Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Rod and The Staff

As we continue our look at Psalm 23, we can see in verse 4 the phrase, "your rod and your staff, they comfort me." It's interesting to note that the rod and the staff are the same Hebrew word, meaning that it is one instrument that has two distinct purposes.

First, the rod. It's an instrument of power, punishment and protection. In Exodus 3 & 4 we see it as the source of Moses' strength as well as disobedience. As an instrument of protection, a shepherd would beat the ground and bushes with the rod to scare off any predators that might be lurking nearby. That's why the young shepherd David had no fear of bears or lions - he had a rod. And in Hebrews 12:7-12, we see the that the Lord disciplines those He loves. The Word is a rod of discipline (2 Timothy 3:16).

The staff, on the other hand, is an instrument of peace. The curved end, or the crook, was used to lift up lambs and place them beside their mothers. It was also an extension of the shepherd's arm and used to guide the sheep. As such, the staff represents the role of the Holy Spirit who is the One who guides us into truth, walking beside us as our the paraclete (John 14:25-27; 15:26-27; 16:13-15).

We need not fear the rod or the staff. They comfort us. Whether it is in correction or guidance, the Holy Spirit is there to help us know and follow Jesus better. The better we know Jesus, the better we know the Father. Celebrate the rod and the staff and for the comfort brought to bear in our lives.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Passing Away

My father, Harry Dignal, passed away today, July 27, 2011, at approximately 3:15 PM. Dad was born December 13, 1921 in Stoneboro, PA. He finished the 11th grade and then left home. He worked in a grocery store and for the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) until joining the Army in 1942. He married my mother, Juanita Styers, before going to Japan. He was honorably discharged from the Army in 1945. Dad retired from General Motors, having worked for 44 years at the Packard Electric Wiring Harness Plant in Warren, OH. He lived the last three years at the Whitecliff Nursing Home in Greenville, PA. He was 89 years old.

Dad was a soft-spoken man. He seldom raised his voice. He was admired and loved by all the staff at the nursing home. Most importantly, he was loved by all of us. We will miss him greatly. Thanks, Dad, for always being there! We love you.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Dealing with Death

We returned home from vacation Thursday night with the news that my father had a stroke and is dying. I've been in PA since Friday night to sit with Dad. I'm thankful for God's presence and strength during this time. I'm asking all to pray for Dad to pass quickly and not suffer.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Long-time Friends

Sarah and Adam hosted a reception for us at their beautiful home in Jamul, CA, so that friends from our days here could come for a cookout and visit. It was a great time seeing such good friends! We appreciate Sarah and Adam's gift of hospitality, and we appreciate our friends coming out to see us! The fellowship was wonderful as we reconnected in person with many we have not been able to see for years.

Stevie, Bekah and I also spent the morning in Bonita where we ministered for nine years. We enjoyed the worship and Pastor Mark's message. Again, we were able to see a lot of dear friends there, too.

Yesterday was a great example of how God's love unites and never fades away. We are blessed to have so many great friends across the country from our years of ministry. We are grateful for the Body of Christ and the loving relationships that have endured the years. Thank you, friends!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Vacation in Paradise

We are blessed to have the wonderful opportunity to spend two weeks in the San Diego area for vacation this year! We are staying with our daughter Sarah, her husband Adam, and our grandson, Micah in Jamul, a beautiful town 30 minutes outside of the city. It's hot up here in the mountains, but it is a dry heat, unlike the heat of an Indiana summer.

Yesterday was our first full day here, and it was great! Micah has grown so much in the last year. It's hard to believe how big he is. He has a playful heart and a sensitive spirit. Sarah and Adam are great parents - I'm very proud of them! I've enjoyed being "Papa Dave" and playing with Micah.

Well, I won't bore readers with details, other than the fact that yes, I did get a bit of a sunburn yesterday, laying by the pool, vegging out on our first day. But today is a new day, no pain, and looking forward to see friends and family!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Progress is Made in the Valley

When I was the Executive Pastor in Bonita, CA, I worked with an awesome Senior Pastor, Pastor Jimmy Johnson. Pastor Jimmy has since gone to be with the Lord, but I will never forget his infectious laugh and his great communication skills. And when I say I worked with Pastor Jimmy rather than for him, it's because he treated me as an equal partner.

Pastor Jimmy coined a phrase we used at the Bonita church: "Progress is made in the valley." It was a catchy way of saying things were happening at Bonita! But it was also a great way of telling people that it's in the valleys of life that real progress is made.

In Psalm 23:4, the Psalmist wrote of the "valley of the shadow of death." Sometimes we equate this passage with a funeral and the death of a loved one, but there is so much more we can gather from it. Many Christians want to live on mountain tops, but the real spiritual development in our lives takes place in the valleys of this life, places where danger lurks. But the Psalmist also reminds us that even though danger may exist in the valley, "I will fear no evil, for You are with me."

So what's so special about the valley? First, the only way to get to the next mountain top is to go through the valley. Valleys serve as bridges to the next mountain. If you find yourself on the mountain top, enjoy the view, but be reminded that the Lord is getting you ready for the next "something" in your life.

Second, the shortest way to the next mountain is through the valley. It's really the path of least resistance. To go any other way means that the Lord is not there with you. He is with you in the valley.

Third, the valley is a place of more and better food and water. It may be a difficult place, but it is where you learn and grow.

Finally, people in the valleys of this life need to see real people - people like you and me - who have problems just like they do. We are all common clay pots (2 Corinthians 4:7-18). The heroes of the faith went through the valley (Hebrews 11). Jesus went through the valley on His way to the cross, as well as on the cross itself ("My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?")

So remember: the next time you find yourself in the valley, the Lord is with you, and He is growing you. Progress really is made in the valley!