Thursday, April 30, 2009


We are getting ready for the Acquire the Fire conference in Seattle starting on Friday. What you may ask is ATF? It is a youth conference that is geared to deal with the issues of this generation. The founder and president of Teen Mania Ministries is Ron Luce. You may be familiar with him as the author of "Battlecry for a Generation", or may other books he has written over the years. Ron and Teen Mania Ministries has a passion to reach teens with the Good News of Jesus Christ, and challenge them to spend time overseas on a missions trip before they graduate from High School.

I have taken young people to this non-denominational event since 1994, and I have only missed two years. This is by far the most life changing event we have been privileged to attend.

So if you are looking for a life changing event for the students I encourage you to attend the ATF near you. For more information go to

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Do What You Are Called to Do

I am here at Annual Conference and it is good hearing from leaders that are doing ministry better than me. This is always really stretching because I have to evaluate why I am doing what I am doing? The only caveat emptor (warning) is to remember where you are ministering.

This is difficult when you see and hear who are "successful". The down side to this is to feel bad about what you are doing, or to feel like you are not doing enough. Here is what I have learned.

God has called me to Warden, and He doesn't expect me to Pastor Warden like it is done in another community or setting. The people in Warden are not unlike other people. They enjoy relationships, good food and want to feel a part of something bigger than themselves. I am convinced we need to contextualize what we hear and bring it to the place we live and minister.

I have been given the assignment to Pastor in a rural setting, and it fits me well. The question we need to ask ourselves is, "how can I use the principles of what I just heard to extend the Kingdom of God in Grant County?"

If we do what we are called to do then we will be obedient to the Lord's calling. Bloom where you are planted.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

First Things First

I apologize for not posting sooner but I have been out of town for our Annual Conference. I was pretty tired from preaching my heart out Sunday morning. Then I took my wife out for her birthday dinner, and some clothes shopping. We had a great time, and enjoyed ourselves Sunday. Then Monday we got the kids ready for school, and packed for our trip to Pasco. Well here it is Tuesday, and I just now got connected to the internet in my hotel.

Here's the thought for the day. What if we really prioritized our walk with the Lord? I mean that first thing in the morning we immediately entered our prayer closet and we were not distracted by one other thing? I have a tendency to get distracted during my quiet time. I check my e-mail, update my profile, and then I "pray while I am working." This is not as effective as just devoting time to exclusively worshipping the Lord. I thought I would try this Sunday.

I walked into the sanctuary and even though my message was not complete I chose to "drink from the fountain" first. Guess what, everything else fell into place. I am going to make this my habit. How about you?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Ring the Bell

Last night I was privileged to attend a graduation for a guy in our church who has just completed Teen Challenge. It was about a year ago that I spoke to him, and said in passing "If you are ever ready to get help let me know." I didn't expect to hear from this guy, but sure enough I get a call as I am on the Oregon Coast with a member from the church. It sounds something like this. "Pastor John, I called and I am planning to go to Teen Challenge Monday." Talk about shocked, I didn' t think he would follow through and make the phone call; let alone spend the next 11 months of his life at Teen Challenge. Well he did, and he made it.

Let me describe to you the atmosphere. The chapel was packed, and it was full of energy. Not like a typical church service. These guys were excited about the work that God was doing in their lives, and they were not afraid to show it! Before the certificates of completion were given out, everyone including the graduate was asked to share something. The guy from our church wrote several poems, I never knew he could write so well! The other guys were telling everyone else how much they appreciated these graduates. Finally, the director presented the certificates and I looked over and noticed that my wife was crying. This was an emotional moment. This was a time in our ministry where we could say we were a part of something big. You couldn't help but cry, here were two men who were changed by the power of Jesus Christ. They were no longer addicts; but they were followers of Jesus Christ. I was glad that we were at the service.

The men circled around these two graduates and "prayed them out". The director said "we prayed you in, and now we are going to pray you out." The prayers that bombarded Heaven were incredible, at the very least I was wishing I had the passion they had in their prayers. Finally there was one last thing. They had to ring the bell. I asked the men around me what this meant, this is what they said. "We pull on this rope to ring the bell, when something good happens." I would say that what happened last night was worthy of ringing the bell.

I challenge you to find a reason to "ring the bell" in your life, and tell others what good thing has taken place because of Jesus Christ.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

In Over My Head

Recently, I have realized that I am in over my head. Have you ever thought "I could be here 24 hours a day." It seems that the more I get done, the more that there is to do. My to do list seems as though it multiplies every week. The problem with success is that it is never static. If I preach a great message this week, the question is "what will I do next Sunday?" My life is probably like your life. Trying to balance family time with ministry. Knowing when to say no, and when to say yes. Life is full of challenges.

My wife and I have begun to walk and pray together in the mornings. This is normally "my time", but I have found that it can be "our time". My prayer life is better than it has been, and I feel closer to my wife. When I explain to my wife how much I have to do she helps me focus on the important more than the urgent. I am also in my overhead because I am doing things that I have never done before! Let me give you a list

  • I am the Father of four children (no instruction manual was given with the children)
  • I am a husband (I have somewhat overcome my selfish nature)
  • I am a Pastor (My Dad or his Dad were hard working men, not saints)
  • I have achieved two Masters Degrees (In High School I didn't apply myself)
  • I have applied to a Graduate School (I like to read books, but can I write one?)
  • I don't have any good ideas (that work anyway) about how to make a church grow
In the previous list those are things that scared me before I took on those challenges. Now as I look back I realize that these things are not so overwhelming.

Maybe it is good to be in over your head. I mean we are all doing things that are challenging, and at the same time very rewarding. My life and your life would be boring without these challenges. A thought for today: Being in over your head is okay, as long as you know who to call when it becomes too much for you.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Today I am thankful for what the Lord has done in my life, and how He continues to work in my life. Here are a few reasons I am thankful.
  • I have been forgiven of every shameful thing I have ever done or thought about doing.
  • I am guaranteed a home beyond this life
  • I have the best wife and kids
  • I am privileged to be a Pastor in a place where people love the Lord
  • I have what I need
  • I have great encouragement about my future
  • I am making a difference in the lives of others that I touch
  • I actually get paid for doing what I love.
  • I am doing what I went to school for
  • Finally, I am thankful for good health
How about you? I want to hear from you. Surely there is some reason that you can be thankful today. Focus on what you have been given, and not on what you wish you had. I would like to see your "Thankful List"

Monday, April 20, 2009


Today marks the 10th anniversary of the Columbine Shooting where 13 people were killed, and the two shooters committed suicide. What have we learned about violence and bullying since then? Have we become more aware of the angst that some teenagers are dealing with inside of them? Have we learned how to stop these horrible school shootings from happening in the first place? The answer to these questions is no.

The only thing that has happened is that we have become more desensitized by this kind of thing happening over and over. It wasn't until the Virginia Tech shooting where more than 30 people were killed that we shook off our lethargy, we wept as a nation. Some well meaning people would ask "where was God when this was taking place"? It sometimes feels as though this world is spinning out of control, when acts of senseless violence are taking place all around us. It almost seems as though maybe God couldn't let this happen, we are a Christian nation. Well, I don't have all the answers to these questions, but maybe I could put things in perspective.

You want to know where God was on April 20, 1999? He was in the same place He was 2000 years ago when His Son was crucified. On His Throne in Heaven.He was watching and He was weeping as those created in His own image were destroying one another. There is a lot I don't know nor understand about God's sovereignty, but this one thing I know. God is God and I am not. God does not owe me an explanation. Don't misunderstand me God was working in the midst of this tragedy otherwise there would have been more killed that fateful day.

The word "columbine" means like a dove. When I think of a dove I think of peace. We could use a lot more of the peace of God in our country. So to those who lost their lives, and those who were injured in this school shooting, may your sacrifice not be in vain.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Comfort One Another

Last night I was teaching from 2 Timothy Chapter one. This is the last will and testament of Paul to his son in the faith, Timothy. There is a verse that struck me as I read it. It is verse 16. When you first read verse 16 it appears as though this is one of those personal notations to Timothy. Paul hopes that Timothy will pass this on to those whom Paul is addressing. Listen to the verse, and you will see what I mean. "The Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain." Paul begins with a personal reference of refreshing that he received, but pronounces a blessing on this man and his household. So what does all of this mean?

There are those who have crossed our paths that have refreshed us, and we must be faithful to refresh others with the comfort that we have received from the Lord. One other thing about refreshing others as you have received refreshing. God wants to send refreshing to His people and you are the channel of blessing.

Here is the challenge. Thank God for the comfort you have received recently, but ask God to help you to be the avenue of refreshing to someone else.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Daily Devotions

I have a confession to make. Most times my devotions aren't anything real special. No angelic visitations or words of prophecy, etc. Yes, my times with the Lord are normal. Does that shock you? It shouldn't, because there are times when it seems all of Heaven comes down and I am close to the Lord. So here is the question. Is this the way God meant things to be?

I think so. There is something about finding the miraculous in the mundane. What was Moses doing when he encountered the burning bush? Fasting? Praying? Try keeping sheep. You heard me right, he was doing what he was supposed to be doing. Could it be possible that we are looking for the miraculous and we are missing it in the mundane?

Here is the challenge. Don't seek the miraculous, but meditate on the mundane.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Very Controversial Topic

I have intentionally refrained from stating my personal opinions about Christians and drinking until others expressed their opinions, so here it goes.

Let me go on record that I believe it is a poor witness for Christians to drink alcohol. The Bible talks about getting drunk, but the only way not to get drunk is don't drink! I know I sound old fashioned, but it is true. In our modern day church we have given our approval to things that used to be taboo. At the risk of sounding legalistic, we must not be a stumbling block to other believers.

Now, I know that many will disagree with me; but I am okay with that. I am not trying to "win anyone over to my side". I know what I believe, and I will stick to my convictions.

I think it is high time for Christians to be different from the rest of the people that we live next to. Paul stated that everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial. Let us not use our liberty in Christ for a license to sin.

Monday, April 13, 2009


Okay, this post promises to be controversial. But, I want to hear from you. So here it goes.

What do you think about the common practice of Christians drinking alcohol? Is it acceptable these days, or is it forbidden? Let me give you my perspective.

Personally I think it is wrong for me to drink alcohol. First, I am a Christian and I don't want to bring confusion to those who are watching my life and secondly I have a responsibility to uphold as a leader in our community. Let me give you some reference lest I seem like I am legalistic.

I am one of five children, and I have had a front row seat to alcohol abuse. Although my Dad was a Christian he was an alcoholic for some time in our family. My father was a different person when he drank, he was mean, abusive to my Mother and in general not a nice guy to be around. I don't think this is the way he saw himself when he was drinking, but nevertheless this is how I saw him. I remember seeing my Dad who was a strong man lying in a bed emaciated from the years of abuse as disease ravaged his body. My Dad was dying of cirrhosis of the liver, I was only 12 years old. My Dad who was once strong was pleading with me to not leave his side, he was afraid that he was going to die alone. My Dad did not die, because God healed him his body, and saved his life. I remember Dad having big strong hands, and that from the disease his palms were red. This is what Dad called a reminder to him of God's healing touch. Dad never drank from that time forward, and he lived another 19 years. Dad even got to see me graduate with my Bachelor's Degree and my Master's Degree.

So I have seen firsthand what alcohol can do to a family, and the pain that abuse of alcohol can bring. This is why I have made a choice not to drink and I encourage my children that drinking alcohol is not an acceptable behavior. This is my opinion, what about you? How do you feel about Christians drinking alcohol, I would like to hear your opinion.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

In Between Good Friday and the Resurrection

Last night as I was a part of our Community Good Friday service, I began to wonder a few things. Like what was it like not knowing what would happen to Jesus? What did the disciples do after Good Friday? What were they feeling? I'm sure there are many other questions, but what do we do between Good Friday and Resurrection Morn?

We wait.

I am not a fan of waiting. I want to find the shortest line at the grocery store and be on my way. I don't like to wait in traffic, that's why I don't live in the big city. Waiting if it is just sitting idle is not for me. But the principle of waiting in the Bible is not idly sitting. It is an active waiting.

Let me put it this way. We continue to do what we are doing and we wait for the Lord to fulfill His promise. So waiting is connected to the thing we are waiting for. Let's go back to the disciples.

Jesus said He would rise on the third day. Did they believe Him? Were they waiting for Him to fulfill His promise? Or were they waiting for the authorities to come and crucify them? Waiting is a part of life, but how we wait is our choice.

So here it is. We must wait with anticipation that Jesus will keep His promises. We must trust that waiting is only a part of the preparation for what is coming next. Let us wait upon the Lord to fulfill His promise. Today, I challenge you to wait for God to fulfill His promise.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good News on Good Friday

I was reading Joel Rosenberg's blog and was amazed with the number of ex-Muslims who will be celebrating Easter this year. I thought I would share this good news with you.

  • Since 1979 in Iran 1 Million Shia Muslims have turned to Christ!
  • There are 2.5 Million Christians in Pakistan!
  • In the Sudan there are more than 5 million Christians!
  • In Syria there are 4-5,000 believers from almost none in 1967!
  • In Saudi Arabia there are 100,000 believers from almost none in 1967!
This is the church's finest hour, and we must be ready to embrace the move of God that is taken place all over the world.

This Good Friday, the good news is that Jesus did not die in vain. His death, burial, resurrection and ascension are still affecting the lives of millions of people all around the world.

So, Christian rejoice and don't give up!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

In Remembrance of Me

Today my thoughts are turned towards what we call the Lord's Supper. How is it that a meal with Jesus and his closest friends affects in the year 2009? It was more than a meal it was a symbol of what Jesus would do as He poured out His life's blood on Calvary. It was a fulfillment of prophecy as He celebrated the Passover with His disciples, but it was so much more. Think of is this way.

Jesus broke the Bread: His body would be broken so that we might be healed and whole

Jesus blessed the Bread: His body would be the vehicle of the redemption and the blessing of mankind

Jesus poured the Cup: His blood would be poured out on the Cross for the forgiveness of sins

Jesus drank the Cup: He accepted the cup of death, so that you and I would have life.

So the next time you celebrate Communion, remember the price that Jesus paid for your redemption.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Remembering the Fallen

I have been listening to an audio book that has totally captured my attention. It is "Inside the Revolution" by Joel C. Rosenberg. In this "book" the author make the premise that there are three groups of people that are making a difference in Iran. They are the radicals, the reformers, and the revivalists. Each group is important and is playing a part in the country of Iran. But that discussion is for another post. As I was listening to this presentation, I was once again reminded about how evil those who would destroy America.

The author helped me to relive the details of the morning of October 23 1983. It was 6 am on that morning as our Marine soldiers lay sleeping in Lebanon. A truck filled with explosives came crashing through the concertina wire and barricades and finally stopped inside the barracks as the explosives were detonated. This was the first instance of a suicide bomber.

I believe we owe a debt of gratitude to our fallen soldiers. Our soldiers are the best and the brightest that America has to offer, and I appreciate their daily sacrifice as they put their lives on the line.

I have never served in the military, but I am a patriot. We live in the greatest country ever, and we enjoy the freedoms every other nation wishes they had. I have been outside the USA, and I am always glad to come back home.

There is another army I want to focus on in conclusion. This is the army of believers that are making a difference in Iran and in other countries in the world. These are the revivalists that our author is speaking of. These are my heroes, as they are living their faith out in Iran, and other anti-Christian countries as they are bold in their witness for Christ. No, you may never hear about their exploits or how they suffered and died, but God is keeping a good record.

Today as we think of those who have fallen, let us honor those soldiers of the Cross.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

My Dad

Today nine years ago my Dad died from a massive coronary. I was reminded of this fact as I talked to my Mom yesterday. I remember the phone call like it was yesterday. "John your Dad is having problems breathing, and he wanted you to pray for him." My Mom finally told me after the prayer that she would have to call the paramedics, because Dad had lost consciousness. I told my Mom to call me and let me know how Dad was doing. The call came at 10 am, and it was my sister, what came next I was not prepared to hear.

"John" said Lorrie, "Dad didn't make it." I only remember dropping my head down on my desk at the Hermiston Assembly of God in my office, and crying like I never had before. What was the reason you ask for my reaction? I think there are many reasons, but the one that keeps coming up is this. I wanted my Dad to be proud of me. I had only just begun to be successful in my calling in the local church, he had to wait a little longer until I could show him that I was achieving my career goals. He couldn't die now, his grandson wasn't born yet who was named after him; Jon Lawrence Harper. No, this was not the way it was going to be; he had to be there for me when I needed him. Sadly the reality began to sink in, my Dad was dead and he would not see his grandson. As we planned for the funeral, I began to weep uncontrollably at times. How could he leave me when I needed him? The day came for his funeral, and it was time to say goodbye. How do you say goodbye to someone you just got to know? My relationship with my Father was strained at best, but we were doing better; he wasn't so harsh. He had become more loving. Yes it was time to say goodbye to my Dad. The Lord gave me the strength as I shared how I would go on without my Dad.

I still miss my Dad, and yet he is still with me. Oh, I don't me physically; but just because I am his son. I find myself saying and doing things Dad would have done. I line my buttons on my shirt with the middle of my belt, just like Dad did. I shine my shoes, just like Dad did. I even tuck my shirt in, just like my Dad. The death of a parent is something that is a loss, not just physical but in every other way. I now miss my Dad because of the way things could have been. Lord help me to be the Father that would make his son(s) proud.

To my Dad, thanks for your love and your belief in me. I am the man I am today because of you. Thank you. Love your son John.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Getting Ready for Easter Sunday

Is it hard to believe that Easter is this Sunday? Where did the time go? This is the Sunday that we will see people we have not seen since last year. That is our hope at least. This Sunday means we need to have our "A" game, and make sure our presentation is life changing or not?

It is easy to get caught up in all the hoopla that accompanies Easter Sunday. You know the "biggest opportunity to build your church". "Better get visitor packets to follow up those visitors." All these things are great, and very necessary. I want to see people come into the church and feel welcome. I want to know that people's lives were changed by the worship and the message, but shouldn't we be doing this the other 51 weeks?

Think about this. We should build up to Easter Sunday, and not just do these things on Easter Sunday. Our church right now is going through a Discovery process about our mission, our vision, our core values; etc. It would be ludicrous to think that we have all of our ducks in a row so that we could pull everything together in one week's time to hit a home run. Building a church that is "contagious" takes time. Here is some encouragement to Pastors or Leaders in a church that are in the same stage.

Be faithful to do what you can, and allow Jesus to be glorified. After all we have the greatest news ever. Jesus rose from the dead.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Message Behind Palm Sunday

I have been studying the passage found in Luke 19:28-44. I have come to the conclusion that this is the end of the story and not the beginning of the story. The Triumphal Entry is the last indicator that Jesus is looking for those who are ready for His coming.

Lately I have grown tired with well meaning Christians who are talking about such catastrophic events that are to come about. Not that I don't believe that they will come about, but it is the way that they are presenting these things. It is with a tinge of fear, as if to say "you better get right or you have no right to expect the protection of God!" Hear me out, I do believe that things are not going to get any better. I believe that we can expect to see more acts of aggression against the United States and her allies, but I do not believe that we should fear these events. If I am anchored in Jesus, I need to trust Him with all my heart. I am not looking for bad things to happen, I am looking for Jesus to take care of me.

Here it is. The message of Palm Sunday is that Jesus is seeking those who will recognize His soon return.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


There is snow falling as I am writing this post. Today is April 1st! What an unexpected thing to have snow today! There are two ways to look at this.

1. What a bummer, guess I will have to put that swimsuit away!

2. Hey, now I can make that snowman!

Seriously, these are unexpected things that happen often in life. We can't change these things, but we can choose our response to these things. Things will happen in life that we can't control. The great thing about unexpected things is God knew it was going to happen. This gives me great comfort knowing that nothing will happen today that God did not know about. If this causes me to be surprised, I can trust that God will work it out for my good. So, here is my admonition to you.

Embrace the unexpected, because the undeserved could be on the other side.