Monday, June 26, 2023



     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


     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



     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


     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?