Blog Open While under construction
Header

He is Risen Indeed!

April 20th, 2014 | Posted by Steve Sanchez in Special Days - (2 Comments)

Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever!

I try to re-post this wonderful illustration of this wonderful day every year…

The story is told of a king in Africa who had a close friend with whom he grew up. The friend had a habit of looking at every situation that ever occurred in his life, positive or negative, and remarking, “This is good!”

One day the king and his friend were out on a hunting expedition. The friend would load and prepare the guns for the king. The friend had apparently done something wrong in preparing one of the guns, for after taking the gun from his friend, the king fired it and his thumb was blown off. Examining the situation, the friend remarked as usual, “This is good!”

To which the king replied, “No, this is not good!” and proceeded to send his friend to jail.African_king_from_Catalan_Atlas_(1375)

About a year later, the king was hunting in an area that he should have known to stay clear of. Cannibals captured him and took him to their village. They tied his hands, stacked some wood, set up a stake and bound him to the stake.

As they came near to set fire to the wood, they noticed that the king was missing a thumb. Being superstitious, they never ate anyone who was less than whole. So untying the king, they sent him on his way.

As he returned home, he was reminded of the event that had taken his thumb and felt remorse for his treatment of his friend. He went immediately to the jail to speak with his friend.

“You were right,” he said, “it was good that my thumb was blown off.” And he proceeded to tell the friend all that had just happened. “And so, I am very sorry for sending you to jail for so long. It was bad for me to do this.”

“No,” his friend replied, “This is good!”

“What do you mean, ‘This is good?’ How could it be good that I sent my friend to jail for a year?”

“If I had not been in jail, I would have been with you.”

*****

God was pleased to crush Jesus and put him under all that suffering knowing that we would be saved by His death. That’s real love. What truly seemed so horrible and tragic was really… very good!

Happy Good Friday!

Gustave_Doré_-_Crucifixion_of_Jesus

*****

Now read a not so good thing that happened to me on a Good Friday in 2007. It’s called “Murder at Peet’s.

The Titanic Evangelist

April 15th, 2014 | Posted by Steve Sanchez in HIStory | SUDDEN DEATH! - (14 Comments)

JOHN HARPER was an evangelist on the Titanic. On the anniversary of this tragedy, after 1,517 people perished in a watery grave, I want to remember a man of God who provided  hope for those who had little aboard the Titanic.

Here’s an excerpt from the Baptist Press on this great man:

When the Titanic hit the iceberg, Harper successfully led his daughter to a lifeboat. Being a widower he may have been allowed to join her but instead forsook his own rescue, choosing to provide the masses with one more chance to know Christ.

Der Untergang der TitanicHarper ran person to person, passionately telling others about Christ. As the water began to submerge the “unsinkable” ship, Harper was heard john harpershouting, “Women, children, and the unsaved into the lifeboats.” Rebuffed by a certain man at the offer of salvation Harper gave him his own life vest, saying, “You need this more than I do.” Up until the last moment on the ship Harper pleaded with people to give their lives to Jesus.

Four years after the tragedy at a Titanic survivor’s meeting in Ontario, Canada, one survivor recounted his interaction with Harper in the middle of the icy waters of the Atlantic. He testified he was clinging to ship debris when Harper swam up to him, twice challenging him with a biblical invitation to “believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” He rejected the offer once. Yet given the second chance and with miles of water beneath his feet, the man gave his life to Christ. Then as Harper succumbed to his watery grave, this new believer was rescued by a returning lifeboat. As he concluded his remarks at the Ontario meeting of survivors he simply stated, “I am the last convert of John Harper.” Read the whole article here.

I GOT MY MONEY BACK FOR THE FIVE TICKETS I BOUGHT FOR NOAH, the movie.

Here’s why in 6 points. (But make sure you read the other two links at the bottom as well.)

1) I knew going in that it was unbiblical. That was not my issue. But it’s not only unbiblical, it’s laughably unbiblical: the only similarities between the Bible’s account and this film were these: guy with beard that never grows, (nor his sons’ beards) builds an ark and a flood happens, wiping out the human race. (No wonder…It was based on Gnostic and Kabbalh teachings! See link below.)

noahzzz

2) Russell Crowe’s emotions run the gamut from anger to confused and back again with no in-between.

3) The plot was incoherent. Silly even. It was as if a college film student was given $130 million and was told, “Make a biblical epic just like the “Lord of the Rings.”

4) My 12-year-old kept asking me how long the film was and kept looking at the time. Methuselah would’ve been bored, even if he had some berries to munch on. (Don’t ask. A silly plot point.)

5) Yes, the visuals were great. But you can get those from a kaleidoscope for a buck.

6) Speed tears. I remarked to my 14-year-old that those tears cried were very fast. I wonder if they were CGI drops? Did they use Super Onion Powder in their eyes?

I ended up asking for my money back after it was over. I have never done this, but the film was so horrific, I had to. I simply asked the manager and he suggested that I get my money back. I expected to get credit. The lady cheerfully refunded the money, nodding in agreement that the film was bad. My conscience is clear. I didn’t demand it; I simply asked nicely. Smiled even.

Darren_Aronofsky_GIFF_2013.jpegI understand that many may disagree with my review. That’s fine. I wanted to enjoy it, but couldn’t. Others may disagree with my asking for my money back. That’s your right. My conscience is clear.

P.S. I couldn’t shake the feeling that the director, Darren Aronofsky, an atheist), was mocking Christians. In fact, he was. In essence, the film portrayed Noah as the “seed of the serpent” because this movie was based on Gnostic and Kaballah tradition. Read this illuminating article by Dr. Brian Mattson that proves Darren Aronofsky has made fools of all Christians who loved this movie. Read it…and weep: http://drbrianmattson.com/journal/2014/3/31/sympathy-for-the-devil

P.P.S. And this review is hilarious: “I’m a Christian and I Think Noah Deserves a 4 Star Review” http://themattwalshblog.com/2014/03/29/im-a-christian-and-i-think-noah-deserves-a-four-star-review/

When I got the call from God to move to Texas on June 14, 2013, to plant Hope Chapel Hill Country (read about “my call to Texas”  here), I had no idea what was in store for me. I just wanted to be obedient. Within about two months, we sold our home, bought a new one, and we all moved. I have now been here over six months and our church just finished our first quarter.

Texas is a whole ‘nother country from Los Angeles, California, where I have lived my entire life. Here are just a few things I’ve noticed that are different after living here for six months.

1) Everyone’s a Baptist.

baptist

Or a former Baptist. The rest are Methodist. And if not, then First Baptists.

There are a lot of people who call themselves Christians. And let me tell you, it is refreshing since where I used to live, L.A., is a primarily atheistic culture.

2.  Cedar Fever

cedar

I’m told that the pollen levels are some of the worst in the nation due to a proliferation of Mountain Sycamores in the Hill Country. Thankfully, it takes about two to three years to develop an allergy. I’ll keep you posted in 2015. Achoo!

3. Scorpions in the house! No explanation needed. Just don’t put your pants on the floor. Or blankets. Or shoes. Or kids.

scorpion

4. Deer in the backyard. Also, wild turkeys.

deer

Sadly, we are starting to see Austin in our backyard, too, due to a construction boom. And they are all moving from California!

5. Huge, ridiculous shifts in weather.

cold car

I was surprised to find that Auto Club doubled our home insurance after moving from SoCal. “Yep,” an agent explained, “Texas gets the worst weather in the country.”

When I got to my office at 8AM one Sunday morning before church, it was about 74 degrees and humid, so I wore shorts. At 10AM I went outside and the temp had dropped to the mid-forties. After service ended at 12:30PM it was in the 30s. When I got home at 5PM, it was 28 degrees. This was a 46 degree shift in temperature in less then 9 hours…in the daytime! And yes, I changed into long pants.

6. Gas is cheaper. Electricity, too. Water is three times higher.

gas

7. Unparallelled beauty in the Texas Hill Country.

beauty3

(Both images are from our sub-division.)

beauty 2

Also, Texas is known as “The Friendly State.” I have found this to be true. It has been so easy to make friends with strangers, neighbors and the local pastors. Most people wave when they drive by your car. “Thank you” is heard a lot. Also, Texas is #1 in job creation and dead-last in signing up for ObamaCare.

8. My vote mattered. For the first time in my Christian adult life, all my votes counted; that is, every proposition I voted “Yes” on, won! (Yes, this was a GOP Primary, but hey! This is exciting! Never happened in California. EVER!)

countTake the last election for example:

Proposition 1: RELIGIOUS FREEDOM. Texans should be free to express their religious beliefs, including prayer, in public places. RESULTS: 97% voted YES!

Proposition 2: SECOND AMENDMENT. Texas should support Second Amendment liberties by expanding locations where concealed handgun license-holders may legally carry. RESULTS: 87% voted YES!

Proposition 3: FRANCHISE TAX. Texas should abolish the state franchise tax, also known as the margins tax, to encourage business growth. RESULTS: 88% voted YES!

Proposition 4: WELFARE REFORM. Texas recipients of taxpayer-funded public assistance should be subject to random drug testing as a condition of receiving benefits. RESULTS: 95% voted YES!

Proposition5: NO LAWMAKER EXCEPTIONS. All elected officials and their staff should be subject to the same laws, rules, regulations, and ordinances as their constituents. RESULTS: 99% voted YES!

Proposition 6: OBAMACARE. The Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” should be repealed. RESULTS: 93% voted YES!

9. That I would miss California so much, especially my church family and friends.

hope

tony and gang

lw

10. How much I would enjoy planting Hope Chapel Hill Country!

communion

Click: Read about our Hope Chapel Hill Country Grand Opening.

Click: Here’s what I do day-to-day.

Click: Here’s Hope Chapel Hill Country’s weekly attendance report for the first quarter.

Click: Here’s the Bible translation we are using and why.

Click: Read about my terrible trial at the Senior Citizens Activity Center

Hill Country Hypocrisy

March 26th, 2014 | Posted by Steve Sanchez in Texas Tales! - (2 Comments)

SOME HYPOCRISY WAS ON DISPLAY at the Senior Citizens Activity Center where my daughter and I visited at lunch time a few weeks ago….

(Start at Part 1 by clicking here.)

If you’ve been following this story, then you know I’ve been having a few run-ins with the manager there. My purpose in visiting these healthy, active Senior Citizens is to get to know them and the Dripping Springs community. So far, the manager has warned me not to preach the Gospel, nor talk about Jesus. I’,m also forbidden to pray for or help people.

What’s a pastor to do? Keep persevering.

I brought the manager flowers a few weeks ago to mend things, though I have done nothing wrong. Because visitors are welcome there, I invited a visiting missionary family of 9 and two evangelists to join me on “Visitors Day.” Though I did caution them to talk quietly and softly about God. And they did.

Before meal time, someone is always invited to pray. I have only been invited once. Today, was “Preacher” Cody’s turn (in photo below). I had heard good things about him. He’s a lay pastor at the local Methodist church where the manager attends. He was the “resident minister” at the Senior Center before I arrived three months ago. In fact, I arrived at the Center the very week he stopped going due to his work hours changing.

Thankfully, he was a true man of God.

codyHere’s the rub: Before he prayed, he spoke in the microphone about the necessity of belonging to Jesus Christ and urged people to live for him. He preached out of John chapter 4, explaining that Jesus had Living Water for all, then prayed a God-glorifying prayer. In short, it was an out-and-out evangelical message, the type of message I was warned not to talk about.

I spoke with Cody briefly afterward, and it turns out before he went to the Methodist church, be went to a fellowship that met…at the same location where Hope Chapel Hill Country meets!!!

No, I haven’t asked him about the manager….yet.

But why am I forbidden to speak in the name of Jesus privately while he’s able to publicly proclaim him loudly?

I don’t know, but as long as Christ is preached, I’m happy. Still, I will get to the bottom of this.

Outside, after lunch, a little old lady asked if I could help her move a TV set for a legally blind man. I said yes. I’m there to help.

Last week, outside and after lunch, I prayed for a young woman who had an early onset of Alzheimer’s.

At the gym, another elderly lady recognized me and offered this encouragement: “It’s not what you say, it’s what you are doing.” She assured me that she knew what was going on.

Until I get this all cleared up, I’m gonna continue to do good, I’ll pray–and continue to tell people about Jesus.

Outside.

Click here to read what happened at a City Council
Meeting when I prayed using the illegal name of Jesus.

I was thinking about what my life used to be like before I moved to Texas to plant a church and thought about how much my priorities have changed since arriving in Dripping Springs on September 29, 2013. One of my favorite things to do was preach in the open air regularly.

It has been six months since I have done so.

The first time I ever preached “on-the-box” in the open air was with Ray Comfort in Huntington Beach.

preach rayThe last time I preached “on the box”  in the open-air was with Ray Comfort in Newport Beach. In fact, it was a Golden Box, made as a going-away present.

gold boxDo I still think preaching in the open air is valid when sharing the Gospel? Of course.

I still agree with my mentor, Charles Spurgeon:

No sort of defense is needed for preaching out of doors; but it would need very potent arguments to prove that a man had done his duty who has never preached beyond the walls of his meeting house.

My life and responsibilities have changed.

It’s one thing to be the Pastor of Evangelism in L.A. at a large church in a metropolitan area with a population of thirteen million, quite another to be the pastor of a Texas church plant in a town of less than 2,000. (There are 40,000 in the surrounding countryside, though).

But I still share my faith. Nearly everyday. Now I do it primarily with Gospel tracts and personal conversations, accompanied by an invitation to Hope Chapel Hill Country.

Still, a great opportunity presented itself just recently.

I was enjoying my 55th birthday celebration with my family as we visited San Antonio a few days ago. We stopped at the Alamo and saw hundreds of people in line. I looked around, blinked, and imagined that I was back on Hollywood Blvd., preaching to the hundreds milling about Grauman’s Chinese Theater, looking at the celebrity hand prints. Oh, how I enjoyed preaching there. The area surrounding the Alamo looks almost exactly like Hollywood Blvd.! (See my interview with The Joker on Hollywood Blvd., below.)

I thought about how I used to preach at the American Idol Finals, the NBA Finals, the Academy Awards, USC football games, the Lakers Victory Parade, Doo-Dah Parade, Tournament of Roses Parade and the Long Beach Veterans Day Parade (below).

I looked at my wife and kids and asked if they would mind, as a special birthday present, if I preached to that line. They said it was okay.

I planned on doing it a little later.

After a thoroughly enjoyable day touring the town on a double-decker bus, we dismounted the steps.

bus tourI then remembered the Alamo, but it was too late: The crowds were gone.

Oh no! What do I do now?

Next time, I thought to myself, next time.

A Tale of Two Rings

March 16th, 2014 | Posted by Steve Sanchez in ABOUT ME & MY BLOG - (2 Comments)

I JUST TURNED 55.

But I received the best gift ever from my wife to help ease the pain: a new wedding ring.

I wept telling the story to my daughters about the old one.

rings

Before Karen and I got married she was out of a job and had no money. She was forced by circumstances to buy me a very small, eight carat gold band. I called it my Widow’s Mite ring because she gave all she had for love. Over the years it bent out of shape, got snagged on things and scratched me regularly, yet I never took it off because it always reminded me of Karen’s love.

On my 55th birthday celebration I replaced it, but will always treasure my wife’s sacrifice seventeen years ago.

In the name of love.

(P.S. This was, by far, the most popular story I posted on Facebook at 259 “Likes.”
Click here to read the second most “popular” Facebook post at 249 comments.

Q: What’s the size of U.S. churches? (From the Hartford Institute for Religion Research)

A: The median church in the U.S. has 75 regular participants in worship on Sunday mornings, according to the National Congregations Study. Notice that researchers measured the median church size — the point at which half the churches are smaller and half the churches are larger — rather than the average (186 attenders reported by the USCLS survey) which is larger due to the influence of very large churches. But while the United States has a large number of very small churches, most people attend larger churches. The National Congregations Study estimated that the smaller churches draw only 11 percent of those who attend worship. Meanwhile, 50 percent of churchgoers attended the largest 10% of congregations (350 regular participants and up). (Do numbers really matter? Read my article by clicking here.)

ad11AD22

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is the attendance record for Hope Chapel Hill Country since its inception. This will be updated weekly.

FIRST QUARTER

JAN.: 1.5.14: 18 (All new visitors) 1.12.14: 17 (2 new visitors) 1.19.14: 21 (3 new visitors) 1.26.14: 12 (? new visitors)

FEB. 2.2.14: 24 (7 new visitors) 2.9.14: 19 (3 new visitors) 2.16.14: 13 (2 new visitors) 2.23.14: 19 (3 new visitors)

MARCH: 3.2.14: 29 (3 new visitors) 3.9.14: 17 (3 new visitors) 3.16.14: 16  (4 new visitors) 3.23.14: 23 (4 new visitors) 3.30.14: 23 (1 new visitor)

Total # of visitors, including my family, at the end of the first quarter: 47

Average attendance: 19.3 per service

SECOND QUARTER

APRIL

4/6/14: 27 (4 new visitors)

4/13/14: 12 (4 new visitors)

4/20/14: EASTER: 37 (12 new visitors)

Cartoon by Adam4d
Creative Commons License

 

Pastors say it all the time when assessing their flock. Church members try to avoid sounding braggadocios when speaking about it. Christian leaders warn never to make this your focus.

What am I talking about?

Have you ever heard the phrase: “It’s not about the numbers.”?

I’m here to say it is about the numbers.

Because numbers are souls.

church_numbers 1
I do understand and wholeheartedly agree with Jesus when he declared, …”I will build my church….” I trust him to do this. He brings the people and my focus should not be on how many come each Sunday. Still, numbers matter.

This is what Charles Spurgeon said about it:

I am not among those who decry statistics, nor do I consider that they are productive of all manner of evil; for they do much good if they are accurate, and if men use them lawfully. It is a good thing for people to see the nakedness of the land through statistics of decrease, that they may be driven on their knees before the Lord to seek prosperity; and, on the other hand, it is by no means an evil thing for workers to be encouraged by having some account of results set before them. I should be very sorry if the practice of adding up, and deducting, and giving in the net result were to be abandoned, for it must be right to know our numerical condition. It has been noticed that those who object to the process are often brethren whose unsatisfactory reports should somewhat humiliate them …. The fact is, you can reckon very correctly if the figures are honest, and if all circumstances are taken into consideration if there is no increase, you may calculate with considerable accuracy that there is not much being done; and if there is a clear decrease among a growing population, you may reckon that the prayers of the people and the preaching of the minister are not of the most powerful kind. —”The Soul Winner”

When people show up at Hope Chapel Hill Country, they will hear the Word of God preached, have an opportunities to serve, to give, and to worship in an environment geared specifically for believers. They will be built up, spurred on and straightened out. They will be prayed over, hugged warmly, encouraged greatly.

Most of all they will have the chance to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

That is why it is about numbers. Because more people may mean more disciples, more obedient servants, more gospel witnesses.

So, I will do my part: inviting, cajoling, and pressing people to attend on Sunday, trusting that God will bring to him all that are His.

As I count, I will count on Him.

The more the merrier.

And sometimes, holier.

Image credit: SacredSandwich.com

THE SENIORS CENTER “FLOWER TECHNIQUE” WAS EMPLOYED to win the heart of the 74-year-old manager, who has called me into her office twice to tell me that I can’t preach the Gospel, can’t pray for people and can’t help people.flowers I asked my Pastor, Zac, from Hope Chapel Hermosa Beach, what I should do?

“Did you buy her flowers?”

“Uh, no….”

This week I did. I hid them behind my back and presented them to her. “Let’s start all over now that I know the rules,” I cheerfully said to her. She thanked me politely and stored them in her office.

I sat down to eat at the table with the other seniors like I do every week, but this time there was a visitor. He was a forty-year-old man who had been saved for six months and was on fire. What could I do? I had to encourage him in the Lord. We talked and shared Scripture while keeping a wary eye on the manager. I told the young believer that I’d like to pray for him. Outside.

I bussed the tables and after nearly everyone had left, I approached the manager. “How’d I do?”

“So far so good,” she replied. “But the day’s not over yet.”

I fully expect a third invitation into her office next week.

Read about the utter hypocrisy I witnessed at my next visit by clicking here.

This is the third and final installment of my testimony, how I came to Christ. Some people say life is easier when you come to Jesus. HAH!

Click here to listen to part 3, the finale.

hair

Part 1 ended with me taking a handful of sleeping pills and calling my Mom to say goodbye.

In part 2 I tell what happened afterward as I slid hell-bound into a downward spiral of drug addicted paranoia. This is where I crossed over the line, realizing that I was no longer a good person, even by my own standards.

This thirty minute radio broadcast from KDRP, our local radio station, is where I have a weekly produced radio program. You can listen to all my shows by going to ShineYourLightRadio.com.

This story, by the way, is designed to intrigue unbelievers and the unchurched to seriously consider where they stand with God.

Image credit: http://empowerdnetwork.blog.com/

THIS PART OF MY STORY IS WHEN IT GETS UGLY, REALLY UGLY….

Part 1 ended with me taking a handful of sleeping pills and calling my Mom to say goodbye. (Listen to it by clicking here.)

In part 2 I tell what happened afterward as I slid hell-bound into a downward spiral of drug addicted paranoia. This is where I crossed over the line, realizing that I was no longer a good person, even by my own standards.

addict

Here are some Facebook comments from friends who who have listened so far:

That is such a wild life story, I cannot even imagine such an experience. Absolutely no way to relate to that! What an amazing God we have to save you out of that.

And another one:

I’ve heard your testimony before. But while I had this playing you captured a new audience, my preteen grandson. He didn’t let on at the time, but was held by every word.

This thirty minute radio broadcast from KDRP, our local radio station, is where I have a weekly produced radio program. You can listen to all my shows by going to ShineYourLightRadio.com.

This story, by the way, is designed to intrigue unbelievers and the unchurched to seriously consider where they stand with God.

Click here to listen to Part 2.

 

Click here to listen to Part 1.

I was a former actor and drug addict. I sold stereos out of the back of my car in the desert. I almost killed myself. I was robbed by a drug dealer at gunpoint, had my faced smashed against my steering wheel and challenged Satan to show himself.

robbed-at-gunpoint-signThis half hour radio show is the first of three parts detailing my story of how I came to the Lord. I think you will find it very interesting, informative and (somewhat) entertaining. Let me know what you think.

                  Click here to listen.

Image from http://www.knysnacrimewatch.co.za/

It was inevitable. I had to make a choice on the Bible I would teach from at Hope Chapel Hill Country and what version I would recommend to our congregation.

After much thoughtful deliberation and prayer, I decided.

NLTAt my previous church, Hope Chapel Hermosa Beach, we had long discussions about what Bible to use after the publishers of the New International Version 1984 pulled it from the shelves, replacing it with a revamped and revised translation called the NIV 2011.

We analyzed many of the criticisms of this latest translation listening to John Piper and the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, and others. The conclusion at Hope Chapel Hermosa Beach was that we were going to use the English Standard Version. When I moved to Texas to plant Hope Chapel Hill Country, I had to decide what would be best for this culture.

ESVI read through the entire ESV after being an NIV ’84 guy for over twenty years, and didn’t like it. The reading, though an accurate translation, was just too wooden for me.

That’s why I chose a different version.

After careful deliberation and considering the sad state of literacy in our country, especially biblical literacy, I wanted the easiest version that people would read because I simply want people to read the Bible. (The ESV is a 10th grade reading level; the NIV ’11 is 7-8th grade.)

NASBI read an in-depth review of the NIV ’11 from the Gospel Coalition that was very convincing (79 pages long, extensively foot-noted!). Rodney J. Decker, Professor of New Testament and Greek at Baptist Bible Seminary, summed up the NIV ’11 in this way:

My judgment is that the NIV ’11 is a usable translation in many situations. It continues the NIV tradition largely unchanged, though improved in many small ways across the breadth of the canon. It is not perfect. No translation is. It has a few warts. All translations do. Overall, however, it improves an otherwise fine translation.

The NIV ’11 is now my Bible of choice at Hope Chapel Hill Country.

NIVThe controversies (and there are a few), can be dealt with as they come up while I preach God’s Word. (Professor Decker covers those issues in his analysis.)

Dr. John MacArthur allowed his very popular MacArthur Study Bible to come out in the NIV ’11 translation. Here’s why:

“No matter what version of the Bible people are reading, I want to be able to help them understand the meaning fully and accurately. The NIV is the most widely used translation in the world, with millions of users. Some prefer it because they find it easier to read than other translations. All English versions of Scripture have translation problems and ambiguities. That’s one of the major benefits of a good study Bible. The notes and other tools built into the volume can highlight and clarify the proper meaning—or at least give a more precise understanding of what the original text actually says. My prayer is that these insights and explanations, together with the acclaimed readability of the translation, will help illuminate the true meaning and unleash the divine power of Scripture for NIV readers.” (From Pyromaniacs blog)

Perhaps you prefer the King James Version and think everyone should read that. Perhaps you’re a King James Only adherent.  Here’s what apologist Greg Koukl said about that:

“I would steer you away from the King James Version only because the language is archaic, unless you went with the New King James Version. I recommend the King James Version for a very select group of people: people who are 350 years old or older!”

kjvPersonally, I still read from the NIV ’84 in my daily devotions, my wife, New King James Version, my 14-year-old, The New Living Translation, and our 12-year-old, believe it or not… the ESV.

If it’s orthodox, whatever version of the Bible you read is a good version.

Just read it.

*Cartoons by Adam4d, Creative Commons

I’m surprised that you are back here after what you were told last week,” a lady from the Senior Activities Center whispered to me as we scraped dishes together. “I overheard your conversation with the manager last Wednesday.” (I was told that I couldn’t talk about “religion” because three people complained and the Activity Center gets government money. Read about it here.

“So, you are on my side?” I asked, conspiratorially.

“Yes I am,” she assured.

Why do you think she said that to me?

She looked around and spoke in a whisper. “I can’t really talk about it, but, let’s just say that some people are nicer than others.”

elderly
I assured the manager that I would not talk about “religion” anymore. My plan was to be a silent, helpful witness/servant at the Center, figuring it’s better to be there and let the people get to know me, than to get kicked out and lose the opportunity.

The strategy is working….

A little old lady stopped me as I bussed her table after lunch. “I saw you at the supermarket,” she said, “and was going to say something to you but you were already talking to the cashier.”

Hmmmm….she recognized me.

Another lady, who I met the week before at the Senior Activities Center, showed up at Hope Chapel Hill Country last Sunday.tape

I think I may have hit on a good strategy.

But it sure is hard to keep my mouth shut.

The next week I  bought the manage flowers. Read what happened by clicking here.

I WAS WARNED NOT TO PREACH the Gospel in the Seniors Activity Center where I go each Wednesday. The manager took me aside and told me that three people complained about my “preaching.”

“You see,” she explained, “even in a private conversation someone might overhear you and get offended.” She further explained that they get government money and my preaching may put that in jeopardy.

I actually wasn’t preaching; I was just conversing with the people about what I teach at our church, and then inviting them to come visit. Yes, I know her explanation about the government money doesn’t hold water; I’m there as a private citizen. But, since I want to get to know these wonderful elderly people, I will tow the line.

For a season.

old folksI posted about this on Facebook and received these negative responses from fellow Christians:

One wrote: “But they will not know the gospel!”

I replied, “It will do me no good to get kicked out. I can serve quietly and still tell them about our church. It’s a small town. I need to be wise for Jesus sake.”

To which he responded, “I’m pretty sure “being Jesus” would be preaching the gospel with words and calling people to repentance. I know your very on point with preaching the truth Steve P. Sanchez I’m not doubting that at all, I was just saying we need to speak with words. Mormons have plenty of “being Jesus” in the worlds eyes.”

Another wrote that I ought to fight to change the laws or I should confront the manager. But it’s a small town, and my purpose for even being in a Seniors Center is to get to know the people, so they will know me, and possibly come to Hope Chapel Hill Country, or send a friend there. “What a nice young Pastor” they may say.

In L.A. I had a fair amount of anonymity, and I could be quite bold. Not here. I must be a little more cautious in my interactions, especially where the gospel is concerned. Though I’m well within my rights as a private citizen to say anything I want, I am choosing to lay them down at this time for a greater purpose: to win souls through my actions. Truly that quote that was never uttered by St. Francis of Assisi applies here: “Preach Christ. If necessary, use words.”

Still another scolded me with this:

As a senior myself, and as someone who did church planting, I would say hanging around a Senior Center is a lose-lose situation.

From what you have said elsewhere, it sounds you are using them as bait to get to their younger family members. Plus, you are not wanted there. Some anti-Christian bigots complained, and perhaps another one (the manager) pulled you aside and told you that you couldn’t be who you are.

Jesus told the disciples, you and me what to do in that case in Mat 10:14. You are probably in your comfort zone clearing tables there and trying to be friends, but that is not biblical evangelism.

Then you went to your real audience, the place you can make a difference, and what did you do? Hand out those corny $T bills. Christians think they are clever, but most people think they are dumb and that’s why they didn’t want them.

What did you do then? You hung out with other pastors at the meeting! You should have heard me groan when I read that. Wow.

I’m sorry, I really hope I’m not coming across as being overly critical. I apologize if I am. I want to encourage any church planter. I added you to my prayer list about the time you moved. I wish you every blessing. But I don’t get your church-building strategy.

Of course, the man was being overly critical, not realizing that building relationships with these people is better than not having an opportunity at all. One of those seniors, in fact, appeared at Hope Chapel Hill Country today! (Read what happened the next week by clicking here.)

*****

Here are further articles I wrote about laying down my rights as well as some when I didn’t. It’s a matter of conscience…and wisdom.

  • Please read this article (part 3 of a series) about laying down my rights for the greater good when being confronted by the police.
  • I ignored the law completely when I prayed the name of Jesus at a City Council meeting. Click here to read it.
  • Finally, this is where I decided to deal politely with the police. I actually make a bold assertion that no one needs to get arrested in America for preaching the Gospel…yet. Click here.

It has been an extremely busy time planting Hope Chapel Hill Country. Though Dripping Springs, Texas, is a small town, there are lots of people in them thar hills, many commuters from Austin, which is only about thirty minutes away.
logoIt has been estimated that 85% of the people in the Austin metropolitan area is unchurched. Some have called this part of Texas the largest unchurched area in America. My mission is to go find the lost sheep of Christianity, those who are not saved, of course, but also those who think they are.

My goal is to reach people. People are God’s biggest concern. Mine too. And the church is the people. Hope Chapelaustin Hill Country is not a building, nor a name nor an idea; it’s the people. Or should I say, we are the people.

Because  people don’t usually  appear out of nowhere and come to church, I have to invite them. Jesus himself said this in a parable: “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.’”

My immediate territory is an apartment complex about 100 yards from our church. Walking distance. I go door-to-door just like a Jehovah’s Witness, just like a Mormon—with one big difference: I have the truth. I hate going door-to-door, but I must do for the truth what the cults do for a lie.

apt dayI even go at night if I have to. And I really hate going at night, too.

aptnightOn Wednesdays I head down to the Seniors Activity Center and mix it up with the old timers. These septo-, octo- and nonagenarians are firmly entrenched in their various denominations, but it doesn’t mean they are saved…and activity centerthere isn’t much time left for many of them. I get to learn about their lives, their personal histories and the history of Dripping Springs itself. One man said he’s a third generation Drippin’ man. “My family’s been here since 1880!”

I was introduced as the new pastor in town by the Center’s manager, but she forgot to mention our church. I noticed that all these old folks had to buss their own lunch dishes. When I started clearing their tables of the dirty dishes and utensils, they then started asking me, “So, where is your church?”

There is a method to my madness by meeting with the seniors. I hope after weeks and months to earn their trust. Perhaps they may even attend Hope Chapel Hill Country someday or recommend us to a friend or grand kid.

richardLike Richard.WW2

He’s a World War 2 vet…and proud of it. He pulled an old photo of himself and his buddies, circa 1945, out of his wallet! He talked with me at length about how he was in Tokyo four days after we bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. How he worked in an ink factory but quit because he was getting ill from breathing asbestos and how all his co-workers died a few years after he quit.

He’s mad at the Catholic Church because of all the child abuse, but he believes in Jesus. I offered to give him a ride to our church.

He pulled out another photo of he and his beloved wife on their wedding day. We both got quiet for a moment. I smiled. He smiled. What a life he has lived.

richard marryI got to celebrate with Sally on her 98th birthday! Who knows what she’s experienced?

90 years oldI have a radically novel idea: For Hope Chapel Hill Country I’m not “looking” for youth. I want old, young, short, tall, skinny, fat and nondescript people. Yes, people. I have no plans to be cool, relevant or trendy. I have no gimmicks to offer nor wild displays of the “Spirit.” I do have the Word which I pledge to preach faithfully. But, I will wear jeans, though.

cool jesusAt a Chamber of Commerce luncheon I introduced myself as the new pastor in town and offered a Trillion Dollar Bill to anyone who asked for one. I announced that the most important question anyone could answer was on it.

No one took me up on the offer.

But I did hang with three other pastors: Pastor Jason McNutt of Hill Country Bible Church Dripping Springs (center) and Pastor Jeff Jackson of Gateway Hill Country Church. Of course, our church is Hope Chapel Hill Country. So, apart from all of us being pastors, what else do you think we have in common?

pastorsFor those I don’t meet in the street, perhaps they will meet me at KDRP, on the air. “Shine Your Light,” is a program where I teach the Bible in a simple, easy-to-understand manner, so people can simply understand the Bible. Call it Milk for the Masses. If they miss it when it airs at 11AM, they can tune into my new website that features past programs at www.ShineYourLightRadio.com (You can hear my first series, a four parter, on John 3:16.)

radioThere have only been two down right bummers.

#1: The First Offended Person

I invited a woman to Hope Chapel Hill Country and she explained that she was a life-long Catholic and went to the local diocese. I asked her a question that I ask most Catholics: “What do you think is the biggest difference between a Catholic and a Protestant?”

She answered, “Mary.”

“No,” I replied. “Let me ask you, where will you go when you die.” She answered Heaven because she didn’t believe in Hell. I explained a little more thoroughly that what the bible says is more important than tradition and took her through the 10 Commandments. I cautioned her to examine herself because she didn’t want to be wrong about eternity.

She wasn’t offended.

“That’s the difference,” she protested. “Catholics want to help people and all you want to do is preach.”

Instead of arguing, I gently stated that I was concerned for her “because I don’t think you know the Lord.”

reallyThat’s when she got offended. She huffed. Puffed. Then ignored me, not even saying goodbye when she left the business we were both patronizing, a business owned by an atheist. (He wasn’t there, but walked in immediately after our conversation.)

#2: The Family of No Return

I know I’m going to have to get used to this as a new church planter, but it still hurts a little.

A couple came and sat in the front row of Hope Chapel Hill Country for the first two weeks after we opened, came to our Bible study twice, and their son even helped me set up for service. I also gave the woman a Bible to replace her tattered one. As I stood outside the doors our third Sunday morning ready to greet visitors, I saw the couple drive by; they even waved. I thought they were going to grab breakfast and return. They didn’t.

buhbyeI called them a few days after and asked how they were, and that I missed them on Sunday. “Oh,” the woman replied, “we went to our old church because we heard our pastor was back from sabbatical.”

Heck. I didn’t even know they had an old church.

The key in planting this new fellowship is to develop a tough skin and let the Lord keep my heart soft. And, never, ever, get cynical when planting His church.

Why? Jesus promised to build it. It’s His responsibility. “…and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)

His church is the people.

Read about all the preparation leading
up to our Grand Opening by clicking here.

On September 29, 2013, I arrived in Dripping Springs, Texas, from Southern California, to plant a church calledhat2 Hope Chapel Hill Country. The doors opened wide on January 5, 2014.

It hasn’t been easy…. How in the heck do you start a church anyway?

I’d been an associate pastor of a large church in Hermosa Beach for over fifteen years and planned to retire there; in fact, when I got the call to move, I was only five years from my pension! (Read about why I moved by clicking here.)

The best way to get people to go to a church is to invite them: Personally. In supermarkets, at Home Depot, restaurants, on the street and, GULP!, door-to-door. I hate going door-to-door but someone has to do for the truth what the cults do for a lie.

My “sending” pastor, Zac Nazarian, boss and mentor, told me to go out and get three yeses and 10 noes a day. My wife and I thought that the number 13 was bad luck, so I increased the objective by two. Fifteen people a day will get invitations.

zac

To reach the 500 people in our neighborhood, Deer Creek Ranch, we bought a golf mobile and named it the GO! Kart!

go kart

I made invitations for the church, invitations for our Bible Study and stickers to put on the back of the trillion dollar bill Gospel tracts I always carry, and invited, invited, invited. Everyone got Gospel tracts, some invitereceived the conversational Gospel, all got an invitation. If I was in a hurry, the invitation went like this: “Here’s a trillion dollar bill for you. On the back is the trillion dollar question. ‘If you died today would you go to Heaven or Hell?’ ”

I would then pull out my invitation and hand it to them with a challenge,  “If you are good enough to get there, I want to invite you to a new church I’m starting in a dance studio on the west end of town.”

I’d pause.

“And if you’re not good enough, I’m gonna double invite you.”

That always got a laugh.

A dance studio? Yep. Starbella Dance Co. is only two doors down from my office. I just walked in one day and asked the owner if she would rent it to me on Sundays. When Annie the owner heard it was a church she dropped the payment by 20 bucks and only charged me for two hours at—get this—thirty smackeroos an hour.

starbella

To reach people in another way a radio show geared to non-Christians and unchurched believers called “Shine Your Light” debuted the last week of December on our local radio station KDRP. This is a program that is half music and half teaching so people will not get bored. Hopefully. I teach a simple, biblically-based message in a friendly, conversational manner mentioning Hope Chapel Hill Country at least five times in the half hour broadcast . (Go to www.ShineYourLightRadio.com to hear a few shows.)

ryan

A website was also constructed and  a professional introductory video was shot by film director, Mark S. Jacobs.

I joined the Chamber of Commerce and my first event was a tri-city mixer where nearly every business owner received a personal invite to church.

Logos and banners were designed. Stationary, business cards and signs were printed. Tithe envelopes even!

logo bannerContinuing to mix it up on the street, I went to the only apartment complex in Dripping Springs which had nineteen units of four apartment each. I personally spoke to thirty nine families. Half the complex.

Weekly breakfasts with the local pastors helped me to better understand the area and to see who was for the church plant and who wasn’t. I would ask each pastor, from Catholic to Episcopalian, from Presbyterian to Lutheran, from Baptist to Methodist to Non-Denom, this question: “Is there room in Dripping Springs for another church?” Thankfully, everyone was for kingdom growth. (It is estimated in this rapidly growing area that 80-85% of the people are un-churched.)

pastors

My first friend in the area was Frank Raymond, a retired construction man who has a heart for the Kingdom of God. He has been ministering to a local convalescent home for over seventeen years—and he’s eighty years old!

frankee

He built my bookshelves, sandwich boards and even assembled my pulpit! A faithful man who can find?  He even procured a trailer to pack all our church stuff in—and is going to let me park it on his property!

When I first met Frank I asked him if there was room for another church in Drippin’. “Yes,” replied. “In the four quadrants.” As of today, the church is on the west side, and our MiniChurch is in the north. We plan on starting a new one on the east side in the home of the man who God used to instigate our move to Texas in the first place.

mc

God has ‘em surrounded! They can’t get away from him now! (Except in the south, where the cemetery is located. Let the dead bury their own dead.)

cem1

Two local pastors, church-planters themselves and Texans, are becoming good friends and have been very helpful, praying for me individually and at their churches.

jeff meI’m very thankful for Jeff Jackson, (in his son’s Youth Office), of Gateway Hill Country Church, and Kenken me Edwards of Compass Church.

I placed an ad on Craigslist looking for a worship leader, to no avail.

And of course my family prayed, Facebook friends prayed, my Hope Chapel family prayed….

The big day was almost here. Who would show? Anybody? Would you go to a church that met in a dance studio led by a pastor you didn’t know from California?

No? Me neither.

But there was still a lot more work to do….

I had to laugh as I thought about the fact that I haven’t even had the time to read the four books I have on church planting. I didn’t even join the church planting network yet like I was planning on doing. Why? The Holy Spirit has been leading the way. I’m just trying to keep up with Him!

In anticipation of our Grand Opening, my family had to really pull together:

My wife Karen typed up the bulletins and will be the lead Children’s Church teacher. She is also the church decor adviser, she designed a private Nursing Mothers’ Room, bought all the toys and tables…And she was the light engineer.

DD, our fourteen-year-old, picked out the worship songs, a mixture of contemporary and traditional hymns arranging the music on her iPod.

12-year-old Laurel prepared the Children’s Church lesson online and was ready to assist Karen in teaching the kids. In the future I anticipate that she will assist me with worship.

We did a four hour dress rehearsal on Saturday night ending at midnight. I even preached my sermon to see how long it was. DD fell asleep.

rehearse

Sunday morning arrived.  It was 34 degrees; The Weather Channel said it felt like 28. And twenty mile an hour winds! Brrrrrr. The sandwich boards had to be strapped to a street sign and to my car’s bumpers so they wouldn’t blow away, killing someone on Highway 290. They at least needed to get saved at Hope Chapel Hill Country first!

sandwich

The doors opened. Cars drove into the lot. Eighteen people showed up, including my family, with 90% of them coming FIFTEEN MINUTES EARLY!

worship

I kind of led worship in addition to preaching a message from Revelation 21:5–”Behold! I make all things new.” Coincidentally, my Pastor at Hope Hermosa preached the same verse.

The order of service was an exact replica of Hope Chapel, Hermosa Beach, except our service was only one hour fifteen minutes. I budgeted for ninety.

There was one great testimony. I prayed for a man ten days prior in the apartment complex behind the church who had suffered an accident and was ready to have his finger amputated. He came to tell me that the doctors said his finger was just fine. They couldn’t understand it. Part of the bone was growing back!

As wonderful as the healing was, the biggest miracle was this: Everyone stayed 45 minutes AFTER service ended even though no one knew each other!

cong

Afterward, the clean-up crew came in. Yep. The Sanchez Family.

Whew! Finally. It’s all over. We did it. God blessed us and everyone came. It is finished!

Till next Sunday.

Read about the scoldings, disappointments and joys
of planting this new church by clicking here.

*****

BY THE NUMBERS: I know it’s not about numbers, but it sure is great to see how Christ slowly build his church. Also, the more who come, the more people get to hear the Word of God. So I’m really glad when people come. Here are our attendance figures so far.

1.5.14: 18 (All new visitors)

1.12.14: 17

1.19.14: 21

1.26.14: 12

2.2.14: 24 (7 new visitors)

2.9.14: 19 (3 new visitors)

2.16.14: 13 (2 new visitors)

2.23.14: 19 (3 new visitors)

3.2.14: Read the rest of our weekly attendance by clicking here.

(A note to my regular subscribers: This is a reference post to promote the church I’m starting. I will ask people to Google the above title to listen to my show before they attend. Therefore, periodically, I will re-post this every time a new show or two is produced. When you see it in your email, you will know a new show is posted. You can listen or delete the email. Of course, you may also unsubscribe if this is a bother. Thanks a lot!)

The name of my weekly half hour radio show is called “Shine Your Light,” and it is an outreach of Hope Chapel Hill Country, Dripping Springs, Texas. If you missed any of these programs on KDRP, then here’s the place to catch up. Every time a new show is produced, I will just plug it in right here. The format is half music and half teaching, so you won’t get bored. If you are bored, tell me. (This is the fulfillment of a 35-year-old dream. Click here to find out why.)

The regularly scheduled time slot for this show is 11AM Sunday mornings and can be heard on these stations: 103.1 Dripping Springs, 101.1FM Austin, 99.1 Luckenbach/Fredericksburg, 107.1 HD Channel 3. You can also go to KDRPlive.org, click “On Air” then “Sounds of Sunday” on the drop-down box and we will be at the 11AM sot under Hope Chapel Hill Country.

Below is the archives. Just click each link to listen.

SHOW ARCHIVES

 

The Greatest Verse in the Bible Series

Part 1: “For God so Loved the World That He Gave”

Part 2: “Whoever Believes”

Part 3: “Shall Not Perish” (Coming in a day or so)

Part 4: “But Have Eternal Life” (Not produced yet)