Saturday, May 5, 2012

Accounting Pastor?

Once upon a time before I was Pastor Mark E, I was just Mark E.  Hard to believe, right?  I was studying accounting at San Francisco State University and working as a Junior Accountant at a pre-IPO software startup that had extended a full time offer to me after graduation that came with a title promotion as well as  cash money.  Things were going well for me career wise, probably better than I had planned, and I was thankful.  

In my personal life, I was very active in the church, running sound, set-up, leading worship, doing the bookkeeping, was very involved in the young adults group, and definitely hungry for the word and to be involved in ministry.  It was always an extracurricular thing so to speak, I never thought I would ever be receiving a paycheck for it...

Then things changed.  Pastor Rick asked a few of us to pray about working at the church as an intern to assist him and have some more hands on and intense discipleship.  When he first mentioned it, compared to the other guys he approached as well, I never thought I would be the one to end up with the opportunity.  I thought they were all better suited than I was, besides, I was working towards a career that I enjoyed and was very lucrative, I had no reason to leave it.  

Of course, man plans his was, but God always guides his steps.  Jack and I had gone on a short term missions trip to Nicaragua during the winter holiday.  The experienced rocked me.  I travelled as much as I could as a young man and enjoyed it very much, but this was like nothing I had ever experienced.  I fell in love with the people, the place, and the idea of doing missions.  I loved it.  I wanted to go back.

Upon my return, there were some things going down at work, that I wasn't super stoked about.  The company was growing, which was a good thing, and as it did so did our department, which again, was a good thing, but also my manager left the company, who was a very good friend and someone who poured a lot of time into me spiritually and professionally, which for me, was a bad thing.  Another coworker transferred to another department who I really enjoyed working with.  I lost my buddies at work and began to feel alone there.  I don't think my performance suffered, and my new manager seemed to be happy with me, but I felt something that I never felt before...  I wanted to leave.  

After work one day I had a voice mail from Pastor Rick asking me to call him back.  That scenario doesn't seem too strange, but I think it was like only the second time he had ever called me...  I knew something was up.  I called him back the next day and he bluntly asked me if I had been praying about the internship.  I had been.  I had actually been praying about a lot of things.  I wanted to go back to Nicaragua but between work and school I never thought I could do it.  I also thought that Rick for sure would have picked one of the other guys over me by that point for the internship.  But he was straightforward with me, so I was straight forward with him. I told him about my plan to quit my job to go to Nicaragua for the summer, then after I returned I could work at the church for a couple years, finish college, then most likely head back to the mission field, or get a full time job in accounting.

That was like 7 years ago (I just had to calculate all those dates in my head, wow, I can't believe it has been that long).  Though the first couple things on that list happened, nothing else did.  I did go to back to Nicaragua for the summer and did come back and work for the church.  My work at the church actually became a much larger piece of my life than I expected, and though I did eventually graduate I didn't go on the mission field, nor did I go back to my planned accounting career.  

I have though over the years gone on short term missions trips, and that is still a large part of my ministry, which is a blessing and something I always plan to continue to participate in.  But I have also had the opportunity to do some contract accounting work over the years.  My previous manager has had me help out in some of his various roles over the years, which has always been a blessing.  To be honest, mostly financial, as you can imagine, I didn't choose to work at the church for the money.

I've spent the past couple of weeks on a contract assignment during my spare time and days off.  It's been a blessing not only to connect to an old friend, but also to do the work as well.  I do really enjoy accounting work.  It's very different than a lot of what I do on a regular basis, and it's very satisfying in a sense that if there's a problem I know I can fix it.  It may take some time, some thought, and a lot of trial and error, but a solution can be found.  I have also gotten to learn about some new things I haven't worked with before which is also cool.  But one thing that struck me is that I really enjoy doing the work.  I remembered why I entered the field in the first place.  I like it.  

I was a bit surprised by that feeling.  At the time I left my job to enter into full time ministry, it was like I was finally free to do what I was meant to do.  In the past when I have done the work, it was purely to earn some extra money, kind of out of necessity.  I never thought that I would or could like doing that work again.  The idea of it just seems wrong to me for some reason.  But why do I feel that way?  I don't know, but I don't think I should.  Doing some part time accounting on occasion doesn't mean that I am running back into bondage, but quite the opposite.  God has given me some skills and abilities and I am free to use them as He guides me.  

This has turned into quite a long rambling post, but I'm just processing some of the things I've been feeling and praying about.  I am thankful to Jesus for the ways that He has guided me through life and all the blessings He has given me of talents and opportunities, and for all the ways that He has provided for me, it's much more than I deserve.  I want to use it all for His glory whatever that looks like.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Post from my phone..

This is the first post from my phone.  Google messed all my accounts up so I am finally able to update this thing...  hopefully it'll become a habit. 

Peace for now.

Monday, April 4, 2011

My Brother Andrew

This is my brother Andrew. He was born on July 23, 1979 approximately 25 months before I entered the world. I shared a room with him from the time I was born until the time he moved out, most likely the day he turned 18. At times it was wonderful. When we were probably 3 and 5 years old he got this little keyboard, he wrote a song called "Traffic Jam on My Peanut Butter Sandwich". He played keys and brought down my mother's pots and pans and wooden spoons for me to jam on. We recorded it on our boombox on a blank tape. O how I wish we had that tape still... Other times our cohabitation was miserable. My mother took us to Jazzercise each week at we played while she exercised. One afternoon Andrew was practicing his best Jazzercise moves, and upon my interruption pushed me into my dresser and cracked my head wide open. Blood was everywhere.

Throughout our adolescence our relationship contained similar sentiments. We disagreed about most things, but as I look back I think I secretly looked up to him as my older brother, and he secretly envied me because I had a better relationship with our father and was more well liked in school. He was extremely socially awkward, had few friends, mostly female, was overweight, and picked on a lot at school. Not to mention he did weird stuff, like for some reason he was incapable of properly wearing a sock. Even though it had no bearing on my life, how could someone not do something so simple? The heal of the sock was always on the top of his foot... Argh. I digress... Despite his inability to accomplish simple tasks, he was one of the most original and individual characters I have ever met to this day. There was a brief moment where we actually shared interest in something... Punk Rock. He took me to a Fury 66 show when I was in like 6th grade or something. I ripped all my jeans and thought I was super cool. Then punk got played out. He got really into Indie Rock and I got into Heavy Metal. I don't think we agreed on anything again. He used to torture me with the Cure and Sousxie and the Banshees and then on to newer and more obnoxious Riot Grrrl music. We didn't get along at all. We also happened to hang out in the same place with groups of friends who didn't like each other either. It was not a fun few years... Not to mention this was right about the time he came out openly as a homosexual. But back to that later...

At some point in high school he dropped out, but some how my father never found out... I guess he wasn't the most involved parent. He started hanging around UCSC at the student run radion station, just hanging around and talking to the DJ's and stuff. He eventually somehow convinced the station manager that he was a student and I'm still not sure how, but got a FCC license and had his own show, even though he was a high school senior who hadn't been to school for over a year. At that time he began a profitable new business of developing multiple aliases and opening up BMG accounts and receiving the introductory 8 CD's for 1 cent. I don't think he every paid the 1 cent, but he certainly earned a lot more than that selling them at the local buy/sell/trade music store. He got pretty good. He even signed our neighbors up and waited for the mail to come so he could run over and grab the packages while they were at work... Apparently at some point his two career paths came together one day when Andrew didn't show up for his show and KZSC noticed a large portion of their CD Library missing. Unfortunately this behavior became a pattern in his life.

Our mother passed away in 1989, our family had put her social security death benefits in trust funds for us to be available when we were 18, it was supposed to be fore college. None of us spent it on college. Andrew bought a Volvo station wagon and moved to Pacific Grove, where a group of friends he had met lived. Thus began the next pattern in his life... That of a vagabond. As I mentioned he didn't keep many friends, but the ones he had he was very close with for a while. He'd move in with one of them, hang out for a while, get some sort of part time job, things would be pretty mellow for a while, something dramatic would happen, he would lose his job, get in a fight with his friend, leave, move to a new town and never speak to those people again... Weird. He'd always manage to move back into my room every year or so. It was always annoying. He moved from Monterey to Seattle to Mountain View, back to Seattle, back home to Santa Cruz, to Pittsburgh, Concord, back to Seattle, I think he was in Rohnert Park at some point, then finally he managed to settle in San Francisco, but I think he always wanted to go back to Seattle.

Throughout his ramblings, I began life as a young adult, got jobs, travelled, moved to Mountain View, in the same room he lived in. Probably the most important change in my life as a young adult was my conversion to Christianity. Not for any real reason, but we didn't see or speak with each other for a better part of a year. Upon reconnection I think he was not a little shocked by what had happened in my life. I thought it my responsibility as a zealous young Christian to tell him the error of his homosexual ways. That didn't go over to well. We didn't talk for a while after that.

Eventually he came back around. He had gone to Pittsburgh supposedly to receive a grant to go to school and live with someone he had been internet dating for a while. When he got there things didn't go as planned and he had to spend the last of his money on a cross country bus trip to come back home. He couldn't stay with me at my grandparents, because of a bridge he burned, so my aunt and uncle took him in. He was close enough that we would speak fairly often, he would always teach me something cool about the internet. We still weren't close though. After another bridge burned at my aunt's house, he went back to Seattle, was in a long term relationship, had a steady job, but... Eventually he made it back to San Francisco. At this time in his life, his mental health started deteriorating. He was in and out of mental health facilities and half way houses. I was his next of kin, so I always got the phone call. It sounds weird, but this is how our relationship began to repair itself.

Through this whole process we started talking to each other, also, he started the process of seeking disability benefits so he couldn't leave the state, so that had something to do with it. He got into a half way house in San Francisco and at the time I was studying at SFSU. On my break we would go hang out, or he would come over to the university and sneak into the computer lab and surprise me. I was mature enough as a person to give him the respect he deserved as my older brother, and as a Christian to show him love without condemnation. I think he no longer saw me as an opponent, but finally as a friend. A few months later he finally got approved for SSI, got his own little place, some new clothes, a lot of self esteem, and started the process to get enrolled in school. He was really happy, genuinely. I hadn't seen him like that in a long time. A few weeks later I got a text from him saying he was going to Reno for the weekend. I hate Reno. I told him to be safe.

That following Wednesday I was having a BBQ at the grandparents house and had invited a bunch of friends over. I heard the doorbell ring about an hour before the party was supposed to start, and assumed that someone was just there early. I opened the door and was surprised to find the Mountain View Police officers at the door. Instantly my mind started flashing through everything I have done wrong and how it could have gotten back to me. They asked if they could come inside and told me to sit down. They shared with me that my brother's body was found in his room at Circus Circus in Reno. Apparently he had overdosed on a combination of Oxycontin. It turns out it didn't mix with the antidepressant he was taking and the death was ruled a suicide.

I had to work with the coroner in Reno and make arrangements for his body to be sent down and work the funeral home down here to plan the funeral. Luckily my grandparents were able to help me throughout the entire process.

That was almost 5 years ago now. I can't believe it was that long ago. It doesn't seem like he has been gone that long. There are still times when I don't even realize he isn't. I'll think of a story, or a song will play that will remind me of him and I'll have the urge to text him, then realize I can't. It kind of, well really sucks. A while ago I had a dream that featured my brother Andrew. I don't remember all the details, but I'm pretty sure we shared a room again (why?). I woke up and it seemed so real to me. Again, I felt like I could call him, but I couldn't. Again, the other night I had another dream, and I remember for sure that we were sharing a room again... Me and Abby were married, had Xander, and we were renting this weird little hotel room. Andrew was there with us, in one room. I'm not sure what that means, I hated sharing a room with him. It was seriously horrible. Maybe I secretly miss that. Hmmm...

But anyways, after I woke up I started thinking about how much I really did miss him, and how much it hurt not to have him in my life anymore. I thought of this verse from 1 Corinthians 15:55:

"O Death, where is your sting?
O Grave, where is your victory?”

I believe what this is saying. We have access to eternal life through Jesus' substitutionary death on the cross and through Jesus' resurrection from the dead, death was conquered and no longer has power over us. There will be a day when there will be no more death, no more pain, no more tears. But that day isn't here yet. Right now, death stings, and my brother is still in the grave. I still feel the pain and suffering that comes with losing a loved one. Nevertheless I hold out hope that by the incomprehensible mercies of God I may see my brother again, and if nothing else, that I may never have to feel the feeling of losing a loved one to death again.

On another note, here is a short sermon highlighting how I deal with the pain of loss:

Monday, September 13, 2010

Church Police

It's one of my least favorite parts of my personality. Maybe it's my role or calling as a Pastor, shepherding the people, or maybe it's be because there's still a bit of legalism running through my veins, or maybe it's because from as soon as I began to follow Jesus I discovered that I began to grow once I started attending every single event the church held. I don't know, but I can't help scanning the pews, satisfied with who I see there, but all the more curious about who I don't see. Vacation? Probably if it's June. Home sick? Well. it's church policy to stay away if you got the greenies. Football? Not if you're a 49ers fan. I haven't been involved with very many churches, only 2 actually, so I have no benchmark to discover the norm, but it seems that a large number of people consider Calvary Chapel Mountain View their home church, but only turn up once every few weeks, or less. This leaves me in the awkward position to ask, "so, where have you been?" This is difficult for a couple reasons. 1. I don't condemn them and don't want them to feel condemned. And 2. Part of my flesh wants our church to be larger, and if everybody who calls CCMV "home" turned up on the same Sunday, we'd probably be bursting at the seems. But it's an important question, despite all my personality quarks. The church is Jesus' hands and feet here on Earth and we need to be on mission as His hands and feet together. If we're not altogether very often it'd be like walking around without one shoe. The reality is that as a church, we suffer without you. You have unique gifts, personalities, and callings that can be used to bless us. In turn our mission to equip the saints for the work of the ministry will fail if there are no saints to equip. It's a two way street and I really believe that we will all suffer if people decide to not set roots, plug in, and show up. Obviously we all have a zillion things going on, and we all do not need to be there every single Sunday. But what I am saying is that it should be a priority on Sunday morning. For your benefit, and for ours.

"And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, asis the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching."

Hebrews 10:24-25

Friday, April 3, 2009

Jospeh's Dream

I just finished reading Genesis chapter 37 about Joseph's life. After thinking about for a minute, I thought "Why did Joseph share his dreams? That's what got him in to trouble in the first place!" I think that is a valid question, but, then I remembered the dreams themselves:

"There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Then behold, my sheaf arose and also stood upright; and indeed your sheaves stood all around and bowed down to my sheaf.”

And Also:

“Look, I have dreamed another dream. And this time, the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to me.”

These dreams were a prophecy that Joseph's family would all bow down to him. As to whether or not Joseph should have shared his dreams with his family, that's another question for another time, but I was reassured of the sovereignty of God in this passage.

You see, I thought it was a bit arrogant of Joseph to brag to his brothers who already were jealous of him "Hey guys check it out, I had a dream and in it you guys all bowed down to me!" And even if it was and sharing the dream was the wrong thing to do, God was sovereign in that situation and as we read later in the story, his brother's jealousy caused them to plot to kill him but instead they sold him as a slave, Joseph was eventually sold to Potipher and he gave him charge over all of Egypt. God was with him and he warned him of a famine so Joseph stored up grain. When they ran out of food in Canaan, His brothers did come and bow down to him begging for food.

God is sovereign. He is in control. His will is good and even in spite of my sin he causes all things to work out for good.

I was recently reminded of the Westminster Confession that says:

"God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established."

God was sovereign over Jospeh's life, and He is sovereign over mine. I'm a bonehead and blow it often, but even in spite of my poor choices God is still sovereign and His will will come to pass.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Conflict Resolution

Back in the day, that's how it would have gone down...

In the past 7 years of being a Christian I have yet to see two people duke it out mano a mano. I have to say I'm pretty thankful for that.

But what do you do when somebody says or does something that offends you?

Here's what not to do:

  1. Don't punch them (yeah, we established that), but further than that don't let your anger take over and turn in to anything that would make the situation worse (Ephesians 4:26a)
  2. Don't ignore the situation. Offenses are a reality, it will happen. If you don't get resolution it can fester and turn into something much worse (Ephesians 4:26a).
  3. Don't tell anyone else. Gossip is sin. It is directed at the person who offended you. If somebody sinned against you, how do you find resolution in sinning against them? (Proverbs 16:28)
  4. Don't ignore or avoid the person who offended you. As Christians we are called to love (John 13:34), that's obvious. Don't cut another member off from your love. That will only make them feel offended.

Here is what to do:

  1. Calm down. It will be okay.
  2. Gain a proper perspective. We all are sinners who fall short of the glory of God. We are going to offend somebody sometime. It's how you deal with it that is important.
  3. Get biblical. Read Matthew 18:15-17 “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector."

Jesus gives pretty specific instructions on what to do.

  1. Confront the person personally and individually. Make sure at this point that you haven't already told anybody. Give them an opportunity to apologize. Forgive them. Repeat: forgive them.
  2. Hopefully at that point they have realized their offense and apologized. If they have not, get somebody to come alongside you and approach them again. Important! Don't bring your best friend that will agree with you emphatically and disagree with the other party completely. Get someone objective, a mutual friend, someone you both trust. Give them another opportunity to apologize. Forgive them. Repeat: forgive them.
  3. Hopefully at that point they have realized their offense and apologized. Hopefully at that point you have forgiven them. Now you have to get the church involved. I suggest speaking to the pastor regarding the situation, what happened, what steps you have taken to get resolution and where the process is at now. Set up a meeting with the person who offended you, the pastor, the other party involved in step 2, and yourself. Again, give them another opportunity to apologize. Forgive them. Repeat: forgive them.

At this point if they still don't realize that they have done something wrong or have hurt you, don't have anything else to do with them. Move on with your life.

I have never seen this go all the way through without forgiveness or an apology. Most people say stupid stuff without even realizing it, once they know that they have done harm they will apologize almost immediately, and praise the Lord, you have your friend back.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Mystery of Godliness

What is the first thing that you think of when you hear the word "Mystery"?

Does it look something like this:

If it does, than I hate to tell you that...

You're wrong!

This is how Webster's Dictionary defines the word "mystery":

A religious truth that one can only know by revelation and cannot fully understand.


The hidden, eternal plan of God that is being revealed to His people in accordance to His plan.

So, when there's something strange in the neighborhood, who you gonna call?

Sorry, not those guys... We can call upon Him in whom are all treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

So, as we look at the scripture in 1st Timothy 3:16 we read:

And without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness:

God was manifested in the flesh
Justified by the spirit
Seen by angels
Preached among the Gentiles
Believed on in the world
Received up in glory

What a wonderful mystery!

This verse contains the mystery, or the secret if you will to godliness, and guess what? No where in that verse are you or I mentioned. No where in that verse are what we are supposed to do, or how we are supposed to act mentioned.

What is this secret all about?


The mystery of godliness is centered upon and revolves around the life and ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ. And I think this is very purposefull in that if we try to attain godliness based upon what we do or don't do, we will only attain self-righteousness. If we attempt to attain godliness through the work that Jesus has already done for us, it wil leave us humble open to a real work of God in our hearts.

John 15:5 says "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without me you can do nothing."

Bearing that fruit of godliness sprouts forth naturally from an abiding relationship with Jesus, not from our own list of do's and don'ts.

So, if we seek to live godly lives, we need to seek to abide in Jesus, to cultivate and maintain a rich, intimate relationship with Him through spending time in His word and praying to Him, and not forgetting to listen from time to time...
Slide 22