Venice Reflections

The beauty of marriage, the two becoming one flourishing and surviving in the ugly setting of a world being torn apart by sin.

Joan and I have been married now for 33 and a half years. Our daughters have moved away with husbands of their own. The scriptures read at our wedding are more real today than the day of our wedding. Two are better than one and a threefold cord is hard to break.

To enjoy Venice means to enjoy each other. To truly enjoy each other means to enjoy God.

We have come to this same conclusion many times over our married life.

Does God really want to give us the desires of our hearts?

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Here We Go

I noticed a group of young men at the Saint Louis airport running around with big vanilla envelopes. I finally asked one of them about the identifying mark. They were all young marines heading overseas. The man I talked with was also carrying a bible. I mentioned this and he responded that there were not many of them. I encouraged him to make a difference and that was that. On the plane I thought about Dan, our airman, and his statement about how he wished he had one-minute bible studies on his phone in Korea. Apparently, it is illegal to pass out religious literature among the troops but anyone can have a conversation. I happened to run into the young man as we transferred flights in Atlanta and gave him the web address. I showed it to him and he took note of the web address and thanked me.

Easy flight into Venice, bus from airport to Venice 16 Euro’s using a debit card, short walk with packs to hotel and store packs till room is ready in the afternoon. Get directed to a café near Rialto bridge to sit and relax and watch the people and the boats. No cars allowed in Venice. We walk there checking out the views using a bank machine to withdraw Euro’s. Easy lunch with delicious coffee. We opt for a two-day pass on the water busses and catch one back down the grand canal to the train station which in near our hotel. We get into our room and grab some fresh apricots and figs for the room. Do a bible study with a young Bangladeshi man. His father was an officer in their military like myself. His wife and children were still there as he sent money home from Venice. Joan would do one with another man from Bangladesh the next day. It looks like there is a large community of them here working the small shops. Would run into Chinese workers and many men from Senegal. Plus, you are hearing Italian and many other languages all day long.

I have added translations to oneminutebiblestudies.com for the trip: Italian, Croatian, German and Dutch.

There are lots of couples like Joan and me here from all over the world. It is nice to see so many couples strolling hand in hand or arm in arm along the narrow paths they call streets. One sad picture was of an older gentleman alone in the gondola being paddled along with just a memory. A cup of coffee on our balcony and then we caught a local water bus (vaporetto) to take us the opposite direction around the island. We would end up at Piazza San Marco at night. Our vaporetto attendant was an architect graduate named Matteo (no jobs available for college grads). We talked America (his sister is traveling there now), his prospects and his favorite NBA players (one being Dennis Rodman our ambassador to North Korea). I would sprinkle a little salt as we went by cemetery island. The last journey; unless there is a God. We rode around Murano Island and headed towards the famous Piazza San Marco.

Not many people here this late at night, the next day the plaza would be packed with long lines leading everywhere. Music, good music, coming from 4 locations around the plaza. There are the four stolen stallions atop the church, copies today with the actuals in the church. Since the city seems untouched since its heyday in the 1400’s and 1500’s and it is incredible; I can only imagine the impressions a visitor would have from those days. The mosaics tell us the story of stealing Saint Mark’s body from Alexandria; sneaking his body here past the Muslim customs in pork barrels. I have used the word stolen twice. There is something unseemly in the history of Venice. The island started with fisherman but the nobles fleeing the conquering Huns under Attila began to seek refuge on the islands as the different tribes came sweeping through the broken Roman Empire. For me it centers around the crusade assembled by the Christian nations and the Pope paying Venice to provide shipping and supplies. Can’t come up with the cash so they sack Constantinople instead. The beginning of the end, eventually proving disastrous for Venice having no buffer between them and the Turks. That is where the four sculptured stallions came from. They were sent back to Venice by the conquering Admiral. I guess if your sins can be washed away by attacking the Muslims they could also be taken away by attacking the heretic Eastern Orthodox believers. Napoleon would claim them eventually and place them atop the Arche de Triumph in Paris. After all the wars, they would be returned.

A last bus around the bend entering the Grand Canal going by the beauty to be seen along the water front. We dissect the island again and head home. We needed to refresh our memories by watching the beginning of “The Tourist” seeing scene after scene with the canals of Venice on prominent display; something every visitor to Venice should do, they say.

We woke up late as the sun reaches above the buildings on the other side of the canal to flood our room with sunlight. We went down for breakfast at the Palazzo Cendon, a charming little hotel. We can’t help but remember our breakfasts with our daughters in Paris some 20 years ago. It seems in Europe this breakfast is meant to be special.

A special island was walled up and guarded for Jews to live in, the first Jewish ghetto. We cut through the back paths knowing we would find it. Along the way we run into three young guys getting a boat ready to run some errands. One of them read the verses associated with “Mente Chiara”. It was fantastic. Some broken English and Italian helped us along. The one picture that was worth it was the youngest, about 13 or so, realizing that his friend was reading scripture. His face betrayed his knowledge that this was forbidden fruit as his friend completed the task. We moved on to the ghetto.

It started when they rounded up the Jews of the city and relocated them to the island in 1519. Several distinct cultures would be placed together never quite blending into one. The maximum residents reached 5000 with at that time some of the tallest buildings in Venice for housing. Napoleon ended the ghetto’s existence as a place just for Jews. The Jewish identity is always under assault. The frontal assault seeks to kill them and the rear assault seeks to assimilate them. Napoleon gave Jews all through Europe their first chance to be French or German verses Jewish. Today the sexual revolution has done as much damage to their identity as the devil could have hoped for. Venice gave up two groups of Jews to the Nazis during the war. Most could see the writing on the wall with Mussolini so they made their way to safety. The two groups were around 250 and 350. “Life is Beautiful” helps but not really.

Joan picked up some little items and we walked a bit. Joan got a map and did a bible study. We cut through to the Grand Canal and caught a short ride to Rialto Bridge and walked the back ways to San Marco buying a 3 ft. piece of licorice on the way. It is impressive, the square not the licorice. When I did my preaching from “Message of Stewardship” one man frequently quoted was John Ruskin, a Christian philanthropist who was trying to find ways of making life beautiful for working people. Well, I was reminded that he wrote one of the better books on Venetian architecture titled “The Stones of Venice”. I want to read it now. I am sure there is a story behind every building and every piece of art. We just can enjoy.

We then caught the direct water bus to Murano Island, home of the glass making families. The guilds were very important in Venice’s development. These families of glass makers are still at it today. We watched a master, 71 years old, started when he was 11 do some work in front of us. We visited the show room, the small chandelier I liked was on sale 40% off of its 15,000 Euro price. We made our way back home via the back route with the water bus. Got some plums, water, cheese and a coffee and rested a bit.

We had walked most of the main areas but we wanted to take one last walk before leaving the next day. We got some gelato and walked through a park by our room to the train station. We crossed the bridge and made our way through the less traveled ways to Rialto bridge again. We even stopped for gelato again. Joan would get some postcards and we would enjoy the view from the bridge one last time before catching the water bus home.

Today we woke up early and watched the city awake; found a great coffee joint open at 7:00. Even tried coffee from India from our two well informed coffee men. We picked up some bread, got ready for breakfast. Enjoyed breakfast. Packed, including our foods for our 8-hour train ride to Bari. Joan would find a dress for Alec’s wedding in October at half price that is the brand of dress that our daughter Audra loves to wear. A double score for Joan. Wrote this on the train. Trains are a pleasure here. Next time.

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Political Insight

Looking my sermon over this morning, I read this: http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/the-storm-before-the-storm-weimar-america-liberalism/

Good insight about the church in America. Last quote: ROD DREHER: The Storm Before The Storm. “The rising Left is bound and determined to crush or at least permanently sideline people it deems heretics — in particular, whites, males, orthodox Christians, and skeptics of the LGBT project. It does not want a pluralistic modus vivendi; it wants total domination. The establishment Left lacks the will to stop them. Its members are terrified of appearing un-woke. . . . The establishment Right lacks the will to stop them either, for fear of being called bigots. And it lacks the will or the imagination to stand in any way against corporate interests. . . . Bottom line: Identity politics will dissolve the traditional bonds that have held Americans together, and re-bind forces of the Left and forces on the Right to each other.”

 

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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!

 

 

 

 

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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.

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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;

 

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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.

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