Monday, May 31, 2010

A Friend Has Gone Home

Hello All,

I was informed earlier this week that a friend of mine had suffered congestive heart failure. Sunday afternoon, with his family by his side, Kevin Thomson went home to be with the Lord. I am not sure how many of our friends knew Kevin Thomson, but he had a profound impact upon my life in several ways, some early on in my Christian life.

Kevin was one of the founders of the groundbreaking Christian group "Sweet Comfort Band." He was the bass player. I was unaware of this in my early years as a Christian. All I knew about Kevin was that he was the guy that brought Stryper to Calvary Chapel in Redlands and that was a mind blowing experience for me. Like any young Christian male, I was attracted to loud and heavy music. I remember being rather young and going to that first Stryper show with my Dad. I was in awe that this could be happening in a church. Kevin later told me some of the behind the scenes tales of how certain church members felt about it, some of whom were less than enthusiastic! But that night opened my eyes to Christian music.

Later, Kevin would bring other great Christian bands that would become amazing influences to me in those formative years of my walk. Often, in the middle of these shows, Kevin would get up and speak, inviting people to Christ and many responded. Even then, I remember how unassuming and down to earth that Kevin was. He got straight to the point and it was effective. I later learned and came to appreciate this much more on a personal level.

In fact, it was much later in my walk, but right in that same building, that Kevin's straight talk meant the most to me. I will never forget this: It was an apocalyptic rainy day in Redlands. It was dark and gloomy and I was sitting alone in my friend's office. I had not had the best day. In fact, I was considering resignation! I wanted to quit! I don't remember what brought me to that point, but it was not the first time that I had had these thoughts. I sat there staring out the window of what used to be Don McClure's old office, just hoping for that day to end.

That's when I heard a noise behind me. Kevin had come down that hallway and quietly come to the only lighted office in the building. He smiled and came in. I sort of put on the Pastor's cap, thinking that he might be there for some kind of counseling. I sat down at the desk and he sat across from me. We started to have this conversation about church and politics. Before I knew it, I was sharing my heart with him and he was counseling me! I'll never forget what he said to me that day, summed up in the line that still stands out in my memory:

"Church doesn't have to be this way."

It must have been obvious to him, because at one point in the conversation after he said this, he told me "You probably know better than I do why the Spirit brought me here." He said that he had been driving somewhere else, but felt compelled to come to the church. I might be wrong, but I am not even sure that he and his wife Robin were going to Redlands at the time, so it made it that much more impressive to me. That conversation, but more than that, Kevin's willingness to come and minister, floored me and gave me some tread to continue.

Several years later, Kevin and Robin begin attending Redlands again. This time, I was the worship leader who needed a bass player to fill in for me on occasional Wednesday nights. I was so delighted to ask Kevin, not because of his prowess as a bass player or legend as a pioneer, but because he was a part of how God kept me going. I wanted his wisdom, insight, humor and gentle heart around me as often as possible!

Regrettably, when I left for Spain, I lost touch with the Thomson family. I heard through the grapevine that Kevin had struggled through some difficult health issues. Then, when I heard the news this last week, I knew that I would not have the chance to reconnect again with him here on earth. I wish that he could have read this, but at the least, I pray that having read this you will understand the value of your Christian life. How much impact can you have simply by being willing to be "re-directed" by God's Spirit? Who might He have you have an appointment with?

To the Thomson Family, Robin, Josh and Eli, I love you all and my heart and prayers go out to you in this season. I know that you will have many people share similar stories with you. I just wanted to share mine.

To those who are Facebook friends with me, I shared this video earlier this evening. It's a fitting tribute to a man who loved the Lord and who the Lord loved through. I don't know when this video was made, but it's Kevin who is sharing at the beginning of it. His words, perfect for the time, are much more true now than they were then, as Christ's coming looms ever closer. I imagine that big smile is glowing tonight in the presence of Jesus!

Blessings...To Our Friends,
Frank Sanchez

A Day To Be Free...

Hello All,

I hope that you have had a wonderful Memorial day weekend. For most of us, we have enjoyed what we have enjoyed because of the brave men and women around the globe that serve in our armed forces currently and in recent history. I am grateful as my Grandfather and two Uncles served our country both in the Army and in the Marines respectively. My Grandfather Frank served in World War II in the European theatre and my Uncle Rick in Vietnam. Both returned to U.S. soil and both have since gone on to be with the Lord. In the later days of my Grandfather's life, he told us stories of what life was like during his time there. I remember sitting at our kitchen table, listening attentively to all that he had to say. I was blown away at the fact that he could have had such a profoundly terrifying existence, and still live day to day as though none of it ever took place. Of course, for him I am sure that the memories were not far from his mind in the day to day, but he did not make it known to us kids.

Since his and Rick's death, I no longer have any veterans of foreign wars in our family to thank as each Memorial Day passes. I do however make it a practice, and commend it to you as well, that you take the time to thank any person in service that you come across. I have often walked over and shook hands with those who serve in our military and simply let them know of my appreciation. Each time, it has been gratefully received. These men and women have given up more than most of us can ever know. They deserve our appreciation and our prayers.

"Thank you Lord for those that serve this country. Keep them safe in their endeavors. Bring them home safely and quickly. Amen."

Blessings...To Our Friends,
Frank Sanchez

Monday, May 24, 2010

"The End" Of LOST & Me

"SPOILER ALERT!" If you have not seen the Lost series finale and intend sometime in the near future to do so, I'd suggest taking a look at some of our previous blog entries. Those who are fans of Lost know that being unspoiled is the best way to watch the show. Now that I have given you fair warning...

Hello All,

Last night was an epic night of television viewing for me. It was the final episode of Lost, my favorite show. This show was epic, in terms of time. It felt like a genuine movie, aside from the numerous commercials that interrupted the action. At the end of the show, I sat alone, my wife having given up the ghost, and enjoyed the final dramatic ending of this stirring series.

The inevitable occurred, many fans found themselves confused or unsatisfied with the ending. That happens with everything that we love. It is rare in life to be able to engineer an end that satisfies all involved. The questions that we are all left with will always keep Lost alive in our minds and the potential for discussion and spirited "alternate realities" among the fans of this show will likely emerge.

For me, there is a much more personal set of reasons that I find myself endeared to this show. I began watching this show in the very home that I currently sit in. I watched the pilot and was riveted. During that first year, I was unable to watch consistently and just gave up because when I did get the chance to watch, ABC kept playing "The House Of The Rising Sun" (The first Sun and Jin episode, complete with Korean dialogue and English subtitles) over and over again! It was disappointing to not be able to progress with the show.

Then, I was about to move to Spain and figured that there would be no way to follow the show. This is when my trusty friend, Attila Juhas, shared some great news with me: iTunes would be carrying each episode the following day for 99 cents! I was stoked! But that meant that I was going to have to catch up with the whole first season and I was leaving just after the first show of season 2 had aired. Attila recorded it for me and I began watching the DVD's from season 1.

Here's the catch: I was in the middle of moving out of my house! I was literally watching Lost while I was feverishly packing clothes and moving furniture. At one point, I was so enthralled that I was driving to a from the dump, while watching an episode on my laptop WHILE DRIVING!!! Kids, don't try this in your car!

Little did I know that our family would move several more times in the course of the next 5 years of our life. In every place we went, "my constant" companion was this show. Whether it was Spain, the Lowry house, or Ladera Ranch, Lost was part of each season of time.

Fast forward to the end, and I am indebted to the show for such great storytelling and character development. I applaud the cinematography and the haunting soundscapes. I loved that and them (the characters) more than I cared about the elusive answers!

The actual finale event, called "The End" really left me with a few poignant thoughts. I do not and have never endorsed any spiritual or theological information that emanates from this program. The shows writers claim no Christian framework and while they borrow from biblical themes, it is only done so to serve their relativistic "spiritual" viewpoint.

The end of Lost is the discovery that the "Flash Sideways" was in fact the relativistic view of the afterlife. In the final season, each character awakened to the reality that they were in fact dead. The joy that they found was in rediscovering each other and in effect, moving on from their temporal nexus into enlightenment. This is not the official statement from the writers. It is simply my deduction of their intention. It may not be spot on, but I feel it's fairly close.

I don't think that I need to tell you how much I disagree with this spiritually. Our lives and the afterlife does not hinge upon what happens between me and a bunch of friends. That is not the defining moment of any person's life. What a person does with Jesus, how He or she answers the call of Christ, whether or not a person believes in, trusts in Christ for their salvation is the true hinge point! In the afterlife, men and women are either embraced in heaven by their Savior Jesus Christ, or continue their rejection of Him in hell. That is the biblical truth and the authoritative statement given to us from the Word of God.

Additionally, we know and are known in heaven. I won't be walking around trying to figure out whether I am alive or dead. I will be more alive then than I am now and each sense will be fully aware. I will knowingly enter the joy of heaven and the fullness of a relationship with Christ that will be a continuation of what I have experienced here on earth. Those who reject Christ will knowingly enter the torment of hell. I say these things to affirm that Lost, while a welcome diversion and a well produced drama, is no authority on things relating to the afterlife, nor are they claiming to be. Their world view is from a world that is anti-God, and anti-Christ. I did not expect anything else from them.

THAT BEING SAID, the writers told a story that remains moving and beautifully poetic, regarding our effect upon one another and how meaningful and wonderful that is. These survivors impacted each others lives in a profound way that changed their characters and maybe even affected their destiny.

I thought at the end of this of so many friends and epochs of time. I looked back and thought about "surviving" through major events and musical journeys that changed me and made me what I am today. For example, one of the best musical experiences of my life happened when I played for the Saturday Night Life worship band. That was the best music and the best fun as a drummer that I ever had. As a worship leader, I will never forget Brad San Nieves and the Packinghouse, which was a significant period of growth for me as a leader. My time on staff at the Packinghouse will also go down as a giant step in my progression as a Pastor. My time on staff at Kingsfield, produced a giant step in my development as a teacher. My time on staff in Jerez, albeit short and duty reduced, was a giant step for me as a Christian.

The end of Lost made me thankful for my friends that have made a tremendous impact upon my life. I will caution us all to look around today, as this may be the best time of each of our lives to date. Unlike Lost and more like Christ, I will say truthfully, that even though we leave our friends and have to move on, the adventure continues and He always brings new brothers and sisters, born from adversity, that fill out the adventure that lead us to Him.

The end of Lost reminds me that the relativistic, humanistic, "Coexist" viewpoint, can only look back and be as thankful as possible for what happens in that moment of time called the Past. Christ calls us ever forward, being thankful for our past, but just as hopeful and excited for our future together, and with Him.

"That's my crackpot theory and I'm sticking to it!"

Blessings... To Our Friends,
Frank Sanchez

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Happy Birthday Caleb #7

Hello All,

Please forgive what I am about to do. It's the self-indulgent proud Father coming out! Caleb, our middle child, has turned 7 this past Friday. He has been a tremendous joy to our hearts, as have our other children. As we turn the calendar page on Caleb's chronology, we thought that we might share some of our favorite "Caleb Centric" photos that reveal just a little of the great joy that we have in him. Happy Birthday Bwudda!

Blessings...To Our Friends,
Frank Sanchez

Monday, May 17, 2010

Thursday, May 13, 2010

"Follow Me"

Hello All,

This past weekend was different on so many levels. First, it was Mother's Day weekend and our first Mother's Day Sunday at our church plant in Colton. It was also the first weekend that we were unable to meet in the Hutton Center, which we learned about two days before, on Friday! With no time to find an alternative meeting location, we decided to meet outside in the adjacent park. I'm told that this particular park, right next to the Hutton Center, has been dubbed "Homicide Park" in the past by local police.

"Impromptu Sunday Morning Mother's Day Service In Homicide Park." You're gonna love the graphic on that flyer!

Frankly, most of the names and the hype surrounding Colton just have not turned out to be anything. Besides, when the Lord is on your side and it's His church, there is nothing that can come against it!

All of this provides the context for what was really different for me personally. My text for Sunday morning was Matthew 4:12-25. Within those verses is the recorded call of Christ of the first disciples. It's a simple sentence: "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men." I focused in on those words "Follow me." My message continued, even though my mind hung onto those words. Still preaching, my mind rabbit trailed a bit, as if another message was attempting to break through. It was a powerful time which left me indelibly impressed.

What caught me was the simplicity of following Jesus, but the complexities that keep me, or anyone else from actually doing that. I was fascinated by what the Lord began to reveal to me.

What keeps any of us from following Jesus? I'd begin simply with a genuine lack of concern for what He actually wants from us. If concern is present, the desire to sit patiently and listen is often not. In order to follow Jesus, we must want to and we must listen to discern where He might be leading.

Often, we plot our own courses based on what we desire or what we desire to imitate. Christian sub-culture demands a certain level of conformity, and Christian men and women can often be swayed by this. In my prayer life, I'll freely admit, that I need to spend more time listening to the walking orders.

This might be the #1 issue in following Jesus, but there is a deeper issue, at least in my life. As many of you are aware, I have been on Facebook for quite some time now. I enjoy the interaction and the repartee, as well as the nearly instantaneous ability to reply with one another. However, over the last several weeks, I have noticed some deleterious side effects that have plagued me personally. Before I delve, I feel that I must say that this is more than likely due to me spending more time than I should on Facebook, and thus the answer is likely found in the balance that others have achieved.

That being said, for me, I find that my following eyes get caught on just about everyone else. This expresses itself in envy, both in good and bad ways. For example, I envy my missionary friends, who give of themselves in ways that other Christians cannot comprehend. I envy their work and their consecration. On the other hand, I envy those with the blessings to do things that I pray to one day enjoy.

Along with my envy, there is a good deal of grief. This grief is both for my friends, as well as on account of my friends. I am grieved for my friends who have been hurt by churches or Pastors, usually unintentionally, but hurt nonetheless. I am grieved for the pain that some friends suffer as I write, either through the pain of loss, disease, or divorce, which is a living loss. I grieve for them. Then there are the friends who have decided to walk away from Christ, either to atheism, homosexuality, etc. Some have just grown cold to Christ, and it would seem that they would not care if I told them that Christ's return would occur today! These are the ones who at one time shone brightly for Christ and my heart aches for, on account of them.

All this flashed through my mind as I considered the words of Christ: Follow me! But then, I remembered another set of verses that took place at the same location, just three years removed from the first call. It's Peter and Jesus on the shore of the Sea of Galilee and they have a lot to say to each other. Peter has failed miserably and Jesus has triumphed victoriously! He is calling Peter to live in His victory and live in His calling. This is when Peter asks Jesus an honest question.

"Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, 'Lord, who is the one who betrays You?' Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, 'But Lord, what about this man?' Jesus said to him, 'If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.'"
John 21:20-22

"What is that to you? YOU FOLLOW ME!" Jesus never asked me to look around, look over at, or look in upon anyone! He asked me to follow Him. It intrigues me that it all came back to what Christ had initially said to Peter. How true is that? How many of us need to return to following Jesus? How complicated have we made it? How difficult has it become? It hasn't! We have complicated it and made it difficult in our attempt to homogenize and standardize Christianity!

Whatever it is that you are doing, whoever it is that you are, as for me, I do not stand in a place to judge. I would stand and call you to your own self-reflection. Ask yourself: Are you truly following Christ? If the "you" of yesterday met the "you" of today, would that "you" slap "you" in the face? That is for your blog, not mine!

As for me, I cannot spend any more time asking about you. I need to get about the business of following Christ.

Though none go with, still I will...

Blessings...To Our Friends,
Frank Sanchez