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