Friday, April 6, 2018

BOOK REVIEW: "The Rational Bible: Exodus" by Dennis Prager

Last August, our congregation and I began studying the second book of the Torah together...the fascinating book of Exodus. I have always had a deep love for the Old Testament, and have lamented the fact that Christians by and large are ignorant of it’s content, focusing at times almost exclusively on the New Testament. This is regrettable. It’s simply impossible to understand the life and teachings of Jesus as well as the rest of the New Testament without some background in that portion of scripture that takes up three-fourths of our Christian Bible. I think everyone who has attended our study of Exodus on a regular basis has found it helpful to his or her Christian faith. At the time I am writing this (April, 2018), we just finished our twenty-sixth week in the book...and we’re only half way!

When I heard that Dennis Prager was writing a commentary on the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) starting with Exodus, my ears perked up. Mr. Prager is a talk-show host who I have been listening to for years, and a man whose views I respect. As one reviewer of his book described him:

Mr. Prager is not a “firebrand conservative” who wants to get you all excited and so that you may go out and shout others down. He is a calm, rational thinker. His mind is his weapon, his intellect is his tool, and his demeanor makes it difficult for a reasonable person to simply dismiss him, let alone dislike him.

I agree with this reviewer completely. This is why I listen to and read after Mr. Prager, as I do few others. He is becoming increasingly influential in our culture, not only through his books and radio show, but through his Prager University videos, which are watched by millions around the world every week. (If you want to get a cogent crash-course in conservative thought...which I would call common-sense thought...I would encourage you to watch any of these on YouTube. Here is a link to his latest video...”An Eye For An Eye”). I would also add that Dennis Prager is a practicing Jew.

Monday, I did something I have only done one other time...I bought a book on the day it was published. (Tuesday, I was fortunate enough to talk to him on his radio show for the first time and congratulate him on opening at #2 on Amazon!) So why would a Christian pastor buy a Jewish commentary and recommend other Christians read it? 
Here are three reasons:
  • Dennis has devoted over fifty years of his life to the study and teaching of the Torah. He speaks Hebrew as well as he speaks English (which is very well, I might add!), and has immersed himself in the Hebrew of the Bible – both its grammar and its vocabulary. As one who doesn’t have that linguistic background, I appreciate his willingness to share this skill with others like myself.
  • Exodus 18 describes the encounter of Moses in the wilderness of Sinai with his father-in-law Jethro. Jethro, who is a Midianite (pagan) priest, has a lengthy conversation with Moses, and, in the process, gives Moses advice concerning his use of his own time. Moses recognizes the wisdom of these words, and then incorporates his father-in-law’s advice, making it Jewish practice. Now, if God would take the time to include an entire chapter of Exodus about Moses’ listening to and following the advice of a pagan priest, shouldn’t I as a Christian be open to hearing advice and commentary from a Jewish man who has studied the Hebrew Bible for over half a century? I think so!
  • We are living in an age of unprecedented dialogue between Jews and Christians like none other in history. For me to participate in this God-honoring dialogue, I need to understand where my Jewish brothers and sisters are coming from. In addition, I have a great desire to share the good news of the gospel as found in the New Testament with my Jewish neighbors, as do millions of others Christians. Yet, how can I share my perspective with them if I don’t understand and respect their perspective?
I have spent some time reading this book in the last five days, and have finished the first half. I actually skipped to Mr. Prager’s commentary on chapter twenty (the chapter on the Ten Commandments...which we have currently been studying at our church) earlier in the week, as I expected there could be helpful information that I could use in my Wednesday night teaching (which there was!). I intend to continue reading the last half of the book as we progress along in our Bible study. I’m sure it will be a great resource.

So what is my take on this new commentary? And why do I recommend that you purchase and read this book?

  • This book is like no commentary I have ever read...and I have read from many of them. It is not stuffy at all. Dennis chose to write it in the first person and to include personal anecdotes where appropriate. What other commentary would quote Maimonides, Abraham Lincoln,...and Woody Allen?
  • Because of Mr. Prager’s immersion in the Biblical Hebrew (as noted above), he brings out many nuances in the text which are not apparent to English readers. He also explains Hebrew terms that are almost universally misunderstood. One example that enlightened me is the phrase “a land flowing with milk and honey” (first recorded in Exodus 3:8), which refers to the Hebrews’ future home, Canaan. He quotes Jewish theologian Nahum Sarna in explaining that “a land flowing with milk (which was goat’s milk)...suggests ample pasturage and the prospect of much meat, hide, and wool. And honey here refers to the thick sweet syrup produced from dates, not to the honey produced from bees.” All of these together bring out a greater appreciation and understanding of the Biblical text.
  • Dennis frequently alludes to historical (and occasionally current) events to illustrate Bible truths. This is especially true of the history of America, which he calls the most-Bible based country ever founded (outside of Israel). An example is his commentary on chapter three verse eleven, where Moses states to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and free the Israelites from Egypt?” Dennis comments, “During the American Revolution, a relatively common phrase was ‘the meekness of Moses’ which described the humility many were looking for in their prospective leaders.” He goes on to quote John Adams who wrote in 1776 that the management of the United States would require “the Meekness of Moses, the Patience of Job and the Wisdom of Solomon, added to the Valor of Daniel.”
  • Throughout the commentary, Mr. Prager sprinkles in longer essays. These by themselves are worth the price of the book. The one that stands out to me the most (so far) is found in his commentary of chapter eight verse six, entitled “The God of the Torah: The Most Important Idea in World History.” In this essay, he gives fifteen reasons why the contribution of the Torah is vastly important. Some of them include…
    • The God introduced by the Torah is the first god in history to have been entirely above and beyond nature.”
    • The God introduced by the Torah brought universal morality into the world.”
    • The moral God introduced by the Torah means morality is real. ‘Good’ and ‘evil’ are not merely individual or societal opinions. But objectively real.”
    • The God introduced by the Torah morally judges every human being. There had never been a concept like this. And it became a major reason for Jew-hatred.” (I had never thought of this as being a reason for anti-semitism, but it must certainly be one.)
    • The God introduced by the Torah means there is ultimate meaning to existence and to each of our lives. Without this Creator, existence is random and purposeless.”
  • In addition, here are a few quotes from this book which caught my attention:
    • The central message of the Torah is “that God is good and demands we be the only belief that will enable us to make a good world.”
    • People (today) greatly value knowledge and intelligence, but not wisdom. And the lack of wisdom—-certainly in America and the rest of the West – is directly related to the decline in biblical literacy. In the American past, virtually every home, no matter how poor, owned a Bible. It was the primary vehicle by which parents passed wisdom on to their children.”
    • The Torah is so different – morally, theologically, and in terms of wisdom – from anything else preceding it and, for that matter, from anything written since, that a reasonable person would have to conclude either moral supermen or God was responsible for it.” (I would put the entire Bible in this category, including the New Testament.)
    • Another major reason I am convinced the Torah is not man-made is it so often depicts the people of the Book, the Jews, in a negative light.”
    • On the divinity of the Torah...“When Professor (Alan) Dershowitz (a secular Jewish scholar) differs with the Torah, he thinks the Torah is wrong and he is right. When I differ with the Torah, I think the Torah is right and I am wrong.”
    • Remembering – the good others have done, the evil others have done, and one’s moral obligations – is an indispensable aspect of a good and meaningful life.”
    • Biology is not destiny; you can be the child of an evil person and be a good person.”
    • Gratitude takes effort; resentment is effortless.” (So true!)
  • The section on the Ten Commandments is detailed and thoughtful.
    • It includes a lengthy, well-written essay on the “false gods” of our modern culture. In this section, Mr. Prager singles out a number of modern-day “false gods”, in violation of the second commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me.” Some of these “false gods” which he writes about are “education”, “art”, “love”, “reason”, and even “religion and faith”. (I would add “sports” to this list...that’s a huge idol in our culture!)
    • One essay which I found especially enlightening is on the third commandment, “Thou shall not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain...” In this essay , entitled “The Worst Sin Is Committing Evil In God’s Name,” Mr. Prager makes the point that the Hebrew word for “take” can be translated “carry.” He states “any person (using modern-day examples of an Islamic terrorist or clergy member who molests a child) who claims to be acting in God’s name while doing the opposite of what God wants (is) evil.” I used this example in our study on this commandment based on Dennis Prager’s excellent video on the same subject (which you can watch it here).

Because this book is written by a religious Jew who rejects the deity of Christ (albeit one who respects Christians and defends them frequently), there are many things in the text of Exodus that are obvious to me and other Christians which are not obvious to Mr. Prager and other Jewish teachers. The whole concept of redemption in Exodus, which Mr. Prager deals with as only redemption from Egypt, is sprinkled throughout the book. I believe that redemption in Exodus finds it’s fulfillment in Jesus Christ. This “greater meaning” of Exodus is found in it’s foreshadowing of Christ, who most notably is pre-figured as the Passover lamb (Exodus 12). Jesus, who as “the Lamb of God” who took away the sin of the world (John 1:29), was crucified on Passover as a fulfillment of the Exodus Passover story. As the Hebrews of the Exodus were to apply the blood of the lamb to the doorposts and lentil of the homes in order to escape the death of the firstborn, we are given the opportunity through faith in Christ to apply the blood of “Christ our Passover” (1 Cor. 5:7) to our own hearts in order to escape “the wrath to come.” I and other Christians see many other allusions to Christ in the book of Exodus...which are of course missing from Mr. Prager’s book as well as his theology.

That being said, I believe there is great value to this work...even to believing Christians like myself. Paul in 2 Corinthians calls our New Testament understanding of God “the ministry of the Spirit”. Compared to the Old Testament understanding of God, Paul says this New Covenant is “more glorious” than the teachings of the Old Covenant as revealed in the Torah. Yet, even in this passage, Paul describes the Old Testament teachings (as were taught by observant Jews then and now) as “glorious.” In this same spirit, I would describe Dennis Prager’s commentary on Exodus (especially compared to the drivel which assaults our bookshelves each week) as a glorious work!

Want to read more?  Here are a few recent blog posts from this site you might find interesting...

The Path of Peace

I Went To A Town Hall Meeting...And God Showed Up!

Tuesday, April 3, 2018


A nice desk recently came into my possession which I have been refinishing. Since I've never done this kind of work, I asked several people for advice on how to do it...and watched a few YouTube videos as well. There seems to be about as many ways to refinish a piece of furniture as there are people who do it!

Nevertheless, I’m learning by experience. It’s by no means a perfect job, but it’s coming along. When I bought this desk (only $45!), it was a real mess. I knew that it was well-made just from the weight of it (it was a beast to move!), but the top had all kinds of splotches and imperfections. One section of the top had candlewax on it, and it had several places with water damage. But the wood was in fine shape.

The top before I sanded it...

I went to work on it last week, hand-sanding the top and some parts of the exterior of the desk. I wasn’t trying to remove all the finish...except for the top, the exterior was pretty good...but much of it had to go. I actually had to start with a knife...which I used to scrape the candlewax off. Upon the advice I was given, I started with 100-grit sandpaper (pretty rough stuff) and then went to 150-grit (not as rough but still pretty gritty). After I sanded down the top, I wiped it down, applied stain and let it dry. I went back later and resanded with 400-grit sandpaper (fo

more delicate sanding), finally putting a polyurethane gloss on. Even after that, I wasn’t satisfied, but used the 400-grit paper again, lightly sanding and reapplying the gloss. It’s far from a perfect job, and I’m sure a professional could see right away that it is the job of an amateur, but I’m pretty happy with it.

This whole little project made me think of the discipline of the Lord. I’m sure if my desk had a will of it’s own, it would have rather me not sanded it at all...and would definitely have cried out, “Don’t scrape me with a knife! Just leave me be!” It might have said something like, “Just put a little gloss on me...don’t worry about the sandpaper!”

We don’t like sandpaper…
After sanding and apply polyurethane

As Christians, we rejoice in the fact that “we are bought with a price.” We know that we “were not redeemed with perishable things like silver and gold...but with precious blood...the blood of Christ.” (I Peter 1:18, 19). We like the fact that we are bound for heaven because he paid for our sins with His own precious blood...but we’d rather not think about the fact that we are redeemed to serve Him and glorify Him. We are redeemed to become disciples...and disciples have to be disciplined. When we come to Christ, we are pretty rough stuff...much rougher than the desk I acquired. He simply is not going to use us much in His kingdom until we’ve been sanded down...made fit for the master’s use.

But...we don’t like sandpaper…

The writer of Hebrews quotes from Proverbs when he states…

...My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
Nor faint when you are reproved by Him;
For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines,
And He scourges every son whom He receives.”
(Hebrews 12:5b, 6)

He goes on to say, “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?” (NIV) (Unfortunately, this could not be written this way in our day. Very few children are disciplined appropriately by their fathers in our age). So he is saying, when hardship comes our way, respond to it as a blessing from God. Instead of fearing these times, we should rejoice in hardship and trials!
This brings to mind the words of James:

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)

I can hear someone saying about now...”Consider it all joy? Really?”
  • “When my child becomes sick with a terminal illness?”
  • “When my spouse leaves me?”
  • “When I lose my job?”
  • “When my health is taken from me?”
“How am I to rejoice in these circumstances?”

There is only one way really. We have to believe...we have to know...really KNOW...that God ALWAYS disciplines us for our good. He never causes or allows trials to happen to His redeemed children that He doesn’t have a greater purpose in mind…

...the testing of your faith produces endurance...” What does he mean by that?

The Greek word translated “endurance” (in some versions it is translated “patience” or “steadfastness”) literally means “abiding under.” Strong’s definition is “cheerful (or hopeful) endurance; constancy.” Thayer’s has the definition “a patient, steadfast waiting for.” And also this…

In the NT the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings.”

When I read this, I picture an endurance runner. No one starts out one day to run a marathon with no preparation. You have to train for it...often for months. Like a runner building up stamina to run a long race, the way you get this kind of faith (“that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing”) is through trials...through difficulties…


There is one big difference between the process of sanding my desk and what we are called to go through as Christians. The difference is this: my desk has no will of its it had no power to resist the sandpaper…but we do.

If we resist Him, we will never receive the benefit of the trial. If, instead of "considering it all joy”, we complain and grumble (my Facebook feed is sometimes full of grumbling and complaining people who have to describe their latest trial in vivid detail!), we halt what God is trying to do in our lives. A good Old Testament illustration is found in Exodus, wherethe Israelites, after being redeemed from Egypt, have to wander in the wilderness for a period of time. Repeatedly, God tests them with various trials and...repeatedly...they grumble and complain. One time they have no food for a short time, another time they have no water, another time they find water but it is bitter. In each case, their reaction is the same. They grumble to Moses and to God. (You can read about this in Exodus 15:22 – 17:7) When I looked at the Hebrew meaning of the word which is translated “to grumble” or “to murmur”, I found something very interesting. It literally means “to stop.” It was used by those traveling on a journey who stopped at an inn or elsewhere to take rest. This really spoke to me. When we murmur or complain at our difficult situations, all spiritual growth is stopped cold. Complaining stops growth. Think about that the next time you are tempted to grumble about your lot in life! I do!

While I was writing this, I got a call from one of our church members named Bec. We have a church prayer chain, and she asked me to put her little two-year-old grandson on this line, which I was glad to do. (We don’t think it’s serious, but he has a swollen thumb and a fever and is going to see a doctor this morning.) After she shared the prayer request with me, she shared this with me: “You know, something like this used to floor me. Even a little thing would knock me flat. But, since I’ve been in the word and in prayer every day, they don’t get to me nearly like they used to. When I concentrate on Him, He helps me with my emotions!” Praise God! This is exactly what this article is about. When we see these things as coming from the hand of a loving God, one who even sent His only Son to die for us, and who would never do anything harmful to us, we build up “spiritual stamina”, as Bec has surely done. We see the sandpaper in our lives as just preparation for the gloss that is surely to come. If it never comes in this life, it will surely come in the life to come.

All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. (Hebrews 12:11)
I must add one more thing here. Ultimately, “the peaceful fruit of righteousness”, “the gloss” if you will, is not even for ourselves. It is for His kingdom...for His glory. When we receive comfort and strength after suffering trials, we can use that comfort and strength to minister to others who are going through trials (that’s the real gloss!) And, in the end, Our glorification (which in it’s fullness will only be when we reach our heavenly home) is merely a reflection of His glory. When we get to the place where we see IT IS ALL FOR HIS GLORY, we’ve come to a good place.
So...when we encounter various trials...the sandpaper of this life...let’s learn to embrace them. It is ALWAYS for our good, NEVER for our destruction, and ULTIMATELY for the glory of His kingdom.

So...Bring on the sandpaper!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Waiting 2018 - Recap #4 "Out of the Saltshaker..."

Prayer for Pastor Robert and Esther Morey and Coda Ministry

This is the fourth in my series recapping Waiting 2018, a series of Spirit-led meetings which were held in Parker City, Indiana, on March 10th and 11th.   To begin with the first post in the series, click here.

Continuing with my recap of the Sunday morning gathering…

The meeting Sunday morning started at 9:00 AM and finished up at 1:30 it lasted four-and-a-half hours. I know most people would be aghast at a church meeting that lasted that long, but...believe didn’t seem that long at all! When the Spirit of God is really manifested Himself among His people, time just seems to fly by. I’ve been to meetings that lasted an hour-and-a-half that seems FAR longer than this meeting...because there was no life in them. There was KINGDOM LIFE in these meetings...and it makes all the difference.

(I hope, for those of you who haven’t attended one of these Waitings, that these accounts will make you want to come the next time one is announced. You don’t have to be a part of any certain church...If you are a member of the body of Christ...just come! You won’t regret it! If you would like to be notified when another meeting is announced, then just "Like" Parker City Christ Fellowship or Fair Haven Christ Fellowship (the church that I'm from) on Facebook. Both of these churches will make the announcement on Facebook when the time comes. You can also email me at, and I’ll be glad to let you know.)

Soon after Pastor Jerry Keller’s wonderful message, Pastor Aaron announced that we would be taking up an offering and that Parker City would be keeping none of it. Every penny was going to go to an incredible ministry called Coda Mountain Academy in West Virginia, which is headed up by Pastor Robert Morey’s wife, Esther. There just couldn’t have been a better place for this money to go.

Sister Esther was gracious to share with me briefly some of her experiences in founding Coda, and to explain just what it is:

The last 18 years of our 35-year ministry in Fayette County, WV has been focused on youth. There have been surprising turns all along – but none as much as the day the Lord told a homeschool mom (yours truly) who was prejudiced against the public school and who did not have a teaching degree that she would teaching at Fayetteville High School someday. This is not the time or place to tell that story – but the short story is that God miraculously opened that door for me/us to do just that, AND even greater, God baptized me in love for the public-school kids, teachers, service personnel and administration. We started with 27 children but the program has grown to three schools and 250 – 300 children any given semester. Summer camps and adult programs have also been blessed with the breath of God’s presence and favor, allowing us to reach about 200 more youth and adults. I’m saying all this to say that God has been taking us out of the salt shaker and into the world in ways that we did NOT EXPECT! (Sometimes my head was confused about God pulling our focus so far outside the church walls and creating a ministry (Coda Mountain Academy) on things like violins, guitars, Lego robotics, art, cooking etc. However confused my head (and sometimes my church) was, our hearts were COMPELLED to go forward. The work is overwhelming and all-consuming at times…and as you might imagine…funding to sustain everything a grueling and constant uphill climb. But the impact on Fayette County has been breathtaking and glorious!The joy of this has kept us steady in the hard times.

At the morning meeting, right before the offering was taken, she shared her thoughts about just how much it has meant to have us partner with them. Some of the things she shared that morning were:
  • The way you loved (our two young men...Dale and Riley) that we brought with us last time (was incredible)! Dale and Riley (boys who grew up in underprivileged settings) said, after we loved them (at the Waiting in December), “We’re rich and famous!” (Holy laughter ensued!)
  • Recently, I’ve really felt the body of Christ start to wrap around this work in West Virginia.” She would later share that she felt so alone in it for so long...but not anymore!
  • I really feel we’re all in this together. Your prayers are so important!”
  • The stuff I asked you to pray about last time (in December) is already happening in amazing ways!”
After she finished speaking, Pastor Aaron said, “My heart is so stirred) I don’t have the words! We love you! You are not alone!” (You can watch how this whole thing unfolded in the first video below...the offering announcement is in the second video.) Pastor Aaron prayed over the offering, thanking Jesus for the privilege of using us as a body being able to sew into this ministry.

Elizabeth Doss sang a stirring “Anthem of Praise” as we took the offertory  (She also shared with us in another part of the meeting about the beautiful "Israeli Flag" painting that she made during the meeting.)  Pastor Aaron brought his wife Missy up to present the check to the Morey’s. When he announced the amount...over $8000...they were just blown away! (This was an amazing offering from a relatively small group of people...Jesus was putting it into people’s hearts to be so very generous!) Sister Esther shared with me her reaction to the offering as well as the prayer for their physical health and other needs:

Toward the end of the last meeting Pastor Aaron had a leading to take up an offering for Robert and I and the work we do in Fayette County. This was a blessed surprise! While the offering was being counted, a particularly specific and precious ministry of prayer into our lives, work and health occurred through the obedience of Molly, Taylor and Lori and others. (We had experienced some damage to our health from natural gas and carbon monoxide exposure recently. We hadn’t mentioned it to hardly anyone, but the Lord knew and ferreted it out. There has been evidence of God’s answer since then!) What that meant to us – and the sacredness of those moments – would be hard to ever explain. If that wasn’t glorious enough, the offering amount was announced we still haven’t recovered. $8,536.85. Can you believe the grace, favor, obedience and sacrifice wrapped in the love of God that this represents? Oh – and then Britny (Nall), another young woman of God who shares our burden, came to me in her wheelchair with a handful of change in her lap. I put this change in a special place to be used as the Lord directs.

She would share with me later that day, “You can’t imagine what a load this takes off of us!” Pastor Robert shared that they are “standing between the living and the dead” and that we are “standing between the living and the dead” as we partner with them in prayer and in finance. (I would hasten to say here...they came not expecting nor asking for a penny. This offering was first to last led by the Spirit of the Living God.)

God is expanding their ministry, and they needed every penny of this and so much more...If there is anyone reading this who are touched by this wonderful ministry to underprivileged children in West Virginia and are looking for a place to invest their resources, I would encourage you to pray for them and go to their website and donate to Coda...There is no place on earth that your money would be used for anything more worthy than this ministry!  (Click here to check out their ministry and to donate.  You can also click here for their Facebook page)

Pastor Taylor Keller ended this time with a rousing prayer over the Morey’s and their ministry. At the close of the meeting, we all gathered around in a big circle and, with Pastor Taylor and Molly’s leadership, we just praised the Lord for some time.

Pastor Aaron shared that the meeting would end officially then, but that he felt that many of us would be staying and fellowshipping with one another until 4:00.

A few closing thoughts…

It seems that there is far more that I left out in these brief “recaps” than I included. Many kingdom moments occurred in the meetings and outside of the meetings that are just as precious and eventful as the few that I’ve shared here. If your “moment” was left out of this report, please forgive me.

Several were able to share with me their thoughts about the meetings overall. Here are a couple of them:

Waiting 2018 - much joy, worship, peace, love, laughter & truth; communion of Christ & with one another. All in copious amounts. Pastor Kim Gilbert

It was great to see old friends, meet new ones and worship together. Dennis Begeman

Towards the end of the final meeting, the Lord put it on my heart to just go up and hug certain men and tell them that I appreciate and love them, which I did. They were Pastor Robert Morey, James Doss, Pastor Jerry Keller, Pastor Kim Gilbert, and (later during our fellowship tiime) Pastor Nicky Farmer. It wasn’t until I was reflecting on the meetings later that evening that I realized that these men were all from different churches which were represented there. It made me realize even more that the Lord is truly wanting to bring us all together in love.

I shared with our congregation at Fair Haven last Sunday a message about wisdom, which I spoke especially to our young people. During that message, I shared with them one of the things that God has put on my heart, which I feel impressed to share here in closing. “Love is the lubricant that allows wisdom to be imparted from one generation to the next.” A car can’t run without lubricant. The body of Christ can’t run without the lubricant (or oil) of love. It is love for one another that makes everything work well in the body of Christ. It is love...Agape love...self-sacrifical love...that we are called to display to one another and to the world around us. At Waiting 2018, we loved one another...LET’S NOT STOP!

Want to read more?  Here are links to a few other articles on this  blog:

I Went To A Town Hall Meeting...And God Showed Up!
The New Evangelism...(Reimar Schultze)
The Question That Led To The Prayer...My Day at the Statehouse...

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Waiting 2018 - Recap #3 - "The Remnant"

Kathy Nall signing "I Love You Lord"

This is the third in a series on Waiting 2018, held at Parker City, Indiana, March 10 and 11th, 2018.  To begin with the first post in the series, click here.

  For me, the Sunday morning meeting started at the Baymont Hotel where we were staying. I had gone to the small breakfast nook to eat something, and struck up a conversation from a older gentleman from Wisconsin named Jim. As we chatted, I mentioned that I was a pastor and we were attending meeting nearby. I was wearing a suit this time, and he made some remark about that he figured as much, since only pastors would wear a suit on Sunday anymore. But this led to talking about spiritual matters. He was raised Catholic, but didn’t practice any religion seriously until 2000, when his daughter came home from college. She told her that she had given her life to Jesus, gave her dad a Bible and said, “Here, read this!” And he’s been reading it ever since. We talked...actually I mostly listened... for about an hour. I began to realize that Jim was seeing that the church of today didn’t match what was in his Bible at all. He made some remark to the effect that he hadn’t been able to find anybody that was “doing church” according to the Bible. I told him, “Brother, I can tell you that, like God told Elijah, there are seven thousand who haven’t bowed the knee to Baal, and I’m meeting with some of them this morning!” His response was, “Yes, the Remnant.” Before we left, I gave him a copy of the Voice in the Wilderness and invited him to the meeting. He said he would come after he did his laundry. Somehow I thought he really would come.

We were privilege again to be in led in worship at the beginning of the Sunday morning meeting by Pastor Taylor and Molly Keller. During that time, my wife Kathy, prompted by the Holy Spirit, asked if she could teach us a song in sign language. So Pastor Taylor played “I Love You, Lord” as she taught us another way to praise God. The body was edified by this.

Marcia Schultze shared this account with me of the first part of the Sunday service:

Jewell (Helm Dyer) started out the Sunday morning with her piano playing. It always amazes me what all she can add to a hymn. I love to hear her play! It followed with a few testimonies from John McAdams, Debbie Batton, and Joyce Miller. Aaron made a statement in the midst of this that said, “It’s OK to laugh in church, but not to laugh at the church." Then (Roland) Abraham had another prayer in praising and praying to the Lord. It is something to hear him pray! Mrs. Nall (also) taught us a song in sign language.

Towards the end of the worship time, I looked around and there was Jim, sitting about halfway back in the sanctuary! I went back and asked him if he would like to come sit up front with us, and he gladly came. Because our pew was full, I seated him on the front pew next to us between Don Dicus (who he had also had fellowship with in the hotel) and Pastor Jerry Keller.

God had led for Pastor Jerry to share communion with us and to deliver the morning message. When Pastor Aaron asked him to come up to officiate communion, he asked if we could do the communion and the message together, which was fine with Pastor Aaron. One of his first remarks was about a young fifteen-year-old girl who came to their church for the first time and just came up and sat on the front row. (I thought this was very interesting. I shared with Pastor Jerry later that the man who just sat down beside him was here for the first time and sat down on the front row!) During the service at Plainfield, Pastor Jerry shared about Rev. Loran Helm and the impact of “A Voice In The Wilderness” and that they were distributing the book to any who wanted it. The young girl, who can gone “church shopping” with her parents’ consent, came home and noticed a blue book on the counter. The girl asked her mother, “Where did this come from?” Her mother shared with her that she had bought a copy of the “A Voice in the Wilderness” at a local library sale, and that this was her favorite book next to the Bible. The girl was able to share with her mother that a church that she attended this morning was led by people who had sat under Rev. Helm’s teaching! Her mother undoubtedly had the only copy of “A Voice” in Plainfield outside of Plainfield Christ Fellowship, which had just opened it’s doors. This girl is now in Africa training to be a missionary.

What followed is probably one of the most unusual communion services any of us had ever attended.

Marcia Schultze shared this discription of the service:

Jerry Keller had the message for the morning, but he intertwined it in with the communion we were taking. He had us all stand up and go into the aisle, facing one another, with our backs to the pews. He first passed the cup, and told us to exchange it with our neighbor, and then to drink our neighbors cup (thanking God for the blood that was shed for our neighbor). Then they passed the bread, and we were to take that, and then pray for a need our neighbor had. This was all done in the midst of singing and prayer. It was so impressive and meaningful.

When I asked others to share their thoughts about the meetings, I found out that this special communion was one of the highlights of the meeting for many people. Here are some of the remarks that were shared with me about this time:

When we shared the communion with each other by giving our wine to another person, it touched me so much. Instead of me giving it to myself, by giving it to others, it made me feel as I am sharing Jesus blood with others. (Barbara Stefan)

Sharing comminion was so sweet very real connection..Holy Spirit was very much all around us through ENTIRE meeting!! WE ARE SO BLESSED DEAR fellowship !! (Rev. Helm’s daughter Joyce Miller)

I believe the communion time was a blessing to all who participated. Sharing communion with John McAdams is a memory I will cherish for the rest of my life. John and Janet were a blessing when they came to Indianapolis. I purchased their home when they moved back to Parker. John also is from my mother's home town, Wellsburg, West Virginia. (Daniel Jones)

My new friend Jim was quite taken by what he experienced in the meetings. He told me later
that when he came in, he really didn’t sense anything unusual for awhile, but the more he listened and observed, the more he realized that God Himself was really leading this meeting. Towards the end of the morning service (which extended well into the afternoon), he got the mike and asked Pastor Aaron rather pointedly, “Is this the way it is every Sunday?” He was so stirred by what he saw that he called his wife after the service to let her know. Jim would stay for the entire service, and shared lunch with us for some time afterwards. He and His wife are planning to retire somewhere further south, and he told me they are going to be looking at and praying about “somewhere in Indiana” now! Praise the Lord! God knows how to make connections...all we have to do is follow.
Pastor Jerry Keller

In Pastor Jerry’s message, he shared that the Lord had woke him up early in the morning recently and spoke the phrase into his heart, “co-opted words.” He looked it up and found this definition of co-opted: “Words that have strayed from the original meaning. Words that have been twisted and turned by someone for their own purposes so that they no longer mean what they meant when the original author first spoke them.” Pastor Jerry shared that “trust” is one of these “co-opted” words. He gave us what he called “the apostolic sign language” for trust by putting his hand right in front of his face. He said, “That’s trust!” (This was something that came from Rev. Helm.) He went on to share an excellent message from John 21 about Jesus’ words to Peter...”You follow me!” We’re not to worry about the person beside us and the way that the Lord may or may not work with them. We each are called individual to take up our cross and follow Him.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Waiting 2018 Recap #2 - "The Road Less Traveled"

Pastor Reimar Schultze, Pastor Mike Douglas, Montana,
and myself
This is the second in a series on Waiting 2018, held at Parker City, Indiana, March 10 and 11th, 2018.  To read the first post in the series, click here.  

As I began to write this morning this recap of the Saturday afternoon service of Waiting 2018, I realized there was a block of some kind. As I was praying and reviewing my notes a few minutes ago, I began to understand that there were some things from the morning meeting that I had left out that are very important things.
  • God led in that meeting for special prayer for a young man from Fair Haven (part of our wonderful youth group!) named Montana Koch. God really helped Pastor Mike to pray for Montana.
  • Pastor Jerry Keller shared a remarkable story of how the Lord woke him up in the night a few months ago, speaking to his heart, “Come with me to Jerusalem.” In obedience, He and his daughter Molly got on a plane a few days later and went to the Holy City. He encountered groups of Christians praying for world-wide awakening in different parts of the city, and found Holy Ghost fellowship with a Jesus-loving couple from Australia.
  • Pastor Aaron shared a few moments about his love and respect for Pastor Kim Gilbert and his
    wife Janice, who faithfully served Parker City Christ Fellowship in a pastoral role for several years. He stated  that because of his years of prayer and dedication to the Lord in looking for revival and awakening, this was “Pastor Kim’s Waiting" (in a spiritual sense).  Pastor Aaron went on to explain that of course it is first and foremost “Jesus’ Waiting”, but that God often honors his servants in special ways such as this.
Pastor Aaron started the Saturday afternoon service with a few Godly words of exhortation including:
  • Leonard Ravenhill’s statement that there is a time for God’s servants to “Go Hide Thyself” (as God would speak this words to Elijah in 1 Kings 17:3) and that there is a time for God’s people to “Go Show Thyself” (as God would later speak to Elijah in 1 Kings 18:1).
  • God is calling His people to “Cease Striving and Know That I Am God.” (Psalm 46:10)
  • Rodney Dunn, a member of Parker City Christ Fellowship who went on to be with the Lord several years ago, made the simple but profound statement “All pressure is from hell!” (That quote was worth the entire Waiting!)
A really amazing thing happened after Pastor Aaron’s afternoon exhortation which would be really easy to pass over. Nothing happened. At least, nothing that we could see. You see, this meeting called  "Waiting 2018" really lived up to it’s name. For a few minutes, we just waited. Pastor Aaron was our God-appointed leader for the weekend, but he wasn’t able to discern what was next, so we waited...just trusting in God.

I feel led at this point to drop the narrative of the afternoon meetings and share some things which I read this morning in “A Voice In The Wilderness” just this morning. This wonderful book (which I shared about in an earlier post this month. You can follow this link to read it) was written by Rev. Loren Helm, who God appointed to lead an earlier series of “Waiting on God” meetings from the 1960’s to early 2000’s, in which many were helped, encouraged, and convicted in their walk with Jesus.

Probably my favorite quote from this book was one I shared in the earlier post this month that included the statement “Don’t place your attention on any difficulties at any time...” A couple of paragraphs later Rev. Helm shares this observation:

I had discovered few Christians who had this victorious overcoming experience . I didn’t know the missing links in Christianity then; but God has let me discover one or two of them over the years. I learned that the missing link which connects us to a continuous life as an overcoming Christian is self-denial. We must learn to deny Self in a heart of trust; for then we move, through the leadership of the Holy Spirit, to obedience and the cross.
We in the church can sing, preach, pray, read scripture, go along with the religious program, and nevery once deny Self. Often, instead of depending on God to guide us, we plan a little of what we want to do, sing the songs we like to hear, and preach when we want the preaching totake place. We pretty much arrange activities which suit our taste and conform to our schedule. But, you see, God wants all of the church’s activities at His direction. He wants to be all of the content of our program. Christ must have everything.

We must wait on Him until He sends, until He guides, until He reveals. We must wait on Him so that He can lead the church, lead the body, and become the true Head of His believing followers.

If the church today could really get hold of these words, the entire spiritual world would be revolutionized! Pastor Aaron, as I have seen his mentor and my mentor Pastor Mike Douglas do so many times, didn’t just rush off to the next thing, but simply waited in simple trust. This is not something you will learn in any seminary. In fact, quite the opposite. In modern Christianity, everything has to keep moving to retain the people’s attention. This is antithetical to the walk of faith which Jesus taught, which Luke recorded in the book of Acts, and which Paul and the other apostles practiced throughout their lives. Pastor Aaron was practicing self-denial as He waiting upon God’s leading. We were practicing self-denial as we simply trusted in quietness and contentment.

Pastor Mike Douglas and Aaron Simms
After a few minutes of waiting and trusting, Pastor Aaron asked Pastor Mike if the Lord had anything on his heart to share. Indeed, Pastor Mike did. He had been practicing self-denial as he waited upon God to reveal what was next. Pastor Mike would have been free to speak up at any time to say, “God has put something in my heart to share” (and sometimes that is appropriate), but instead, he followed the “road less traveled” and simply waited for God to reveal this to Pastor Aaron. You see, the Holy Spirit really was leading the meeting! Hallelujah!

Pastor Mike shared a wonderful message from his heart (which I would encourage you to watch below) on “The Greatness of Grace.” He read a scripture from Numbers 15 in which a man was stoned to death for defying the Sabbath law by picking up wood on that holy day. This harsh-sounding penalty shows to us the seriousness of sin in God’s eyes, and reveals to us “the greatness of Grace.”   When, in this age after the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, the Lord forgives our sins...even the ones that seem tiny in our own site but in fact are a great affront to His holiness in His sight, we need to realize "the greatness of that grace" which is freely bestowed on us. What a great thing it was that God led for this powerful word from His servant! After the message, He shared the wonderful but sobering song “Feel the Nails."

God then led for a second message! (Isn’t it amazing to walk with God! We went from nothing to two

Pastor Robert Morey
God-ordained messages which went hand-in-hand we each other!) Pastor Robert Morey spoke about our “Faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:19) and shared several quotes from Dallas Willard, including these: “Why don’t you just obey God?” and “It is a good thing just to be” (or “It is a good thing that you exist”). He also shared that one thing that touched him in the old hymn we sang that morning “The Love of God” was the line “When men refuse to pray.” (This had struck me with some force as well.) It seems that we live in an age in “which men refuse to pray,” but...Praise God!...I believe that age is passing away!

Marcia Shultze shared her account of this service:

In the afternoon session (Pastor Aaron) called on Mike Douglas to preach. He preached on the “Greatness of Grace.” It was a very serious message. It was on the man that gathered wood on the Sabbath. The people reported it to Moses, and he didn’t know what to do, so he asked God, and he said “stone him.” So they stoned him. He said it wasn't the gathering of sticks that caused him to loose his life - it was the attitude of rebellion behind it.

Then he called on Robert Morey to preach. He preached on I Peter 4:19. One statement he made was: “Some people don’t pray in church.” He exhorted us to “don’t refuse to pray in church". He shared that in light of God being our faithful Creator, we must embrace that it is a good thing that we exist. We must understand our worth and purpose. Only then can we freely give ourselves away to God in obedience, self denial and cross bearing.Then Jerry Keller led in “Love lifted me.”

After the message, Pastor Taylor and Molly led us in worshipful adoration. At the end of the meeting, Pastor Aaron shared with us that there would be no evening meeting, but that we were to have the evening hours available to fellowship together. So often these informal times can be the most important times at these gatherings.  When the Holy Spirit is leading, He doesn’t leave after the last “Amen.” This was certainly true Saturday evening.

Some of us went to a cafeteria in Muncie that evening. The meeting just continued there, as Pastor Reimar Schultze and others testified. I have included a portion of Rev. Schultze’s testimony below which I recorded. (I was sitting in the back, so I apologize for the noise in the background...Hopefully it is good enough for you to hear). We had to leave before all the sharing, but thankfully, Sis. Marcia Schultze recorded her thoughts of that “cafeteria fellowship.”
Pastor Reimar Schultze sharing at MCL Cafeteria

Esther (Morey...the Schultze’s daughter from WV) wanted her hear some stories of God working in people's lives - including Reimar. So we ended up going to MCL in Muncie for supper, and got a private room, and continued in the meeting there. There were people from Fayetteville, Cornerstone (Inn), Fairhaven, and Parker. We had quite a meeting, Reimar sharing, Robert asking Reimar to share different things, and Pam Gould, the owner of the Cornerstone B&B, telling about 25 years ago, when it was the coldest day on record, and she couldn’t get her car started to bring us our breakfast, and at 6 AM  Brother Helm called for Reimar. She wasn’t able to transfer the call to the B&B, so he just talked to her for 40 minutes, praying over her needs in the business and her body, and prophesying. By the time she was done, she felt like she was walking six feet off the ground. Since that time she has given away many many “Voice in the Wilderness” books that he had written. Then a dad of one of the kids told what an effect Coda (the ministry to public-school kids that Esther Morey leads in West Virginia) had on him...He was an angry person, and through having to ride an hour with Robert in the car to a robotic meeting, he asked questions all the way, and Robert answered every one of them. He got saved about three weeks later. Pastor Nicky (Farmer from Kokomo) shared some too. At the end of meeting we gathered around the table to pray.

Speaking of Esther Morey, she shared with me these thoughts about the “Coda Kids” who came with her and Pastor Robert to the meetings (Five carloads full!):

A beautiful thing (that happened is that twice (in December 2017 and in these meetings) we have brought some of our precious Coda Inspire after-school kids to the Waiting meetings. Rather than being lost in the wood-work they have been welcomed and brought into the family. These experiences have been life changing for them – similar maybe to when I was a 10 year old at a Waiting Upon God.

We went to bed that evening thanking the Lord for the wonderful things we had been given, and in anticipation for the day to come.

Little did I know...

Recap #3 "The Remnant"

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