It is God’s will that your honorable lives should silence those ignorant people who make foolish accusations against you.
1 PETER 2:15 NLT
As Peter said in the Scripture at the start of this chapter, “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.” What a blessing it is to serve the Lord by serving those around us in the communities and cities where we live.
In the midst of my straying into systematic theologies, the Lord was faithful to keep working in my life and directing me.
One day, it was in my heart to reach out to our community and start a police chaplains’ ministry. (This idea had actually come from a seed planted there by the example of Pastor Mike MacIntosh.) Perspective can really change your life, and mine was certainly affected the first time I climbed into the passenger side of a police car to ride along for a shift. I saw our city through a different lens, from a different angle. I’m so happy that over 15 years ago, I went along on that first ride-a-long. I had to meet with the police chief, who at that time was Chief Bruce McDermott. He listened patiently and encouragingly as I shared my ideas with him about starting an active chaplains’ program. There had been a few pastors over the years who had worked in this area and laid a foundation for what was to come, but it really took off under Chief McDermott’s leadership.
We sought out several other pastors in the community, and together we started the Visalia Police Department’s Chaplains’ Corps. I’m so glad for the relationships that have come about at the police department, and I’m honored to be involved with them as a volunteer police chaplain. They are a great group of men and women who put their lives on the line each time they go on duty, and even off-duty sometimes. Being a volunteer police chaplain has had a profound effect upon me, and it has allowed me to meet countless numbers of people that I would otherwise have not had the good fortune to meet, and the doors of ministry that have opened up to us here in Visalia are thrilling.
Jesus Christ went about doing good. We are told in Acts 10:38 “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.” And as Peter said in his first letter, quoted at the start of this chapter, it’s God’s will for us to do good to others, and that this is one of the ways we can silence the ignorance of foolish men. This has been a great opportunity to do just that and continues even to this day. Through works of compassion and love, God is often able to reach people who are blind to who He is.
We are told in the Bible that Satan has successfully blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. Second Corinthians 4:4 states: “whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.” But Jesus said in Matthew 5:16, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
We can go out and about in our day-to-day lives, seeking to be led by the Spirit, and doing good, and letting the light of Jesus Christ affect people through our good deeds. We have been blessed here at Calvary Chapel Visalia to see this in action over the years. How exciting to know that you have God with you (or, rather, to say that you are with God), and that He wants to reach people with the truth, and that serving Him and others are one of the greatest possible witnesses you can have.
I almost forgot to tell you how the Lord got me back into that uncomplicated relationship with Him. It was actually something very basic and yet very powerful. It was not a theological argument, or reading a book on the subjects, but rather seeing the love of God in and through my fellow pastors at a pastors’ conference. You see, my pursuit of systematic theology had, as mentioned, begun to put distance, at least in my own heart, from others I had known from way back to that first pastors’ conference I mentioned at Twin Peaks.
This particular annual Calvary Chapel Pastors’ Conference was being held in San Diego and was focused on the theme of the Holy Spirit. The story is simple. I showed up at the conference and was deeply impacted by two things. One was the love of God in my fellow pastors who were so humble, kind, and gentle toward me; and secondly, how God was using so many of these pastors who were not as wise in the things of God as I was. Of course, I’m being tongue in cheek about that last comment. You see, my pride had made me think that way. And yet, here I was seeing pastors and hearing about them and the great exploits for God that were being accomplished in their lives; I could not deny the facts as I saw them. These two things were really used by God to help me get my focus back.
This witness of love and the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through the lives of many people just turned my heart, very quietly, back to seeking the Lord in the simplicity of what I had known previously for many years. What a relief it was to get back into that loving relationship with Jesus Christ! Just as Christ has stated about abiding in Him and bearing fruit, I have personally witnessed it over these years.
It was not too long after this pastors’ conference, in fact, I think it was about a year later, that we began working on having a Franklin Graham Festival here in Visalia. The festival brought 40,000 people together over a long weekend to hear the gospel. The next year, Greg Laurie was kind enough to bring a Harvest Crusade here, and we had another 40,000 people attend. I can connect the dots in my own mind and heart with how all this happened. It happened because of God’s grace and the leading of the Holy Spirit in the simplicity of knowing Jesus (not a system of theology). Jesus is responsible for the fruit He brings in and through our lives. He is the one who has appointed fruit to occur in our lives. John 15:16 states, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.” Well, I could go on and on and will do so in the next chapter, about the blessings of the Lord.
I almost forgot to tell you about another huge blessing of God in the ministry here. It happened during this time of shifting focus, which again is a testimony to the Lord helping us. We were able to buy 12.7 acres of land and build our church offices there. A little later, we built our first sanctuary and classrooms for the children. Since then, we have had to expand the parking lot and expand the sanctuary and add more classrooms. I keep mentioning the Lord and His faithfulness because that’s exactly Who is responsible for all these blessings. One thing that I’ve seen in the Bible is that God will not abandon you. Oh, yes, another blessing is that we took our name back … Calvary Chapel Visalia; and just recently, we have started plans to build another sanctuary in the not too distant future.
Perhaps you have lost your focus. Maybe your loss of focus came about through something different than what happened to me; but may I encourage you to just look to Jesus Christ like you used to do. Listen to what He says in Revelation 2:1-8:
2:1 “To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, ‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands:
2:2 “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them, liars;
2:3 “and you have persevered and had patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary.
2:4 “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.
2:5 “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place– unless you repent.
2:6 “But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
2:7 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.
You can see from these verses that it’s possible to be very sincere, yet to be losing your first love with Christ. He is concerned about that because He loves you very much and misses you and wants you to be back in fellowship with Him. He also gives us the remedy for our loss of love for Him. He says several things: One, to remember from where you have fallen. In other words, give some thought to what it used to be like with you and the Lord. Bring it to your mind … that’s what it means to remember. Then, to repent, or to change your mind, your way of thinking, and let it change the way you are living. “Turn around” is the idea. Head back toward Jesus. He is not far away from you right now. Next, he says to repeat your first works: that is, to start doing now what you used to do when you first met Christ. Be like you used to be.
May God bless you as you take His Word to heart. I can assure you that you will find Him. He is waiting for you right now. Will you go back to Him? I pray that you will.