…for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.” – 1John 5:4.
I must admit to being a little envious of a seagull who can deliver such an inspiring homily, especially considering he did it without opening his beak. My prayer is that I will be able to pass along the same message, not in words, but in following the example set forth by that feathered pulpiteer of peace.

Bill, a child of God, ready to soar