Friday, November 24, 2023

IS MEDIOCRITY OUR LOT IN LIFE?


     I always perceived myself as a relatively intelligent and popular student at Hiland High School in Berlin, Ohio. But the evidence proves otherwise.
     My grade cards show that I was just an above-average student at best. And, pictures from my junior year 1971 yearbook confirmed my mediocrity in high school. 
  • I was never on the Scholarship Team
  • I was never on the National Honor Society
  • I was never on the Student Council
  • I never even tried to be one of the staff members to publish the popular Hilander school newspaper.
     You will see in all the pictures that I was conspicuously absent. (Note: I was glad to see my brother Merv in a couple of the pictures, like on the Student Council. Sadly, several people in the pictures have passed away for various reasons. James Miller as some of you know, was murdered.)
     I got some notoriety from playing sports. You can see from my Hiland High School letter jacket, which is now way too small for me that I lettered 5 times in three varsity sports.
  • One year in Baseball
  • Two years in Cross Country.
  • Two years in Basketball.
  • I received the Most Improved Basketball Player trophy my senior year.
     But, despite some modicum of success, all my teams followed the same path toward mediocrity. So, sports wasn’t something I could hang my hat on as a great accomplishment.
     There are many of us for which mediocrity has been our lot. We may be good at some things—but aren’t elite at any one thing. We may have a degree of popularity, but people don’t flock around us as they do others.
     So, what can we do with our mediocrity? I think there is only one answer. It happened to me 46 years ago in 1977, five years after high school. It happened to Jesus’ disciples, most of whom were unlearned tradesmen, like fishermen or tax collectors.
     Jesus didn’t choose an elite group of achievers to be part of His Inner Circle. What happened is that God by His Holy Spirit called His disciples. In the same way, He calls us, to follow Him.
     Our main goal, as was the goal of the disciples, is not to gain glory or status for ourselves.
     Our main goal is to gain glory for God and His Son Jesus, who died on the cross to free us from our sins. God then by His great power can, if we let Him, fade our insecurities and feelings of mediocrity.

Monday, November 6, 2023

FLOODS UPON DRY GROUND, CHAPTER 3: CHANGE OR DIE

 


     Chapter 3 of the book Floods Upon Dry Ground, is titled “Change or Die”. Pastors Bobby Duncan and James Jones based the chapter on what happened to the four lepers in 2 Kings 7, and how it relates to the church today. The four lepers either had to change their plan of staying where they were, or they were going to die of starvation.
     The authors wrote that we often think that other people are the ones that need to change, and we often blame them for failures. Or we might blame the church of which we are a part. They wrote, however, “The hard road is always the one less traveled”, as poet Robert Frost wrote in the poem, The Road Not Taken.
     Pastors Duncan and Jones said, “Not all change is good”, especially if it leads to “change without growing”. “The message is not to change for the sake of changing but rather to change for Christ’s sake—for growth in Christ."
     “Change is typically challenging, and at times it can be agonizing,” And we are often resistant to change. The authors told the funny story of Barney Fife in the Andy Griffith TV Show, and Barney’s resistance to disposing of Mayberry’s cannon. Barney reminisced to Andy another time he resisted change when the post office went to “slot machine” stamp dispensing, equating these machines to gambling.
     Pastors Duncan and Jones wrote that change can bring about “defining moments”. “How we handle these defining moments determines our success or failure, as well as our eternal future.” They gave the example of Faithful Abraham and numerous other Bible heroes who obeyed God—even though the changes sometimes caused them to experience great pain or loss. But, inevitably it brought about new opportunities. The authors wrote, “God always has a purpose for what He allows.”
     Back to the story of the four lepers. They acted out of desperation. Their desperation caused them to “do something” different, or else they were going to die the painful death of starvation.
     We often don’t feel the urgency to reach others for Christ. I sometimes don’t feel the urgency. The authors said we should, however, consider the urgency of the four lepers to change or die, and apply it to our own lives in the area of evangelism.
     In other words, we need to consider who will die, including lost people, even ourselves, and the church as a result of not making changes.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

FLOODS UPON DRY GROUND CHAPTER 2: DYNAMICS OF SPIRITUAL DECLINE



     Chapter 2 of the book “Floods Upon Dry Ground", is titled “Dynamics of Spiritual Decline”. Pastors Bobby Duncan and James Jones state that history shows that spiritual decline is usually a gradual happening and not just a sudden event. They used what happened to Peter and the disciples when they turned their backs on Jesus just before His crucifixion, as what can also happen to us.
     The authors cited six examples of Peter and the disciples heading toward spiritual decline, that could have led them to departing the faith if they hadn't repented. Here they are:
  1. Satan Seeks to Deceive: Peter declared repeatedly to Jesus how firm he was in following Him, and that he would never turn his back on Jesus. Jesus said, however, in Luke 22:31-32 that Satan “asked” for Peter, to “sift” him “as wheat”. Satan also repeatedly wants to sift us.
  2. Called to Watch: Jesus asked Peter, James, and John to go with Him up to the Mount of Olives to "watch" with Him before his crucifixion. They, however, fell asleep. We also sometimes fall asleep literally and figuratively when Jesus asks us to watch with Him.
  3. Weariness of Spirit: Like the disciples who became weary and fell asleep, we too can easily become weary and slip into “religious formality” as the authors stated, instead of having “an intense focus on our relationship with Jesus Christ.”
  4. Reliance on the Arm of the Flesh: In other words, we can have a growing dependence on our own “individual ability” to make it through the tough times in life.
  5. Following Jesus Afar Off: We can be like the disciples, who when the going got tough followed Jesus from a distance instead of close up and personal.
  6. Denying Jesus: Peter ended up three times denying that he even knew Jesus. We also can end up denying Jesus after a time of weariness, carelessness, and fear.
     The authors of the book asked the following question: “How will we respond” in the face of spiritual decline? I think we can respond in one of two ways:
  1. We can grow apathetic, full of doubt, and eventually deny the importance of having a relationship with Jesus.
  2. We can repent quickly, and encourage others also to do so.
     Then together we can continue to have an intense and vital relationship with our wonderful Savior and Lord!

Saturday, October 14, 2023

GATHERING OR SCATTERING?



     In Luke 11:23 Jesus made two very direct black-and-white statements that I’m sure I read before, but I never fully absorbed the implication of the statements. Following are the statements Jesus made. I'm using the Christian Standard Bible translation. Here they are:
  1. “Anyone who is not with me is against me.” And if that isn't radical enough, Jesus then says the following:
  2. “Anyone who does not gather with me scatters.”
     Jesus was addressing the crowd after he cast out a demon from a mute person, and some in the crowd questioned whether he cast out the demon using Satan’s power, instead of God’s power.
     Jesus then went on to contrast Satan’s power, who would not have cast out his own demon, and God’s very much superior power in bringing about good for the demon-possessed person.
     So what was Jesus trying to get across to his listeners with his very direct black-and-white, sobering statements?
     First of all, about the fact that anyone who isn’t “with” Him is “against” Him? And then comes the clincher for me, with my interest in evangelism, but who feels very inadequate at best to gather souls toward Jesus. It’s the statement Jesus makes that anyone who isn’t “gathering” followers to Him, is indeed “scattering” them.
     So let me reiterate by paraphrasing. Here it is: "If I'm not actively spreading the gospel in an attempt at gathering people toward Jesus, then Jesus said that I am actively scattering people away from Him."

FLOODS UPON DRY GROUND CHAPTER 1: SPIRITUAL AWAKENINGS



     
     In the book "Floods Upon Dry Ground", Chapter 1 entitled "Spiritual Awakenings", Bobby Duncan talks about visiting Scotland and learning of some of the rich history of revivals, or "spiritual awakenings" there.
     Two noteworthy characteristics” of spiritual awakenings in Scotland were the following:
  1. A renewed consciousness of the Person and presence of Jesus Christ.
  2. A recognition of the authority of God’s Word.
     Pastor Duncan indicated other features of spiritual awakenings were times of intense praying, long hours spent in worship gatherings and Bible studies, increased sharing of the Gospel with unbelievers, and a sharp drop in local customers attending bars and houses of entertainment.
     Pastor Duncan wrote that people often were seen spontaneously praying together alongside roadways and in open fields. They were crying out to God for His mercy and forgiveness.
     Lastly, Pastor Duncan lamented the fact that beginning in the 1950s started many years of spiritual decline lasting until today. He said that the spiritual decline must be reversed. He wrote, “God is still a merciful God who desires to pour water upon thirsty soil.” In other words, God strongly desires for us to have another great spiritual awakening in today’s world.

Saturday, September 30, 2023

FLOODS UPON DRY GROUND: REVIVAL REFLECTIONS


     

     My former pastor Bobby Duncan knows about my interest in evangelism, and he gave me his latest book entitled “Floods Upon Dry Ground”, co-written by Pastor James Jones.
     The gist of the book is based on Isaiah 44:3 which says, “For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, And floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, And My blessing on your offspring.”
     I want to share two important points, one from Pastor Duncan, and one from Pastor Jones’ “Revival Reflections” at the beginning of the book.
     First of all, Pastor Duncan wrote the following: “Revival or spiritual renewal are things that we may have difficulty intellectually grasping, but, “I firmly believe it is something we can once again experience . . . and must experience.”
     Pastor Jones reflected the following, “Revival is a heightened sense of God’s presence, and usually has brokenness as its companion.” Meaning that without brokenness and a passion for God’s presence, there will be no revival.
     Are you and I broken today? Do we have a passion for God’s presence? And do we believe with all our hearts that we must experience revival as Pastor Duncan stated?








Monday, September 25, 2023

AN INEXTRICABLE CONNECTION


     Last week I participated in a Mission Increase webinar through my role as a grant writer for Mission to Amish People. The webinar was entitled “Disciple Making With Church Partners”. The gist of the webinar was how nonprofits, like Mission to Amish People, can partner with churches to become effective together to make disciples.
     One of the leaders of the webinar. was Caleb Crider, the Director of Program Innovation. He said something that struck me. He said that The Great Commandments, which are two, and The Great Commission are tied together, and one cannot exist without the other.
     In my forty-six years of being a Christian, one thing has always bothered me. The churches I attended never, or rarely included a regular plea to or reasoning for reaching unsaved people with the gospel of Jesus Christ. They preached and taught many, many scriptures about the love, blessing, and power of God in each life if the listeners closely followed God and His Son Jesus Christ. People in the congregation often lifted their hands in praise to God. But I think, however, in almost all cases they forgot the punchline.
     I think that what Mr. Crider asserted in the webinar is the key to what churches are missing. I call it, “An Inextricable Connection” between The Great Commandments, which are two, and The Great Commission. (Note: Inextricable simply means “impossible to separate.”)
     Below are the two Great Commandments told by Jesus found in Matthew 22:35-40:
“And one of them, an expert in the law, asked a question to test him: ‘Teacher, which command of the law is the greatest?’ He (Jesus) said to him, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.’ "
     In simple words, we are first to love God with all the power within us. And secondly, we are to love others. These are the two Great Commandments.
     Secondly, is The Great Commission found in Matthew 28:18-20:
“Then Jesus came to them (the disciples) and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.’ "
     I want to ask you a question. Do you think The Great Commission ended with the disciples, or does it continue with us? A natural extension of loving God and loving others is to tell others about the great love He has for them, right? Jesus told the disciples to make other disciples “of all nations”.

     Later in Acts 1:8 Jesus told the disciples, 
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 
     The disciples, as we all know, weren’t going to live long enough to be witnesses to “the end of the earth”, and to "make disciples of all nations".
     The implication is clear in the following four points:
  1. We greatly love God with everything within us, as Jesus commanded us in the First Great Commandment.
  2. The great love of God then flows through us with His powerful Holy Spirit. We become an extension of Jesus.
  3. Because of this great love we also greatly love others, the Second Greatest Commandment.
  4. And because of our great love for others, we are compelled to lovingly fulfill The Great Commission by becoming extensions of the disciples, telling others about God’s great love for them.
     The conclusion is that there is an “inextricable connection” between the two Great Commandments and The Great Commission. It’s impossible to separate them.

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

POWER OF GOD PREACHING


     I grew up in a large Amish/Mennonite area just outside of Berlin, Ohio. One of the things that had a major impact on me was the revival preachers who came to the area from time to time. I especially remember the George Brunk tent revival meetings that were held annually in the Joe T. Miller farm field in the valley before Route 62 went up the hill into Berlin. In the attached picture you’ll see the Sturges Miller barn located to the left of the tent. Our house, unseen in the picture, was on Charm Road to the right. I remember being outside with Mom and brother Merv, perhaps playing ball, or just sitting peacefully on the front porch.

     The warm air was still, while people, most of them Conservative Mennonites, parked their dark-colored cars, and then marched their families to grab seats in the large tent. Vibrant acappella singing followed, filling the valley with sound. After that was a brief interlude of silence.
     

     Then finally we heard his distinct voice over the loudspeakers across the way. Reverend Brunk followed the pattern of many revival preachers, like Billy Graham. He started by speaking calmly with a measured pace to lay the groundwork for his message. His voice got a little louder and he ramped up the intensity as the sermon progressed. Finally, his voice was booming with Bible verses and pronouncements of the impending judgment upon those who didn’t give their hearts to Christ, accompanied by an urgent plea for them to do so.     
     Reverend Brunk’s loud voice didn’t seem threatening and mean—but it definitely was convicting. He was very firm in his commitment to the task God gave him of bringing people to Christ. I would describe his message as “power of God preaching”.
     I came to Christ several years after those annual revival meetings, and since that time, about forty-six years ago, I have seldom heard the “power of God preaching” as I heard from Reverend Brunk—perhaps only from Billy Graham. Preachers and evangelists like that seem very few and far between.
     One rare exception in my life is Pastor Bobby Duncan, former pastor of the Mansfield Church of God. I attended there under his pastorship for approximately six months before he retired for good in March 2020, right before the COVID-19 pandemic became very prominent. Dee and I became good friends with him and his wife Sandra. I especially appreciate his pastor’s heart and love for his people. And I missed, and still miss his “power of God preaching”.

     Pastor Duncan fills in preaching for pastors in Ohio who need some time off. He recently filled in five Sundays at the Ashland Worship Center, and I went all five times. He and Sandra were a real blessing. I told my wife and some others that I think every new pastor should sit under Pastor Duncan’s leadership and preaching for some time before they go out on their own.
     I’m going to insert three short snippets of his recent preaching on his last Sunday at Ashland Worship Center to show what I mean by “power of God preaching”. He preached on Revelation 21. Sorry about the muffled sound. Here they are:
Snippet 1: You’ll see that Pastor Duncan is very measured in the beginning to lay the groundwork for his message. (See video)

Snippet 2: Pastor Duncan’s intensity is ramping up. He’s not ramping up for the sake of ramping up, but to further get across how important is the message of the gospel. (See video)

Snippet 3: Pastor Duncan ends the sermon with a crescendo to bring people to the point of change. He powerfully exhorts his listeners to take action. (See video)
     Well, what do you think?. You can see the entire sermon and four other ones on the Ashland Worship Center Facebook page.
     I think you could strongly sense Pastor Duncan’s love for his listeners, and his desire for them to fully realize and understand how much God loves them, wants them to follow Him, and wants them to spend eternity with Him in heaven. Pastor Duncan did so by what I describe as “power of God preaching”.

Monday, August 28, 2023

WHAT IS "THE LAST DAY"?



     In John 6 Jesus talked about something I had never focused on before. He used a phrase repeatedly, four times to be exact. Here it is: “I will raise him up on the last day”. Many people have repeatedly heard the term “the last days”, but what does Jesus mean by repeating, four times, the singular “last day” phrase? To get some clues I’ll read the four verses where He used the phrase. Here they are:
  1. John 6:39: "This is the will of him who sent me: that I should lose none of those he has given me but should raise them up on the last day." 
  2. John 6:40: "For this is the will of my Father: that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him will have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
  3. John 6:44: "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day."
  4. John 6:54: "The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day."
     The Bible mentions the “last day”, or “the last days” 16 times. All Christians have an opinion of what “the last days” means. They would likely say “It’s toward the end of the earth”, or “It means the seven-year tribulation. It’s a generalization about a period of time characterized by an increase of signs and wonders, and troubles on the earth leading up to the antichrist coming into power. But it’s not specific. Even Daniel in the Old Testament talked about “the last days.”
     But what do we know from the four verses where Jesus used the phrase—"the last day”?
     First of all, it’s a very singular defined event. And secondly, each verse implies that it includes a specific type of person or specific types of people:
  1. In Verse 39 Jesus said, and I’m paraphrasing, “Jesus isn’t going to lose any person that God has given to Him, and He will raise each of them up on the last day.”
  2. In verse 40, Jesus went on to say, and again I’m paraphrasing, “Every person that sees and believes in Jesus will have eternal life, and again, He will raise him or her up on the last day.”
  3. In verse 44 Jesus said that no one—get that—“no one” can come to Jesus unless God directly draws him or her. And for the third time, He said, “I will raise him up on the last day.”
  4. Lastly, in verse 54 Jesus said something that made some people cringe to the point where many stopped following Him, not realizing that what He said was symbolic. Jesus said that everyone who eats His flesh and drinks His blood will be raised up on the last day.
     So who are the people that Jesus was referring to that would be raised up on the last day? It seems clear that it is every born-again believer whom Jesus defines very clearly four times. It doesn’t refer to anyone else!
     And when is the last day? It makes sense to me that “the last day” Jesus was referring to is the day of the Great White Throne Judgement explained in Revelation 20 where the dead are brought to life—and where those whose names are found in the Book of Life enter the new heaven, the new earth, and the New Jerusalem—and those whose names are not found in the Book of Life are thrown into the lake of fire.
     The last day is what every Christian is waiting for with great expectancy. It’s where there will be no more wars or fighting, no more greed, and no more pain and suffering. It will begin the time when every Christian will experience the love, majesty, and splendor of Jesus!
     In conclusion, after “the last day”—will come the start of “the first day”—where Christians will spend an eternity in the new heaven, the new earth, and the New Jerusalem!


Sunday, August 20, 2023

WHY?


     I like movies and television shows, including Westerns like The Virginian and The Tales of Wells Fargo.
     I also enjoy sometimes watching British crime dramas like Endeavour or Midsommer Murders. 
     And occasionally Dee and I have been known to stay up all night watching an entire British crime series or the Jesse Stone series with Tom Selleck as a brooding small-town police chief.
     I’m also almost addicted to the shows Monk and Columbo, two very quirky, but genius murder detectives. 
     And speaking of quirky, but also genius, Doc Martin has graced British and American airwaves for 10 seasons as the general practitioner doctor in the fictional town of Portwenn in Cornwall, England. The people of Portwenn have a love-hate relationship with Doc Martin. They love his ability to solve medical mysteries and use spur-of-the-moment techniques to address emergency medical situations. But his direct and outspoken opinions leave many patients, townspeople, and even his wife Louisa offended and angry.
     So what do the Westerns, crime dramas, and Doc Martin all have in common? They are all able to solve major problems facing the people, towns, and communities by using their genius minds and abilities such as physical abilities to fight or use guns.
     What, however, are they missing? I sometimes drive Dee crazy when I ask her the following types of questions about what they are all missing. For example:
  • “Why doesn’t The Virginian or Jim Hardy of Wells Fargo ever ask God for help to solve a stage holdup or thwart a ranch takeover.”
  • “Why doesn’t Monk, Columbo, Inspector Morse, Chief Inspector Barnaby, or Police Chief Jesse Stone ever seek guidance from the Holy Spirit to solve a seemingly impossible murder mystery?"
  • And lastly, "Why doesn’t Doc Martin pray to Jesus to help him with one of his many out-of-control medical emergencies?"
     Jeremiah said in 32:17 the following: 
“Oh, Lord God! You made the heavens and earth by your great power and with your outstretched arm. Nothing is too difficult for you!"
     Think about it. God is the most powerful force in the universe, and writers, producers, directors, and actors rarely if ever include God in the equation of their weekly problems.
     My question is, “Why?”

     I plan, Lord willing, to ask a few more “Why?” questions in the coming weeks.

Friday, August 4, 2023

THE LOGICAL NEXT STEP AFTER "TAP" CREDIT CARDS!



     I love convenience. I also love technology. Dee says I’m like a kid in a toy store when I find a new bit of technology to make my life easier. My newest gadget is a TAP or Contactless credit card.
     The chip in my old credit card stopped working. The store card readers repeated a “chip malfunction” message over and over again. Without fail the cashiers all asked me the following question, “Is your credit card a TAP one?” I had absolutely no clue what they were talking about.
     In most stores, I had to insert my card three times into the card reading machines. Then after the repeated “chip malfunction” message, the machines finally permitted me to swipe my credit card strip, instead of insisting that I insert the card with the chip again.
     I went to my bank and stated my dilemma. The bank teller cheerfully said that it was no problem, and she would authorize me to get a new credit card which would come in the mail within seven days.
     With high anticipation, I finally got the card in the mail. Lo and behold, my new card had a radio wave symbol on it. I was about to learn what a TAP credit card was all about. I watched several YouTube videos—because as I said, I was clueless about how they worked because I never had one before.
     Dee, however, warned me about the logical next step after TAP credit cards. I was na├»ve—but what she said made sense. First of all, I want you to look at both the following attached images. 
Image 1
Image 2: 
     
     Now, I want you to look at what’s holding the TAP card, and the TAP bracelet. The TAP card and bracelet are being held by a person’s right hand—very close to the TAP card reader. I think you’ll immediately understand where I’m going with this post.
     The newfangled card is touted to be more secure, but I asked a cashier just today in our local grocery store, “What would prevent a thief from stealing my card, and for him or her to begin “tapping” away to get all kinds of goods?”
     Dee had the answer. “Develop the technology to have everyone have the chip inserted into their right hand instead of onto a vulnerable and stealable card.” She said that few thieves would go so far as to chop off someone’s right hand to get free goods.
     So then the next question was, "What if someone had no right hand, as sometimes occurs through a birth defect, or as a result of an accident?"
     Dee also had an answer for that. “Have everyone with no right hand have the chip inserted into their forehead." Only very crazy people would cut off someone’s head to get at a chip to get free goods. Right? Again, most of you understand where I’m going. All you have to do is to read Revelation 13:16-18:
“And it (the false prophet) makes everyone—small and great, rich and poor, free and slave—to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark: the beast’s (the Antichrist’s) name or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom: Let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, because it is the number of a person. Its number is 666.”
     Okay, do you think I’m an alarmist? Or do you think, like me, that we’re hurtling toward the “end times” at an exponential pace? I’d be foolish, and it would be unbiblical to try to estimate the exact timing of the return of Christ. The Bible warns us against doing that.
     But, Jesus does warn us and encourages us to get ready when the pieces start to fit into place for the end times. What are the steps to get ready?
  1. Step 1: If we haven't done so previously, we need to confess our sins, cry out to God for help, and accept the free gift of salvation offered to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
  2. Step 2. Tell everyone we meet about the wonderful love of God and His Son, Jesus. We need to be urgent in this task—to pray as we have never prayed before—and trust His powerful Holy Spirit as we have never trusted it before. 
  3. Step 3: We just read in Revelation to use wisdom in understanding the end times, like the number 666. I think the third step is to use wisdom to understand such things as "The Logical Next Step After TAP Credit Cards!




Friday, July 28, 2023

YOUR MISSION, SHOULD YOU DECIDE TO ACCEPT IT--



     Most of us who had TVs back in the late 60s and early 70s remember the repeated scenes where “Impossible Mission Force” agent Mr. Phelps went to varying secret locations to listen to audio tape instructions for his next “Mission Impossible”.
  • “Good morning Mr. Phelps”: Then came the detailed info about the problem and the dangerous people to be encountered to solve the problem.
  • Mr. Phelps was then told, “Your mission, should you decide to accept it—”. Then this was followed by the exact desired outcome.
  • The mission was considered so perilous that he was told at the end, “As always, should you or any member of your IM Force be caught or killed, the secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions."  
  • Finally, Mr. Phelps was told, “This tape will self-destruct in five seconds.” This was followed by the hissing and smoke of the burning audio tape.  
  • Then Mr. Phelps, in the privacy of his apartment picked from an IMF folder the specialists needed to carry out “Mission Impossible”.
     When I retired 4½ years ago, I didn’t know exactly what God had in store—and what was His mission for me. I wondered to myself, and to my wife—what are my next steps?
     I was fairly open to what God’s plan was for me. I retired from working after about 29 years in the mental health field—but I hadn’t retired from life.
     God showed me in a vision many years ago that He had a plan for me. I’m not special because I had a vision. Joel prophesied in Joel 2:28, and it was reiterated in Acts 2:17, “Your young men will see visions.”
     Yes, I was young at one time! I’m assuming that I am just one of many young men over the years that have had visions because of what the Bible declared.
     I won’t get into the details of the vision. That's not important. What is important is that it made me know with certainty that I was called by God to fulfill His mission in my life. And the mission God has for each of us is never retired—right? The mission continues until we finally meet Him in heaven.
     So, what is God’s mission for me—and you? Is it to be happy? Is it to be prosperous? Is it to have position and prestige? Is it to have a big family, including many grandchildren, and even perhaps great-grandchildren?
     God’s mission for us may include each of these things. Psalm 1:3 says of God’s people, who follow His instruction, “Whatever he does he prospers.” Does that mean only financial prosperity? Or does it encompass a lot more than that?
     Over a year ago I took an online Dallas Theological Seminary course entitled “Evangelism 101”. Dr. Barry Jones, the instructor, talked several times in the lessons about the Latin term “Missio Dei”. Dr. Jones said about it, “The Missio Dei is God’s purpose on the earth to create and sanctify a people for His own glory”. And also, “Mission should be the essence of the church—not just one of its many facets.”
     Dr. Jones strongly emphasized that the mission on earth for each born-again believer is to participate in “God’s Great Rescue Mission”. The Mission Impossible team, which was fictional, and non-fictional military or safety forces rescue missions are formed to save countries and the physical lives of people. God’s rescue mission, on the other hand—is to save the lives of people spiritually—and for all eternity.
     Physical rescue missions are very important in our lives. But the “Missio Dei” of God is of far greater importance than earthly rescue missions. Eternal life is in the balance.
     Satan wants to make it difficult, impossible if you will, for us to fulfill God’s Great Rescue Mission. He will go to any lengths, even to kill us, to stop the mission from happening.
     In the face of that, God is asking us to put all else aside. He is saying to each of us, “Your mission, should you decide to accept it” --is to rescue men and women everywhere you go.

Thursday, July 13, 2023

BUILDING PILLARS DIFFICULT TO TEAR DOWN


     This morning in my devotions I was reading Amos 9:1 where God said, “Strike the capitals of the pillars so that the thresholds shake.” It got me thinking about pillars mentioned in the Bible 96 times. I wonder, “Do we have pillars in our own lives—and in the church—that need to be shaken and perhaps struck down?”
     The Oxford Dictionary defines a pillar as “a tall vertical structure of stone, wood, or metal, used as a support for a building, or as an ornament or monument.” Or, it can be “a person or thing regarded as reliably providing essential support for something.”
     The Bible makes it clear there are good pillars—and there are bad pillars.

Five good pillars:
  1. When wandering in the wilderness Moses and the Israelites were led by “a pillar of cloud by day”, and a “pillar of fire by night”. These pillars weren’t made of solid materials like most pillars. But they were pillars the Israelites in flight could always depend on.
  2. The pillars of acacia wood that held up the curtains of the Tabernacle.
  3. The pillars of stone that held up the Temple.
  4. The church of God in I Timothy 3:15 is referred to as a pillar.
  5. A person can be a pillar. Jesus, in Revelation 3:12, told John to write to the people of Philadelphia the following: “The one who conquers I will make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he will never go out again.”
Two bad pillars:
  1. Lot’s wife turned into “a pillar of salt” when she disobeyed God’s instructions and looked back toward Sodom.
  2. Solid structures were built by foreigners to worship foreign gods. Occasionally, however, even the Israelites built pillars to foreign gods. God, in every instance, instructed that these pillars be torn down and destroyed.
     So what about recent times and even today? Do Christians build pillars? I recently talked to Dee about fabulous structures like cathedrals. Also, in every town, there are usually very large churches made of large-cut stones. They’re majestic, and as Dee said, they lift our eyes upward toward heaven.
     I sometimes think of the planning stages of such structures. In my mind, I can imagine the excitement of teams doing the planning, sort of like the Israelites building the Tabernacle, and later the Temple. Then finally comes the moving-in day. People's senses, I'm sure, were overwhelmed when they walked through the gate, door, or curtain.
     But, sadly, very many of these structures are still majestic—but most are devoid of people. Because of their majesty and history, no one wants to tear these structures down. So many are being turned into museums, or repurposed to earn money for their expensive upkeep.
     What happened? Are these structures like the manmade pillars of the Bible that represented false gods?
     What about the structures of today? And I’m not talking just about physical structures. We have a trend today toward organizations like megachurches. Might they be considered pillars—some even bad ones?
     Do we in our denominations, and even independent churches set up pillars difficult to tear down? All of us, including myself like the comfort of doing things the same way. Ask my wife. We like procedures, bylaws if you will, spelled out to a T so that we don’t have to think too hard to follow them. But is this the best plan of action?
     Has everything gotten too big for us to even think about changing things up—to think about rocking the proverbial boat—to think about the fact that God by the power of His Holy Spirit might be directing us—to tear down some of the large pillars we have set up?

Friday, July 7, 2023

MEN AND WOMEN OF HONOR



     The movie “Men Of Honor” is set in about 1950. It’s a true story about the rigors of men trying to become members of an elite Navy diving team. Their goal was to develop stamina and skill to perform deep-sea rescues in perilous sea conditions. Carl Brashear came from a poor farm family in Kentucky and was the only black cadet in the group. But he had the dream to become one of this elite team and would not be deterred from his dream. He overcame many odds, including racial discrimination rampant at the time, and became the first black Navy diver ever to make the team.
     Can you and I become men and women of honor? Can we learn the skills, develop the stamina, and overcome all odds to become part of an elite team to perform rescue missions to pull people from the deep swirling, and deadly waters of sin?

Monday, June 26, 2023

“THEN THEY CRIED OUT TO THE LORD IN THEIR TROUBLE”

     


     In some Bible passages, the writer used certain phrases repeatedly. Psalm 119, for example, is the longest chapter in the Bible. The writer referred to God’s Word, or its 9 synonyms in each of the 176 verses.
     My wife is an author, and she says that a good writer usually limits the usage of the same word in each paragraph or literary section. But in Psalm 119 the writer repeatedly used the same nine synonyms for God’s Word, and I think he likely did so to get his point across about how important God’s Word is in our lives, and in the struggles we face.
     Psalm 107 is another Bible passage with repetition. It has four instances of the following phrase, which is the focus of this post. Here it is: “Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble.” I think again God uses repetition to get His point across. In this case to get His point across to us the importance of crying out to Him when we are in trouble.
     Four times the writer indicated that the Israelites experienced trouble, mostly as a result of straying away from serving Him.
  1. Verses 4-5: “Some wandered in the desolate wilderness”, where “they were hungry and thirsty”, and “their spirits failed them.”
  2. Verses 10-11: “Others sat in darkness and gloom—prisoners in cruel chains—because they rebelled against God’s commands,” and “despised” His counsel.
  3. Verses 17-18: “Fools suffered affliction because of their rebellious ways”—and they almost died as a result.
  4. Verses 23-27: “Others went to sea in ships”. The writer wrote that these sailors saw firsthand God’s “wondrous works”, but as is the case of many sailors on an ocean, they will at some point encounter severe storms. He wrote that they “reeled and staggered”, and that “all their skill was useless” to counter the trouble and the sure death they faced.
     In each of these four cases, God didn’t ignore them when they cried out to Him in their trouble. He could have easily done so because of their wickedness and straying away from Him.
     But in each case, because of His great mercy, God heard their cry to Him in trouble and acted to meet the need they had or to ease the pain they felt.
     Following are the four outcomes of the four instances:
  1. Do you remember the ones living in the wilderness who were hungry, thirsty, and their spirits failed them? “Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble”—and “He rescued them from their distress. He led them by the right path to go to a city where they could live.” The writer ended by saying the following: "Let them give thanks to the Lord for his faithful love and his wondrous works for all humanity."
  2. What about the ones who sat in darkness and gloom, who had cruel chains of bondage? “Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble”—and “He saved them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness and gloom, and broke their chains apart.” The writer ended again by saying the following: "Let them give thanks to the Lord for his faithful love and his wondrous works for all humanity."
  3. Then there were the fools that suffered affliction because of their rebellion and almost died as a result. “Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble”—and “He saved them from their distress. He sent His word and healed them, he rescued them from the pit.” The writer ended the third time by saying the following: "Let them give thanks to the Lord for his faithful love and his wondrous works for all humanity."
  4. Lastly, were the sailors on the troubled seas that even their great sailing skills couldn’t save them from sure death. “Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble”—and “he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper, and the waves of the sea were hushed.” Last, but not least, the writer ended by saying the following: "Let them give thanks to the Lord for his faithful love and his wondrous works for all humanity."
     It didn't matter how bad the people were--God cared and still cares about all people, or humanity, who cry out to him in their trouble. In each of the four cases, the people ended up praising God mightily for His faithful love and wonderful acts of rescuing them.
     You might ask what Psalm 107 has to do with winning souls for Jesus. I would say it has a lot to do with it. Most people, myself included, won’t even consider “crying out to the Lord” for help until we’re in dire need—until we realize our very serious trouble without God’s help.
     Many, many people today don't even realize the serious trouble they're going to face at some point in their lives. Things may be going along smoothly now. But as I tell my son, at some point in all our lives—every one of us—will experience extreme adversity.
     It’s difficult to pray for lost people to experience extremely adverse circumstances, sometimes even ones that lead them to the door of death. We don’t want to see anyone suffer.
     But sometimes these extremely trying circumstances are what’s needed for a person to—then cry out to the Lord in their trouble—and for God to wonderfully rescue them.

Saturday, June 10, 2023

KISS (KEEP IT SIMPLE SAINTS)


     God’s plan is very mysterious and compelling. Mystery, as it relates to God, His Son Jesus, and the workings of the Holy Spirit, is mentioned thirty-two times in the Bible. 
     Not only is God very mysterious, but He is very powerful beyond comprehension. The Old and New Testaments are filled with exclamations of how powerful He is. And Paul in Ephesians 1:19 exclaims that His great power extends to us as believers. It reads the following, 
“—and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the mighty working of his strength.”
     So with the great mystery and power of God, one would think that the Bible and God’s plan for our lives would be very difficult to understand. The beauty of the Bible and the Gospel is that Jesus said in Mark 10:14-15, 
“Let the little children come to me. Don’t stop them, because the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 
     So, if a child can understand God’s mystery and power, and according to Jesus the only way to enter God’s kingdom is to come to Him like a child, then it should be simpler than we sometimes make it.
     I talked about in my last post how I gave my heart to God. It was a simple event. I had great need—and God met me directly at my point of need. I recently have been trying to find a church that follows those same, KISS (Keep It Simple, Saints) principles—a church that teaches that everyone is at a point of great need, whether they know it or not—and God is right at hand to meet them at their point of great need.
     I respect the many different theological perspectives that people bring to the table—and I’m not saying that a church has to be perfect. But I believe that churches that stray away from that Keep It Simple, Saints formula, may be going down a confusing, hurtful path.
     I agree that the major tenets of the Bible should be very important and stressed frequently. I just think that with secondary issues there’s a balance between establishing very specific theological perspectives, rules, and practices, AND, on the other hand letting God’s Word and His wonderful Holy Spirit guide each of us individually and corporately on the mysterious path He has for us, without trying to have everything spelled out explicitly beforehand.
     I know that what I’m talking about might seem muddy without giving a few examples of what I consider some secondary issues, so here goes.
  1. Churches that disagree on the biblical correctness of altar calls, which I didn’t even know existed until recently. Some churches believe and teach that an altar call is a manmade, unbiblical, and misguided act, despite the many prominent evangelists across a couple of centuries, including Billy Graham, that did altar calls.
  2. What it means to be Holy Spirit-filled. Some preachers and teachers firmly believe and teach that a person can be saved, but they won’t receive the power to fully fulfill God’s will until they speak in tongues.
  3. What the role of women in the church is. I grew up in a Mennonite, Amish community where head coverings in the church were mandatory, and a woman’s place in the church was clearly defined and strictly adhered to. On the other side, I have lived for many years in what some might call the “English” world where no Christian women wear head coverings and they don’t adhere to strict policies related to women in the church. In both instances, I have encountered great and godly women. By the way, my Mom and both grandmothers wore head coverings.
  4. A specific Bible translation that is deemed the only trusted one. Growing up in Berlin, Ohio, we had Berlin Pioneer Days every year, a three-day festival with rides and events. Scattered on the grounds were pockets of three or four persons in tight circles praying. I knew one man in the group, and he was a staunch King James Version-only believer, as were the others in the group. I think it was good to pray for salvation for the many unsaved people that attended Pioneer Days, but after those people might become saved, this man and his friends would stress the importance of the newly saved believer reading only the King James Version Bible, and that other Bible versions would lead them astray.
     So, there you have a few examples of what I think are secondary issues in the church. I don’t have all the answers to these secondary issues, and I would be interested to find out your perspective on these, and others. But I think in most cases—the KISS (Keep It Simple, Saints) approach might be the best one to take.

Thursday, June 8, 2023

THANK YOU, GRANDPA MOSE YODER

 




     Grandpa Mose Yoder died in 1977 at the age of 92. I wasn’t particularly close to Grandpa, for which I have some regrets. He was a hardworking farmer and operated a lumber sawmill until his late 80s when his family made him stop after he injured himself. His family said that when they went to visit him, oftentimes he was sitting in his little “daughty (grandparent) house” reading his Bible by lantern light.
     Dad went to visit Grandpa at least once per month, usually on Sunday afternoons. He often longingly offered us boys the chance to go along, but we were way too busy playing or watching sports or watching Sunday evening TV. We just couldn’t miss Death Valley Days, The Wonderful World of Disney, or some other innocuous show—that would change our lives forever—not?
     We had an auction at our place, I think around 1975. Dad had determined because Mom didn’t drive, and Dad was fairly handicapped with severe arthritis, that it was time to move up to Berlin, closer to stores, post office, and in general just have a smaller property to take care of.
     Grandpa Mose, almost 90 years old at the time, was at that auction. I was about 21, and I remember standing next to him in our small barn, and I tried to strike up a conversation. But after so many years running the sawmill, likely without hearing protection, he was very hard of hearing. I felt sad that I went so many years without communication with Grandpa, and now it was almost impossible.
     So, when Grandpa died about two years later, I felt very sad, lonely, afraid, and unloved. I had a good job at the time and was making plenty of money—but I felt very empty. I likely didn’t show it on the outside, but I was very distraught on the inside.
     So, after Grandpa’s burial in the Amish Cemetery about two miles away, I didn’t go back to the farm for lunch. I drove for miles on country roads. I had no remedy for the way I felt. I had no answers—no psychological insights at that time, as I became a mental health worker many years later.
     It was just me, myself, and I on those lonely country roads—or so I thought. I’m kind of a crybaby, so I was crying profusely. I’m not sure what prompted me in my pathetic state to pray, because I had only prayed rote prayers in the past—like “Now I lay me down to sleep”. I had gone to church in the past, although not regularly. But for all the times I went, I still didn’t know anything about God and how He worked in peoples’ lives.
     But—God heard my cry to Him, and my desperate plea for help—and he answered me. I can’t explain it, but He was just—there. I knew without a doubt that God heard my prayer. I no longer felt alone.
     I went from extreme sadness, loneliness, fear, and emptiness—to ecstatic joy, peace, and love. I went back to the all-day funeral gathering a changed man.
     I don’t want to insinuate that I’m glad Grandpa died—or even that I was very close to him. But I think his funeral was the catalyst for my life-changing encounter with God. And for that, I want to thank Grandpa Mose Yoder.

Thursday, June 1, 2023

HAS ANYONE READ EPHESIANS LATELY?




     Have you felt the doldrums recently? If you have, I almost guarantee one book of the Bible will help lift you out of the doldrums.
     Ephesians in the New Testament was written by Paul while under house arrest in Rome. You'd think that a man arrested and held against his will for his faith wouldn’t be able to write anything uplifting. If we think that, we're wrong.
     Let's begin with Ephesians 1, and hopefully, this will spur you on to read more.
  1. Ephesians 1:3. Most of us would accept blessings, right? How about when Paul wrote, “Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens in Christ”? I repeat God “has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens in Christ.” That is one heap of blessings—blessings that fill every corner of heaven.
  2. Ephesians 1:4-5. Do any of you feel unwanted and unloved? Have any of you experienced being chosen last before playing a softball or basketball game? Paul wrote that God “chose us”—not last, but first—to be “adopted as children through Jesus Christ”, and that he had great “pleasure” in doing so. Imagine the joy of a family, sometimes not able to have children of their own, that they feel when they meet and enjoy sharing the lives of their adopted child or children. Now multiply that—by perhaps—let’s say 1 million times—and you might get close to understanding how God feels about us.
  3. Ephesians 1:6-7. Do you feel guilty sometimes about things you’ve done, and sometimes things you haven’t done? Paul wrote about the grace God is readily willing to “lavish” on us. Lavish, according to Webster, means that God gives us grace “abundantly”, or to embellish that a little bit more, He “extravagantly” gives us His grace.
  4. Ephesians 1:11. How many of you think of your possible earthly inheritance from parents, family members, and others? It’s natural to do so. But sadly, numerous TV shows tell the stories of people who establish elaborate plots to kill parents, family members, and others to get an inheritance or life insurance money. Paul wrote, however, that we have an inheritance awaiting us far greater than any earthly inheritance, and only Jesus—no one else—had to suffer and die for us to get it.
  5. Ephesians 1:13-14. If you’re like me you might feel a sense of insecurity. You and I may always be waiting for having done to us as the saying goes, “for the other shoe to drop”—or for our sense of security to be snatched out from under us. But Paul said, “In him (Jesus) you also were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and when you believed. The Holy Spirit is the down payment of our inheritance, until the redemption of the possession, to the praise of his glory.”
     Well, are you convinced yet about the good things that the book of Ephesians has for us? And we just barely got started, only covering part of Chapter 1.
     Do any of you like to read a good mystery or adventure novel, or watch a mystery or adventure movie? The book of Ephesians six times uses the term "mystery" related to God and His Son Jesus. That lets us know the story of Jesus doesn’t take a back seat to any mystery or adventure ever written. And we are a part of that unfolding mystery and adventure!
     Well—do I have you convinced yet—to read the Book of Ephesians?

Monday, May 15, 2023

DO YOU AND I HAVE A ONE-TRACK MIND?



     In 1953, one year before I was born, Lionel Train Company had a promotional campaign entitled “A ONE-TRACK MIND!” Here is a picture of the promotion. Lionel touted the fact that young boys were fixated on—and almost obsessed about having a Lionel train and track set.
     So my question today is—is it good to have a one-track mind?
     When I became a Christian some people in my family, and others thought I was way too focused on God and Christianity. They told me several times that they didn’t want to hear from me about their need for God.
     I also worked many years in a community mental health center, and sometimes in meetings with other mental health professionals, I heard the words, “religiously preoccupied” as it related to specific clients. These professionals shared their concern about clients who in their words were going “off the deep end” with their religious views—and their concern that the religious preoccupation would take those clients further into unreality.
     Psychologists tout the benefits of having a well-rounded mind with various interests. While they understand that some of our greatest inventions and creative performances come from people that are obsessed with a focus on one thing--they readily discuss the pitfalls of those obsessions.
     Reading Acts in the Bible has given me some perspective about having a one-track mind about our Christianity. I’m sure that Paul and the apostles had other interests that they talked about among themselves and with other people. But the writers of the Acts never made it evident. Everywhere the apostles went they shared Jesus with people in large crowds—and small gatherings. Nothing interfered with their purpose of sharing the gospel with everyone they met. Acts 28:30-31 sums it up:
“Paul stayed two whole years in his own rented house (in Rome). And he welcomed all who visited him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.”
     It could be said of Paul from those verses that he had a one-track mind focused, obsessed if you will, on sharing the love of Jesus with others. Do you and I have such a one-track mind?

Monday, May 1, 2023

POWER GRID INFRASTRUCTURE PROBLEMS


     In the last year, our electric power has gone off about four times, sometimes for extended hours. Mostly it was due to the weather, or a car hitting a pole. But we have frequently been hearing in the news about the fragile state of the power grid infrastructure in the United States.
     I think we as Christians also have power grid infrastructure problems. What we’re lacking is an up-to-date power grid infrastructure in our lives to be able to access the great power God has for us. Paul wrote in Ephesians 1:19 the following:
“—what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the mighty working of his strength.”
     What then is the infrastructure that we’re lacking? I’ll give a few ideas that I have.

1. I think we have a lack of knowledge of the 385 times that power is mentioned in the Bible, most of those times related to God’s power, Jesus’ power, the power of the Holy Spirit, and lastly the power God makes available to us as believers.
2. If we do know about the many, many mentions of power, I think if you are like me, it’s difficult to internalize and know how to access that great power that’s available to us.
     
     How then do we bolster this power grid infrastructure in our lives? Again, I have a few ideas.

1. If you have a Bible computer app or program, just type in the word “power”, and look up the almost innumerable references to God’s power, and especially His power available to us who believe.
2. Write down several of those verses and put them in your prayer list or journal.
3. Meditate daily on those scriptures about power.
4. Pray fervently that God shows you His great power available to you.
5. Remember that God is ready and very willing to allow you to access His great power. Jeremiah 33:3 states: 
“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and incomprehensible things which you do not know."
6. Talk to other believers about God’s great power available to us, and pray that it will have a snowball effect collectively in the lives of the believers around us.
7. Remember, this isn’t the power to get rich and successful—but it’s the power to fulfill God’s will in our lives to bring glory to Him.
8. I believe strongly that the main way to bring glory to Him is to tell others about His wonderful love for them—and to tell them how to have a relationship with Him.

Sunday, April 23, 2023

THE PATH OF LIFE



     This week I read a scripture verse that I almost can’t stop thinking about. David in Psalm 16:11 wrote:
“You (God) reveal the path of life to me;
in your presence is abundant joy (some versions have fullness of joy):
at your right hand are
eternal pleasures.”
     If you’re like me you might think of the inevitable difficulties or negative things in life. Jesus put it into perspective in John 16:33. He said:
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
     Back to Psalm 16:11. Many, many people in today’s world, or if we want to tell the truth, throughout the centuries, claim they have the answers to life’s problems. They offer solutions, or paths if you will, to remedy the many ills in society.
     But what excited me about what David said about God, is that God alone—no one else—reveals the path of life for us that leads to abundant joy and eternal pleasures. And that path is only through His Son Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

HAVE YOU HAD THE VEIL REMOVED? (An Easter Plea)




     
I didn’t realize it then, but before I became a Christian back in the 70s I had a veil over my heart.
     What was having a veil over my heart like? For me, it was like swimming upstream and never being able to reach my destination. I was searching for meaning in my life, but it eluded me.
     On the day of my Grandpa’s funeral in 1977, the veil was lifted. God met me in my car, and I knew my life was changed forever.
     So what about you? Have you had the veil removed as 2 Corinthians 3:15-18 explains so well? This Easter season is a prime time to do it by asking Jesus to forgive you for your sins and accept him into your heart.

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

KEITH GREEN'S AMAZING 10-YEAR LEGACY!


“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4:19

Hello Friends:

     Welcome to the Soulwinnersr.us website. Remember again what Jesus said in Matthew 4:19, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
     I’m again piggybacking off the Jesus Movement theme. Even though I gave my heart to Jesus about five years after the height of the movement, I grew up during that time and I call myself a “hippie wannabe” with my long hair, beard, and my definite search for meaning in life. My last website post and video were about the “The Jesus Revolution”, based on a 1971 Time article, and the “Jesus Revolution” movie currently showing in theaters across America.
     For this post I explored a little bit more about Keith Green, a prolific Christian music artist, who gave his heart to Jesus in 1972, one year after the Time magazine “Jesus Revolution” article was written. Keith also grew up in the hippie scene in the Los Angeles area where Pastor Chuck Smith had such an impact on the hippie culture. The interesting thing is that I didn’t hear or read of any connection between Green, Pastor Smith, and the Jesus movement.
     Keith Green was less than three months older than me, so I can identify with him in the era we both grew up in. But I can in no way identify with him in the area of talent. He was a child musical prodigy and at the age of eleven Keith was the youngest person ever to sign a major recording contract. Decca Records’ goal was to make Keith a teen idol. My wife and I watched him perform on “I’ve Got a Secret” in 1965. I did a video with 11-year-old Keith Green on the piano and singing—transposed into twenty-four-year-old Keith Green again on the piano and singing.
     The problem with the 11-year-old Keith Green’s recording career was that the Osmond Brothers, and particularly Donny Osmond, stole the limelight. Keith’s rock-‘n’-roll career waned, and I could only find proof of two recorded singles.
     Soon afterward as a teen, Keith drifted and he struck out on his own to find out what life had for him. He experimented with drugs and spirituality. In his search for God, he was struck by one fact. All the other religions said that Jesus was a prophet. They said that Jesus was one of many ways to experience God. It struck Keith, however, that Jesus said about Himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father (God) except through me.” Keith was swayed by the fact that Jesus claimed to be the “only” way to reach God. 
     So in 1972, with this logical deduction, Keith made a calculated decision to follow Jesus, since he claimed to be the only way to find God. The problem was the fact that Keith wasn’t yet born again. That came sometime later when attending a small Bible study. It was told that when Keith finally gave his heart totally to Jesus in 1972, his fervor which was so evident in his music, turned to a fervor for Jesus, and telling others about the love of Jesus.
     Friends said Keith wasn’t a perfect man. Sometimes he could be overbearing if people didn’t see things the way he saw them. But there was one thing. He was on a path in the next ten years that left a legacy that will never be forgotten. Following is Keith Green’s amazing 10-year legacy:
  • 1972: Keith Green gave his life to Jesus.
  • 1973: Married Melody Green. 
  • 1975: Keith and Melody started taking people in need into their small house, dubbed “The Greenhouse”, because it was a place of “growth” for people in their faith in Jesus.
  • Their home in Los Angeles became too small, so they purchased a home next door, and rented five more to eventually help up to 75 people at one time.
  • 1977: Keith and Melody started the non-profit Last Days Ministries
  • 1977: Released his first album with Sparrow Records entitled, “For Him Who Has Ears to Hear”.
  • 1978: Released second album “No Compromise”.
  • 1978: Greens started publishing “The Last Days Newsletters” from their garage.
  • 1979: Negotiated release from Sparrow Records to produce albums to give away at no charge. Also, to go on free-to-the-public concert tours. Keith felt that the Gospel shouldn’t be sold. He only accepted love offerings for albums and concerts.
  • 1979: Outgrowing their space in LA, they packed up and moved to Texas, and started their ministry there on 180 acres of land that included an airstrip. The ministry grew exponentially in the next three years, including nationwide distribution of the “Last Days Newsletters” to students.
  • 1980: Released third album “So You Wanna Go Back to Egypt”. Bob Dylan, a good friend of Keith, played harmonica on one of the songs.
  • 1981: Released the “Keith Green Collection”.
  • 1982: Released “Songs for the Shepherd”.
  • 1982: Tragic plane crash, killing Keith, two Green children, a family with six children, and the pilot.
  • 1984: “The Prodigal Son” was an album released by Melody in 1983 after Keith’s death.
     So, the amazing facts are that Keith Green, in 10 short years became a Christian, started an outreach ministry to needy people, released six albums with fifty-four very, very impactful songs, and expanded the Last Days Ministries exponentially to reach students all over America. What a legacy!

Until I see you next time, keep sharing the wonderful love of Jesus,
Arlen