Kayenta

We made a trip out to Prescott Conference this year. Four years ago we took a van of young people, this year it was two cars made up of three older couples. Jimmy and Nellie Britt would be coming to conference 40 years after they attended their first conference here in Prescott. They had come out with Pastor Campbell’s Assembly of God church out of Mounds Illinois. Pastor Campbell would choose to pioneer a church in our fellowship as Jimmy and Nellie went back to carry the reproach of being Campbell disciples. They would eventually migrate to Harry Hills Assembly church in Sparta, which is the fellowship church today.

The other couple were Dennis and Bonnie Eggemeyer, our photography buffs. The trip provided them with many photographic opportunities. Four years ago we stopped in Amarillo and Chinle where we outreached both places as well as preached in Chinle for Pastor Artie Aragon. While there we were treated to a tour of Monument Valley by Darrel and Elrena Holiday. Today they pastor in Kayenta in the Navajo Nation. I organized with Artie to stop in Kayenta and preach for them on our way to conference.

We caravanned to Denver where we motel 6ed it. In the morning the Eggemeyers were off to Estes Park while we slowly made our way west. The Eggemeyers would end up taking some back roads along the ridges of the Rockies and join up with us in Arches National Park in Utah. We would make a stop in Grand Junction, my kind of paradise. Fresh peaches, apricots and cherries! We stopped in the ghost town of Cisco and followed the Colorado River down to Moab and then to the Arches National Park. We stayed there late in the evening as a full moon gave us extra time. We then went to our Airbnb home in Monticello.

Saturday took the Eggemeyer’s north where they found more back roads that created some minor difficulties they had to overcome. The Britt’s and ourselves headed to Kayenta. We were going to do some one minute bible studies and then rendezvous with the pastor and his family for dinner. It was a 95 degree day. Pastor Holiday recommended taking the Valley of the Gods road. We slowly made our way south seeing the sights around Bluff and Mexican Hat. Joan had memories to share from her days living in this area. We stopped at a gift shop in Monument Valley, looking for a piece of turquois for Steve. Then into Kayenta.

I should make this clear: we are talking about Kayenta AZ on the Navajo reservation not Kayenta Utah the home of rich spiritualists. There is a reality essay there if someone wants to write it. Our first stop was the Navajo gift shop where I procured a finished piece of turquois for Steve. The clerks at Monument Valley and here both knew the pastor and agreed that he was a good man.

There is something depressing about the socialist paradises of the world. Is Kayenta one of them? I don’t think I want to venture there at this time. “Without a vision the people perish” says the bible. Can you have a vision in a socialist paradise? I remember talking with Evgeni in Russia. He was paid $110 a month starting out with free housing, utilities and transport. His father, the 30 year factory foreman was paid $120. The only vision is to get in with the ruling crowd and enjoy the goodies that are to be had at the expense of those who will never have access to them because they are stuck in their socialist paradise.

So on this extremely hot July 8th Saturday we looked for some people walking about to do some one minute bible studies. Ran into Jamie, a 21 year old tatted and pierced Navajo girl. She chose “clear mind”. I read the scriptures to her and in looking for some common ground found that she had no knowledge of the bible or church. Invited her to church trusting in God. Joan did “10 rules of dating” with a young girl while I did “clear mind” with Michael Parrish. He had been sober for 4 years but fell back into drinking 2 years ago. He wants to quit drinking, he knows its hard and he knows he needs God. He gladly let me pray for him. He is that picture of a strong Navajo man with warrior tendencies. He is shirtless with a tattoo of an eagle covering his entire back. The long black hair is in a pony tail. Not married; he is a warrior without a war to fight. “Without a vision…” Prison in his past; I can only pray that he can find a future and a vision worth fighting for in Christ.

I stumbled upon a brother and sister who were taking care of a grandchild. Thomas was his name and his sister’s name escaped me by the time I got back to the car. Joan is doing  a study with two girl while I wonder “Would they do a one minute bible study with me?” They stared at me hard and finally Thomas said Ok as the grandson was hoping I might play with him. They knew about church and knew they should be there but life was busy and difficult. Talk turned to the work of raising the grandson, education and his future. Moved on without any commitments; but the word of God went forth.

Went to the park where I found Colin and Cornell sitting in the shade of the shelter. I politely, as a diplomat for Christ, ask them if they would please do a one minute bible study with me. I am surprised at the exuberant “yes”. Colin picks “clear mind” and away we go. They both work at Burger King (a Burger King manager would be at church the next morning). Colin volunteered his checkered pass of being in and out of church. He knew Pastor Aragon and had been part of the Chinle church at one time. His wife and his kids are living in Kayenta and he has migrated here doing what he can do to make things happen. He can’t access the free housing because of his criminal record and you can feel his frustration; yet he sees this as an opportunity to change his fortunes. He would share his phone number with me and would text me several times about quitting drinking and getting back into church along with his family. He is in contact with the pastor at this point. Joan and Nellie would be doing studies with several girls in the park.

Pastor Holiday is a together man. He pastors the church while working for the Navajo utility company that serves Kayente. The opportunities to make a life work exist here. I ran into two men who came across as very together to me. I came up to there house. It was the trucks, the tools and the confidence that I felt radiating from them. They heard my request, they paused and gave me a counter offer. They would do a one minute bible study with me if I would go to a Peyote celebration with them that night. I am 62, I did some peyote when I was in my early 20’s. I didn’t fly and I didn’t touch God. I said as much but that was the end of the conversation. The deal could not be made. I would mention this the next morning in my sermon to much knowing laughter in the church.

Finally, we stopped the car as a young man parked his bike. He slipped into the house before I could get to him. I started back to the car, then back to the house and stopped and decided to go and knock on the door. The young man had disappeared within. Jason, an older brother, came to the door. He picked “clear mind” and as I read the scriptures he teared up. As I finished, he wanted to pray. We prayed a salvation prayer. The church is right around the corner, he was familiar with it. His phone wasn’t working but I gave his address to the pastor.

We went onto dinner with the Pastor Holiday and his charming family. His little man son is Anthony. Erriel, the younger daughter still remembers our Erriel from our trip to Monument Valley. They would have a gift to give to our Erriel from their Erriel. Good fellowship, but what a great group of children. Well behaved and able to converse. One of the fruits of no television.

We would return to Monticello to return the next morning for church in the morning and that evening. During the afternoon we would share a meal of Navajo tacos with the family and head over to the most well preserved and elaborate cliff dwellings of the Ancestral Puebloan People. We would catch it during a thunderstorm with hail. Pastor was the ultimate host, taking after Pastor Aragon, he had gifts for us as well as a planned adventure. Dennis and Bonnie would head down to Flagstaff and we would join them after the evening service.

After church that night we went out to do one minute bible studies with the church. Joan would talk to a few people including some French tourists, one saved girl and one unsaved girl. We ended up at the park where a spirited basketball game was going on. To get the ball rolling I did one with a young man named Cornell who gave me and the pastor his phone number. I then did one with a father and son who was interested in visiting the church because he had heard good things about it. I then addressed about 8 guys resting after the game finished. The older of them suggested the 10 rules of dating for the sake of all of the young men there. I read the scriptures and wasn’t getting much give and take as I would expect from young guys. The older man explained to be that they were traditional and that’s why they could listen to what I said.

I didn’t know what to say at the time. I mentioned something about all religions have a right and a wrong. He agreed. Since then I thought about the creation stories of the Navajos as well as other tribes. I realized that it is just a story. They could listen to me because it is just a story. Their story has creation and a flood. My story has creation and a flood. Their story has a bad guy, my story has a bad guy. They are just stories about something that no one can know for sure.

But, “without a vision, the people perish”. Or as Pilate said “What is truth?” Is there a “truth” among all of the stories? For me the answer is “yes” for him the answer is “maybe”. Tough to build a firm foundation of life on “maybe”.

In the meantime the pastor’s disciple did two bible studies and prayed with one person for salvation. The pastor also did two bible studies. One of them was with a woman who had come to his church that morning. She was early and the hours weren’t posted so she left just before we arrived at 10:15. Kind of cool, if you know what I mean. Not bad shared the word of God with about 20 people in half an hour in the town of Kayenta.

We said our goodbyes and headed to Flagstaff. Spent the night, enjoyed a morning Starbucks, headed for Prescott with a tourist stop in Williams along Route 66.

Had a great conference!

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Paducah Road Trip

Paducah Road Trip

Friday, May 12, 2017

Joan and I were heading down the road towards Paducah, KY from Sparta, IL. We hadn’t eaten any breakfast, saving the calories for Kirchoff’s in Paducah. I would describe Kirchoff’s as a Jewish Deli but I would be wrong. The history on their web page gives no mention of Jewish heritage rather a great story of Franz Kirchoff and his young bride coming to the promised land from Prussia with his baking recipes in tow. The river boats would find him at the docks doing business. It passed on from generation to generation until 1957 to be reopened in 1997. Louis Frank Kirchhoff, the great-grandson of Franz, reacquired the property on Market Square to follow his own dream. Kirchhoff’s Bakery reopened for business in the fall of 1997 by the fifth generation of the family, Ginny Kirchhoff-Elmore.

After investigating a little Jewish history of Paducah I did call the restaurant to confirm, that despite Kirchoff being a Jewish name, there was no Jewish in Franz Kirchoff’s story. I am one of those that believe that God’s word concerning “blessing and cursing” touches on the Jews of the past as well as the present and the Christian. Jews prospered in Paducah owning 11 business by 1859. An order of General Grant’s during the civil war calling for the expulsion of merchants doing business with the Confederacy was only enforced for one week in one town, Paducah. The Jews left for Cincinnati with their leading citizen visiting President Lincoln and getting the order overturned. They would return but the South’s attack against the city would cause some to leave and never return. The Jewish community would grow and give Paducah legislators, leading citizens and successful businesses.

We caught the lunch crowd with a long line to order and every table a prized possession. Kirchoff’s comes highly recommended by any social media reviewer and we easily add our recommendation to the long list.

We met Pastor Buddy Ryals at his downtown “Potter’s House Church”. He had a break from work, gave us a peek inside with the old brick walls still in place. We took a few flyers and would meet with him and his wife later for dinner when she got off work at 6:00. I still remember Buddy coming to Wickenburg with his band and taking the time to pray for me as a new convert. He would later develop a “skater” ministry that he still exhibited up until a few years ago (age catching up with him). His wife has family in Paducah and his son pastors the Marion, IL church. He is re-establishing himself stateside after 10 years’ missionary work in Samoa.

Joan and I would drive a half circle out from the downtown area butted against the river. We ran into Nick, a young black student. I asked him if he would do a “one minute bible study” with me. He said yes, and picked “50 Shades of Sin”. After the bible study he let me know he was a Christian and he attended one of the “Ninth Street” churches (there are several).  He had a refreshing spirit and a spring in his walk. I thanked him and he politely thanked me. Nick was followed by a young white kid who seemed a bit agitated. It might have been the clothes, the earrings or the demeanor; but I could tell a “no” was coming my way from the way he carried himself. I asked anyways and he said “no” as he walked by; he paused and turned to me and declared that he was an atheist. I normally resist the urge to press my “no’s” but I found myself asking him again. He explained that his parents did not allow him to talk to people about religious subjects. So, my agitated young man continued his journey.

Joan did “Clear Mind” with a young woman named Sonia. Picking “Clear Mind” is a perennially picked bible study. Sonia was thrilled to be interacting with Joan. They talked for quite a while. Joan called me over to be introduced. Sonia was thrilled to be 3 months clean. The proof: she pulled out a wad of cash and said she could never have held this much cash without using before. Joan prayed for her and she rode off on her bicycle to the store as Joan and I continued day tripping.

We drove by the factory where locomotives are still built in Paducah. It has been an ongoing adventure since 1925. I saw a young man cutting across the railroad lines. I went up to him and asked him if he would do a “one minute bible study” with me. Brenden, a young black man, politely responded and picked “Clear Mind”. In the south, including our home in Southern Illinois, I get a lot of “sirs”. Part of it is because I am getting older, but more of it is something ingrained in the culture. For black society of Paducah, it could be the lasting heritage of producing the first black artillery unit in the Civil War. I was told the further south you go the more polite and helpful people become. It would be proven to me on this road trip.

When I am given the opportunity to talk with people about the things of God via “one minute bible studies”; I am not looking to overcome them with my persuasive skills. I count it a privilege to be an ambassador for Christ and want to do Him right. I am looking to combine “imparting grace” from Eph. 4:29 with confidence in “the day of visitation” from 1 Peter 2:12. Brenden showed himself to care about his future; yet something about the loneliness of the location spoke of deeper turmoil.  As we talked, I told him of Pastor Ryles and his church; but I also asked him if he had any relatives who were strong Christians. He did, and told me two names. I suggested that he share our conversation with them and see if they would speak into his life about his future. It left him with some hope and a plan.

When it comes to young people I am a nuts and bolts believer in futures. I believe they can make something of their lives with or without Christ. The best advice is always “seek ye first the Kingdom of God”. Young people need action, especially males. My advice is to start projects and finish them. Learn how to overcome and make things happen. What future does Brenden have in Paducah? Unless he is self-motivated, probably not much. The same ole same ole won’t cut it in today’s world.

Here is a quote from VMV Vice-President and General Manager Bob Pedersen (locomotives):

Unlike other industries, VMV isn’t worried about falling demand. Right now there’s one shift for 160 workers at VMV and Pedurson says he has enough orders to add another. But he can’t find the workers.

“I mean I’ll hire boilermakers, welders, electricians and with the sophistication going so much higher than it was a few years ago it’s hard to find, especially electricians, that can become familiar with the sophistication of the locomotive,” Pedersen said.

For Pedersen Sophistication means computers. Trains, like the rest of us, have entered the digital age. And someone has to piece all of that together. In a rural market it’s not an easy position to fill. But technological advances are not the only set back. There’s also the issue of finding committed workers.

“It’s not the easiest work in the world,” he said. “It’s rough work and some of the people don’t wanna come to work everyday. I mean it’s just something that’s happening to our economy that is very different than it was many years ago.”

I believe there is a connection between our lack of spiritual zeal in the Christian direction and our inability to fill these jobs. The world system works against Brenden walking with Christ and the picture is that the world system (the education system), will not prepare or motivate him to fill one of those jobs at the locomotive factory. Coming to Christ can begin to heal the damaged character that cannot or will not finish the job properly.

I talked with Charles and you guessed it; he picked “Clear Mind”. Something about our society. Charles was remembering back to better times. Church had been important and of course he still holds on to Christ, but the joy was gone. I talked of the hope of a better future and mentioned marriage, he froze. He had been there and done that and it was not a happy experience. Marriage and morals were abandoned by society over the last 50 years. Rich people have returned to the understanding that solid marriages matter; but for poor folks, without the advantage of money cushions, are still carrying the pains and wounds that go with immorality and divorce.

Will Charles be able to navigate life to a place of wholeness that comes with marriage? “It is not good that man is alone”. Will Charles find a help mate to spur him on to greater things?

We drive by a park where two young men have stationed themselves on a corner. They seem to know everyone who is driving by. Lots of waves, honks and shout-outs. I pull around the corner and walk up from behind them. I have been told that when I pull my phone out with its black cover it appears to some people to be a detective’s badge. I startled them and they checked me out as I opened my phone and asked them if they would “please” do a “one minute bible study” with me. They looked at each other and laughed. They picked “50 Shades of Sin”. Their names were Christopher and Eric; aged 17 and 18. They were just hanging out hoping for something to happen. They had their minds on other things so I wouldn’t be long. Could they tell me the message about sin? Yes, they could, it brings death. It was a sobering thought to leave them with.

We passed by a strip mall that had some folks in front of it. Joan began talking with Annie who was the girlfriend to Valentine who was the friend of Tim, the owner of the used clothing store. She did a bible study with all three of them. They chose “Clear Mind”. The conversation turned to business and money. When Rockefeller was the richest man in the world; he was asked: “How much money does it take to make a man happy?”. He knew the answer: “Just a little bit more”. Tim desired prosperity. His business and his employees needed it. Does God care? Does God have answers and direction? When Joan got a little specific, Tim retreated. He knew what he needed to do. His father was a preacher. The gap between what he knew and what he did concerning spiritual things became evident. We asked him what he wanted us to do. He wanted us to pray for him and his business; and we did.

I did “Clear Mind” with James, kicked out of school, just walking around with nowhere to go. Joan did the “Ten Rules of Dating” with Danielle, a church girl. I got a “no” from Lee because he was already a Christian. I decided to try and communicate why he needed to encourage me in my endeavors as a Christian brother. He listened and as I moved on he smilingly thanked me for the work I was doing.

We met Pastor Ryles at 5:30 so we could do a bible study with him watching before picking up his wife after work at 6:00. We found Brendon on his porch with two small children, his fiancé and her brother and his girlfriend. Young people, the future; it was all right here on the porch. I immediately liked Brandon. He had a winning way about him and showed no fear about doing a bible study with me. He chose “Pokémon”.  We talked, he had lots to say. His future brother in law snickered a bit but chose to be respectful. The children were not used to being asked to wait until we were through talking before getting the attention they craved. They chose to allow us to continue.

Brandon’s father had taken him to different churches so he could see how man could interpret the bible in different ways. The lesson to be learned was to not trust man. I asked him if he could tell me the central message of those churches. “Have faith in God”. Not bad, actually good. I don’t know if I was winning myself to Brandon but he was sure winning me to him. We went on to present realities, work, kids and marriage. His fiancé and her two children had been with him since she had left her husband after the birth of the second child 4 years ago. She let us know she wanted to marry Brandon. His response was that she didn’t understand that life was “short and brutal”. The darkness of the statement shook me. I know his reality is difficult but I Know God can help him; and yes, it will be an uphill battle. I gave Pastor Ryles a chance to talk with him while I talked with the rest of the gang on the porch. Brandon invited Pastor Ryles to come and talk with him again. Gold for a pastor.

We met the Ryles’ at the Flamingo restaurant. It has a South Pacific atmosphere that brings a comfort level to them after their ten years in Samoa. We both shared how the strangeness of our homecomings to America were more disconcerting that our arrivals into Samoa and Zambia. Pastor Ryles is full of evangelism ideas and it is great to be around his enthusiasm (God in you). We had a relaxing dinner with good fellowship. The common bonds of the pastoral life make conversation easy.

We say our good byes to head home. They follow us down the road. Something is wrong and they are flashing their lights. It is a flat tire. They want to help but I let them know we can handle it and they go home as we change the tire. I really don’t want to drive the donut tire all the way home on the highway at a reduced speed. We try to find an open station that still changes tires. Too late in the evening. We stop at an auto parts store to see if they know of any stations. The slow-moving conversation centers around driving on donuts and how service stations have changed.

I am about to leave when one of the young men asked me if I need help changing the tire. I let him know I have already changed it. He asked if I found what caused the flat. It was a bolt and when I tell him he jumps into action. He gets a patch kit off the shelf and a pump. I bring the tire in, he patches and inflates the tire and charges me for the patch kit. During this process, his buddies come to meet with him. They help me while he helps other customers. Joan has gone to Starbucks. At one point, they are getting a little off color so I mention I am a pastor which instantly changes their demeanor. It’s hard to describe, but there was a shared knowledge among us of what is right and wrong (even as they were choosing wrong). I would thank our shining knight in armor and encourage him to treat his fiancé right as he heads into his future.

It was the “good Samaritan” kindness, without the active Christian faith; that would stick with me as we headed home. As I waited with the tire for Joan; two men leaving the store would pause and ask me if I needed help. That’s just how it is in Paducah, Kentucky. It is a city waiting for God to blow on the embers of an old Christian fire from years ago.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sunday Sermon

Hateful Rage

School is covered with posters encouraging involvement with a day of silence for the LBLT students. I am watching a public speaking class do impromptus in front of the school. I have been told I will be entertained. Two start off in the middle on a random subject until someone says freeze. That person then taps one of the two on the shoulder and starts the impromptu in another direction.

The outgoing actors take more turns than the others although all are encouraged to participate. One girl starts crying as they encourage her to give it a go. The most outgoing man of them all starts using some profanities with the name of Jesus. Freeze, the next actor starts by asking him if he knows Jesus. One thing leads to another and we get to: “God, I hate those people.” He says it again louder with more emphasis as the impromptus move on.

There it was. No body, in a society now trained not to hate, said a word. There was no pause of something wrong was said. It was very reasonable and acceptable to hate people who pester you about knowing Jesus. If he had said he hated black people, the impromptu would have screeched to a halt. Same thing for LBLT’s.

Why is it socially acceptable to hate Christians?

Ps 2:1-6 Why do the nations rage, And the people plot a vain thing? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, And the rulers take counsel together, Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, 3 “Let us break Their bonds in pieces And cast away Their cords from us.” 4 He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; The Lord shall hold them in derision. 5 Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, And distress them in His deep displeasure: 6 “Yet I have set My King On My holy hill of Zion.”

I. What are they doing?

Raging

Out of control, screaming, mad, angry. We see it at Berkeley, the birthplace of the free speech movement, now beset by out of control, screaming, angry students who can’t allow speech to take place that they do not agree with.

I saw it in that student’s rage against…against what? Does he even know? Or is it just demonic conditioning?

Acts 19:28-29 Now when they heard this, they were full of wrath and cried out, saying, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!” 29 So the whole city was filled with confusion, and rushed into the theater with one accord, having seized Gaius and Aristarchus,

Acts 7:54-58 When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. 55 But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, 56 and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” 57 Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; 58 and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.

Plotting vain things

I remember talking with my girls at different times about activism on college campuses. I pointed out that there are no noble causes being taken up these days. It seems to center around killing babies and having sex in any way possible. So much for noble, enriching causes.

The world’s plots are vain and empty.

That I would experience the actors followed by the day of silence for the LBLT’s says something to me about the world I live in.

This is the conclusion of Paul’s dissection of the LBLT movement. Rom 1:28-32 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

II. Why?

To break free from God’s natural laws. Notice the “theirs”; their bonds, their cords.

Everything about Christianity is about growth, freedom and a fulfilled life. My school days would be followed by Earth Day. The celebration of Mother Earth. We need to save the planet. From what? Pollution! By whom? Mankind! The planet must thrive and mankind must be diminished, controlled, rationed to and finally eliminated. Problem solved.

The vain plot of mankind is to convince us that we are nothing but an accident of materialism (evolution) and that we are no different from any other life form in the universe.

Yet, the Christian believes: Gen 1:24-28 Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth the living creature according to its kind: cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth, each according to its kind”; and it was so. 25 And God made the beast of the earth according to its kind, cattle according to its kind, and everything that creeps on the earth according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

26 Then God said,”Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them,”Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Who’s right? Let’s talk about it. How can you talk with rage and empty thinking? You can’t. So they stop up their ears and attack you. Why? Because God is God.

III. “Yet I have set My King On my holy hill of Zion”

Will God be God or will mankind triumph and remove the restraints that come with a knowledge of God?

The next verses following our text say this: Ps 2:7-9 “I will declare the decree: The Lord has said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. 8 Ask of Me, and I will give You The nations for Your inheritance, And the ends of the earth for Your possession. 9 You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.'”

I know who wins.

Think back about our young man full of “hate”. This is why: 2 Cor 2:14-17 Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. 15 For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things? 17 For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ.

Conclusion

See everyone knows: Job 19:25 For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth;

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Morel Dinner

One of our enduring memories is our layover in London on the way to Lusaka. In the restaurant we were given the opportunity to order “stinkin mushrooms”. Actually, it was steak and mushrooms with an English accent.

Tonight Joan and I enjoyed a steak and morel mushroom dinner. What makes it cool is we spent the afternoon walking through the woods looking for Morel mushrooms. And we found three different spots with the Morels.

Thankful for life’s little blessings!

Morel Dinner

Morel Dinner

1 Peter 3:7 Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.

Couldn’t help myself.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Tonight’s Sermon

Will You Listen

One student describing his jail activities and the 15 years (an exaggeration) he is looking at for fighting. Another describing her main fear; because she gets into fits of rage, she is afraid she may kill somebody someday. The sympathetic ear was describing her nephew who was put away for 50 years for a murder he didn’t commit.

I couldn’t help myself. I told them that the problem was they were acting like Christians. It took a little bit of time to digest. One said she got it; I was using reverse psychology. The sympathetic ear said we ought not make judgments. The young brawler said he couldn’t help himself.

We would talk later that day after the old and wise sympathetic ear was gone. The girls anger: step mom hates her and doesn’t even pretend to want her around. Dad’s a wimp. The boy’s problem: he and his step mom got into it and his dad beat him up. Now he is alienated from his dad.

The problem is sin and the answer will always be a simple “Christ”.

Text: Ps 32:8-11 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye. 9 Do not be like the horse or like the mule, Which have no understanding, Which must be harnessed with bit and bridle, Else they will not come near you. 10 Many sorrows shall be to the wicked; But he who trusts in the Lord, mercy shall surround him. 11 Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous; And shout for joy, all you upright in heart!

I Jesus wants to teach you:

“instruct and teach”

Instruct:

Getting understanding that leads to success

Receiving a wisdom that can be seen by others

To gain insight into life

Teach:

To point out, hands on

The Hebrew root points us to the idea of flowing water, it goes over, under or around all obstacles. The idea is that God teaches us to overcome and not be dammed in by life, but to live a life that is flowing with life.

There is a sense that this teaching of wisdom is reserved for those in the covenant.

Guide you with My eye

To give advise

To help you make a plan

God is personally walking with you so that you can know what to do by the look in His eye.

Walking in the Spirit

 “the way you should go”

It is a wonderful to know where you are and where you are going.

There is a confidence that is being communicated that cries out the reality of a personal relationship with Christ that impacts the daily living of our lives.

II. Free to choose

Matt 11:28-30 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

These young people are laboring their way through life carrying the burdens of their and their families’ sins. They all knew exactly what I was saying and they all had heard it before.

Another push from God who loves them to gather them unto Himself.

Our text describes us with the stubbornness of the mule and the horse. Yes, the law can constrain us. Yes, the law can make us do right. But, God is looking for a person to willingly receive personal training to live life to the fullest.

III. The results are in

10 Many sorrows shall be to the wicked; But he who trusts in the Lord, mercy shall surround him. 11 Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous; And shout for joy, all you upright in heart!

“Sorrows”: physical and mental pain, life is marred or spoiled, the modern thought is “life stinks”

“Wicked”: guilty, guilty of sin, morally unfit, spoiled

I am preaching to a group of believers. Certainly, we have experienced sorrows; physical and mental pain. Yes, but it is different. Looking back over my life I can say that my moments of mental pain centered around people I cared for not doing what is right in the eyes of God. My physical pains are acknowledged with the promise of healing and eternal life.

Our text puts it better: “he who trusts in the Lord, mercy shall surround him”.

Having a righteous and upright heart allows me to be “glad in the Lord and rejoice” going through life with a “shout for joy”.

Conclusion

John 10:10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

Yes, its true!

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

John Gooding “The Regions Beyond”

John Gooding wrote a book about our fellowship that is well worth the read. The title is “The Regions Beyond” and the subtitle is “Impacting the World from a Small Church in a Small Town”. The book is an outgrowth from a dissertation. The fact that John is one of only a handful among our 2500 preachers who has higher education in religious or biblical studies just reinforces the uniqueness of the book: the Holy Spirit can take broken people, heal them and set them on course to touch the world if they will surrender to the will of God for their lives.

John’s introduction concluded with this statement: “The research for this book was to find core elements that led a broken church out of brokenness to spiritual health and world impact. This is not a history, formula, or step-by-step guide for revival. It is an example of what God can do with a common people who seek to faithfully obey God.”

The beginning of the book is heavily footnoted (his dissertation) but becomes more freewheeling as the book progresses. My incomplete understanding of footnoting is that you can’t just say what you think is true; you must find someone else who says its true and use him as your footnote to validate your statement. Whether it was his sources or his thinking; it came together in the first chapter to galvanize my thinking about salvation and what it means to be a Christian.

The first chapter was entitled “If Truly Christian”. It centered on Romans 12:1-2 as the measuring stick of the Christian experience. Rom 12:1-2 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. NKJV His thoughts on these verses permeated my preaching for a couple of weeks and I still refer to those revelations that we all share together now in current preaching.

Here are some quotes:

“For Paul in Romans 12:2 transform carries the meaning of an invisible process in a Christian already begun in this present life. It is a process that leads to a new moral life in Christ by the Spirit.”

“Paul with a beseeching urgency warns believers not to follow the pattern of thinking that is found in unbelievers. This requires a living sacrifice to the reasonableness of the call and will of God. The life of the world is unreasonable. The old mind boasts of knowing God but the renewed mind does the will of God. Its decisions recognize what is good, acceptable and perfect. These are moral criteria for evaluating life.”

“The transformation and renewal are set in the larger context of ministry in the body of Christ. To think ‘soberly (Rom. 12:3)’ is to think with a sound or right mind. The transformation of a believer is, therefore, a work that also transforms the culture of the church. Change that is merely outward in form is inadequate for salvation. It is simply becoming more religious.”

“It means knowing the will or wants of God (Rom 2:18) on a daily or ongoing basis and living accordingly.”

“The terminology of renewal is unique to Christian literature. Renewal of the mind involves the ability to discern or test the will of God. The process is: first the Word of God and the Spirit of God renew the mind, then one is able to discern and desire the will of God and is then increasingly transformed by it.”

“This is the challenge for every beleaguered church. There must be renewal individually and therefore corporately.”

The second chapter highlights the words “make disciples” in the great commission given in Mt. 28:16-20. He ties “making disciples” to our transformations that create a church that becomes a “distinctive people” that evangelizes, plants churches and goes into “Regions Beyond” starting churches that are indigenous. This takes us through his remaining chapters to his final question: “Will it Last?”.

Here are some quotes:

“’Only when we emphasize evangelism above all else will it receive its due.’ We cannot simply put evangelism on a longer to do list and hope that the Christian community (believers) will carry it out with the appropriate passion.”

“The proclamation of the gospel is often seen as an end in itself. Proclamation either alone or proclamation with a decision are seen as a completed process…The Great Commission, however, does not imply that proclamation is the end of the task. It does not imply that church growth is the end of the task. Yet both of these viewpoints are common and both circumvent the true issue of the Great Commission—making disciples.”

“The product of the church is a disciple…It is about making disciples for the multiplying of the work by adding committed laborers.”

“There is, according to Graham Duncan, a clear link between the command to make disciples in Mt. 28 and the command in Rom. 12 to be transformed. Transformation and the disciplines demanded by discipleship are linked. Discipline releases rather than hampers true growth.”

“It was a faith he said was ‘verified empirically, as the Bible becomes validated in everyday life.’”

“The task of the church is to make disciples. This implies evangelism and conversion. Transformation requires a relationship between the disciple and the disciple maker. The relationship is a unique and vitally important one. Without it there can be no spiritual transformation or impartation of spiritual life into the disciple. Discipleship is meant to be a long-term, stable relationship that allows for spiritual growth and maturity—transformation.”

“…one cannot be transformed without a corresponding change or transformation in the person and circumstances of their life.”

“For Hievert the more Hebrew and biblical view of transformation is both a point and process. That is, it has simple beginning of turning from wherever or whatever one is but it produces radical and lifelong consequences. Turning perhaps involves a minimal commitment to follow him in a lifelong series of decisions after an initial turning.”

“The confession ‘Jesus is Lord’ must make sense in daily living.”

“In this New Testament language we have something far more important than a casual relationship, common acquaintance, teacher-student relationship, or a master-slave relationship. There is uniqueness to the disciple maker-disciple relationship. The father-son language in contrast to pedagogue-student language tells us something akin to a genetic transfer of life occurs. It is not simply transferring of the pedagogue’s notes onto the notebooks of the students.”

“’For the little band of Christians at Philippi, constantly in danger of seduction by the majority pagan culture, there was no better textbook than the lives of those who bore the burden of leadership. Discipleship still depends on identifying examples, saints, people worthy of imitation.’”

“Indeed the making of disciples is a different matter than gathering a crowd or getting people to be followers or imitators. There must be inward transformation that matches the outward conformity.”

“The local church possesses the incredible reality of the Christian experience. Christianity is about relationships. It is not some cloud of theological jargon but a group of people who know each other, meet regularly to hear from God, and enjoy Jesus and each other’s presence.”

“There is something more than obedience or keeping the rules in discipline. Children, soldiers, students and disciples are all to come under discipline. There is more to be gained from discipline than obedience. ‘The aim of child discipline, or military, or academic, or religious, is a disciplined character which goes beyond the minimum demands of these specific disciplines and permeates the whole life. Imposed discipline…must lead to self-discipline.’ The ability to make decisions and order life by subjugating self is crucial for church building.”

Pastor Gooding has been using the Jesus Movement of the 60’s and 70’s as a comparison to the fellowship established by the Prescott Foursquare Church of Pastor Mitchell in the 70’s. It was the Jesus Movement that brought young people into the church and then it was the dynamics of transformed lives, discipleship and church planting that brought the Church to its current place of leadership church over 2500 other churches around the world.

The question was asked about the Jesus Movement: “Would it last?” He asks the same question about the Christian Fellowship Ministry that sprang from that broken down Foursquare church in Prescott Arizona.

In answering this question he takes some thoughts from the English preacher G. Campbell Morgan about the Zechariah 4:6 “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit”. Not by might (an amassing of an army with resources) nor by power (the vigorous use of amassed army and resources). He also has to take a look at the man Pastor Wayman Mitchell. I like how he addresses this here: “Another issue that requires greater mention is that of leadership. During the course of writing the dissertation there were a number of times the author was asked for more information about Waymna Mitchell. He was an intriguing figure to the author’s committee and peers.”

Here are a few quotes from his last chapter that help us see his conclusions:

Quoting Morgan: “Not by anything man can do, can man do anything for God. We are very far from believing that.”

“Of course, G. Campbell Morgan was not negating that we need to amass our resources and be relentless in the call of Christ. The point he was making is simply that without the presence of the Holy Spirit, our efforts are not enough.”

“The question to be asked, after nearly fifty years as a Fellowship, is the same one asked by Enroth, Ericson and Peter’s in 1972. Their book The Jesus People: Old Time Religion in the Age of Aquarius was the first substantial look at the Jesus people. Their question was, is it a stirring or is it a real movement?”

“The sustainability of the CFM largely rests on the ability to maintain its core evangelism for conversions, empowered discipleship of converts and a focus on church planting.”

“The conclusion of this project is that principles of evangelism, discipleship and church planting brought about a transformation in the Prescott congregation and a ministry that brought them out of brokenness to a place of dignity and influence throughout the world.”

“Two things are necessary. One, is a disciple willing to allow a pastor to speak into his life. And two, a pastor with enough courage to speak into his life. In the CFM, conversion of sinners and empowered discipleship led to church planting. It led to the multiplication of disciples and churches.”

Here are my own thoughts on ‘will it last?’. Here is a quote from a previous blog entry:

“While doing the series on “Stewardship” I came across this description of the end of John Wesley’s life from Wikipedia: “Because of his charitable nature he died poor, leaving as the result of his life’s work 135,000 members and 541 itinerant preachers under the name “Methodist”. It has been said that “when John Wesley was carried to his grave, he left behind him a good library of books, a well-worn clergyman’s gown” and the Methodist Church.”

From Newsmax’ article: Pastor Mitchell: “Wayman Mitchell is the founder of Christian Fellowship Ministries, a Pentecostal Bible-based fellowship of 2,100 churches in 112 nations. Personal evangelism and church planting are basic foundations of his organization, which grew out of early concert ministries he used to convert former hippies in the 1970s.”

Pastor Mitchell will be leaving behind, given more years of life, 2500 to 3500 itinerant preachers doing battle with the forces of darkness as we watch the unfolding prophetic calendar.”

I think the comparison could portend to the future of the fellowship. I would like to add this thought. Pastor Gooding does such a good job as describing the fellowship as a group of people who are each in themselves seeking to do the will of God. What sustains us is not our successes, which at times can seem inconsequential, but our understanding of positioning and standing to fight in the place God has us. Our measurement ceases to be the measurement of the world but an internal measurement of doing the will of God.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Darwin’s Creation Myth

In September I read two books about evolution. One was “Undeniable” by Douglas Axe. I had taken notes and was preparing a review when life turned upside down for me. It is almost like the “Intelligent Design” crowd have gotten tired of showing how impossible macro evolution through mutation and natural selection is. In Axe’s case, and I really enjoyed this, he did the proving and then said we do not really need this evidence to know that evolution just makes no sense. He compared common sense to common science. We just know that the odds of spilling your alphabet soup and it spilling out to spell a Shakespeare sonnet is not going to happen even if you do it a number so high that it loses all sense of meaning.

Well I will go on with that another time. I really enjoyed Tom Wolfe’s inside baseball look at Darwin and Wallace in “The Kingdom of Speech” which was the other book I was reading in September. Wolfe is describing the different cosmogony stories starting with Genesis, the Apache, Michabo the Great Hare of the Algonquin,  Yhleh the Raven of the Tlingit,  the Cherokee’s water beetle, Inktomi the spider of the Assiniboine Indians, the dung beetle of the Egyptians, and Cagn the praying mantis of the Khosian. He then moves to the Navajo where I will give you the quote:

The Navajo Indians’ creator was an insect that seems to have been identical to what is known today as the biting midge (colloquially, the no-see-um bug). Biting midges are so small you can’t see them. But you can’t mistake them when they bite your ankle. For all practical purposes they are invisible. But the Navajo biting-midge creator was smaller than small and invisible than invisible, because it came into this world without its two wings. yet it is the creator in probably the most sophisticated cosmogony ever believed in, a story of full-scale, gradual evolution from next to nothing to modern man. In the beginning, the biting midges lived in the First World, down deep deep deep beneath the earth’s surface. As evolution began, they grew back their missing wings, and one species evolved all the way into a full blown insect, a locust. Locust led the hives up into the Second World, where they began to evolve into animals of every species. Then Locust led the whole burgeoning menagerie up into the Third World, where the most advanced species evolved into men. Then Locust led all the men and all the animals up into the Fourth World, which was right below the crust of the earth. In an Inktomi like show of energy and dedication, the menagerie’s spiders built rope ladders out of their webbing so that everybody could climb up onto the earth’s surface.

A later cosmogony was a dead ringer for the Navajos’, dead and unfortunately duller, except for one thing. The creator in this cosmogony was a creature even smaller, even less visible to the naked eye, than a biting midge, namely, a single, undifferentiated cell–or “four or five” of them. “Undifferentiated” means it could evolve into any living thing, vegetable or animal. This cosmogony was the only one recent enough for people to know the chief storyteller by name: Charles Darwin. “Four or five” is from a scrap of conversation he had with a group of students not long after he told the story publicly. The students had the sort of naïve, unbridled, free-floating curiosity most youths unfortunately rein in far too early in life. They wanted to know some small but fundamental details about the moment Evolution got under way and how exactly, physically, it started up–and from what?

Darwin had apparently never thought of it quite that way before. Long pause…and finally, “ohhh,” he said, “probably from four or five cells floating in a warm pool somewhere.” One student pressed him further. He wanted to know where the cells came from. Who or what put them in the pool? An exasperated Darwin said, in effect, “Well, I don’t know…look, isn’t it enough that I’ve brought you man and all the animals and plants in the world?”

In this respect, Darwinism was typical of the more primitive cosmogonies. They avoided the question of how the world developed ex nihilo. Darwin often thought about it, but it made his head hurt. The world was just…here. All cosmogonies, whether the Apaches’ or Charles Darwin’s, faced the same problem. They were histories or, better said, stories of things that had occurred in a primordial past, long before there existed anyone capable of recording them. The Apaches’ scorpion and Darwin’s cells in that warm pool somewhere were by definition educated guesses. Darwin, a Cambridge man, after all, was highly educated by the standards of his time, but so, no doubt, was the Apache medicine man who came up with the little old man with the long beard in the disk. The difference in Darwin’s case was that he put together his story in an increasingly rational age. It wouldn’t have occurred to him to present his cosmogony as anything other than a scientific hypotheses. In the Navajo cosmogony the agent of change (as distinct from the creator) was alive. It was Locust. In Darwin’s cosmogony it had to be scientifically inanimate. Locust was renamed Evolution.

There were five standard tests for a scientific hypotheses. Had anyone observed the phenomenon–in this case, Evolution–as it occurred and recorded it? Could other scientists replicate it? Could any of them come up with a set of facts that, if true, would contradict the theory (Karl Popper’s “falsifiability” test)? Could scientists make predictions based on it? Did it illuminate hitherto unknown or baffling areas of science? In the case of Evolution…well…no…no…no…no…and no.

In other words there was no scientific way to test it. Like every other cosmogony, it was a serious and sincere story meant to satisfy man’s endless curiosity about where he came from and how he came to be so different from the animals around him. But it was still a story. It was not evidence. In short, it was sincere, but sheer, literature.

It really is a fun read for anyone who realizes that the world’s emperors do not have any clothes on.

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment