Saturday, January 28, 2012

Message from Dee...

Jo took a fall in her house on Friday and broke her hip. The doctors repaired it with three screws. Jo will be back online with you next week.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Big Doors Swing on Little Hinges

The story I am about to tell you happened fifty-three years ago, so why am I telling it now? I don't know. Maybe you will.
In our first ministry after Bible college and seminary, with Ray and Elaine Stedman, we were stuffed with doctrine. ...up the kazoo. ...but training in relationships? Zilch!
In our third year of ministry, God hurt us and then He healed us. Nobody knew why we left that sophisticated ministry with well-educated, pre-Silicone Valley people for a dinky little ministry on Rosedale Highway in Bakersfield, California. ...except us. ...and God. Sunday I visited that once-dinky little ministry and sat in a crowd of thousands and my mind was not where anyone would have guessed in a million years.
Big doors swing on little hinges. I am about to tell you about the "hinge" that took us to a ministry where we would remain for fifteen years in a church then known as Fruitvale Community and now is RiverLakes Community, covering a city block.
In Palo Alto, our lives and home had teemed with young people. I thrived on having a full house. Ted? ...not so much. We had led the first runner-up to Miss California, a teacher, to Christ. With Ted being gone most of the time, I was lonely for adult companionship, plus I needed help with my kids and half of Palo Alto's kids who had their feet on our sofa and under our kitchen table most days and nights. ...SO I invited Miss First Runner-up to Miss California to live with us. Stupid!
...but "stupid" appears to be beautiful when the world, your flesh and the devil are after your family and your ministry.
Ted, being male and conveniently blind, ignored (and we'll name her Jezebel) Jezebel's thinly disguised flirtations. Having been trained as a farm girl to watch for snakes in the grass, I recognized seduction for what it was, knowing the tricks of THAT game very well myself. One day I confronted Jez face to face, helped her pack her suitcase and threw her out! I was furious at her, at Ted, at God, at myself and totally unforgiving. ...which led to depression. ...but I was trapped.
Somehow, even though Jez seemed to be ever-present, I was pregnant with our third child, so I couldn't divorce Ted and I couldn't kill him, because who would put food on the table for three kids and a mom? God did what only God can do. He broke my pride (Oh! Ow!!!) and gave me forgiveness and followed it with passionate love for Ted which I had never really experienced before. Satan had set us up and we fell for it, but God was 'way ahead of him. I was willing to follow Ted Stone to Timbuktu, and that is exactly where God and Ted took work with farmers and blue-collar workers from which I had fled years before upon graduation from high school.
I was sick as a dog in that pregnancy for months, we had no air conditioning, there was no "green" within miles but only dirt and air so thick we couldn't see the mountains to the east (I live in those very mountains now and thank my Father every single day of my life!).
What was the "little hinge"? ...God-given willingness to let go of my pride, my smugness, my inability to forgive, my ignoring my husband's need to have his little family all to himself in a quiet house, plus a few other sins I don't have to tell you about. Ted had his own confessing to do and we had to confess to one another and forgive one another. ...and so we went to Bakersfield to a ministry Ray Stedman told discouraged pastors about around the world: "They went to a church where nothing should have happened but it did!"
Now how does God turn such ugliness that could have destroyed not only a family but sabotaged a ministry to thousands for the rest of our lives, into something truly beautiful? I don't know, but He can and He does. This very week, he has brought me couples who have been seduced into a black widow's web that looks different from the one we fell into, but in reality, is the same. Nothing really changes with Satan's tactics except the faces and the places.
Remind yourself daily who your enemies are: the world (...and you are IN it, fighting not to be OF it), your flesh (which will never die completely 'til you breathe your last breath), and the devil, who will relentlessly fight you with dirty weapons that appear to be clean. Ol' black Ethel Waters who used to sing "His Eye is on the Sparrow" like nobody else ever sang it, said it this way: "God don' waste no agony!" ...and you can take that to the bank.
Christmas for us is never over, so let's close this story with words from Isaac Watt's "Joy to the World"!
No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow, far as the curse is found.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Oaks of Righteousness. Their roots must drink from deep springs.

It's only Friday, but here's the deal: My oldest and best friend and I are travelling to Thousand Oaks, California, tomorrow to hear Max Lucado narrate C.S. Lewis's "Screw Tape Letters". Let's GO, Char!
I've been re-reading Randy Alcorn's "Heaven". It is true that "No eye has seen, nor ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him BUT GOD HAS REVEALED IT TO US BY HIS SPIRIT". Don't leave out that last phrase of the scripture or you will view life from the belly of a whale.
I don't know who said this. Maybe it was me when I was young and knew everything, but it's not true: "Some people are so heavenly minded they're no earthly good!" Conclusion: UNTIL I'm heavenly minded I AM no earthly good! Every day I speak to my earthly eyes and tell them: "You guys fix yourselves on Jesus". ...but that's impossible to do without looking past the crud that is all around me and PURPOSING to think on Heaven. I HATE that crud. So does Jesus. I HATE that the world, the flesh and the devil screw up my thinking so I can't concentrate on what is "true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy" without having to yank my mind from the negative groove it prefers and forcing it to "set on things above and not on earthly things". I HATE that some people I adore aren't sure they can trust one another. I HATE that my motives are misread when I struggle so hard to live where I don't belong and I actually get it almost right sometimes.
...and then came yesterday. I sat at Lynda and Bob's kitchen table with a table full of teenagers. The 16-year-old next to me was headed to Hell until a few weeks ago and yesterday I saw hope in his eyes and a smile on his face and once more, I GOT it!
Ted and I travelled and taught the Word on several continents. ...always with a Purpose. I could possibly squeeze out enough money to join millions of widows and widowers and cruise an ocean or two. My pragmatic plan, however, is to wait until the New Heaven comes down and joins the New Earth. Then I will have my glorified eyes set in my glorified head and my glorified body can swoop all over the universes and actually take it all in! Free! ... no crowds, no lines waiting in airports to be "frisked", no dickering with ticket marketers and oh, yes, no wishing I was home after a few nights away from the familiar grooves in my own king-size bed.
We, the "grafted-in" ones, will inherit that New Heaven and New Earth because God says so in Isaiah 65:17-19. "Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered nor will they come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. ... The sound of weeping and crying will be heard in it no more".
Meanwhile, we get to participate with Jesus in His Prophetic Plan of "preaching the good news to the poor, binding up the brokenhearted, proclaiming freedom for the captives and releasing from darkness the prisoners...comforting all who mourn and providing for those who grieve in Zion, bestowing on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair". I got to do that this morning in my living room, with a lovely woman who is an "oak of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor".

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Perfect Love Casts out Fear

My dear Father, do You think you could give me a year when nobody in my family dies? ...even my cats? I am grateful for Your clear direction: 1)stay healthy so my remaining two children won't have to be knocked to their knees by another wrenching loss; 2)stay quiet enough to read, digest, believe and teach God's Word; 3) confess my sins and forgive those I hate, thus RESISTING the devil; 4) mind my own business and 5) keep my fingers and mind moving. I have noted that some older widows blabber because they don't have a husband to listen to them any more, so I promise to stay alert to people's body language: yawning, fidgeting, glazed-over or rolling eyeballs and tell-tale signs that my victim is edging toward the "slink-away two-step".
Today Jasmine and Briahna, home for another few days from Patrick Henry University in Virginia where both are studying to save our country from extinction, and I are meeting in town so they can tell me whatever they have concluded is worth retaining after one semester in college. When these two lightning rod sisters left for school last August I didn't know if there would be a continuing teens Bible study, but we are now picking up speed with more boys than girls. I like boys. ...always have, which was a terrible problem for my parents when I was a teenager. We are studying I John, the black and white letter that battered old Apostle penned for us. Kids and all of us need "black and white". "Gray" isn't working.
Tonight I will sit down at the Apple Shed's hundred-year-old piano and we will bring cheer to people who think they are coming to the Shed just to eat ribs and chicken. Some will look a little surprised when I saunter over to their table and ask them what song they want me to play that brings them happy feelings. Many will have a favorite, some will sing along, some will tap their foot, occasionally a couple will dance, one man may show up and whistle the melodies and some little kids will warble their lungs out to songs they know. So far in my seven years of playing the first Saturday night of every month, no one has walked out, muttering obscenities.
My Father is sending young people and couples to me to counsel. Amazing grace! I call on biblical veterans I trust when I run up against enemies I don't care to tackle alone. Is it my imagination or has Satan stepped up his program as God is stepping up His around the world? Our bailiwick of Christians (not given to hobnobbing with the charismatic crowd) has either ignored or turned tail and run at any mention that Satan exists and cripples Christians. Well he does. ...both exists and cripples. Don't you DARE fear him; he and his minions THRIVE on fear. Don't let him slip between the cracks of your armor. If you aren't wearing any, he's GOTCHA! His goal: to take as many to the pit with him at the White Throne as possible. If he can convince you that God does not love you, you are not merely his TARGET; you are his BULLSEYE! Why would you tell anyone how wonderful our Lord Jesus Christ is if you do not believe the Father measures His love for you by every drop of His Son's blood? stop Satan's lies that keep you in bondage to guilt, shame and blame. Read and believe His Word: The blood of the Lord Jesus Christ has set you FREE from the law of sin and death.
...and by the way, do you have any lost friends? Jesus was a "Friend" to the publicans and sinners. Forget the evangelism workshops and manuals; simply love people as you are loved, to the Lord Jesus Christ. This endeavor will require SACRIFICE for the word "love", means NOTHING without it. People know if you are just blowing evangelism smoke.
Here's a good ol' Warrior's Hymn:
Stand up, stand up for Jesus! Ye soldiers of the cross;
Lift high His royal banner; it must not suffer loss.
From victory unto victory, His army shall He lead
'Til every foe is vanquished, and Christ is Lord indeed.
Love, Jo