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See You at The Movies!

There are two very excellent Christian movies in theaters now that you should make every effort to see! Paul Apostle of Christand I Can Only Imagine are still playing on the big screens across the land, but probably not for much longer. Go see them!

Why? [1] Your faith will be strengthened and your soul encouraged. [2] By our attendance and our dollars we encourage the people who risked making these films and encourage future movie makers to do the same. 

Why now? [1] They are showing now, and the Word encourages us to live in the present. With the media pouring out bloodshed, violence, and negativity each day; it’s refreshing to see God using the media to remind us that Truth wins, and He’s still pouring out His life changing Spirit into people who will turn to Him and trust Him in our  times and in every part of the globe. [2] These two movies are a cut above what we normally see from the industry. While movies like “Noah” featured talking trees and all sorts of non Biblical mixed messages, these are straight up true to the Biblical and historical records we have. And according to “rottentomatoes.com” they have been in the top ten weekly grossing movies for at least a couple weeks, which is catching a lot of attention.* Perhaps showing movie makers there is a lot of evangelical support for movies when they are accurate, and avoidance when they are not.

On the note of accuracy, I want to point out that in the movie about Paul there is lots of poetic license used in the story line. The Spirit through Scripture didn’t choose to reveal what Paul’s final imprisonment was like nor his final days. He may have been healing the sick, casting out demons, preaching the good news, and raising the dead to his last day; or it may be more like the movie maker envisioned it? Nonetheless, they handled the Scriptures accurately when used, and they were empowered to powerfully communicate the enormity of Paul’s sacrifice and service, and how he willingly laid down his life as His Lord had done some thirty years earlier. This type sacrifice touches all humans deeply. And we do know his friend, physician, and disciple Luke had the privilege of recording for people of all times The Acts of the Apostles, the birthing and beginnings of the Church of Jesus Christ, and the advancement of the Kingdom of God.

On the note of imagination, “I Can Only Imagine” is much lighter, and points out in an inspiring way, against all odds, how the resurrected Lord is still at work in people’s lives and stories today. 🙂 We can really only imagine how He works, and what it will be like to be with Him. Such is the greatness of His power, and the humility He exercises to hide Himself, so that we may choose Him as our King, or not.

Choose to see these movies! Godspeed on your life’s journey. Make it count! Live it fully. These movies will inspire you to do so. His peace to you and yours.

Moreover … where sin abounded, grace abounded much more,” (Romans 5:20, NKJV)

I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever.” (John 6:51, NIV)

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20–21, NASB95)

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*[The opening week, March 16-18, the movies ranked #3 & #8 in the top ten. In a subsequent week they ranked #3 & #10.]

Easter on Wall Street

Spring on Adelaide Ave. Our Neighbor’s Home

HE IS RISEN! HE IS RISEN, INDEED! Many will recognize this ancient greeting exchanged between Christian believers and Christ followers. Easter is for some reason still ringing in my ears and warming my heart. That greeting lies at the very heart and focus of the Christian faith, then and now. 🙂

Paul the Apostle of Christ said, and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:14, NASB95). Blunt, well said, and of course, true.
You might question, “Why are you still writing and thinking about Easter, it’s come and gone for 2018?” Well, we are between the feast of “First Fruits” when Jesus was raised from the dead by God His Father, and the “Feast of Weeks” (Pentecost, May 20, 2018), a celebration in Judaism of when God sent His Word down to Moses on Mt Sinai, and in Christendom when God sent His Spirit to an upper room in Jerusalem to write His Word on the first human hearts.
Between those fifty days, Jesus was showing Himself for forty days (Acts 1:3), to more than five hundred people (I Cor 15:6). So we are still in that season. A season and event that changed time and history! For then, for now, forever. Can we really over state the importance and significance of this? You decide. In fact you will decide, for yourself, anyway.

Spring Like Easter Speaks of Hope and New Life

In our home group last week our people still wanted to discuss the resurrection and what new insights they had been given this year, and during that time, a sister shared an article she saw in The Wall Street Journal!

It shows, among other things, that God is still reaching out to people by many means and in every walk of life, “not wishing that any should perish” with His truth, love, and ever abundant grace with mercy, for salvation from our sins, power to live above sin, and eternal life. 🙂
I shared the article with one of my best friends of more than thirty years, who is also a spiritual mentor and he blogged about it and thought it powerful enough to send on to those on his email friendship list. This is part of what he wrote, and it’s all available on his blog.

Hope Eternal and Life Eternal In Christ’s Resurrection

“Yesterday in one of our ongoing times of fellowship, a dear brother in the Lord, Dwayne Bell, shared the article entitled “The Easter Effect and How It Changed the World” (see below, with my editing and adding of passages from the Word and some bolding), which is a very good read.  A bit long, but worth the effort!  And, wonder of wonders, this appeared in the Wall Street Journal!”

Charles Angel 
Been Pondering…
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The Easter Effect and How It Changed the World

https://eppc.org/publications/the-easter-effect-and-how-it-changed-the-world/

The first Christians were baffled by what they called ‘the Resurrection.’ Their struggle to understand it brought about astonishing success for their faith

By George Weigel

March 30, 2018

In the year 312, just before his victory at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge won him the undisputed leadership of the Roman Empire, Constantine the Great had a heavenly vision of Christian symbols. That augury (sign) led him, a year later, to end all legal sanctions on the public profession of Christianity.

Or so a pious tradition has it.

But there’s a more mundane explanation for Constantine’s decision: He was a politician who had shrewdly decided to join the winning side. By the early 4th century, Christians likely counted for between a quarter and a half of the population of the Roman Empire, and their exponential growth seemed likely to continue.

How did this happen? How did a ragtag band of nobodies from the far edges of the Mediterranean world become such a dominant force in just two and a half centuries? The historical sociology of this extraordinary phenomenon has been explored by Rodney Stark of Baylor University, who argues that Christianity modeled a nobler way of life than what was on offer elsewhere in the rather brutal society of the day. In Christianity, women were respected as they weren’t in classical culture and played a critical role in bringing men to the faith and attracting converts. In an age of plagues, the readiness of Christians to care for all the sick, not just their own, was a factor, as was the impressive witness to faith of countless martyrs. Christianity also grew from within because Christians had larger families, a byproduct of their faith’s prohibition of contraception, abortion and infanticide.

For theologians who like to think that arguments won the day for the Christian faith, this sort of historical reconstruction is not particularly gratifying, but it makes a lot of human sense. Prof. Stark’s analysis still leaves us with a question, though: How did all that modeling of a compelling, alternative way of life get started? And that, in turn, brings us back to that gaggle of nobodies in the early first century A.D. and what happened to them.

What happened to them was the Easter Effect.

There is no accounting for the rise of Christianity without weighing the revolutionary effect on those nobodies of what they called “the Resurrection”: their encounter with the one whom they embraced as the Risen Lord, whom they first knew as the itinerant Jewish rabbi, Jesus of Nazareth, and who died an agonizing and shameful death on a Roman cross outside Jerusalem. As N.T. Wright, one of the Anglosphere’s pre-eminent biblical scholars, makes clear, that first generation answered the question of why they were Christians with a straightforward answer: because Jesus was raised from the dead.

Now that, as some disgruntled listeners once complained about Jesus’ preaching, is “a hard saying.” It was no less challenging two millennia ago than it is today. And one of the most striking things about the New Testament accounts of Easter, and what followed in the days immediately after Easter, is that the Gospel writers and editors carefully preserved the memory of the first Christians’ bafflement, skepticism and even fright about what had happened to their former teacher and what was happening to them.

In Mark’s gospel, Mary Magdalene and other women in Jesus’ entourage find his tomb empty and a young man sitting nearby telling them that “Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified…has risen; he is not here.” But they had no idea what that was all about, “and went out and fled from the tomb…[and] said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”

Entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe; and they were amazed. And he *said to them, “Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him. “But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you.'” They went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had gripped them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

(Mark 16:5-8 NASB)

Two disciples walking to Emmaus from Jerusalem on Easter afternoon haven’t a clue as to who’s talking with them along their way, interpreting the scriptures and explaining Jesus’ suffering as part of his messianic mission. They don’t even recognize who it is that sits down to supper with them until he breaks bread and asks a blessing: “…and their eyes were opened and they recognized him.” They high-tail it back to Jerusalem to tell the other friends of Jesus, who report that Peter has had a similarly strange experience, but when “Jesus himself stood among them…they were startled and frightened, and supposed that they saw a ghost.”

While they were telling these things, He Himself stood in their midst and *said to them, “Peace be to you.” But they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit.

(Luke 24:36-37 NASB)

Some time later, Peter, John and others in Jesus’ core group are fishing on the Sea of Tiberias. “Jesus stood on the beach,” we are told, “yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.” At the very end of these post-Easter accounts, those whom we might expect to have been the first to grasp what was afoot are still skeptical. When that core group of Jesus’ followers goes back to Galilee, they see him, “but some doubted.”

But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus *came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then He *said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus *said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”  (John 20:24-29 NASB)

This remarkable and deliberate recording of the first Christians’ incomprehension of what they insisted was the irreducible bottom line of their faith teaches us two things. First, it tells us that the early Christians were confident enough about what they called the Resurrection that (to borrow from Prof. Wright) they were prepared to say something like, “I know this sounds ridiculous, but it’s what happened.” And the second thing it tells us is that it took time for the first Christians to figure out what the events of Easter meant—not only for Jesus but for themselves. As they worked that out, their thinking about a lot of things changed profoundly, as Prof. Wright and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI help us to understand in their biblical commentaries.

 The way they thought about time and history changed.

During Jesus’ public ministry, many of his followers shared in the Jewish messianic expectations of the time: God would soon work something grand for his people in Israel, liberating them from their oppressors and bringing about a new age in which (as Isaiah had prophesied) the nations would stream to the mountain of the Lord and history would end. The early Christians came to understand that the cataclysmic, world-redeeming act that God had promised had taken place at Easter. God’s Kingdom had come not at the end of time but within time—and that had changed the texture of both time and history. History continued, but those shaped by the Easter Effect became the people who knew how history was going to turn out. Because of that, they could live differently. The Easter Effect impelled them to bring a new standard of equality into the world and to embrace death as martyrs if necessary—because they knew, now, that death did not have the final word in the human story. 

 The way they thought about “resurrection” changed.

Pious Jews taught by the reforming Pharisees of Jesus’ time believed in the resurrection of the dead. Easter taught the first Christians, who were all pious Jews, that this resurrection was not the resuscitation of a corpse, nor did it involve the decomposition of a corpse.  Jesus’ tomb was empty, but the Risen Lord appeared to his disciples in a transformed body.  Those who first experienced the Easter Effect would not have put it in these terms, but as their understanding of what had happened to Jesus and to themselves grew, they grasped that (as Benedict XVI put it in “Jesus of Nazareth–Holy Week”) there had been an “evolutionary leap” in the human condition. A new way of being had been encountered in the manifestly human but utterly different life of the one they met as the Risen Lord. That insight radically changed all those who embraced it.

Which brings us to the next manifestation of the Easter Effect among the first Christians: 

 The way they thought about their responsibilities changed.

What had happened to Jesus, they slowly began to grasp, was not just about their former teacher and friend; it was about all of them. His destiny was their destiny. So not only could they face opposition, scorn and even death with confidence; they could offer to others the truth and the fellowship they had been given. Indeed, they had to do so, to be faithful to what they had experienced. Christian mission is inconceivable without Easter. And that mission would eventually lead these sons and daughters of Abraham to the conviction that the promise that God had made to the People of Israel had been extended to those who were not sons and daughters of Abraham. Because of Easter, the gentiles, too, could be embraced in a relationship—a covenant—with the one God, which was embodied in righteous living.

 The way they thought about worship and its temporal rhythms changed.

For the Jews who were the first members of the Jesus movement, nothing was more sacrosanct than the Sabbath, the seventh day of rest and worship. The Sabbath was enshrined in creation, for God himself had rested on the seventh day. The Sabbath’s importance as a key behavioral marker of the People of God had been reaffirmed in the Ten Commandments. Yet these first Christians, all Jews, quickly fixed Sunday as the “Lord’s Day,” because Easter had been a Sunday. Benedict XVI draws out the crucial point here:

“Only an event that marked souls indelibly could bring about such a profound realignment of the religious culture of the week. Mere theological speculations could not have achieved this… [The] celebration of the Lord’s day, which was characteristic of the Christian community from the outset, is one of the most convincing proofs that something extraordinary happened [at Easter]—the discovery of the empty tomb and the encounter with the Risen Lord.”

Without the Easter Effect, there is really no explaining why there was a winning side—the Christian side—for Constantine the Great to choose. That effect, as Prof. Wright puts it, begins with, and is incomprehensible without, the first Christians’ conviction that “Jesus of Nazareth was raised bodily to a new sort of life, three days after his execution.” Recognizing that does not, of course, convince everyone. Nor does it end the mystery of Easter. The first Christians, like Christians today, cannot fully comprehend resurrected life: the life depicted in the Gospels of a transphysical body that can eat, drink and be touched but that also appears and disappears, unbothered by obstacles like doors and distance.

Nor does Easter mean that everything is always going to turn out just fine, for there is still work to be done in history. As Benedict XVI put it in his 2010 Easter message: “Easter does not work magic. Just as the Israelites found the desert awaiting them on the far side of the Red Sea, so the Church, after the Resurrection, always finds history filled with joy and hope, grief and anguish. And yet this history is changed…it is truly open to the future.”

Which perhaps offers one final insight into the question with which we began: How did the Jesus movement, beginning on the margins of civilization and led by people of seeming inconsequence, end up being what Constantine regarded as the winning side? However important the role of sociological factors in explaining why Christianity carried the day, there also was that curious and inexplicable joy that marked the early Christians, even as they were being marched off to execution. Was that joy simply delusion? Denial?

Perhaps it was the Easter Effect: the joy of people who had become convinced that they were witnesses to something inexplicable but nonetheless true. Something that gave a superabundance of meaning to life and that erased the fear of death. Something that had to be shared. Something with which to change the world.

 Mr. Weigel is distinguished senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he holds the William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies.

Happy Easter!

I was up by the fire early this rainy Easter morning contemplating the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. I mused that there have been almost 2000 Easter celebrations in the almost two millennia since that day, April 5, 33 A.D.. And four millennia since it was first spoken about to Abraham, the Father of the Faith.

But I was up to hear something warm, close, personal, and new about the events, if the Spirit would reveal them to me. A close friend from another city called last night to discuss something about the resurrection he was preparing to teach his young married class today.

It was about the women at the empty tomb, that first resurrection Sunday. It set me to thinking, and researching the Scripture and commentaries, and meditating on the events of that day as recorded for us in the Bible. These women to the tomb were the first human witnesses to Jesus’ victory over death and the grave.

Their story enlarges and gets personal. Completed by Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus, 100# of spices, a large stone covering the tomb, Roman guards, an imperial seal, Shinning ones, grave wrappings on the floor (no body thief would do this!), and a folded face cloth, as if to say, “It is finished, indeed!”

It’s a dreadful, passionate, beautiful event to real people — then and now.

This morning in church a prophetic brother stood and read the words to a song some of us remember well by Don Francisco, a gifted singer of ballads about our faith, written and sang with pathos and bitting truth. [I have included it for your mediation and consideration at the bottom.]

And as a pastor said in our service today, “There is plenty of evidence everywhere, He’s alive.” “Just look around this room.” He was referencing the changed lives and people in our room who worship and honor Jesus for Who He Is, and what He did, in His sacrifice, and then in His power, by rising from the dead, just as He said. Then think of what went on around the world today!

The teacher this morning said it this way: “Through His life, He came down to our level. Through His resurrection He raised us up to His.”

John finished his gospel and the story with these words (John 20):

“but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31)  Amen אמן

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“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.” (Lamentations 3:22)

“Praise the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.” (Psalm 150:1–2)

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

Jesus said to her, … go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’ ”” (John 20:17)

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[YouTube Link to “He’s Alive!” by Don Francisco. The video clips are good, but I might suggest, the first time through, you listen with your eyes closed, and let the Spirit bring the story to your mind and heart. Many thanks to Don Francisco for his insightful lyrics and music.}

End Times or Again Times

 

I don’t really want to  add myself to an endless list of fruit cakes predicting or obsessing over “the end times.” But it’s been a hot topic of discussion all around me lately, even yesterday morning after a men’s meeting, with friends at a local coffee and breakfast shop.

And there are at least two things that have long stood out to me as a reasons we shouldn’t ignore the end times possibility either, and that it could be coming sooner than we’re thinking. [1] There will be an end times on the earth as we know it, with unprecedented chaos and fury, if you believe the Bible — the most remarkable guide to the earth’s past, present, and future we have. [2] Jesus thought it worthwhile to answer his disciples when they asked what the signs these times were imminent might be. Indeed there is similar information on the signs in several books of the Old Testament and New Testament.

My friend Larry piped up, “The Bible is so valuable! It prepares us to look for the signs and helps us understand some of the things that will happen to keep us from being deceived, to be informed, and to endure those terrible times.”

He then asked our little group, “Will the world know it’s happening?” “Probably not,” I piped in. “Think of the German people during the build up to WWII and through it’s early days. The same in Russia when Stalin was coming to power. The people welcomed the change and the (humanistic) promise of great progress. Until it was too late. Isaiah’s time and culture was in the same situation before 586 B.C. too.” Why?

Delusion! Deluded! A few people saw the signs and tried to act to stop it. And a few saw it coming and tried to prepare for it, or flee from it. But the vast majority didn’t see it coming, and by their actions (or inactions) exacerbated or hastened its coming, to their own hurt and destruction. (Isaiah 6)

What may lead to this delusion of the earth’s people in the last times will ironically be, in part, the signs that it is happening. A few signs that our table came up with quickly are: [1] May 14, 1948, Israel becomes a nation. No one assisting her or blessing her, but rather attacking her will invite the end, according to the Bible and history. [2] Russia, Syria, Iran, and others listed in the Bible circling to destroy Israel, which is happening again at this hour. [3] Languages no longer confused due to computer translators and translations, e.g. Google Translate. [4] An enhanced version of eVerify, or something similar is an easy way to control buying and selling in the future as the masses embrace conveniences like Apple Pay, Google Pay, etc. [5] The phenomenal advances in communication: fast, world wide, in our hands and our pockets, with the world wide web for news, markets, business, research, organization, and collaboration.

Recent card sent to an agnostic friend 🙂

So, if these end times the prophets like Daniel and John told us about are looming near, what do we do as we see them draw closer? As we see these signs taking place?

Might we stand with Israel to the end? Personally. As a nation. Politically encouraging our leaders to do so?

Might we remind ourselves and our friends not to be passive? But to be alert and engaged in positive ways during these times. Be “light and salt” where you live, with your friends, family, neighborhoods, and cities. Father planted you right there. (Acts 17:26)

Remember who you are. More importantly, remember Whose you are! Remember the weapons of our (spiritual) warfare (Eph 6) — and prayer. Sons and daughters calling out to our King and Father. (II Chron 7:14 & Rev 8:1-5)

Remember Father’s word to all mankind in II Chronicles 16:9, “For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.”

Live with these truths in mind. It’s been said, “God does not call the qualified, but qualifies the called.” Reread the story of Gideon. And remember “We have this treasure in (our) clay vessels,” (2 Cor 4:7) His Holy Spirit.

Perhaps most importantly, remember the chief end of man according to the Westminster Catechism which tells us that, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him for ever.” This is the Preacher’s conclusion as well.

I’m heading out the door to see a new movie, “Paul, an Apostle of Christ”, in a few minutes because some friends invited me. Among this world changer’s most famous words were, “…to know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings.” (Phil 3:10) That’s what drove Paul. His life was “Light and Salt” in a dark place and time, in his end times, and well beyond! A life well lived indeed! He’s a great example to us with the days growing gloriously dark. 🙂

The Lord’s Spirit be with you. Enjoy a Good Friday…

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Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8)

And following Him was a large crowd of the people, and of women who were mourning and lamenting Him. But Jesus turning to them said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, stop weeping for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. “For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’ “Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ “For if they do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?” Two others also, who were criminals, were being led away to be put to death with Him. When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left. But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:27–34) (Bolding mine.)

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15)

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Ice Age

… And The Right to Bear Arms.

WOW! How icy our culture is becoming? Cold and slippery…

I received this email during the week from a very good friend. “I do very little social media and mass emails are something I never do but this information needs to be known by any and everyone that values their right to bear arms. I’ve had insurance coverage with MetLife for 21 years. If they are standing against the NRA (defenders of our right to bear arms) I have to find another company to insure with.”

My wife had already read a news article to me saying that United Airlines and Delta were doing the same thing. So I purposed to talk about that among our friends and vote with my feet (or credit cards) and give them as little of my business as possible in the future. And if it’s a matter of conscience to you, either way, I suggest you do the same.

I’m not sure where this is coming from? Why are companies who provide a service to the public trying to tell us about moral or legal issues? Unless they are sure this issue is very popular and will garner them more business and add to their bottom line; then I suppose their motive is greed? Perhaps putting their hope for more profitability ahead of what’s best for the country?

“How do you know it’s not in the best interest of the country?” you might ask. When I asked a dear, wise friend once about how to vote on a constitutional amendment, he told me, “I generally vote against them, because our founding fathers had more wisdom than people do today.”  So I’ll end this writ with how the founding fathers thought about this issue. Besides wisdom, they also have a lot of historical evidence on their side. They thought it very important that the people bear arms, and also not be hampered in doing so. Thus they made it a very pronounced part of the law of the land, the Constitution of the United States of America.

If you read my book, or my blogs, you know I try to light a candle instead of cursing the darkness. But today I feel impressed to call a little attention to the darkness and what it’s doing to us. And to encourage us all to be aware, and take some action against this unwholesome tide, slippery as it is, and turning us cold. And at least be aware of what you believe? And Why? And vote with your feet and your check book? And tell your friends how you feel about it, like my friend did when he emailed me.

I’ll close as I said with what the founding fathers said and thought about the arms issue. And especially Thomas Jefferson. I’ve gained a new appreciation for the man and his greatness, along with some great quotes! Besides what he said about gun ownership, I particularly like what he said about disagreements. And that sort of gets back to the cold issue of friendships dividing, on social media and physically, over these type issues, as well as companies starting to divide their customers over these issues. A sad commentary on our interesting times, is it not?

Fear not. We have the light of the Lord and the Bible to show us the way. And instruction to let that light show through us, as we’re also salty: providing savor, and preserving the truth in our culture, to the extent He empowers us to do so. 🙂 Enjoy your journey! And keep letting your light shine.

“I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.”   Thomas Jefferson

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“No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms.” Thomas Jefferson

The laws that forbid the carrying of arms… disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes.” Thomas Jefferson

“When the government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.” Thomas Jefferson

“They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
– Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759

Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are ruined…. The great object is that every man be armed. Everyone who is able might have a gun.”
– Patrick Henry, Speech to the Virginia Ratifying Convention, June 5, 1778

“The Constitution shall never be construed to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms.”
– Samuel Adams, Massachusetts Ratifying Convention, 1788

Doing God A Favor

Or “Theology 101”

Hannah with the children of La Balsa

When I heard what Gary, Tim, and Kevin had prepared to teach the pastors at this year’s pastors conference, I was a little bit incredulous. They were teaching the pastors theology, which is the study of God and his attributes, from a book entitled “The Attributes of God” by A. W. Pink.  My first thought was that something a little simpler and a little more practical might be in order. But my second thought was that these men are led by the Spirit and they probably heard correctly about what they were to teach.

The power of what they were teaching was apparent to me the first morning as I sat with the Honduran pastors and listened, being encouraged and instructed right along with them. Further confirmation of its power came immediately after lunch as I was riding in the back of a pick up truck to Capucales with Giovanni, a young Honduran minister and worship leader.

He was fired up about the teaching and freely shared with us what impacted him. He said, “Many people think they’re doing God a favor to believe in Him or serve Him.” And “People who are not believers think that about believers, that they are just doing God a favor to follow Him or believe in Him. But nothing could be further from the truth!” he exclaimed. “God does not need us. We need him.”

The steep road from La Balsa 🙂

In two short sessions, Giovanni’s awareness of the greatness and power of God had been greatly increased, leaving him inspired and sensing God’s true place in His creation. It’s a privilege to know him, serve him, and make him known. That’s the truth, according to the thousands of years of revelation we have recorded about Him in Holy Scripture. He indeed needs nothing nor anyone. Something akin to the summary of philosophy and theology that Solomon, reportedly the wisest man who ever lived, wrote at the end of his life, recorded in Ecclesiastes. “When all is said and done, fear God and keep his commandments.”

A. W. Tozer also wrote some books on theology, “The Attributes of God,” and  “Knowledge of the Holy.” The second he said was written for worshipers, not theologians, although it would stand up to theological rigor. I love that. And I love his book which I try to read one or more times each year. It’s a very small book, but there’s an old saying,”Beware of small books.”:-) In the introduction Tozer says something else amazing, “What you believe about God is the most important thing about you. Because it will affect everything you do.”

Pastor Kevin – One of the Teachers

So Theology 101 was indeed what the Lord had for these pastors and it hit it’s mark, as evidenced by the lively questions and discussions during and after the teaching times. The Scripture comes to mind, “They that know their God will do valiantly.” So these pastors who came to receive from the Lord left encouraged and empowered. Encouraged that they knew the Lord better and should continue this pursuit. And empowered with a renewed level of faith in the Most High.

May the Word of the Lord continue to accomplish what it was intended to do. Amen.

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And those who know Your name will put their trust in You, For You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.” (Psalm 9:10)

Through God we shall do valiantly, And it is He who will tread down our adversaries.” (Psalm 60:12)

The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13)

It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.” (Isaiah 40:22)

[Link to trip video]          [Link to trip photos]

Some Stay by the Baggage

Kevin Teaching at Pastor’s Conference

I knew that my good friend and brother Kevin had a lot to do with preparing the materials for this pastors conference. Finding and getting the books, “The Attributes of God,” by A.W. Pink, in Spanish was quite a feat!

Then I asked him how he was able to get the workbooks for the pastors to take back to their villages in Spanish? He said, “My wife translated them from English to Spanish.” I inquired if his wife spoke Spanish, something I more and more wish I could do? He said that she didn’t, but used an online language translator to do the translation, then asked a friend and co-worker who was a Spanish teacher to proofread and edit it.

Teaching Materials . A.W. Pink

I immediately thought, “Are you kidding me!?” Hours and hours of loving labor went into this project. I told Kevin this was amazing and his wife was amazing! He of course agreed. 🙂

Think about all the hours required and the motive behind it. It certainly moved me, and still does. The love, the sacrifice, and the courage to attempt such a thing is remarkable. Immediately, I thought of David and the Ziklag incident, where two hundred of his men were unable to go to the battle, and instead stayed with the baggage.

Conference in Progress

When David returned from the battle successfully, some who didn’t understand God’s heart and perhaps had too great an opinion of themselves and their part in the mission’s success, didn’t want to share any of the reward with those who had stayed with the baggage.

David, who was a man after God’s own heart, told them otherwise, and it became an ordinance in Israel that day, that he who stays with the baggage shares alike with him who goes down to the battle. This story came to my mind immediately when Kevin told me about what his wife had done .

Shelia at Home

I personally feel that everyone who gave to this mission financially, and those who prayed shared just as much in its success as those who went. But for her sacrifice I certainly wanted to give a “shout out” to Sheila Nugent. 🙂 I look forward to meeting her someday.  🙂 May God bless her, those she loves, and everything she puts her hand too. Amen

[Link to trip video]          [Link to trip photos]

*******

“And who will listen to you in this matter? For as his share is who goes down to the battle, so shall his share be who stays by the baggage; they shall share alike.” So it has been from that day forward, that he made it a statute and an ordinance for Israel to this day.” (1 Samuel 30:24–25)

A Honduran Exorcism

Ok, let me be transparent and real about this. I have no agenda or theology to exalt or to put down. Just the facts, Ma’am! That’s the goal of this short writ.

One evening after a time of praying for the pastors, one of the Honduran pastors, Pastor Minellio, was praying for the sick and a few of our team noticed him shaking as he prayed for the one in need, the power of the Holy Spirit being felt strongly by all.

Afterwards there was a time of fellowship under the arbor where we shared lunch and dinner with the pastors and their families. The team that noted the Honduran pastor shaking asked him about that?

He then related the following story. He said that in his village in the mountains one of his friends seem to be depressed and at one point tried to take his life. This pastor and two more friends who loved the man, determined to fast and pray for three days for him with him being continually with them, witnessing their fasting and hearing their prayers.

On the third day, according to this “shaking” pastor, their suicidal friend had a single, violent vomiting episode, and at the same time moment, the three praying friends were knocked to the ground by some unknown force!?

After that moment their friend has been free of oppression, depression, and acts normally. And when our new “quaking” pastor friend prays for people and senses the Holy Spirit is near, he shakes as he prays.

Indeed, he says when it happens to him, he knows or recognizes the Holy Spirit is near to heal or deliver or help.

After watching him, and sensing the Spirit ourselves, we all believe it’s true and happened just that way.

This pastor is a very quiet, always kind, pleasant, and humble – even shy.

We only report what we saw, and felt, and heard. 🙂

The Lord be magnified for helping those in need. And for equipping and empowering His own to help or serve in the process. Amen

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“But if I cast out devils by the finger of God, the Kingdom of God has come near to you.” Luke 11:20

[Story related by Gary, Tim, and Whit who were witnesses.]

[Link to trip video]          [Link to trip photos]

The Ninety and Nine – Carmen’s Story

Do you remember Jesus parable from Luke 15 of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son(s)? You may want to read it to refresh yourself. Then listen to this story!

Once upon a time there lived in a mountain village in Honduras a young girl named Carmen. A missionary group visited her village to minister to the children there, hosting a vacation Bible school–teaching the children songs, Bible stories, and loving on them. There were several women in this group, including Jennifer from north east Louisiana.

Jennifer noticed a young girl at the meeting and felt strongly drawn to pray for her. She went to her and asked if she had need of prayer? The girl indicated she didn’t know of anything, and Jennifer just prayed a prayer of blessing over her, but was perplexed by the strong unction to pray and the strong draw to the girl. Later after reflecting on it, she felt the Lord impressed her the prayer was for some future need. She had a strong impression,  “Something that hasn’t happened yet.”

Jennifer & Carmen

Three more ladies in the group told Jennifer, one by one, they were drawn to the same girl, Carmen, and one even said,”To pray for something that hasn’t happened yet.”

I’m going to leave out some other amazing detail and coincidences for brevity and tell you that Jennifer went back home to Louisiana and prayed for this young lady Carmen  by name for the next eighteen months.

As a single mom, raising two children, and working, it would take a miracle for Jennifer to be able to go back to that village and find Carmen, and see what had happened to her. But she had a burning desire to do just that.

Carmen’s Son . A Prophecy. A Destiney

Somehow!? At the last minute Jennifer became a part of our team. She came with us not knowing if she’d be given the opportunity to go to Carmen’s village, or if Carmen would still be there?

As it turned out she made her desire known to the team, and we split up one day so that half of the team went there to minister, so Jennifer could find Carmen, or at least know what had become of her. I was on that half of the team and saw the amazing outcome.

After it appeared that all the children in the village, about thirty or so, had shown up for some songs and interactive worship, along with about eight women and five men — there was no Carmen.

Loving Honduran Children

My good friend, Brother Dr. Jay we call him as he’s a veterinarian, moved over and said to me, “Let’s pray Carmen comes! This is so important to Jennifer.” So we did, right then and there, as our twenty-something, worship-team leaders started worshiping and we looked out on the beautiful, mountainous jungle that had an alpine feel to it due to our high elevation.

About five to seven minutes later, you guessed it, Carmen, a very attractive young woman with her two young sons, came walking up the road to the meeting!:-)

There was an excited embrace by Jennifer and a few quick words and greetings that we observed from a distance. Then all took their seats as the service had begun. There followed excellent, beautiful, peaceful worship led by our own Hannah with Giovanni and Marilyn, her musically-gifted, Honduran counterparts.  Then there was kid’s ministry, and a word from the matriarch and spiritual leader of the village, and the meeting was finished.

Folks were mingling and filing out, slowly drifting away to their homes or daily pursuits. Time didn’t matter. We were basking in the scenery, and the tangible, felt presence of God during the service. It was so beautiful and peaceful.

Carmen and Jennifer immediately joined each other at the front of the church. Carmen would learn from Jennifer about all the ladies praying for her. And about Jennifer praying for her by name for eighteen months.

Carmen’s Village

Jennifer would learn from Carmen that she had been hospitalized in Olanchito for abdominal bleeding and had been very ill, “Something that hasn’t happened yet,” at the time of the offered prayers.

Also during that hospital stay, some believers had visited Carmen, prayed for her healing, and asked her if she wanted to receive Christ as Savior? At that time, she felt she wanted to do so, but didn’t.

A Prayer Answered and A Prayer Offered :):)

Jennifer asked her, “Well do you want to do so right now?” ”Yes,” she said with a smile, hearing of God’s love and caring for her and His sending so many. 🙂 So she did just that with Jennifer and Giovanni assisting and witnessing her prayer for salvation.

There’s more!? But for heaven sakes, that’s enough! A person would have to be blind, deaf, or both not to see the incredible lengths the Lord went to, to find this lost one He cherished, and bring her safely into His fold.:-)

His name be magnified! May Carmen and her family be blessed of the Lord. And may the Lord continue to pour out his Spirit and help the village of Capucales Honduras.  Amen

*******

“What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?” (Luke 15:4)

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,” (Matthew 28:19)

Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart,” (Luke 18:1)

[Link to trip video]          [Link to trip photos]

First Mission – Honduras

En Route Above the Clouds Over Houston

From January 10th to January 16th as part of a nine person mission team, I visited Olanchito Honduras.

The team was mostly from different churches in North Louisiana with one tag-along from Northwest Arkansas, me. This was my fourth Honduras mission trip with this team, and the first time to meet three of it’s members.

We all bonded wonderfully, and were led by the Spirit seemingly in every endeavor. Early in the week, and certainly by weeks end, we had become the best of friends! 🙂 All of us felt a sense of awe at what God had done through us and around us.

Descending into Miami International Airport on my way home, it seems so surreal already. And I’m peacefully full of joy about all we did and experienced. So much so, I’m happy to try to write about it, or not write at all? It is more than I could put into words anyway! We all felt that way as we shared our thoughts at an after-dinner debrief in Tela last night.

And what would a web audience, some probably known to me, and some unknown, like to hear about? Ah, these are more like questions for the Spirit of God, Who led us wonderfully throughout the week. So I’ll rely on Him to bring things to mind and tell parts of the story.

In A Prison

“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:8

I’m against long blogs, so this may require several short ones. Some possibilities include: A Women Named Carmen, Hannah & Whit —Dynamic Duo, Honduran Pastor’s Exorcism Story, Daniel of Olanchito — Deliverance and Restoration, La Balsa Revisited, Tim — A Birthday to Remember, Prison Encounter, TV in the Park, Theology 101 — Pink & Tozer, Those Who Stay with the Luggage, A Proclaimer Indeed, Tegucigalpa — Laura & Divina. We’ll see how the Spirit leads?

In a Park

In the Mountains

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A summary might read like this.

[1] We prepared materials and held a two day pastor’s conference for fifty-one people, mostly pastors and wives, who came out of the mountain villages to receive encouragement, training, and fellowship with each other around the Bible.

[2] We ministered in a Honduran prison for two hours with music, a spiritual invitation, and prayer for inmates who responded. We encouraged the prison fellowship leaders who seemed nonexistent three years ago. Lastly, we distributed some books, food, tooth paste and tooth brushes to inmates who seemed very appreciative.

[3] We attended a Thursday night meeting in a local church with a “Celebrate Recovery”  ministry where Kevin taught and Gary shared.

[4] We attended a Sunday night meeting at the same church with about fifty people where we saw deliverances and healing as the Spirit moved in response to our prayers and His purposes. Jennifer shared a powerful testimony of the healing, salvation, and the seeking out of one young Honduran woman that only the Spirit of God could have orchestrated. Then Tim shared a powerful testimony from his own recent life about forgiveness in a rapid-fire fashion that left Laura, his translator, gasping for air! 🙂

As We Arrived

Our Peaceful Mission House and Base of Operation

That’s the long of it! And perhaps the short of it? 🙂 But a few more short stories will follow. 🙂

Stay tuned! 🙂  Adiós, amigos

 

[Click here for a short video]

[Click here for photos of the mission….]