Saturday, March 30, 2013

In my morning reading, I buried Joshua this morning. Whataguy! Moses has been the featured fellow up until now.  I thought of Joshua as a miniature Moses. Not true. Joshua was a man of great stature. Appearing to be an average man, this book reveals that an average man dedicated to God can be mightily used. I like him. He reminds me of my Ted. I wonder if they have met.

God had formed the nation of Israel out of the brickyards of Egypt. The terrible dangers of crossing the Jordan, facing an enemy in a strange land, encountering the unknown on every hand, and meeting fear on every side, had kept Israel running back to the Lord.  Joshua recognized that now since the people have entered into rest and are enjoying prosperity and plenty, they will drift away from God. That is the story of human nature which never changes. Joshua knew that.

Trace the rise and fall of every Empire down through the ages and then note what is happening to our nation.  Predictably.  The ungodly leaders of our nation are scrambling to mask their idolatry. Oh, that we had a Joshua to step up to the microphone and declare:  "Do you want to go back to the gods of your fathers, those pagan gods which they served? Or do you want to serve the gods of the Amorites? You can choose. But as for me and my house, we have made our choice: we are going to serve the Lord!"  With Joshua's declaration, the tribes of Israel were brought face-to-face with their covenant with God.  Tested with prosperity they had a choice to make. In like manner, America has been tested with prosperity. Have we completely flunked the test, or will God give us another opportunity to fall on our faces in humbleness and gratitude for His blessings that began with a  handful of godly people back at our beginnings as a nation?  Those few became righteously angry and dared to flee from the tyranny of the British overlords who, by taxing them into near extinction, made it impossible to openly meet to worship their true Father.  Our early leaders, even the Deists, made a covenant with God.

Like the older generation down through the ages who have "Tsk tsk tsked" themselves into the grave over the ominous future for the next generation, I am alarmed. Ted and I have always worked with young people. A popular saying a generation ago was: "Parents, do you know where your children are?" The current saying is:  "Children, do you know where your parents are?"

I work with two segments of teenagers. One segment is mostly home-schooled, taught by parents and a few parent-chosen adults. These kids are smart; they  have a world view that includes what is going on here in our nation and a perspective about how we got here. Most of them will put their finger in the dike to attempt to hold back Satan's complete takeover of our country.

The other group of teenagers I work with each week are in the public schools, show up for their home class each week with stress written all over their faces.Only one lives in a home with an actual mother and dad who are married to each other. There are many kids and teachers in public schools who have not followed the ways of Baal. Lord, keep these courageous teachers trusting You as they valiantly fight the enemy in what seems to be a losing battle with Satan for the minds of their students.

I can't at my age, tackle the dilemma our kids face on a big scale, but I can reach and teach a few kids. ...and I can write. ...which I have been doing this week. Years ago I wrote a book entitled: "Four Ways to Choose a Husband", based on Ephesians 5:21-33. It's language is outdated, but the scriptures will never be obsolete. This week I have written a simple study on these verses that give specific guidelines for making the right choice regarding the important decision young people must make: If and whom shall I marry?  I will let you know when it is available on our website.

Come now; let us reason together:  Would our Lord put His Son through the agony of shedding every drop of His blood to demonstrate the value He puts on a human being, and then abandon us all to figure out how to navigate through the landmines that hide under every step we take?  God doesn't abandon His kids. People do, but not God. He has given us clear directions as to how to fight the enemy on every battlefield. We have been promised "every spiritual blessing" ...just as were the Israelites in the Promised Land.  Am I, are you, putting the sole of your foot squarely on every promise?


The blood that Jesus shed for me way back on Calvary
The blood that gives me strength from day to day will never lose its power

It soothes my doubts and it calms my fears and it dries all my tears
The blood that gives me strength from day to day,
It will never lose its power.


Love, Jo

Friday, March 22, 2013


How easy it is to lose perspective.  The verse that continues to thrum throughout my soul since Ted  deserted me and went off to Heaven to have a wonderful time with Jesus is I Thessalonians 4:11: "Make it your ambition to live a quiet life, mind your own business and work with your hands."  Obeying His guidance through that scripture keeps me reasonably focused on His clear calling on my life.

I have told you that the Lord brings teenagers around me and this astounds me!  Every once in awhile He shocks me so fiercely that I re-refocus on my assignment from Him. Such a day was last Tuesday.  Around the host's living room sat a circle of teenage girls. There was no Bible study planned by the teenage leader so the girls began to "share". What an understatement! They began to bleed! ...and my heart began to shatter! Only one girl is in a home with an actual mother and father. I cannot reveal to you more than that. The Lord is giving me a workable Plan and He is revealing that He has others already in place to help with this Plan to bring His Truth into the raging sea of lies that Satan is telling our teenagers.

Discipleship is always about working ourselves out of a job by bringing others who are ready alongside. II Timothy 2:2 states it right on. Read it!  There are four generations in one verse. The flesh wants to build a visible evidence that we are "successful" in ministry. Godly success has never been about numbers. Down through history, one person has been plucked out of the multitude by God to stand and die for His Truth that frees others. I watched as Rosa Park's statue was dedicated in our nation's capital a couple of weeks ago. ...a black woman whose occupation was as a lowly servant to others. ...but she refused to stand up on a bus even though threatened by a racist bus driver. She was put in jail for her brave refusal to give in to tyranny.  I think of John Newton, raised in a godly home but who abandoned Christ and became a cruel, cut-throat sea captain, kidnapping and murdering countless precious black people for his own financial gain. ...and then he was brought crashing  to his knees by God and spent the rest of his life being a "servant of slaves". It was written about him that as he aged,  he lost his mind because all he could speak about was God's "Amazing Grace". Well, I hope to tell you! What else matters?

So...Precious Lord, take my hand.
Lead me on. Help me stand.
I am tired; I am weak; I am worn.
Through the storm, through the night
Lead me on to the Light
Take my hand, precious Lord, lead me Home.

When my way grows drear, Precious Lord, linger near
When my life is almost gone.
Hear my cry, hear my call,
Hold my hand lest I fall;   (and that's a critical prayer. I've already broken one hip!)
Take my hand, precious Lord, lead me Home.

...but please don't "lead me Home" quite yet, Precious Lord. You're reving up my motor and I'm with you all the way, because ...

All the way my Saviour leads me; what have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy, Who through life has been my guide?
Heavenly peace, divinest comfort, here by faith in Him to dwell!
For I know whate'er befalls me, Jesus doeth all things well.
For I know what'er befalls me, Jesus doeth all things well.

You can't meet everyone's needs. Everywhere we turn someone is in pain. ...but you can love someone to the Lord Jesus Christ. Don't you even think of entering Heaven never having led one soul to Christ! Do you know how?

1. Start with building a relationship, softly and gently.
2. Determine if this person is "ripe" or "green" fruit.  "Ripe fruit people" have had some exposure to Christianity or church and hopefully that "exposure" has been authentic and not phoney. If it has been "phoney", tread lightly. These people must see authenticity. ...a lot, for they have been disillusioned by a caricature of Christ and not the real deal!

 "Green fruit people" have no acquaintanceship whatsoever with anything or anyone Christian. These dear people will not want you to invite them to church or a Bible study. They will want you to invite them to dinner! ...preferably at your house. you don't want to cook?  Too bad. Order it, but dress it up!  Honor them. They are made in the image of God with a mind with which to think and a will with which to choose. They are royalty! Don't insult their minds or their wills. Keep your conversation simple and warm. You never have to manipulate someone to Christ. It won't work anyway, so forget it! Read Colossians 4:2-4. Paul was in prison. He wrote the little gathering of Christians in Colossae, asking them to pray that "God would give him a door for the gospel, and that he would proclaim it clearly, that he would be wise toward the lost, making the most of every opportunity (with no manipulation), and know how to answer their questions."  The presupposition is that he would have created an atmosphere of acceptability that invites a question. Take your time. God isn't in any hurry so you can't rush Him.  If you have earned the right, gently ask questions. Ted wrote a book once entitled: "Think Lost and Help the Lost to Think". there ya' go.

It's really very simple. ...and I don't want to hear this from you: "Jo, you have always had the gift of evangelism!"  Baloney!  Once I was blind; now I see. That's about it.

What do you "see"? Do you see the dead walking around with no hope or are you only in the company of those who have been made alive by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ? That's called "insulating yourself in the Holy Huddle". For Pete's sake, break out of it! God will break you out of it if you ask Him. SEE people. SEE the lost. Be a friend to them. They are miserable, whether they show it or not. They are going to die and they know it. Everybody knows that. I knew that when my mother would tell me to pray my "Now I lay me down to sleep; I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take." What kind of a terrible thought is that to lay on a kid before she goes to sleep? "If I should die?"  Running through my head was, "Where will I go? Where did my gramma go after she died? Does anybody in this family know or even care?" ...but my Lord Jesus Christ heard my cry. ...and people are "crying" all around you.  Are you seeing, and are you listening?

All you need is God's love pouring through you and a very few scriptures to gently lead someone across the threshold from the road to hell into the arms of Jesus who is waiting with arms open wide.  Who in Christendom doesn't know:
John 3:16 and 17 and even 18, for Pete's sake?  Use it. Gently. 

Who in Christendom doesn't know John 1:11 and 12, for Pete's sake?  Use it.  Gently.

Who in Christendom doesn't know Ephesians 2:8 and 9, for Pete's sake?  Use it.  Gently.

If your friend seems ready (...and here you can expect Satan to have the phone ring or the cat to parade across your Bible or your kid to start whining), ask them gently if they would like to ask Christ into their heart? If they indicate that they would, ask them if they would like for you to pray for them or if they would like to invite Him in themself? Keep your prayer simple. ...very simple. 
...and then cap it off with

I John 5:11,12 and 13. There you will see the black and white of the absoluteness of knowing Christ has entered. 

Study these scriptures. Be ready. season and out of season.  Some of you are running out of "seasons". Get with it, my dear friend. There is no joy like that of gently leading a floundering, sad, grieving, confused, lost person to your dearest Friend, the Lord Jesus Christ.

That's it for today. I am going to Bakersfield to the Memorial of Tony Engel. He and June were two of a throng that flooded into our first pastorate. Many have gone to Heaven now, and steadily, more are joining them. I chuckle as I think, with my silly human, wifely imagination, that Ted, their former pastor, is meeting them at the Gate, saying,  "Welcome, dear friend. Now, open your Bible to...."  I know that is not happening. It is our Lord Jesus Christ Who has transported them from their bed of dying on this earth to the Throne of God. He alone will reveal all Truth, finally, to my Ted, my Doug, and all the others who are blessed to be finally at Home.

Love, Jo

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The pondering bench

I was alone as a little farm girl.  I spent hours sitting by the fishing hole, pondering. I had so many questions but I didn't know how to verbalize them. I still have questions....but not so many.  Bootsie, my cuddle-cat,  and I sit on the bench at the curve in our road and watch the deer zipping across the mountain above us. ...and ponder.

On a beautiful sunny day this week I climbed for the first time in months to the giant oak under which Ted's gravestone rests. "To God Be the Glory",  it reads. Nearly three decades ago we came to this mountain to build a church. There were few people and very few Christians. Ted and I sat in the swing many times under that oak, scanning the valley below, praying that God would make Himself known to the people who were gradually moving into this lovely place. My emotional and physical health began to return. We were at home, and I knew it! ... but the enemy did not want a witness for Christ in this valley and the war he waged was viscious.  This week, on that sunny day under the giant oak, my heart lifted in joyous praise to our Lord, for now there are many who live here who know that they belong to the Lord Jesus Christ and more are on their way to Him.  I just know it! 

Ted and I not only shared in raising our own family but our eternal family extends 'way out to other continents.  Two wonderful women into whose lives we were infused years ago  in Bakersfield, just left after an overnight visit, soothing hours of sharing, and worship time together in His Word.

As my Jesus brings younger people to me with the same questions I once had when I pondered beside the fishing hole on our farm,  He gives me His amazing love for them that drew me into His arms when I has nineteen years old. Are you drawing broken people into your arms? Yours may be the only safe arms they have ever felt around them.

Once a month, I will include in this blog the simple Gospel: the "way" into Jesus' arms. If you are nudged by the Holy Spirit to forward that blog to your friends, do it! Countless people, even millions,  are coming to Christ around our world now because of the powerful ways we have to communicate the Gospel. Don't succumb to the evil one's scare tactics.

I am thinking of just a couple of phrases from an old hymn: "Safe in the Arms of Jesus"

Safe in the arms of Jesus, Safe on His gentle breast
There by His love o'ershaded; sweetly my soul shall rest.

Until we are safely on His gentle breast in Heaven, invite into your arms someone who does not feel safe anywhere on this earth.  Give them hope that there is a Father in Heaven Who desires desperately to be their Daddy.   Forever.

Love, Jo

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Shepherd's crook

God took the Israelites out of Egypt in one night, but it took Him forty years to get Egypt out of the Israelites!  (I will confess in Heaven to J. Vernon McGee that I stole that thought from him.)

My conversion experience was quick. Having never heard His Name before, the Gospel came as a wondrous shock! One Sunday morning, in a small gathering of a half-dozen adult Christians and a couple dozen young people, there it was: His Name. "Who is He?" I asked the young speaker...and He told me. "He is God and He loves you."

The half-dozen adult Christians in this little group were members of a large downtown church who sincerely wanted to tell the Kansas University students about Christ, but the "green fruit" young people wouldn't come to their church. Of course not! Mr. Nelson and his daughter Beth had been invited to be on the National Youth For Christ Board of Directors. God gave them an idea!  Go to the YFC rally in Kansas City on Saturday nights and bring back the speaker to address young people on Sunday morning. They rented a nondescript building just off campus and were on their way to reaching young people from no Christian background, like me, for the Kingdom of God.  One invitation by phone call from a girl I knew and my Egypt was left behind!  I couldn't wait to get away! My family and my boy friend of three years were fearful that a cult had kidnapped me, brainwashed me and I was forever owned. They were partly right. I have been "owned" since that Sunday morning in 1947 by Jesus who bought me with an expensive bride price: every drop of His blood.  I would never return to Egypt.

My boyfriend became my husband/partner who fled from his Egypt too and together we fought the world, the flesh and Satan, suited up in our holy armor, side by side for sixty-two years.  Now, as a widow I must stand on my own two feet. Ted is not here to absorb the mistakes in judgment I may make. For instance, another unpredicted snowstorm came barrelling in a couple of nights ago and is still "barrelling". I have a half-mile of sorta-gravelled road between my house and the pavement. I'm thinkin': "If I have to rush out for some emergency, it's going to be a long, cold walk"! I crawled into my four-wheel drive Honda and ploughed through foot-high snow, cutting a track. At the corner the fish-tailing that can scare the livin' daylights out of a traveller began. time to stop, so I crept on ahead, swerving, steadying, swerving and steadying. The reality that I am alone hit me in the stomach again, but the blow is softened by reminders of a lifetime of Red Sea experiences when my Heavenly Father provided a way out when there seemed to be none.  Twenty minutes later I arrived safely back in my garage and spent the day in my bed, logs blazing in my bedroom fireplace,  both cats curled up snoozing by my side and reading my Chronological Bible, colorfully expanded by J. Vernon McGee's "Through the Bible" insights.  I remember when he was preaching this series over radio, praying that the Lord would let him finish it before he was carried home by Jesus. ...and He did. J. Vernon had cancer. Just as it took over his body, he finished writing the series!

What do I want to finish before I hear Jesus "comin' for to carry me Home with His low swingin' chariot"?   Oh, I would like to get the rest of Ted's printed devotionals on our website: You can dial up what we already have there.  Some of his devotionals were recorded in his own voice while he could still speak clearly.  I haven't been able, emotionally,  to  handle going through all of his messages that are typed and handwritten, waiting  in the filing cabinets. Son Jeff will come from Sacramento when I am ready to plunge into that heart-warming and heart-wrenching experience.  I have a few tapes of his sermons, but most were left at the churches we pastored and sadly, were discarded.  Should you have any tapes of Ted's messages, please send them to me. I will transfer them to the  12stones website.

As for my stuff: I would like to republish on the web a couple of books I wrote many years ago;, for young people: "Four Ways to Choose a Husband" based on the Ephesians 5:21-32 marriage blueprint,  and the other,  "Give Him His Gate" (...not "Give him the gate")  based upon the guidelines for the Impossible Woman of Proverbs 31. ...then I just want to keep on studying and teaching His Word. 

Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays are wonderful days as I meet in scripture with three different groups.  All are either enroute on a hair-raising, track-cutting trip down a snow/mud covered road, or they soon will be.  Time after time, they will think they are heading for a ditch and their Shepherd will hook His crook around their ankle, and pull them back before they plunge over the abyss, land "cast",  upside down, unable to right themselves. Each week now their armor is building stronger. Years from now, if the Lord has not gathered these wonderful people to Heaven, they will remember their little group where they spent two hours each week, bonding together, strengthening their muscles for the warfare some of them are fighting already. Are you making a safe place for the people all around you who are surrounded by poisonous snakes, can't find a fresh drink of water anywhere in their desert, and there's nobody telling them they are loved?   If you have always had a "safe place" you won't understand how lonely it can be.

...and soon all of us will be in our permanent "safe place". "...because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in His presence. ...therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweights them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." II Corinthians 4:14-18

                                Hymn of the week: Oh, How I Love Jesus

There is a Name I love to hear, I love to sing its worth
It sounds like music in mine ear, the sweetest Name on earth.

It tells me of a Savior's love, Who died to set me free
It tells me of His precious blood; the sinner's perfect plea

It tells me of whose loving heart can feel my deepest woe
Who in each sorrow bears a part that none can bear below.


Love, Jo

Friday, March 1, 2013

Marching to Zion

Howie was every student's mentor. His wilderness march is over. His invitation to join the march to Zion was the same that Moses gave to Hobab, Mose's father-in-law: "Come thou with us, and we will do thee good: for the Lord hath spoke good concerning Israel." (Numbers 10:20) 

Many of Howie Hendrick's students at Dallas Theological Seminary finished their march before he did and were waiting for him at Heaven's Gate.  Ted is one of those. No one who ever graduated from DTS would say that any professor made a greater impact on him than Howard Hendricks.

Ted and I did not have any structured one-on-one discipleship. We grabbed onto the coattails of any older saint who would stand still long enough for us to ask them some questions.  One of the men whose coattails we grabbed onto was Dick Hillis, founder of Overseas Crusades.  He gave us two insights that we never forgot: 1) "All people are precious, but not all are strategic. Watch for the strategic ones. God will send them to you and He will tell you who they are".   2) "Don't ever waste your time doing what someone else can and will do." Dick was waiting, along with Ted, at the Gate when Howie attempted to slip in, unnoticed. He didn't get to do that. I am surprised that we didn't hear the cheers all the way to Earth.

In 1956 Ted was one month away from graduation from DTS and we had no idea whether we would be on the foreign field, in youth work, in the pastorate or ...  I was getting nervous about our future, but Ted was never nervous. ...about anything.  Howie called him into his office and the conversation went something like this: "Ted, my friend, Ray Stedman in Palo Alto, California, just called me and said this: 'Howie, I am ready for my first staff man here at Peninsula Bible Church. What man is graduating DTS this spring that has spent time with people while he has been in seminary? I don't want one that has spent all his time in the library.' " Howie answered:  "I have only one: Ted Stone."   In several weeks we joined Ray and Elaine Stedman and received the most practical training any young couple could ever have. When Ted asked Ray what his job description would be, here was Ray's surprising answer: "Well, Ted around here we try not to thwart the ministry of the Holy Spirit in anyone's life." ...then there was silence until Ted quietly asked: "...and that's IT?" Ray: "Pretty much.  Find out what God wants you to do and we'll support you all the way."

The first assignment: These two men hopped the commuter train before dawn every morning in Palo Alto and rode into San Francisco with business men who studied scripture on the way and prayed for the lost business men they would take to lunch that day. Next assignment: brown-bagging down the street from the church at lunchtime at Culbertson High School with whatever kids showed up to sit and just talk. Fruit from both ministries was flowing. ...and Ted Stone was on his way to a lifetime of the freedom and excitement that comes with refusing to confine church to a building.

What Ray never told us was that all of us who came through his "training" would never fit in a traditional church. (Chuck Swindoll followed us to Ray's Scribe's school after we left, and who would ever say that Chuck is "traditional"?) We were able to build our first church in Bakersfield into a discipleship-centered moving, reproductive, redemptive alive body of believers that to this day continues to be moving, reproductive and redemptive.

All of God's chillun are wanderers; strangers and pilgrims in a foreign land;  sinners who have been saved by His grace, marching together to Zion, the beautiful City of God. ...not an earthly city, but a Heavenly one, the city of Jerusalem which will come down from God out of Heaven, adorned like a bride for the Bridegroom. God Himself has gone before us, searching out the land, all of our lives. He placed in our path all along the way, His humble servants like Howie. Ray and Dick who took time to notice two young people whose hearts were breaking for the pitiful lost wanderers who were on a march to nowhere.

 I don't like to be here without Ted. Neither will Howie's wife, Jeanne. Neither does Elaine Stedman, nor did Margaret Hillis. They cry. I cry. A woman cannot be married to a man with a broken heart for God and people and go on alone, without tears. ...but we do. We have to. For reasons that will be revealed in Heaven, we are entrusted by our Lord to keep on keeping on, sowing with tears pouring down our faces and reaping with joy.  Our Abba becomes all the more dear as we slip alone between the covers at night.

Around Lynda's kitchen table were just a few teenagers yesterday. ...but they are "strategic".They do not know what I know and I can't tell them. Their march to Zion will be through dry desert sometimes with no water in sight. Sometimes they will be "between the devil and the deep blue (Red) Sea" and they will be scared out of their wits. ...then God will make a way. ...and they will sing a new song ... a song of praise to their God.  Sometimes when I am with teenagers, I would like to be their age again...starting over. ...and then I remember:

We're marching through Immanuel's ground; we're marching through Immanuel's ground
And thus surround the throne, and thus surround the throne.

Love, Jo