Thursday, July 9, 2009

Two Friends Go to Heaven

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his godly ones.” Psalm 116:15

Last week I lost two personal friends within three days. Well, I didn’t really “lose” them, I know exactly where they are. But they are no longer here with me, and that’s a bummer.

One was Ernie Aparicio, essentially one of the founding members of our church, at least on the Green Gables Chapel side of the family tree. Ernie was born in Walsenburg in 1930 and grew up through the depression years. His dad became ill while he was young, and Ernie had to drop out of high school to help support the family (that was a pretty common experience in the 1930’s).

Right before his mom died, she helped him join the Marines, by adding a fictitious year to his age. I don’t think the Marines asked a lot of questions in those days – if you really wanted to enlist, they winked at your form and handed you a uniform. The Marines were good to Ernie but he returned to civilian life and soon joined the Denver Police Department in 1953. For twenty five years he served his community as an officer and later a detective.

Ernie was involved in a lot of tough police work, but he only pulled his gun a few times. Once, he was the first officer on the scene of an armed robbery in progress, in a butcher shop. The robber was coming toward Ernie with a meat cleaver, and Ernie had to do something. He had a clear shot at the man’s chest, but later said, ‘Aw, I didn’t want to do that – I just shot him in the leg, and that solved the problem.”

Ernie and his wife Rose were one of six couples who went to the bank to co-sign the loan to finance the land on the corner of Kendrick Lake – the land on which our church now sits. Ernie loved his God, his country, his city, his church, and his family. Around here, he will be sorely missed.

My other friend was Bob Chamberlain, a local boy born and raised in Lakewood, Colorado. He didn’t stick around, though, becoming an Air Force pilot in the 1960’s, serving twenty years and setting several records while test-piloting the B1B, now the Air Force’s premier tactical bomber.
Bob then flew for United Airlines for twenty years, rising to Captain and even to Flight Crew Examiner.

He and his wife Huntley were key leaders in the Activation Ministries church plant on Lookout Mountain (in the old Lookout Mtn Church building.) We went on mission trips together, flew together, and I was out at their Mountain Song ranch on many occasions. Whatever Bob was doing, he made it fun. Didn’t matter if he was working, flying, ranching, water skiing… he had that knack for having fun at whatever he was doing – and so everyone around him had fun too.

Bob had some simple philosophies that often sounded like Proverbs. I ran into him at the airport one day, we were flying different airplanes, going different directions. I pointed at a distant storm cloud that concerned me and said, “That weather may be a problem for me.”

“Don’t fly there,” Bob said cheerily. “Fly somewhere else.” You know, it’s hard to argue with that kind of logic.

One day we were on the way to the Philippines to work with our partner church, and I inquired about how he, as a professional, handled the challenge of jet lag. There’s a lot of literature out there about adjusting your eating and sleeping habits while on the road, in order to cope with the time zone changes.

Bob looked me and said, “Eat when you’re hungry. Sleep when you’re tired. Fly when they call you.” Again, it’s hard to argue with that.

My two friends have left me with some good lessons for life. Love your country, and your church, and your community. Make everything fun. Don’t shoot ‘em in the chest if a leg will do. Eat when you’re hungry. Sleep when you’re tired. Finally, when God calls you, fly home.



Thursday, June 25, 2009

Ah, Summer (Camp Warnecke)

The lingering twilight of recent summer afternoons often calls to my mind, old memories of summers long ago. Back in my childhood days, the 1950’s, there were six of us in a three-bedroom house with one bathroom and no air conditioning—in sultry Austin, Texas. How’d we do that? By today’s standards, we may have been living below the Federal Poverty Line, but we didn’t know or care-- we were having way too much fun.

Dad worked up in the control tower at the Austin airport and that’s where I loved to hang out, watching the planes come and go from that lofty perch in the sky. In those days, air traffic controllers were not allowed to work overtime, so Dad never worked more than 40 hours in a week. That gave him considerable time to coach our baseball team, with our purple tee shirts provided by our sponsor, El Patio Mexican CafĂ©. Every player got a free coke after each game, and a free enchilada dinner after the season. Life was good in the 1950’s.

Once a year, we would load the car and head for Camp Warnecke, a family resort in New Braunfels, Texas. They had little cabins all along the shady banks of the Comal River, which was fed by springs over in Landa Park. These were true “cabins,” and didn’t have refrigerators. I remember Dad taking the boys into town and buy blocks of ice, which we would set into the “icebox” that kept our milk and eggs cool. Those 20-pound blocks of ice were heavy to tote, but we boys enjoyed learning to use our ice picks to chip out chunks for everyone to put in their cool-aid. Cool-aid is a lot better if it’s not at room temperature.

The river water was crystal clear and just right for swimming, and the river still had an old mill dam that partially blocked the current at one point,. This created a “white water rapids” effect that made for great tubing –long before anyone invented water parks. Most of the river was a “lazy river” which was also great for tubing. I have now decided that heaven is bound to have such a river, where you can just float along on a hot afternoon, without a care in the world, exerting no energy and feeling no stress.

After Connie and I married, we returned with our own kids, but Camp Warnecke has long since been replaced by a mega-water park, The Schlitterbahn, and San Antonio has overrun the little Bavarian town of New Braunfels.

But the summers keep coming, every year, and I hope you take the time to visit some favorite summer place that will produce the same effect for you. It doesn’t have to be fancy or far away. The key is to find a place where you can just “float along” for a few days, without a care in the world, exerting no energy and feeling no stress. I think that’s why God made the long, lingering twilights of summer afternoons.

A Blessing on Your Summer,


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Watching and Praying

One of the most interesting things about our church is its capacity to respond to a challenge (and often at the last minute). The Pastor’s Prayer Partners, one of several prayer teams at church, wanted us to do a 24/7 “week of prayer” leading up to Easter again this year. That team really does want us to be a “house of prayer.” They are serious about it.

So they planned the week of prayer, promoted it, publicized it, and posted a schedule on the wall of church. Almost no one signed up. It looked like this was going to be a bust. Until the day it started – last Sunday -- when everyone signed up. We are now well into the week, and prayer is going up from church hour after hour, around the clock. I am still amazed at the last minute sign-up. It was a two-minute drill that would make John Elway proud.

Back to the business of prayer: it really isn’t a business, it’s a lifestyle. But like any business, it does involve some work. At times, hard work. One of the hardest-praying men who ever lived was the celebrated preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, of London, England.

Spurgeon was called “The Prince of Preachers” and his preaching was extraordinary. He began preaching around the time of the American Civil War, and pastured one church for 38 years. He would often preach ten sermons a week, and over his lifetime spoke to ten million people, without the aid of radio or television (but he would have loved pod-casting over the internet).

Spurgeon was also a man of prayer, and believed that his church must be a house of prayer. Here’s what he said about that:

There is no waiting on God for help, and there is no help from God, without watchful expectation on our part. If we ever fail to receive strength and defense from Him, it is because we are not on the outlook for it. Many a proffered succour from heaven (i.e., a promise of help from God) goes past us, because we are not standing on our watchtower to catch the far-off indications of its approach, and to fling open the gates of our heart for its entrance. He whose expectation does not lead him to be on the alert for its coming will get but little. Watch for God in the events of your life.

The only homely proverb says: “They that watch for Providence will never want a providence to watch for,” and you may turn it the other way and say, “They that do not watch for providences will never have a providence to watch for.” Unless you put out the water-jars when it rains you will catch no water.

Spurgeon might have been thinking of a bible verse from Habakkuk 2:1. “I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what he will say unto me.” How thankful I am, to be part of a church where we are “watching” for God 24/7 this week.

A Blessing on all of our people who are watching and praying for Providence!

Pastor Jim

The Day of the Fool

The Day of the Fool pastor Jim
April 1. This is the day upon which we are reminded of what we are on the other three hundred and sixty-four. ~Mark Twain, Pudd'nhead Wilson, 1894
The trouble with practical jokes is that very often they get elected. ~Will Rogers
I do miss those old-time humor guys. Max Eastman was another humorist. He said, “It is the ability to take a joke, not make one, that proves you have a sense of humor.”
Oh, I do so remember that infamous day, when the joke was on me, and a whole grandstand full of people were busting their gut. It was during my Instructor Pilot days in the Air Force, when they would give me a jet plane, a student pilot, and a government credit card, and say, “Be back Friday.” And I quit that job (what ever was I thinking?).
Our flying school would graduate a class of cadets every so often, and we instructors were forced to either march in the big parade or do some other deed of service for the occasion. On a day, I opted to serve as a driver in the motorcade, using a sky blue Air Force Rambler station wagon (“for official use only”), to deliver some VIP to the front of the reviewing stand. On this (dark) day, my Rambler was a ramblin’ wreck, and my passenger, was the Wing Commander’s wife. (Think: First Lady of the whole base.)
That was cool; I picked her up at their home by the main gate (the only time I ever visited that home) and we joined in the line of Air Force blue cars cruising slowly across the tarmac. Because the back seat of this ol’ heap didn’t look clean, the First Lady had opted to ride shotgun (a small fact that will soon be crucial to this story).The car ahead of me pulled up in front of the grandstand and three Colonels hopped out. That car moved ahead so I pulled up in front of the crowd, and stopped. The First Lady did not hop out. She just turned and looked at me. A light came on in my head: she needs someone to open her door for her. Aha! I can do that. Quick as a flash, I released my shoulder belt, threw the door open, and stepped out on to the concrete ramp. I turned to my left, to walk behind the car, and noticed that the car was now moving ahead – on its own! I had left the thing in DRIVE. “Oh God help me.”
I spun back around as the car cruised by my left shoulder. I ran up into a position where I could leap into the moving car. But just as I leaped, the left rear tire ran over my right foot, pinning it to the ground. I did a face plant on the cement. My hat and my sunglasses went flying off. The car was still moving, picking up speed.
I leaped up and tried to catch up. Running left and looking right, I caught up to the open door. Just as I was in position to leap again, I collided with one of those Colonels from the preceding car. I went down again; fortunately, he did not. Again I was up and running. Ahead of the car there was a formation of troops standing at attention, but now they broke ranks and spread open for the approaching car. It was like Moses charging toward the Red Sea. I was almost in position to make another leap. What I didn’t know is the First Lady had released her seat belt and was sliding across the bench. Just as I leaped toward the open door, she hit the brakes. I smacked into the end of the door, and went down a third time. Down for the count. The car stopped; I lay face down, eating concrete. Waves of laughter poured down from the grandstand. It was the most exciting moment at any graduation parade in the history of Reese Air Force Base. All the people loved it. The First Lady loved it, she was laughing so hard she was in tears. I hated it. I who had been the proud jet pilot, was now the Fool of the Year. “Why, O God?” I cried. “Why would you let this happen to me?” I lay on the ground like a wounded insect, knowing I would never hear the end of this.
“Ah, Grasshopper,” the small still voice seemed to say. “Pride cometh before the fall.” Oh, so it does, and every year around April 1st, I am reminded of the awful truth: There, but for the grace of God, go I, the Fool.
A Blessing on Your April…Jim

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Our Changing World (Part Six) Israel: Tiny Land, Huge Impact

by pastor Jim Walters

How can one tiny piece of land in the Middle East, a piece of land about the size of Massachusetts, be so much in the news and play such a big part in our changing world?

The nation of Israel is small geographically but huge politically. It is also the only “miracle” nation on earth. By that I mean they were wiped off the map in 71 A.D. and stayed off the map for more than 1,800 years, but suddenly they are BACK! After almost two millennia living as exiles, in 1948 the Jewish people once again took ownership of their ancient and biblical land.

What chance would you give, for example, the Anasazi people who built Mesa Verde to rise up and make a new nation out of the “four corners” area of Colorado? Could the Arapahoe people reclaim Arapahoe County and turn it into a separate nation? If I told you the Mayans will soon rise up out of the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico and re-birth their sovereign empire, you’d think I was nuts! But Israel came back into existence after an absence longer than any of those empires. This is the only time in history such a thing has actually happened.

The modern state of Israel is in fact a re-birth of the nation of the Old Testament:
1) The location is the same.
2) The archeologists continue to dig up artifacts from ancient Israeli towns.
3) The population contains many who are direct descendents of Jews from antiquity.
4) The major religion, Judaism, still operates under the tenets of the Old Testament.
5) The language, while modernized, is the same language as ancient Hebrew.

So how did Israel come back to life? The Zionist movement (to create a modern political state of Israel) began shortly after the American Civil War. Jews from Europe slowly migrated back to the land. They didn’t have visas, so they were essentially “illegal aliens.” Nonetheless, they came and opened tiny farming settlements. The Ottoman Turkish Empire had been in control for centuries, but during World War I, the British army, under General Allenby, pushed the Turkish forces out and seized the land as part of the Allied victory in Europe. By 1922 the League of Nations had authorized the “British Mandate” over the region of Palestine.

It is important to note that the term “Palestine” historically referred to a region and not a political state. Sort of like how we talk about “the front range” of the Rockies. There’s no boundary for that, no post office zip code, no one has a driver’s license issued by the “front range.” It was never a country, never a political state.

Meanwhile, in Europe, Adolf Hitler was rising to power, with vast and ghastly consequences. By the end of World War II, the Nazi regime had murdered more than four million Jews (and more than a few other people) in the Holocaust. When the war ended, there was global empathy for the surviving Jews, and the newly established United Nations took action. In 1947, they “partitioned” the land into two areas that were to become two new states: Israel and Palestine. One nation would be Jewish controlled; the other Arab (or Muslim) controlled. The one existing (and very historical) city, Jerusalem, was to become an “international” city. The Jewish community accepted the plan immediately, but the Arab League and other Arab leaders rejected it – they couldn’t abide ANY land being given back to Israel. Nonetheless, on May 14, 1948, Israel became a state – to the jubilation of Jewish people worldwide. The United States was the first nation to recognize the new state diplomatically, and not many nations followed. Five Arab states built up an army and attacked Israel, intending to drive the Jewish residents into the sea. Right before the attack, Arab leaders advised all Arab peoples to flee the country temporarily, so as to be out of harm’s way. About 700,000 (or 80%) of the Arabs fled Israel.

But the war went badly for the Arabs – in what military experts say was a miraculous victory, the brand-new and barely organized Israeli army defended their land and pushed out the invaders.
When the dust settled, Jordan claimed the land on the West Bank of the Jordan river, and Egypt was in control of the Gaza Strip on the southwest side of Israel. The 700,000 refugees were unable to return to Israel proper. They were people without a country and the genesis of what continues to be a major issue today: the Palestinian refugees, who have grown to more than 3 million over the last sixty years.

Arab states continued to harass Israel – Egypt’s President Abdul Nasser continued to call for the destruction of the state of Israel. In 1967, Egyptian and other Arab nations massed troops on the borders, but a preemptive strike by the new Israeli Air Force ended the Six Day war.

In 1973, another assault by Arab armies came on the Israeli holy day of Yom Kippur, but again the Arabs were defeated. Much of the “Palestinian” land was captured by the Israeli army, who continued to occupy it since then for security purposes. Honestly, the history and the scope of the Palestinian problem is much too complicated to explain fully in this short essay.

Here’s where we are in the year 2008:

a) Israel continues to thrive as a nation; it’s 6 million people are 75% Jewish, 25% Arab Muslim or other minority groups. Their economy is strong; their per-capita income is in the top quarter of the world ($23,000 per person).

b) The eastern area of Palestine, known as the West Bank, is run by the political party Fatah. This is the party of the late Yasser Arafat and is considered a bit more moderate than other groups. The southwestern area of Palestine, the Gaza Strip, recently elected leaders from the Hamas party, a violent sect that will not recognize the right of Israel to exist, even to this day.

c) The people of Palestine have still not been able to form themselves into a nation, in spite of the efforts of every U.S. president since Jimmy Carter. They enjoy total support of all the rich oil states in the Middle East, plus considerable support from the European Union. What’s the only country that has stood stalwartly in defense of Israel? That would be the United States.

d) No Arab country will allow any of the Palestinian refugees to immigrant permanently in to their country. Rather, they use the refugees as a wedge against Israel.

Why is this problem so intractable? Why is it in the news year after year after year?
I can count at least five challenges that the world has been unable to overcome:

#1 The Palestinians themselves can’t agree on how to form and operate their nation.

#2 Some Palestinians demand far more of Israel than it can ever concede. ( This would include the “right of return” as citizens of Israel, for all who fled Israel, turning the country into an instant majority-population of Arab Muslims. That’s not going to happen.)

#3 The Palestinians have no potential means of operating an economy. Israel spent a century building irrigation systems and farm communes, not to mention modern factories and computer-based services. The literally “made the desert bloom,” but such is not happening in Palestine.

#4 During all this time, Israeli settlements have encroached into land legally belonging to the Palestinian people. The settlers took over unused land and don’t want to give it back.

#5 Jerusalem, particularly East Jerusalem, is claimed by both Jews and Muslims as a Holy City. The Jews are willing to share access, if they can keep control. The Muslims want it all. Israel has declared Jerusalem to be their “eternal capital city,” even thought their political capital is in Tel Aviv. On this point, there is no backing down.

These are the challenges that we ALL face today. (Another reason to pray for President-Elect Obama, that he and all the new U.S. leaders will have wisdom to deal with this issue.)

Ironically, when Osama Bin-Laden listed the three reasons he authorized the attacks against the U.S. on September 11, 2001, he cited these issues:

#1. The presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia (ironically, few are still there)
#2 The sanctions against Saddam Hussein (curiously, he’s no longer in power)
#3 The inflexibility of the U.S. support for Israel regarding the Palestinian peoples.

So the problem is there – and it will always be there. Many biblical passages pit the sons of Isaac (the Jews) in perpetual conflict with the sons of Ishmael (the Arabs and others) although they are both sons of Abraham!

Some say there will never be “real peace” until Jesus returns and stands on the Mount of Olives, to herald in the 1,000 year millennial reign of Christ. Still, we are instructed in Psalm 122:6 to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem,” and that is what we shall do. Pray for peace, for blessing, for prosperity, for not only the Jews but also the Arabs (as well as the few Christians) who dwell in the region of the earth known as Palestine.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

So What Do We Do Now?

So What Do We Do Now?
by Pastor Jim Walters

This morning I am thinking about the readers of this local church blog. Many of whom woke up today as members of a new political minority. Many of our readers, I suspect, have a sense of sadness over a perceived shift from conservative, traditional values, to ones that are liberal, perhaps extreme.
Others may feel fear as the White House goes through a makeover, from the very familiar feel of two presidents with the plain-sounding name of “George Bush,” to a new president, whose very name sounds more foreign than familiar. Still others may be more concerned about the dominance of a single political party in all branches of government, and what agendas they may advance into law.
But hey, not to despair. This is still America, and the people have spoken. Sixty million of them spoke for Senator Barack Obama and so he will become the President of all three hundred million of us. Let me say that he will be “my president” too and I will support him. I plan to speak kindly of him, and speak graciously to my friends who supported his election. These friends will be sure to visit me soon, I am sure, to “share their joy” with me. I will take my medicine, and try to follow the gracious example that Senator McCain so genuinely demonstrated last night.
Plus, some aspects of yesterday’s election can truly be celebrated by all Americans.
#1. The joy on the faces of every African-American can be shared by people of all races. We hold these truths to be self-evident: “that all men are created equal.” It’s straight from the Bible, you can look it up (Luke 20:21; Acts 10:34). This election ratifies that truth. This could be a giant step for bringing racial healing to our nation. This could encourage fathers to stay with their families, dropouts to stay in school, hopeless youth to stay out of gangs. It's a good thing for us to rejoice with those who are rejoicing.
#2. The rest of the world gets to see that we do in fact practice the democracy we preach. We know how to peacefully transfer the power from one party to the next. (And we apparently can count our ballots again, without the hanging chads and screaming lawyers.) Seriously, a lot of good American soldiers laid down their lives in combat so that Middle Eastern people might have a chance at this kind of freedom and democracy. Let’s honor their efforts by laying down our rancor and disappointment and showing the world how to respond when your side isn’t in power.
From the perspective of a conservative Christian, I personally am not too freaked out about us not being “in power.” Frankly, our faith is lived out more purely when we’re not in power! And when we were in power, perhaps we let our trust slip, ever so subtly, from God to government. With the right guys in DC, we may have thought, the “kingdom of God” in American will thrive. It didn’t happen.
So what do we do now? We keep praying. We pray for America and we pray for (not against) our new president. I will ask God to give him wisdom (as He did for Solomon) and protection (as He did for David) and courage (as He did for Gideon). Also, I will ask God for patience, and peace, and perseverance, for all of our leaders, plus, for you and for me!
A Blessing on Our New President Today,
Pastor Jim

Thursday, October 30, 2008

India, Inc.

Our Changing World Part V

Much has been written about “US jobs going overseas.” Usually the context of this observation is negative – it’s seen as only a downer for our economy. However, as Christians, we can rejoice that hundreds of thousands of poor people in other countries are benefitting from these job exports –people made in the image of God are climbing out of abject poverty and moving towards self-sufficiency and basic prosperity. And trust me, they know and appreciate that these jobs are coming from America, which means they are more open than before, to hear about the gospel of Jesus Christ, which they often associate with America.

Nowhere has this move towards basic prosperity been more dramatic than in the cities of India. And the cities of India are HUGE – imagine a skyline not that much different that Denver’s, with an urban “sprawl” about the size of metro Denver’s, but with a population of 20 million people!
Welcome to New Delhi, India. International flights pour in and out of their airport as if on a conveyor belt, and modern domestic flights (with Boeing jetliners) will whisk you out into the interior. Yes, you can take a train, but India is huge – the seventh largest nation by land mass, and second only to China in population (with a little more than a billion.) India’s economy ranks 4th in the world in “gross domestic product,” but with that vast population, a more revealing figure would be their ‘per capita income” which is 165th – that’s way down the poverty scale.

Still, India, Inc, (the slang term for their burgeoning globalized economy) is booming. When I was there two years ago, the English language papers were filled with ads that said, “If you can read this ad, we have a job for you!” Most of those jobs paid way less than $10 per hour, but in India, that’s an upper middle class salary!

So, other than having a bunch of new jobs, courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue, why is India so important in our changing world?

First, because of its recent history. Prior to World War Two, India was still a British Colony. Under Mohandas Gandhi and other leaders, independence finally came in 1947. As a “non-aligned” nation during the cold war, it was courted by Russia, who supplied much of India’s military needs. India is not a part of NATO, nor the European Union, although they were a founding member (and very active) with the UN.

Second, it’s military: India is arguably the third largest military on the planet, behind the USA and Russia.
Third, it’s resources. Per Wikipedia, “India has also become a major exporter of software as well as financial, research, and technological services. Its natural resources include arable land, bauxite, chromite, coal, diamonds, iron ore, limestone, manganese, mica, natural gas, petroleum, and titanium ore.”
Fourth, they are finding innovative uses for their large pool of educated, English-speaking people. They “export” medical and computer personnel all over the world. Their newest ting: “Medical Tourism.” British health insurance companies will buy their members two round trip business class tickets to India, have a limousine take them from airport to hospital, where their surgical needs are met by doctors trained to the same standards as British doctors – but all this at a fraction of the cost! Imagine flying to Delhi for a hip replacement, complete with a side trip out to the Taj Mahal.
Fifth, and finally – because of their spiritual openness. India IS a sub-continent full of Hindus, and it is surrounded by Muslims. Christians represent only a small percentage, but are active and growing. The ancient “caste” system is still in place, but recently, a vast move among the “Dalit” class (the untouchables) has set off alarms among the other religions. But hey, why be an “untouchable” generation after generation if you can come to Christ and be “upgraded” to first class right away! So they’re coming. People from the working classes also, who have gained access to the internet, and to cable TV, are gaining information about the Christian faith in ways that are hard for opponents to block.
What happens in the next ten years in India, in terms of people coming to Christ, could change not only that country but the world. Yet the task is formidable – foreigners (like me) are barred by law from preaching. Many of their thousands of “people groups” (ethnicities with their own language, customs, etc) still have no thriving church, or scripture in their own language. But the ancient land has come into serious contact with the new world, and there’s no turning back.
I’m glad that Bear Valley has a long term partner there, Brother Abraham, who operates a number of schools and churches in a part of India where Christians are very few. We also have one of our own families living there, among a group of people who are completely without a church in their culture. Yet a third partner, a single lady, is working in an orphanage and hopes to begin an adoption ministry. In the days to come, our involvements will only increase, and I’m sure that more short-term teams will go from BVC, to this vital and strategic land.