Growing Rocks


Just Another Rock?

Here at Agape Youth Ranch in Southeast Arizona, we grow rocks. I’m serious! I will go for a walk on the road that loops through the ranch and come across stones that weren’t there the day before. And I don’t mean little stones, these are rocks big as my hand. Okay the stones don’t grow in the middle of the road—erosion from wind and rain wash the dirt away leaving behind the big stones that had been hidden just below the surface. But it sure seems like the stones magically grow.

Regularly I toss or kick aside the larger stones, otherwise they could damage a car or tire. The other day I was moving aside some stones. I reached for an angular stone and discovered it was an agate. Now you need to know, I’m an amateur rock-hound (emphasis on amateur). I am constantly picking up interesting rocks, and many are added to my collection. I acquired the rock collecting bug from my dad, he had a couple of stashes of interesting rocks—I have his collection in with mine now.

Back to the agate. I confess I was thrilled to find an agate; it is only the second agate I have ever found. Peering into the crystal grotto, I let the sun’s rays fill the agate. It is a “young” geode agate so the crystals are small, but it is still really cool to look at. On the other hand, the outside of the agate is actually rather nondescript, I would go so far as to say it is blah.

Agates are semi-precious gemstones in a form of chalcedony, which is silicon dioxide. Geode agates develop when an empty pocket, or vesicle, inside a host rock fills in with fibrous quartz crystals. At some time the vesicle was filled with fluid rich in dissolved and suspended quartz (silica), as well as other mineral impurities. Gradually the silica began to form crystals and concentric bands of mineral rich deposit creating unique patterns. Agates are commonly found in riverbeds where a flow of water will erode a passage through the vesicle. Once inside the vesicle the water will dissolve the silica. Then during periods of time when the rock is out of the water, late fall for instance when the river is running low, the water will evaporate leaving behind the dissolved minerals and silica. Evidence of this type of agate formation can be found by examining the rock for tiny holes that allow water into and out of the vesicle. I was able to identify the telltale holes in my agate.

Reading the 19th Chapter of the gospel of Luke in the New Testament of the Bible, we come to a scene, beginning in the 28th verse, where Jesus “triumphantly” enters Jerusalem. You are probably familiar with the story. Jesus is riding a colt or donkey and people are paving the road with their coats and palm branches. Excitedly people shout and sing and dance. Now get this, while Jesus is riding along from the Mount of Olives to Jerusalem through the din of celebration, the religious hierarchy, the Pharisees, come alongside him; they probably had to shout to be heard above the roar of the crowd. Here is the J.B. Phillips rendering of Luke 19:39-40:

39 There were some Pharisees in the crowd who said to Jesus, “Master, restrain your disciples!”

40 To which he replied, “I tell you that if they kept quiet, the very stones in the road would burst out cheering!”

I am certain that Jesus meant that the stones would in fact begin to audibly praise him. After all, Jesus is the God of Creation. If God can make man from the dust of the earth(see Genesis 1-2 at the beginning of the Bible), He certainly can make stones have temporary voices. Mind you, having stones begin to shout, “Hosanna!” would have terrified most folks.

Now you are possibly saying, “that’s impossible.” Given our limited understanding of science, it is difficult to imagine stones suddenly acquiring voices and cheering. But for just a moment, let’s let God be God. Allow God out of your preconceived “box” of understanding. I believe that God will usually work within the laws of science and order that he established. But this is Jesus we’re talking about. He healed people of all kinds of illnesses and disabilities. This is Jesus, who fed thousands with only a couple of loaves of bread, and on another occasion he fed thousands with a couple of loaves of bread and a couple of small fish. This is Jesus, who confounded the most highly educated men of his day. It is this same Jesus who calmed storms and walked on water.

So, can rocks praise God? Scientifically and artistically I believe that rocks praise God, they display the fingerprints of God the Creator of everything. So let’s take a look at the agate I found and look and listen. Let’s give the rock an opportunity to declare, “the Kingdom of God is at hand!”

Throughout the gospels, Jesus often says the Kingdom of God is like a seed. Seeds are mysterious. Plant the tiniest seed in soil, add water and time, and you will get a plant. So how is the Kingdom of God like a seed? It is a fact that a seed is a wonder of life. We may consider that from a single seed, a plant will grow and produce an abundant supply of more seeds. You may suggest how a single seed can grow a tree that will provide homes for birds, insects and countless other animals. All these ideas are what the Kingdom of God is. But for my purpose I would like to consider how the Kingdom of God is a hidden wonder waiting within our reach to be shared.

Crack open a seed and you don’t get much, unless you have a microscope, and even then it is not too amazing. It is in the planting of the seed that the amazing thing happens. An agate is like a seed, only opposite. Most agates are also not much to look at. Like the one I found, agates are rather blah on the outside. But crack an agate open and, wow!

The Kingdom of God is like a geode agate. What begins as a plain old rock, is gradually changed into a hidden treasure. The Kingdom of God is as close as a plain rock in your hand, but unless you crack it open, you will never know the treasure. You are like that plain old rock and when you accept Jesus as your Lord and savior, the Kingdom of God begins to form within you.

Opening the Kingdom of God happens when we obey Jesus’ final command to go and make disciples. You see, when you open your life to Jesus on one hand, and open your life to others on the other, you become that seed germinating into a great plant; you will reveal the amazing beauty forming in you. When you live your life, allowing others to walk with you in your life, letting them share your joys and your sorrows, your exciting days and your mundane days, you allow others to see into you where the hidden crystals of the life of Jesus’ kingdom are forming.

As disciples of Jesus we are to live our lives in such a way that others can see into our life. Think of the word intimacy. Say the word intimacy out loud this way: “In to me see”. This is how the Kingdom of God grows like a tiny seed or like a mysterious agate. We must allow ourselves to be like Jesus and invite others to be immersed in our life. It is living life on life. We must teach others with words and by letting them see how we live. Invite others to see into you where the mystery of God is being formed. And then send them out to do the same.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer understood the model of discipling that Jesus lived. Otto Dudzus, one of the men Bonhoeffer was discipling said this about him. “Whatever he had and whatever he was, he made that accessible to others.” (Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy – Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2010)

Hmm, sounds like Jesus, doesn’t it?

Can it be said of you that whatever you have and whatever you are, is accessible to those you are discipling? (Of course I am assuming you are being discipled and are discipling others.)

If you think that being a Christian is about going to church, being a good person, and hoping you will win a place in heaven . . . you are only walking down the road stepping on rocks without realizing their hidden treasure. You are eating the ear of corn because you’re hungry. However, you’re probably neglecting the fact that corn are seeds, and if you hold back some of the corn and plant them, you will soon harvest a crop of corn that you can share with others who are hungry.

Being a Christian is about living in such a way that you invite others to see how the Kingdom of God is forming in you, so they will learn how to live like you do and go and do likewise.

Geode Agate

Geode Agate

You are like a geode agate, probably kinda blah on the outside. However, God is forming a mysterious beauty within you, you just need to be willing to allow others to see into you what God is doing within you. And the best way to show others the life you have in Jesus, is to be in relationship with Him and them.

Sunsets and Sunrises

Sunset 01

Sun Setting at Agape Ranch

Viewed from our front porch, nearly every evening we are treated to a dazzling sunset. We look across the southern Sulphur Springs Valley and watch the sun set behind what are called ‘sky islands’ or ‘sky mountains’. Looking west we clearly see two ranges, the Dragoon Mountains and the Baboquivari Mountains. On a side note, the Baboquivari mountains are home to the only known wild Jaguars in the continental U.S. The primary peak, pronounced BA BO QUAY VI RA, the place for the mother lode of flint, is a great place for rock hounds to find plenty of flint.

Back to sunsets.

In life we may say that a person who has died has come to the sunset of their life. Sunset for you and I probably equates to being the end of a day. Surrounding the sunset is an evening meal, maybe a glass of wine, hopefully catching-up with family and friends, and then a time of sleep allowing our bodies to rest from the day of work. The day ends and a new one begins at midnight. But is this the only way to look at a day?

Before the modern clock, a specific hour of the night could not be precisely known, whereas an hour of the day was easily determined by sighting the location of the sun. Therefore, the day began by precise, simple and universally recognized standards. This meant the day had to be reckoned either from the beginning of night or the beginning of day.

Anthropologists have found that nearly all cultures began their day at sunrise. Egyptians and Aztecs, along with countless cultures, worshiped the sun and its rising. And then there are the Jews.

The Jewish day does not begin and end at midnight—midnight is not a distinguishable astronomic event. The Jewish day does not begin at sunrise. Why are the Jews so . . . unique?

In Jewish time, the day begins with the sunset (and the appearance of the first three stars). Why? Because that is how Torah describes it. “. . . And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.” We can find these words recorded in the Old Testament of the Bible, the first book called Genesis.

“And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light ‘day,’ and the darkness he called ‘night.’ And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.” Genesis 1:3-5

Did you catch the order there? “And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.” Therefore sunset is the beginning of the day, not the end. Also in the Jewish culture the major holidays all begin and end after sundown and the appearance of the stars.

It was once explained to me that beginning the day with the night is a metaphor of life itself. Life begins in the darkness of the womb. Then life is born into, or erupts, into the brightness of the light. Finally life settles into the darkness of the grave, and is followed by a new dawn in the world-to-come.

So as I sit on our porch swing watching the splendor of another sunset, I’ve grown to appreciate the Jews perspective of sunset. The swirling reds and oranges along with the deepening blues and grays declare to me that a new day is approaching. I no longer consider the sunset as the end of my day, a time to rest from my work; I consider the sunset the beginning of my day—a time to rest, preparing me for the next day’s work.

Funny, we often consider the Jews as being so backward. Yet, in truth, the Jews are probably more inline with God’s kingdom than they even know. I wonder, when Jesus taught his disciples to pray (Luke 11:1-4), was it at or about sundown?

Next time you pray asking the Father to give you your daily bread, consider praying it at sundown.

Finally, from the time we “erupt” from the darkness of the womb until we enter the darkness of the grave we are given a day, a life, to live. What we make of that time is what counts. Have you submitted that time to the lordship of Jesus? If not, then what’s your life other than a countless repetition of meaningless days. On the other hand, living under the lordship of Jesus is life filled with adventure and some amazing sunsets. Sorta like the song from Fiddler On The Roof says:

“Sunrise, sunset,

Swiftly flow the days.

. . .

Sunset 02

Sunset at Agape Ranch

Sunrise, sunset,

Swiftly fly the years,

One season following another,

Laden with happiness,

And tears.”

A Firm Handshake


Have you ever shook hands with someone and it was like grabbing a dead fish? Or how about the guy who crushes your hand wanting you to believe he is Mr. Universe? A handshake can tell you something about a person. I was taught that a firm handshake is a sign of confidence and a weak handshake is an indication of lack of confidence. I tend to believe that some guys just don’t know how to give a firm handshake.

Moving to Arizona I have met a few men, including teenage boys, mostly ranchers, and they have calloused hands and firm handshakes. In South Dakota farm country, where my family is from, the men there also have calloused hands and firm handshakes. Guys who work on their own cars also tend to have a firm handshake. And then there are the guys who sit at a desk pushing paper, or keys on a keyboard, who attend endless meetings, who have paltry handshakes (not all of them, but . . .). Oh and I will not go into the phony firm handshakes of a politician!

Anthropologists speculate that the origin of the handshake comes from a form of greeting between warriors to show their weaponless open / empty hand. I would extend my hand to show that I held no weapon, then you would extend your hand to show that you held no weapon, then we would grasp hands to indicate our desire to not fight. This symbolic clasping of empty hands gradually became a universal greeting of welcome and unity. And in some cultures, the handshake can also symbolize that we are in accord, a firm agreement of identity.

I like the book of James in the New Testament of the Bible. James is considered to be the oldest book (earliest epistle) in the New Testament. James was written by James, the brother of Jesus. James has a lot to say to the early Christians, the people of the way, (most of whom were Jews who acknowledged that Jesus is Messiah, the redeemer and savior of mankind) on a lot of topics. In the Bible, the book is divided into chapters and verses to help us read it. When I read the book, I get the feeling that James and I think and write much the same way: shotgun, cover a lot of topics and hope my reader can follow all the points. Read with me the portion of James found in chapter 2, verses 14 through 26.

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless (or dead). Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.

In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

James is talking about shaking hands with God, coming into unity and agreement with Jesus.

The gospel of Mark, in the New Testament of the Bible, tells us that when Jesus began his ministry he proclaimed: “The time has come, . . . The kingdom of God is near (some translations: at hand). Repent and believe the good news!” Mark 1:15.

Think of it this way, the kingdom of God is as close as a handshake away.

To repent and believe the good news is to shake hands with God. To shake hands with God is not just an act of faith, it is an action. When we shake hands we are physically touching, we are doing something—it is action!

James is frustrated with “Christians” who are talking the talk, but not walking the walk. The kingdom of God, Jesus declared, requires us to repent and believe the good news. That is doing something, not just mentally consenting to “believe” and think we are living by faith.

If James were writing today, he may address the “Christians” who say they are looking to enter the ministry, but want to know what the salary is. Far too often well meaning folks declare their desire to work for God, but only if the pay is sufficient. In my opinion, they are more interested in working for the religion of Christianity, than working for the kingdom of God.

Recorded in the old Testament of the Bible in the book of Proverbs are some sayings of Agur son of Jakeh. Read with me Proverbs 30:7-9.

Two things I ask of you, O Lord; do not refuse me before I die:

Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.

Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’

Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.”

Now read with me a scene recorded in the new Testament in the book of Luke chapter 11:1-4.

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

He (Jesus) said to them, “When you pray, say: “ ‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread.

Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.

And lead us not into temptation.’”

The thing I want you to note is the message of asking for our daily bread. We are not to ask for the $50,000 a year salary. We are not to ask for the regular paycheck. We are to ask for only what we need each day. And the amazing thing is, God will take care of us. He takes care of the birds. He will take care of you. He took care of the whining Israelites in the wilderness for 40 years, one day at a time.

One of the issues facing a ministry seeking workers is the mindset that the ministry supply a paycheck comparable to a corporate job. People don’t believe that God will take care of their daily needs, unless it is backed by a human resources department agreement for regular paychecks. But is that really trusting God? Is that humbling our self and truly praying the prayer that Jesus taught us to pray? Is that agreeing with the wise council of Agur?

James is almost ranting about the folks who say they trust God, but then want to know what the new religion has to offer if they join. They talk the talk, but do they really want to walk the walk. Too often we get tied-up talking about works. James isn’t talking about works, he is talking about trusting God for our daily bread, he is talking about acting like we believe God will take care of our needs as we have them daily.

Getting back to the handshake—if we truly desire to shake hands with God, we should see that he comes to us with an extended open hand. God is not our enemy. He is interested in a relationship with us. Having a relationship with God means trusting him. Trusting him means . . . trusting him!

Today marks the 1-month anniversary of our arriving at Agape Youth Ranch. In some ways it is easy to accept the open hand of God our Father; we are physically and emotionally exhausted and His open hand is all we have. It is amazing however, each day our basic needs are met. We can pay our bills. We have a place to call home. We have food and water. Continually we are amazed at how God moves the heart of a friend, or stranger, and our daily need is met by a check in the mail or a delivery of food for our pantry and refrigerator.

Bottom line: Are you willing to trust God? Are you willing to extend your hand in peace and shake the hand of the Almighty, the Creator of everything. If the thought of shaking hands with God Almighty terrifies you, then you need to know, Jesus’ nail-scared hands will gently take your hand and guide you to the Father for a wonderful reception. He is wanting to offer you a firm identity in His kingdom.

Why The Move to Arizona?

AYM BannerWhy are we going to Agape Youth Ranch in south east Arizona?

Too often we live our lives going to church, signing -up for “service” and hoping God will see our good work for the church. It is much easier to do something than to trust in God; we see the activity and mistake it for inspiration. That is why we see so few fellow workers with God, yet so many people working for God. We would much rather work for God than believe Him.

This was my life only a few years ago. Then I began to ask myself some questions, such as:

Do I really believe that God will do in me what I cannot do?

Is my own personal experience such a wonderful realization of God’s power?

Has any spiritual work been accomplished in me at all?

Was I going to church just to be fed? Hoping for some inspiring teaching?

I realized I was the type of Christian who was carrying around good teachings like a bag of puzzle pieces. I was collecting these amazing and powerful teachings like little treasures.

Pieces of a puzzle

Pieces of a puzzle

I was the type of Christian who would look for occasions to showoff my bag of teachings, teachings that honestly were mostly just milk.

Then one day a few years ago I was challenged to take the bag of teachings and instead of just collect more, to dump them out and assemble them; to put the picture together.

One day a young man came to Jesus and asked what he must do to be saved. After a bit of conversation Jesus told him simply to sell his positions, give to the poor and follow him.

On another occasion an elder of the people came to Jesus and asked a similar question, Jesus told him that he must be born again.

These two men, with Jesus’ help, put the pieces of their puzzle together and saw the picture of God’s will for their life—how did they respond? Matthew 19: 16-22, John 3:1-20

When we put the pieces of our puzzle together the picture was of lives being willing to go and make disciples, to be witnesses of Jesus life, sacrifice, love and eternal hope. Bottom line the picture was to be willing to go . . . wherever God was working and we could offer our time, talent and treasure.

That is why we are going to Arizona.

And if I could give you with one word of encouragement it would be this:

No matter what your age or place in society, no matter what your circumstance, if you haven’t assembled the picture of God’s will for your life, stop trying to find the next great teaching that will hopefully tickle your ears and your toes. Quit trying to work for him, and get to know him; He desires a relationship with you more than your work. And don’t worry, not all missionaries go to Africa, or India or China or South America, but all go where the Spirit of God leads them, once they get in a relationship with the father, and they go and become living epistles.


Soap bubbles are a lot of fun.  Here I am making giant soap bubbles  with our friends Rick and Amy Moyer. I’ve included the recipe for making these incredible soap bubbles.

Soap bubbles are a good visual for how the Holy Spirit of God fills us.  Too often we think in terms of the spirit filling us like wine filling a cup.  Liquid in a cup is trapped, going nowhere, stagnant.  The Bible gives us a different image of someone filled with the Holy Spirit of God.

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”  John 3:8 NIV

I think in terms of the Spirit  filling us like wind in a sail, or like a breath filling a soap bubble.  Each of us takes on a different shape when the Holy Spirit fills us, and each of us are moved differently and in a unique direction by the Holy Spirit.  And then some of us just pop when the Spirit of God fills us, and we go nowhere.

If  you are truly filled  with the Holy Spirit of God, then you will be GOING and Moving where he wants.  And you will become living epistles, serving others, even if it is simply to brighten their day.



Debbie and I are on a new adventure!  We are moving from Ocean  Shores, Washington.

We will miss being by the ocean, but are looking forward to more sunshine in  Arizona.