Ray Grimes In Memoriam

This week, the family laid Ray Grimes to rest in the Fort Smith National Cemetery after an honoring memorial service. You can read his obituary here.

You can’t really put a person’s life in a few words or wrap up a full life in a few thoughts. Yet these times of honoring the departed seem to call for that or be given to it. It’s a time to ponder the meaning of life, and reflect on the life we are assembled to celebrate and honor.

Time and tradition has brought us to recall the seemingly-most-important facts about a person’s life. Seventy-nine years old. Married forty-six years. Raised two boys to successful adulthood. The description of family members and friends remaining. Those facts do say a lot, and perhaps the most about a man.

But it seems there is a lot more that isn’t said. And we’re left to ponder that for ourselves.

The Bible gives us hints of how our Creator God sees life and death. In Job we’re told, “Wisdom belongs to the aged, and understanding to the old” (Job 12:12). Solomon tells us, “A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of birth” (Ecclesiastes 7:1) He also tells us it’s better to go into the house of morning than the house of feasting” (Ecclesiastes 7:2). One can assume this is to consider our days and consider our lives while we have breath.

God honors a long life lived on the earth. He honors faithfulness. He honors those who honor Him. He knows life is a beautiful gift to be lived. And He knows it’s hard at times with warfare involved. He sees it all. May we come to see things like He sees them and live in this light.

Then the Bible tells us, “Precious in the sight of the Lord Is the death of His godly ones” (Psalm 116:15). And way back at the beginning of the Bible, God tells us, “Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:32).

Three Songs

Ray’s sons, one of whom is my son-in-law, wanted three songs played by his favorite artists that were their dad’s favorites. They bundled some family photos with them. In retrospect, they tell us a lot about Ray’s life and any life — three of the most important things in life.

First was A Father’s Love, which speaks to our heavenly Father’s love also. Then Me Without You, which speaks to the importance, even preeminence, of relationships in our earth journey. Lastly, Amazing Grace tells the most important part of the story on earth and in eternity — God’s presence with His people. Rest in peace, Ray Grimes.

[More Photos]

Christmas and Hanukkah 2023

On an early-morning, 3-mile walk around our neighborhood with my wife, we stopped at a restaurant for breakfast. Soon, our conversation turned to soul care — reading the Bible habitually, praying, staying in a community of faith — and abiding in the Light.

“Soul care” seems to be jumping out to me everywhere. Ron, my neighbor, came into the yard yesterday evening, catching me putting the last touches on our Christmas angel, and he was there for the lighting ceremony just as the sun was setting and Hanukkah was beginning. While enjoying a beautiful moment and sunset, our conversation turned to “soul care” — the habits, disciplines, and rhythms of the Christian faith and subsequent peace.

Hanukkah is from the Hebrew word for consecration. Hanukkah, according to dictionary.com is “A Jewish festival lasting eight days, celebrated from the 25th day of the month of Kislev to the 2nd of Tevet in commemoration of the rededication of the Temple by the Maccabees following their victory over the Syrians [168 BC] under Antiochus IV, characterized chiefly by the lighting of the menorah on each night of the festival.” Sometimes spelled Chanukah, it is also called the Feast of Dedication or the Feast of Lights.

Bethlehem Light

On our morning walk, we also discussed that “people believe what they want to believe.” When it comes to Bethlehem, can you really overlook such a carefully placed puzzle piece? You can if your heart doesn’t want to know, see, or believe.

On the same note, if you do want to believe there is a God who cares, Who is there, and always does what He says from generation to generation, then pause at Bethlehem. Open your eyes, your ears, your heart, your soul, your spirit, and peer in wonder at a humble Baby and the very heart of your Creator God.

The sky was full of light that night! Happy Hanukkah.

Bethlehem and Hanukkah

What do these two have in common? Other than both will begin on the same day December 25, 2024 — light! Those living in darkness will see a great light in Galilee of the Gentiles (Isaiah 9:1-2, Matthew 4:14-15). A prophet, priest, and King is born in Bethlehem, Judah, as predicted by the prophet Micah (5:2). Bethlehem, “the house of bread,” is a fitting beginning for Jesus, who would call himself the “bread of life.” The Lion of Judah, the Son of David, was born in the same town David was, 1000 years earlier. Seems like too big a coincidence, doesn’t it?

The religious (those trusting in their own knowledge and works) didn’t see it. Check for yourself. Does any prophet come from Nazareth? (John 7:52). Who else doesn’t see? And who does? That’s a fascinating study within itself as you follow Jesus’ life and ministry on the pages of the Gospels.

It’s by invitation only! But the guest list is immense, in keeping with the wealth and goodwill of the Host. There is an RSVP stated or implied, and that’s our only responsibility, apparently. 

Please, stop what you’re doing. Put worldly cares and your to-do list aside. Enter into the joy of the Lord, where there is feasting without strife and rest — where there is true life.

Take care of your soul. Start living your faith or keeping your faith in an ever-increasing and deepening fashion. There dwells light and life — love and joy.

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But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Too little to be among the clans of Judah,
From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.
His goings forth are from long ago,
From the days of eternity
” (Micah 5:2).

But there will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish; in earlier times He treated the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali with contempt, but later on He shall make it glorious, by the way of the sea, on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them” (Isaiah 9:1-2).

Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst’” (John 6:35).

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’” (John 8:12).

Love What God Loves

As barbaric and evil as the October 7, 2023, attack on Israel by its Palestinian neighbors in Gaza was, the anti-Semitism that has come to light around the world since then may be even more disturbing. There are people marching, rioting, burning flags around the world, and threatening violence against Jews who probably don’t know a Jew or who have never met a Jewish person. How do you explain that? Outside of dark, evil spirits?

Yes, people are jumping up and down around the world, protesting for media attention, burning Israeli and US flags, waving Palestinian flags, and defacing and destroying property while they chant “Free Palestine” or “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” 

Not surprisingly, in a recent survey, American college students were asked about the chant  “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free.” They were asked which river and which sea. An overwhelming majority of them did not know. Their guesses were as preposterous and humorous as they were sad and telling — telling that college-educated adults in the US have so little grasp of the history, religion, geography, and politics of the region, as well as the Bible.

My own experience asking three college students in our church wasn’t all that different. That’s also telling. The referenced sea and river are the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. The PLO popularized the phrase in the 1960s, calling for themselves to have a state that encompasses all of Israel and for Israel to have no country or state at all.

Those familiar with the Bible will recall that God gave Abraham, Issac, Jacob, and their descendants forever the land from the Mediterranean Sea to the Euphrates River, a much larger part of the Middle East. Israel’s boundaries under King Solomon about 1000 BC — 1700 years before Islam — were as large as they have ever been, but the whole possession hasn’t been under Israeli control yet. All the while, for 4000 years,  since Abraham, Jews have lived in the land. They just didn’t have an officially recognized nation since the Romans destroyed and dispersed them 70-73 AD, that is, until the miraculous return to the land after WWII and the rebirth of their nation on May 14, 1948.

“Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west” (Joshua 1:4— also see Genesis 15:18-20, Genesis 26:3, Genesis 28:13).

So that is a little history and geography lesson. Maybe a theology lesson, too. Grab your Bible and some history books, or do some valid research on the web. This is going to be an important issue going forward to the end of time. You should know what you believe and why it’s important. You should know what is right, historical, just, and true — the facts.

Jesus said, “You shall know them [people] by their fruit,” by what they do, not what they say. Have a serious look at what both sides in the conflict have said and done throughout history, especially since 1948. Then, draw your own conclusions. 

In the meantime, you can dwell on the Bible-stated truth that God hates violence, and God loves Israel. You will always do well to love what God loves and hate what God hates.

“And God loves Israel, declaring, ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness’” (Jeremiah 31:3). “The LORD examines the righteous, but the wicked, those who love violence, he hates with a passion” (Psalms 11:5).

Those who do not love what God loves and hate what God hates, those who passionately support violence and hate Israel, are shaking their angry fists at God. This never ends well for them, their political organization, and those who support them.

This is how to make sense of it, even with the smoke and media haze — misguided secular-humanist deception. Harvard? Pit? MIT? CNN? BBC? Beware of deception!

Be aware of these verses: “They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie” (2 Thessalonians 2:10b-11).

Choose the age-old wisdom and most basic Bible teaching, “Fear God and keep His commandments.” Or if that seems out-of-date or too draconian for you, “Love What God loves, and hate what God hates,” and you’ll be fine and fare well.

Shalom and Godspeed on your journey to truth — also righteousness, peace, and joy.“For the kingdom of God is … righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).

“From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” Indeed, that’s what Israel is in the process of doing right now. They are freeing Israel /Palestine from a people who love violence, oppress their own, practice lawlessness and injustice, hate Israel, their neighbors, and fire rockets and missiles at them incessantly. You reap what you sow. There is One who sees to it.

May our gracious Creator and King exercise justice and judgment mixed with mercy. It’s His to do. And He is the only One who can.

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To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever” (Revelation 5:13).

[An article I wrote about end times events in 2018]

A Time for War — Day 19

A Time for War — Day 19

Those who know me know I don’t watch the news much — that is an understatement. I speak to that and why in my latest book Puzzling 2020. It’s something along the lines of these verses and what they convey:

“Who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed and shuts his eyes from looking on evil, he will dwell on the heights; his place of defense will be the fortresses of rocks; his bread will be given him; his water will be sure. Your eyes will behold the king in his beauty; they will see a land that stretches afar” (Isaiah 33: 15b-17a ESV).

It’s also so that I can be still and quiet in my spirit and hear impressions from the Holy Spirit. I’m a fighter pilot and a warrior at heart, so I can get as stirred up as anyone. But I try not to do so. Not being tied to the news aids my joy and effectiveness in living the kingdom life God has gifted and planned for me. The following verse speaks to this aspect of living:

“Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:10).

Who’s Reporting Can I Trust ?

All the above said, I can quickly tell you who’s reporting to trust, or at least that I trust — Amir Tsarfati, a Jew living in Israel. He has a historical, Biblical, and God-fearing perspective. He also has served in the IDF and has military insights and battle-field awareness. I would call it finger-on-the-pulse awareness of how the Israeli defense forces and intelligence community are thinking about the defense of Israel and her people. Also, what’s really happening there on the ground.

Objective, truthful, no hype, to the point — that’s how I see his messages and briefings. If you want to know the man, and hear some of his reporting click below.

Recent Amir Tsarfati Interview where he shares his own life story and Biblical/historical perspective on the nation of Israel. Who is Amir Tsarfati and what is the truth about Israel?

Amir Tsarfati  War Day 17 Report

His Bible teaching is best accessed on his YouTube channel, Behold Israel.

His military and world perspectives are best followed via Telegram. [Download this App then enter “https://t.me/beholdisraelchannel” and select “View Channel.”]

Another Good Perspective

I was in a men’t meeting early this morning that concentrates on the spiritual habits, disciplines, or rhythms like reading the Bible, prayer, mediation, etc. so we can hear better spiritually and follow those leadings to live joyful, productive lives while getting to know the King better and better. The leader, Ron, introduced us to another preacher and his Biblical/historical perspective on Israel, and also the Book of Ecclesiastes, which is excellent, so I’ll share.

Here’s Some Related Music With Relevance to Israel Today

Psalm 121 by Joshua Aaron performed in Jerusalem

Zion by Aaron Shust

Raise Us Up by a Hebrew/Arabic ministry I’ve visited in Jerusalem

Pray! For the peace of Jerusalem, Israel, and the world — to the One Who can make it happen and controls world events ultimately. Shalom שלום

A Time For War

Jeremiah & Ecclesiastes October 2023

How ironic and synchronistic that I am reading Ecclesiastes and Jeremiah at this time, the same time Israel is embroiled in a war against a bloody, evil enemy, gunning down innocent women and children and committing even more grotesque atrocities.

As bad as it is, it’s child’s play compared to what happened to Israel in 722 BC, 586 BC, and 70 AD. If you read the Bible and history, you know this is not at all that unusual and is predictable – just not the time, place, or scope. The Biblical narrative is the only explanation that makes sense as to the why of it all.

My eyes fell on Ecclesiastes 7:14 this morning. And it brought to mind Ecclesiastes 3:8 (3:1-18) where Solomon speaks philosophically of life on the planet before God. He mentions “there is a time for war.”

Israel — A Time for War

It seems the church in the west is woefully ignorant about Israel, her place in the Bible and history, and how God sees her – which is the most important part. How God sees things is how they really are! See Isaiah 46:9-10 & Psalm 2. 

How are Christians, all nations, and all people to view Israel? First, we should honor and bless Israel! God made Abraham a promise, then extended it to Isaac and Jacob and their descendants forever: “I will bless those who bless you, and curse those who curse you, and in you all the nations of the earth will be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). Secondly, we are to “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6). Thirdly we are to realize the miracle that is Israel (Isaiah 66:8), and visit Israel if we can. You will bless them, and you will be blessed beyond your expectation! Fourthly, Israel is the apple of God’s eye, and He gave them the land, forever (Genesis 35:10-12 and others). Even if they don’t keep their covenant with Him, He will honor His word to them because that’s who He is – a God that is faithful and keeps His word forever (2 Timothy 2:13, Isaiah 40:8).

Lastly, he will punish or correct his children as any good father would, for their own good. Throughout history God has used other nations to do this or has allowed it – then He has crushed  those people and nations because they raised their hand against Gods anointed, and often went beyond their boundaries in doing so. (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Habakkuk, Hebrews 12:6-7 ). God’s judgments are true and altogether righteous (Ps 19:9, Rev 19:2). He can make the punishment fit the crime, and He sees into the very thoughts and intent of every human heart.

That’s enough for this short blog. I have a chapter about Israel as God’s chosen nation and God’s time piece in human history in my latest book Puzzling 2020. The best short history of Israel with an accurate Biblical perspective I’ve read recently is Miracle of Israel (Frazier & Fletcher). The most insightful book I’ve read on Islam is in the past few years is The Mystery of Islam (Little).

Enjoy Your Life — Sow Seed — Let God Be God

As the world focused on Israel again, I found myself reading: “In the day of prosperity be happy, but in the day of adversity consider—God has made the one as well as the other so that man will not discover anything that will be after him” (Ecclesiastes 7:14).

The secular humanist and Christian humanist (which should be an oxymoron), will focus on Israel or other hot spots of war in the world, wring their hands, watch the news to constantly be in the know, be fearful, and feel that humans must fix this situation! 

People with a proper and accurate view of God and an ongoing relationship with Him, will leave that up to Him, pray, and do what they can or feel led to do, but go about their lives obeying the impressions of the Spirit and doing what their hands find to do — usually to love and serve others and grow their relationship with God by spending time with Him daily. And they will enjoy their lives — a beautiful gift! (Psalm 46:10, Isaiah 30:15, Psalm 121, Ecclesiastes 2:24, Hebrews 4:11-13, I Thessalonians 4:11, Matthew 11:27-30 and many other Scriptures speak to this.)

This year I’ve found myself actively involved in our multigenerational, collegiate community of believers, mentoring and being mentored, helping churches in Honduras and Uganda, and being involved in men’s groups. And I’ve gone with my wife and friends on a Rhine cruise. I’ll blog on these events later. I have a mantra, “It’s better to live life than to record it.” But I am behind blogging and keeping the book’s webpage fresh, so I’ll report soon. I think you get the idea. Read through Ecclesiastes and Jeremiah this month if it isn’t clear. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, as you go about doing good (Ephesians 2:10), and spending time with God daily in His Word and prayer. Shalom, and Godspeed as you journey.

**************

A time to tear apart and a time to sew together;
A time to be silent and a time to speak.

A time to love and a time to hate;
A time for war and a time for peace.

What profit is there to the worker from that in which he toils? I have seen the task which God has given the sons of men with which to occupy themselves.

He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end.

I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good in one’s lifetime; moreover, that every man who eats and drinks sees good in all his labor—it is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will remain forever; there is nothing to add to it and there is nothing to take from it, for God has so worked that men should fear Him” (Ecclesiastes 3:8-14).

In the day of prosperity be happy,
But in the day of adversity consider—
God has made the one as well as the other
So that man will not discover anything that will be after him
” (Ecclesiastes 7:14).

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
‘May they prosper who love you
‘” (Psalm 122:6).

African Spiritual Adventure 2023

One of our members at Harvest Community Chruch has a fledgling relationship with an African pastor who is four years into a church plant in Uganda. Our church sent a five-member team to support this church in July/August, and scout out whether the Spirit might be leading us into an ongoing relationship. This turned into a beautiful, relational adventure.

We were their first team to host, and they did a remarkable job. Our lodging was clean and safe, and their hospitality was exemplary and warm. We felt honored and well cared for — indeed, welcomed into their family.

Buyera Community Church (BCC) is a non-denominational church in an association of about 200 similar churches throughout Uganda. We found Pastor Steven and his wife Judith to be very hard-working, self-sacrificing, genuine Christians who are laying their lives down to further the church and Kingdom of God. They have put together a fledgling church in four years of about 100-150 people in Buyera, a village on the outskirts of Kampala, the capital. While the area is relatively impoverished at the moment, its proximity to the capitol with some recent business and governmental activity promise to bring needed economic resources to their village as well as many new people.

They’ve put together an amazing, well-kept campus, and started an elementary school with about 80 children. That’s Judith’s passion and dream, because she was a Project Compassion child herself who came out of the slums and a bad family situation to get an education and wants to give back or replicate that for others. Teaching children is about the best way to make disciples imaginable. Pastor Stephen is well-educated, with Christian parents who recently celebrated their 47th anniversary — their age being a rarity in Uganda where the average age is 15.5 years.

Steven has a young, energetic leadership team — one quite large for the size of the church. It occurred to us that their real call may be to raise up and train leaders for the church in Uganda and Africa. Steven’s main focus seems to be the church, as it should be, the bride of Christ and a representation of His family. Their local church is bursting at the seams, space wise — meeting in the three-room school each Sunday. They have the foundation built for a church building on the campus, with standing metal beams. They are also ready to pour concrete for the floor and are in the process of making their own concrete blocks — a process in which we participated.

We enjoyed our recreation day at the beginning of the trip (desert first!) instead of at the end as usual, resting Steven and Judith, by going on a safari. This turned out to be perfect for getting to know the couple and their hearts, as we let them know us and gain their trust. We feel like family now.

On that note, a safari is a good option for the recreation and reflection day that most short-term-mission trips build into their schedules. It’s about a 5 hour drive from the BCC to the national park/game preserve. That’s a hike, but it allows the team to recover from jet lag — while experiencing a long, peaceful drive through the countryside getting a feel for the culture and people while resting and chatting.

As a veteran of about 20 short term mission trips, each one a success in its own right, I’d say this trip ranked near the top. BCC is very kingdom minded, and the fields are “ripe unto harvest” in Uganda, which may prove to be a hub in Africa for sending out young preachers and church planters. “Can anything good come out of Buyera?” is a common saying there. 🙂

At a Charles Simpson leadership conference in May of this year I sat at breakfast with two gentlemen who were involved with training young pastors and preachers near Kampala, Uganda. What are the chances? On the flight from Amsterdam to Uganda, I sat by a very lovely Belgian woman, a nurse, who met her husband on a medical mission to the Congo, just west of Uganda. She married her Canadian-pilot husband, and he currently flies for Uganda Air and they live in Entebbe. She told me Uganda is mostly Christian and the gospel is spreading rapidly, but that the depth of the church is somewhat shallow, with a lot of prosperity teaching, etc.

We found Pastor Steven a grounded student and teacher of the Bible. He and his wife met working for Project Compassion, and the church they attended at that time sent them out as church planters. They have established a nice church campus with a building used for a Christian elementary school, a building for church and school offices, a mission building, and the start of a church building. The campus is clean and well laid out in a good location for growth as Kampala spreads south toward Lake Victoria and Entebbe Airport. But it’s the hearts of these two leaders, their four children and their staff that are the treasures. We plan to help them any way we can as the Spirit leads, with funds and sharing lives via visits. It’s beautiful and refreshing to find God’s Spirit in God’s family in many different parts of the planet — and to experience their love is an inexpressible joy!

Photos of African Mission Adventure 2023

Honduras 2023 — There is Still Room

There Is Still Room

I must include one more highlight from our spring-break trip to Honduras, because it furnished our mission statement and direction for the entire trip, “There is still room” — at the King’s table. This is how we came to hear it.

Pastor Dario, learning that Tim and Lindsay had lived in China for six years, invited him to speak to the church saying, “Brother Tim, tell us about China.”

Tim read a passage of Scripture from Luke 14 about people who were invited to a fabulous banquet by a wealthy master, but many made excuses and didn’t come. The master told his servants to go out into the highways and byways and invite the lame, poor, and anyone who would come. The servants did so, and reported this to the master and that: “There is still room.”(v22) The master sent his servants out again.

 “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’‘’Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’ “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet’” (Luke 14: 21:23 NIV).

Tim chose to tell the Honduran church about how the underground church in China had ignored and not evangelized the Tibetan people because they were “idol worshipers” and chose willingly to ignore God and go their own way. Tim mentioned also that a very, very small percentage of Tibetans had ever heard the name of Jesus.

Then there was a major earthquake in Tibet a few years later, and the Chinese church decided to send humanitarian and spiritual help. They were well received and many came to Christ. The Chinese church repented for exclusivity and admitted their failure in going to Tibet with the Gospel, as commanded in the Great Commission.

After hearing the story, Pastor Dario said to Tim, our team, and his own church, that this was a word for the Honduras church. He went on to say, “Everyone in Honduras has heard the name of Jesus and the Gospel message.” But the Honduran church has been like the underground Chinese church and judged that the people who haven’t responded to the Gospel or accepted Jesus were doing so because that was their choice. Therefore the church wasn’t going out into the highways and byways any longer like they had a one time.

“Now we’re hearing, ‘There’s still room,’ and we’re failing at going out again. This is a good word for us, and one we need to hear.” 

“There is still room” seemed to become the main theme or word from the Lord for our team concerning our time in Honduras, and beyond.

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Photo Journal of Honduras 2023

Honduras Spring Break 2023

A Prison Break! — Honduras March 20, 2023

[Eight of us experience Prisoners of Light @ Olanchito, Yoro, Honduras Prison ]

There is no way I can describe what happened in there.

As we turned over our passports and walked toward the solid metal door with a peephole, then through that door to the bare, concrete holding area in front of another solid metal door with a small window, prisoners began excitedly whispering and running through the narrow perpendicular passageways beyond.

I’d been inside this prison before, but no one else with me had been except our translator. I hadn’t seen this activity before, so it was a bit unnerving, partly because we had five precious young women with us. But I quickly had inner peace and a spiritual impression that all was well and everything was alright.

We hurried into the hallway, turned left, and followed the narrow passageway lined by some prisoners, until we emerged into the open-air courtyard. It was surrounded by high walls topped with Concertina wire and a guard tower manned by a uniformed guard with a machine gun.

Immediately to our left, seated in many straight rows, were 150+ prisoners who began to clap loudly — applaud thunderously is more like it — our arrival.!?

Totally surprised and humbled by such a warm reception, we waved sheepishly at the clapping inmates. We continued walking to where we were motioned, to our seats at the front left side — very close to the prison worship team.

There was a warm and impassioned welcome to our team by the prison pastor, who is also an inmate. And the inmates echoed his welcome with thunderous applause.

Our Honduran translator Kerlin stood up at the front by the pastor and translated Spanish to English for our team when appropriate or as needed. After their welcoming remarks, Kerlin invited me as the team leader to speak to the prisoners.

I gave them our greetings from the United States, our Arkansas church, and the Covenant Life Fellowship brothers and sisters in Louisiana who had visited before. I had seen enough of their Spirit-filled worship to tell them, “Don’t be surprised if there is more spiritual light in here than out there.” This was followed by loud applause. I told them we experienced a waterfall of the Spirit as they worshiped so freely and passionately, and thanked them for letting us share the experience with them.

I recounted that I had been inside their prison five or six times during the last ten years. We weren’t allowed to visit in 2021 and 2022 due to COVID-19. They nodded appreciatively their understanding and thanks for trying. I recounted how small the Christian group of prisoners was ten years ago, maybe 15 to 20 inmates meeting against the western wall. Most of the other inmates were milling around the courtyard then, with some of them heckling. Five years later, the number was about 50, and you had a small area set aside for worship and meeting. But now!?! …

Trip Report to the Elders

That’s how I started an after-action report to our elders about the fourteen-member team that Harvest Community Church, Fayetteville, AR, sent to support an indigenous pastor. The trip also provided opportunities for our community to disciple believers in another country and culture, and be discipled by them. It was a beautiful experience and what Jesus commanded His followers to do in Matthew 28:19-20, commonly called “The Great Commission.”

You can click on the whole report below and hear the rest of the prison story as well as read the highlights of the trip, mostly recorded from my journal.

There Is Still Room

I must include one more highlight, because it furnished our direction for the entire trip, “There is still room” [at the King’s table]. But this blog has become long enough so I’ll continue that on the following bog.

Godspeed on your spiritual journey wherever you find yourself. May you be spending time with Him each day, knowing Him better and better for the joy that is, and the joy that lies before you. Shalom in Jesus Christ, the Lord.

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Trip Report to the Elders

Photo Record of Our Honduras Adventure

Pentecost 2023

Today is Pentecost 2023, 50 days after Passover and the 7th Sunday after Easter — the day the Holy Spirit came in power to the Chruch. You might say to found the Chruch, the Bride of Christ — forever changing history and beginning the Last Days according the prophet Joel (2:28).

WOW! I just looked in my iPhone calendar, and they don’t include Pentecost on their calendar. Look at Western Civilization and the civilized world of the last 2000 years — and note if you have eyes to see and mental facilities to look at historical facts unbiased — to see all the advances in science, medicine, education, art, government, and religion where Christ is acknowledged as King and His Father God as Sovereign over all.

On Pentecost 33 AD, the same Sovereign sent His Spirit into His house — His disciples, His church, and all future disciples who would become holy ones — normal mortals made holy by Christ’s sacrifice and then the indwelling of His Spirit. These have caused His Kingdom to come forth on the earth in some measure, ebbing and flowing, with the resultant “righteous, peace, and joy” (Romans 14:17) described in Scripture during the ensuing 2000 years.

Pause with me and ponder, “Where are we today in America and the Chruch with these realities?” — realities that began on 33 AD in Jerusalem, and the most recent outflow of that Grace for us in 1620 and 1776 in the USA.

Ponder in wonder, and give thanks. Amen אמן

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Remembering Pentecost four years ago in Jerusalem

From my latest book Puzzling 2020: “Without being born of the Spirit, we cannot see the things of God or know God Himself. If Nicodemus, the Bible scholar, and teacher of Israel, couldn’t apprehend God with just his mind, why do we think we can? Or that it’s our job to make the issue more clear for others than Jesus made it and left it. It is God’s job by His Holy Spirit. Thankfully to those who believe Jesus’ testimony, ‘He gives the Holy Spirit without measure'” (John 3:34b).

“But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you” (John 16:7).

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:26-27).

What You Don’t See…

It’s what you don’t see that usually gets you! That was the case when I landed my airplane January 26 in six inches of wet snow on our mountain top strip. We walked away unscathed, but it didn’t end well for the airplane.

I researched snow-depth-landing recommendations on the web and in flying publications. My research indicated half way up on the main wheels or six inches should be fine. The snow depth at the time of the accident was well below half way up the tires, and exactly six inches. I’ve flown eight years and a thousand hours in this airplane, landing on many types of surfaces, and couldn’t imagine this would be a problem. It’s what you don’t know or see that gets you!

Evidently there are different densities of wet snow. That was never mentioned in my research. This snow uprooted many trees in the area and broke off many branches. Local farmers reported that they had trouble getting around on their tractors and four wheelers to feed livestock.

As a result of this mishap, I’ve become friends with a Maule pilot in Alaska, who’s interested in buying and rebuilding the airplane. Mainly for my flying friends and backcountry pilots, I’ll record parts of our conversation about landing in wet snow to add to our collective knowledge base. Then, I’ll add a couple of spiritual lessons this may teach us.

PEOPLE WHO KNOW

Question: “What’s the deepest wet snow you’ve landed in? And what size were your tires? How would you say pilots in Alaska would typically answer the question: ‘How deep is the deepest wet snow in which one should attempt a landing?'”

Answer: “Six inches of wet snow and 31’s [big tundra tires] inflated to 5 psi. If you have tires like 850s [which is what I have], then maybe 4 inches of snow with full back yoke and some rpms to keep the tail down. I powered up to half throttle after I touched down.” He then added: “Honestly I wouldn’t recommend any snow — too risky.”

My immediate thought was, “Where have you been? Or where were you when I was researching this? This is exactly the kind of information that could have saved the day — and my airplane! Someone knew it, but I didn’t, and it didn’t turn up in my research.

Well, “Live and learn,” as the old saying goes. Or as a quote attributed to Mark Twain goes: “Good judgement is the result of experience and experience the result of bad judgement.” I think the first applies, but not totally the second in this instance. It wasn’t bad judgment as much as misinformation or insufficient information after a diligent search that got me into trouble. But the results are the same. It’s what you don’t know or see that gets you!

THE WAY IT’S ALWAYS BEEN

Also, a kind of latent pride, or feeling of invincibility can get you too, or be a contributing factor. I mentioned I flew this airplane eight years, for one thousand hours, and in many challenging conditions. I felt like I knew it very well and trusted its capabilities, as well as my own. Two related memories now flood my mind.

In the middle of my fighter career, I was walking back from lunch to the squadron ready room with a close, fighter-pilot friend. He mentioned to me that, “I’m a major with 1000 hours in the F-4. Statistically, that’s when most accidents happen. I need to really watch myself.” He was one of the best fighter pilots in the squadron, but a month later he flew into a mountain killing himself and his back seater. Even with a heightened sense or awareness that success and comfort can be dangerous, bad things still happen.

During our trip to Alaska in 2017, I asked a mechanic in Anchorage who filed a nick out of one of my prop blades about the Maule’s reputation in Alaska. He said, “It’s a fine airplane, but it’s misunderstood because it’s a little short-coupled.”

I wasn’t sure what he meant at the time, but I think I do now. He meant the center of gravity is forward enough that it has a propensity to nose over if stopped too fast. This threat is exacerbated by its flying characteristics being very much the same with any load and not betraying this propensity until it happens, suddenly, from an abrupt stop.

This issue is demonstrated by what my Alaska friend told me next: “The nose of my airplane is lighter too. I have a carbon fiber cowl (16# lighter), and my engine is 60# lighter than yours, and I only have a two blade prop, whereas you have a three blade prop.” He was saying, “Your nose is heavier than mine, therefore even more likely to flip over if stopped abruptly.” So, one can get too comfortable and not know the whole story quite as well as he thinks he does.

On a different side of the coin, or maybe the same side, as I think about it, I have a math, engineering, and physics friend named Sam who did a lot of research and pondering my landing-in-snow accident. He’s a fighter pilot, an American Airline’s pilot, and has flown his C-172 in the back country, so he was motivated and interested enough to spend considerable hours with algorithms, diagrams, and a calculator. The layman’s summary he relayed to me was: “Dense snow compacted quickly in front of your tires until it became like concrete blocks. I don’t think it mattered what technique you might have used, it’s like sliding into second base — when you hit the base, you’re going to stop.” The final truth is probably tucked between those two points of view, with the overall lesson being: “On unknown snowy condition days, leave the airplane in the hangar.”

The Maule MX-7 is a wonderful, trustworthy airplane in almost every environment, but a little tricky in this one — wet snow, which is seldom encountered, and to be avoided. It’s what you don’t know or see that gets you!

SPIRITUAL LESSONS?

Do you think this could apply to the church in America and the West? Things have gone along pretty well for a long time. Could there be a sudden stop? One that changes everything? It’s what you don’t know or see that gets you! Read about the church in Nazi Germany in the 1930s. Read Eric Metaxas’ book Bonhoeffer, and his short, strong book Letter to the American Chruch.

Do you think this could apply to our country and culture? Things have gone well for a long time and even with some major upheavals we’ve always been able to right the ship. Surely these chaotic times will be no different, right? It’s what you don’t know or see that gets you! Read the history of Israel and Judah around 722BC and 586BC. Or read the major and minor prophets sent to them in those times — Isaiah through Malachi.

It behoves all of us, especially Christians, the church, to pay attention to what’s going on and carefully navigate our times. We need to return to the fear of the Lord and obedience as quickly as possible. We need to pray for His help — His grace to do this. “Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD” (Genesis 6:8).

We must put away our idols, seeing them for the life and future-robbing activities and objects they are. Spend time with Him in solitude, silence, reading the Bible, and prayer. He will help you see clearly and to know what to do. This is in effect the message of my latest book Puzzling 2020.

If we don’t , I feel we’re in for a sudden stop, an upside-down upset, and a damaged church, country, and culture, with no clear way to getting back what we’ve lost.

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“Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them.” (Jonah 2:8, NIV) Or as an earlier version of the NIV says, they  “forfeit the grace that could be theirs.” 

Those who forsake the law praise the wicked,
But those who keep the law strive with them.
Evil men do not understand justice,
But those who seek the Lord understand all things
” (Proverbs 28:4-5 NASB).