Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Angel of Marye's Heights - A Civil War Story


My wife and I recently took a trip to Virginia and Washington, D.C. During that time, we visited a number of historical sites, including several Civil War battlefields. As an American History buff, this was like a dream for me (and my wife actually enjoyed herself there, too!). It was amazing to follow the route of Grant and Lee’s 1864 Wilderness campaign, to stand on the ground at Chancellorsville where “Stonewall” Jackson was shot by his own men (he would die a few days later), and to walk the Sunken Road at the base of Marye’s Heights at Fredericksburg.

Fredericksburg was one of the most interesting sites to us. If you know anything about the battle that took place there in December of 1862, it was like Pickett’s doomed charge at Gettysburg in reverse. Instead of Confederates charging up a hill into the teeth of well-entrenched Union batteries (as Pickett would later do at Gettysburg in July, 1863), Union infantry at Chancellorsville would charge up a steep incline to disastrous consequences, as they were pummeled by Confederate artillery stationed on the top of a ridge called Marye’s Heights and by Confederate infantry stationed behind a stone wall in front of the Sunken Road below. It was there that Robert E. Lee was said to have famously declared, “It is well that war is so terrible - otherwise we would grow too fond of it.”

While there on the battlefield, I saw a large bronze statue at the end of the rebuilt stone wall. Being the only statue on the premises, I was drawn to see what this unusual site was. It was a monument not to any of the great generals of the battle, but to an obscure sergeant in the Confederate Army by the name of Richard Kirkland. Following is an account of Sergeant Kirkland’s fascinating story:

When night fell after the day’s pitched battle, countless (overwhelmingly Union) soldiers lay freezing and dying on the ground, where both sides could clearly hear them crying out for


water, the injured becoming understandably more dehydrated than the healthier men behind cover. Hearing these dying pleas, Confederate soldier Richard Rowland Kirkland, decided to do something about their pain. Kirkland asked the commanding general if he could head out to the battlefield and provide water to the disabled men, but Kirkland was initially denied. However after listening to the men’s cries a while longer, Kirkland pressed the point and the general allowed him to take to the exposed battleground and provide aid. Kirkland’s request to carry a white flag so that he would not be shot by the active Union soldiers was denied. Undeterred, the brave soldier set out with his canteen to soothe the dying men. At first apprehensive, the Union forces soon caught on to his charity and did not fire on Kirkland. The generous soldier was able to make several separate trips out onto the battlefield with water, each time risking being shot by the tense men on either side. Kirkland’s selfless actions earned him the nickname, “The Angel of Marye’s Heights.” (source – Atlas Obscura).

The Sunken Road...Marye's Heights is on the right...
the stone wall on the left
Think of that! Of all the stories of bravery and heroism that could be told at this iconic site, the one that the generation following the war deemed most worthy to memorialize in bronze was this story of mercy. A Rebel reaches out a hand of mercy to his Yankee opponents...and is forever remembered.

This reminds me of a verse in James:

...judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 3:13 NIV)

“Mercy triumphs over judgment.” What a stunning statement! God is indeed a God of justice, and because He is a just God, no sin can be excused. In fact, in Romans 1:20, Paul boldly states that all mankind is “without excuse.” He later states “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Yet God’s mercy triumphs over judgment. The only way for His mercy to triumph over His perfect justice was for someone to pay the penalty of sin for those under judgment. Someone had to come over the wall to save us, rebels though we were. That Someone was God’s only Son, Jesus Christ. Paul sums this up this way: “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Co. 5:21). Jesus Christ did far more than Sergeant Kirkland did for his enemies, heroic though that action was. Jesus gave His very life for me and for you. Because of His greatest of all sacrifices, we now have the opportunity to have fellowship with God today. As well, we know that we can only receive mercy from God when we show mercy to others. Let’s follow Richard Kirkland’s example and show mercy to others today!

This article originally appeared in The Posey County News in my column "Pastor's Perspective."

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Below are a few more pics (and one short video) of our Fredericksburg visit:














Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Robust Christian Man (Father's Day)








One of the more popular words that we see in the news these days is “robust.” We use this word to describe something that is strong and hardy. Just a quick check of this word in recent news articles revealed things like “robust jobs report,” “robust demand,” and “robust oil prices” (not exactly a good thing!). I looked up the origin of this word and found something very interesting. It comes from the Latin word “robustus” whose literal meaning is “as strong as oak.” It conveys the image of a sturdy tree whose roots go down deep. Winds may blow, storms may lash strongly against it, but it remains undisturbed.

The Bible actually likens a man who follows God to such a tree. Read these words from Psalm 92:

The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree,
He will grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
Planted in the house of the Lord,
They will flourish in the courts of our God.
They will still yield fruit in old age;
They shall be full of sap and very green,

Although this verse can apply to both men and women, since we are near Father’s Day, we’re going to apply it to men today.

Notice first for all that this robust man is righteous...that is, “right with God.” He is one who flourishes like a strong tree. In Psalm 1, it describes this same type of man as being “...like a tree firmly planted by streams of water.” It is in his right relationship with God that “the righteous man” flourishes. It is in that relationship that he is “firmly planted.” The truth is that without God, our lives are far from robust. Though outwardly we may seem to flourish, yet inwardly there is no firm foundation.

Secondly, notice that this “righteous man” is planted in the house of the Lord. I’m afraid in our culture, church attendance has become optional, even for those who call themselves Christians. This is especially true of men. Somehow to be a spiritual man is considered “unmanly.” To pray and take our families to church denotes weakness to many men. Yet, actually the opposite is true. A flourishing man...a robust man...is one who is spiritual. He is “planted in the house of the Lord.” He is the man who finds himself in church...every time the doors are open! How we need these kind of robust Christian men in our culture!

Finally, we also note that this spiritual man of robust faith bears much fruit in his life. Not occassional fruit, but consistent fruit...even down to his old age. Psalm 1 says of this man that “in whatever he does, he prospers.” This is because he doesn’t live a selfish life. He doesn’t live on “Me Mountain.” He is productive in the way that he relates to his fellow man. He gives of himself to others. He gives his time, treasure, and talent to God’s kingdom, asking nothing in return. In his latter years, he is the family patriarch, “full of sap and very green!”

Men, don’t you want to be a man like that? Women, don’t you want your husbands, fathers, and sons to be that kind of a man? Believe it or not, these type of men really do exist today! I would encourage you men to become that kind of man. Start this Sunday by going to a Bible-believing church in your area. Begin to read God’s word. Pray to Him daily. Ask Him to make you the kind of man that you want to be...the kind of man that you know you should be...a robust Christian man!

(This article originally appeared in The Posey County News...June 12, 2018)

Monday, May 28, 2018

A Soldier's Prayer




We attended a Memorial Day event at a local cemetery in our small town this morning.  A friend of mine, State Senator Jim Tomes, a veteran of the Vietnam War, shared a moving tribute to our veterans.  In his tribute, he shared the piece below, which I am sharing here in honor of our veterans:


In 1972, in an underground newspaper of the Samizdat, there was published the text of a prayer. It had been found in the jacket of a Russian soldier, Aleksander Zatzepta, composed just a few moments before the battle in which he lost his life in the Second World War:


“O God, hear me! 

Not once in my life have I ever spoken to you, but today I feel the urge to make you an act of worship.

You know that even from my infancy they always told me that you didn’t exist... I, stupid, believed them.

I had never marveled at your great works.
But tonight I looked up from out of a shell hole at the heaven of stars above me!
And fascinated by their brilliant magnificence
All at once I understood how terrible the deception...

I don’t know, O God, if you will give me your hand.
But I say this to you, and you understand.
Isn’t it strange, that in the midst of a terrible inferno, the light should appear to me and I should have discovered you?
Beyond this I have nothing to say to you. I am happy just because I have known you.

At midnight we must attack,
But I have no fear, you are looking out for us.
It is the signal. I have to go. It was wonderful to be with you. I want also to tell you, and you know it, that the battle will be hard: it could be that, in this very night, I’ll come to knock at your door.

And even though up to now I haven’t been your friend,
When I come, will you let me come in?
But what’s this? Am I crying?
My Lord God, you see what has happened: only now I’ve begun to see clearly...
Farewell, my God, I am going. It’s scarcely possible that I’ll return.
Strange; Death now has no fear for me.”

– The Most beautiful Prayers in the World, V Cattona (ed), Mondadori, Italy, 2006. Translated by Jim Christensen
Content taken from the website Plough.org.  

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 good...is 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

Sandpaper


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…

Sandpaper…

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 own...so 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 PM...so it lasted four-and-a-half hours. I know most people would be aghast at a church meeting that lasted that long, but...believe me...it 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 many...MANY...church 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 waynenalljr@gmail.com, 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...


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