Friday, November 21, 2014

...another bear story

I know a woman here in Bear Valley who has made it clear to me that I am never to invite her to church. I have not asked her why for I do not really want to hear the answer.  She is, however a Christian. ...and here is how it happened: When she and her husband lived in a nearby farming community they lost their first child by crib death.  A Christian school teacher who lived down the road from them came to give her caring love and placed in her hands Dr. Harry Ironside's Commentary on the "Book of John".  She read it and dropped to her knees and asked Christ into her life. ...then she bought all sixty-five of Dr. Ironside's other Bible Commentaries.  I asked her: "Do you have a Bible?"  "Oh, no, I just read Dr. Ironside's Commentaries and talk to God every day."  That'll work! ...then she said: "...but you probably don't know who Dr. Ironside is."  I responded: "Oh yes I do. When I was a very new Christian Billy Graham invited him to come to speak for chapel at Northwestern Bible College where Billy had planted me."

In Heaven we will meet ever so many who are "un-churched". ...or are they? God's definition of "church" is much more broad than many Christians think.  Millions of people are meeting in cells in homes,  schools, garages, under trees,  in underground caves, in filthy jails. ...wherever two or three are gathered together.  There are no seminary-trained pastors but there are untold numbers of people who are being equipped by the Holy Spirit to do the work of the ministry.   God and His Word are in their midst: sometimes with only one or two verses written on a scrap of paper.  This kind of "church" may seem less visible because there is no building,  but the Living Christ is very visible through the Light in the believers as they infiltrate Satan's dark world.

When we were in Houston a pastor came to our office and asked if we would like to be a legitimate ministry by coming under the umbrella of his church where there were elders to whom we could be accountable.  Gentle Ted reminded this pastor that he, this pastor had just received his Doctoral degree from a seminary and asked if that seminary was accountable to the elders of his church. "Uhh...well, no."  Then gentle Ted replied: "Our ministry,  Family Life Resources is a government-sanctioned tax-deductible training school for teaching Christians to 'go and make disciples'.   We have a fine Board of business men, an astronaut, the District Attorney of Harris County, and an attorney and a gentleman who is running for Senator.  They and their wives are all in ministry in their large spheres of influence.  We meet in small groups all around our city. ... but thank you for your kind offer."  The pastor left, unconvinced that we were a legitimate ministry.

...back to Dr. Ironside. When he came to our chapel at Northwestern he told us a story about his three children, raised in Chicago where there are long months of freezing cold weather, preventing them from playing out-of-doors.  Often his children played "hide and seek" in their three story-with-attic large home.  One time Harry, now the dad and not the professor/scholar hid in the attic.  His children searched and searched throughout the three lower floors, not wanting to venture up into the scary, dark attic to find their daddy. ...but one did:  his little girl.  I think her name was "Marian".  He saw her come through the door, looking around with wide eyes, ready to slam the door and flee down the stairs.  Harry's thought: "Do I come out of my hiding place or not?  I don't want her to be frightened even more." ...and then he said, softly and gently: "Sweetheart, I am here."  She hesitated, and then ran sobbing to him, wrapped her arms around his neck and said, "Oh, you aren't a big bear at all.  You're my own dear Daddy!" ...and so He is. The evil one wants us to be terrified of Him so he tosses in subtle "buts" (I call them "B.B's": "Big Butts")   right smack in the middle of God's agape love verses.  Sometimes those "buts" come in the form of expectations placed upon believers that make the Lord look like a "bear".  The little cluster of Christians who introduced me to Christ simply loved me.  I felt safe for the first time in my life. ...and I decided to follow Jesus forever.

Dr. Ironside was one of our dear Ray Stedman's mentors. Ray travelled with him for an entire summer, soaking in Jesus-theology.  Years later when we were invited into our first ministry out of seminary to be Ray and Elaine's helpers,  Ted asked Ray what our job description would be. "Well, around here we try not to thwart the ministry of the Holy Spirit in each believer."  Ted: "That's IT?"  "Yes, Ted, that's IT!  The Holy Spirit will reveal to you what your gifts are.  Listen well and we will support you all the way." ...and they did. ...and there was fruit. ...fruit that remains to this day and throughout all of eternity.  In our first pastorate in Bakersfield a visitor asked my Ted: "How many ministers do you have on your staff?"  Ted's reply: "Well, someone told me we have about 900 or so coming through our doors now. They are all ministers of the Gospel." ...and with that the man walked away, scratching his head. ...but I believe I remember that he came back, came to Christ and he too, became a minister of the Gospel.

May your Thanksgiving be blessed, even though some may be missing from our dining tables.  Absent loved ones who know Him are feasting on Jesus. ...and how could anything be better than that, for Jesus isn't a big bear at all, but is our own dear Daddy!

Leaning, leaning, leaning on Jesus
Safe and secure from all alarms.
Leaning, leaning, leaning on Jesus
Leaning on the Everlasting Arms!

Love, Jo

Friday, November 14, 2014

He was hungry!

I nearly always close my garage door when I leave, but Saturday night as my Houston guests and I were headed into The Apple Shed for my monthly date to entertain the diners, I drove off and left it open.   At 8:30 we arrived home, I pulled my Honda pickup into the garage, ...and Omigosh! The garage refrigerator was on its face, freezer door flat against the floor,  plastic frozen food containers split open, smashed, chewed and scattered.  What a mess! Not one forkful of my beautiful peanut butter pie was anywhere to be found.  Somewhere in our Valley there is a brown bear lumbering around with whipped cream all over his face.  Pussn'Boots, their eyes glazed over and their furry ears at full tilt were inside and heard it all.  The refrigerator is back in its upright position and actually none the worse for the trauma it experienced.   Shutting my garage door has moved to the top of my to do list.

I love my Texas friends. We had a fabulous time.   The Thursday girls each spoke to Carole Lewis,  recently retired Founder of FirstPlace4Health and her daughter Lisa who continues with that life-changing ministry,  telling them what grace has come to mean to them.  All have been freed from Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism, and other bondages.  It was a high octane afternoon.  On Friday Michele took us to her favorite thrift shops in Tehachapi and Lancaster. The most expensive purchase was a classy London Fog rain coat in perfect condition for six dollars.  The costs of everything else we bought hovered around $2.99.  I may be hooked!  That night Lisa cooked a delicious dinner for us at Michele's house and some of the Thursday girls came to make it a party!  On Saturday by 7 A.M. a stream of visitors began to come to be with Carole and Lisa.  We left for The Apple Shed at 4 P. M. then capped off our day with a visit from a Hungry Bear.  I try to send away each guest with something they will never forget!  Sunday we had dinner on a farm with a precious family, then on home for a visit with a  well-known Christian writer who lives nearby.  Michele came to fetch our Houston friends to take them to LAX and for a couple of days I  wandered around  trying to gear down but it isn't easy after four days of fun. ...bear and all.

For hours each week I sit on the other side of my living room from people who come to me for discipleship.  You may call it "counseling" or "mentoring"  if you like.   If Jesus were not The Discipler/ Counselor/Mentor I wouldn't think of putting my foot in the dark waters that hide what Satan wants to keep hidden. Check out the blog entitled "The Iceberg".  Most couples marry (or don't) without a clue as to what is submerged beneath the waterline.  Ted and I were virgins when we married;  had we not been Satan would have had even more fuel for emotional distancing than he already had.  Without Jesus our personal Titanic could have sunk.  I have yet to meet one person who does not wish they had begun their marriage as virgins. Homosexuals?  Don't even go there with me.  The horrible effects of same sex sex are indescribable. The "tolerant" folk of our country are clueless because the evil one hides the truth beneath the waterline.

Today there doesn't seem to be any guilt, shame and blame about sleeping around before marriage, and for by-passing marriage all together. Don't you believe it!  People,  whether Christians or not do not get away without consequences when breaking God's laws. ...which are not just "suggestions".  Oh, dear ones, I don't know when Jesus is coming back to get us outta here. Nobody does. ...not even Jesus. Yeah Yeah Yeah.  I hear all the prophecies just like you do.  Why would we think we won't suffer famine and worse? Why would we think the visible church will not be forced underground as are millions of Christians in other countries?  Why would we think we will not have our heads chopped off or be burned at the stake if we do not denounce our faith in Christ?  Who do we think we are, anyway? ...God's only chosen people?

Please memorize all the scriptures you possibly can. You may not have a Bible in the future.  Please become dependent only upon the Lord and not upon your church staff or people like me.  I am steadily working myself out of a job as I am supposed to do.  The number of members of a Church does not signify that those members are infiltrating Satan's territory to bring the Lightning Rod Good News of the Gospel into the Black World of Bad News. The impressive budget for missions of a church does not mean that those who give to it are "in the world but not of it",  winning souls for Christ and discipling them themselves.  I just read this morning in Acts 1:9 through 11: "After He said this, He was taken up before their very eyes and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 'Men of Galilee,' they said, 'why do you stand here looking into the sky? That same Jesus, who has been taken from you into Heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into Heaven.' "  

Every heart with Christ is a missionary. Every heart without Christ is a mission field.  We can't stand around looking up and march at the same time. 

Onward Christian soldiers marching as to war
With the Cross of Jesus, going on before.

Love, Jo

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Rants and Raves

There are so many things about which I could rant and rave in this blog. My life began in a family that did that. ...about everything.   My parents were not believers; therefore there was never any hope given.   I was a scared little girl.  I don't want to be a scared old girl.  I told you last week that my Ted's soul made decisions as a young boy when he did not have a vocabulary to express them.  So did mine. "When I grow up I will not be critical, cynical  or bitter."  I, like you have suffered many disappointments that could make me give in to being all three.

I married a gentle man whose muscles rippled as he pitched a hard ball toward the batters.  "Those muscles will protect me all my life."  ...but Ted's muscles could not protect us from the kinds of battles we would face separately and together.  "Now that we are Christians there won't be any more wicked people to deal with."  Note last week's blog:  The fox blends right into the very dog pack that is chasing him. Sadly, right smack in the middle of safe-appearing ministries.  "Our children will be as excited about winning souls as we are".   How could they be?  They did not come from utter darkness as did we.  I could rant and rave about the legal murder of fifty-five million babies since Roe vs. Wade.  I feel the rumbles of a rave coming on when it comes all over me that we Christians are the ones being forced to be tolerant toward militant Islam whose agenda is to kill us all, the infidels, the name of Allah.  We must not be openly angry that homosexuality is rampant. ...socially, legally and politically heralded as a God-given right.  Nor must we remonstrate about our school children being required to believe there is no God, the Bible is merely myths and evolution is fact.  I could rant and rave about pastors who tell millions of people that God wants them to be wealthy and happy. Oh, may the millions of starving people in other countries not have access to TV or the internet to hear such heresy.  I don't hear those sermons from faithful pastors in small churches and communities. Will the millions of professing Christians in this country come out of their mole holes where they huddle together, hearing the same message again and again and sitting on it as they give money in the offering plate to support an ever growing staff that does the work they should be doing themselves?  Could the church of the Lord Jesus Christ be powerful enough to stay the hand of God's judgment?  I seem to recall that God changed his mind about judging somebody 'way back there in the Old Testament.  Are we counting on a new balance of power in Washington to cause God to withhold His anger?

 "Our God is slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.  He will not always strive with us nor will He keep His anger forever."  Add to that warning:  "To whom much has been given, much is required". 

My long-time friend Nick at Round Top, Texas calls me a "stand-up woman".  Nick studies people and everything else that interests him.  Probably in my Irish genes are generations of stand-up women.  I guess God knew I would survive  after Ted left for Heaven so He left me here to carry on our assignment: to go and make disciples.  ...and then He took my son who left three children who need him so desperately.  I had lunch with gorgeous seventeen-year-old Madi Jane, his youngest, yesterday.  Madi and I talked about the wonderful Thanksgivings at Grandma and Grandpa's home when for years all fourteen of us gathered around our table and six grandchildren raced through this big house, playing "Ghosts in the Graveyard" and hide-and-seek outside with flashlights. Madi is still convinced that she and Lauren saw a mountain lion up on the hill where they were hiding.  ...and actually, they may have. 

Life on this earth is rife with losses. How do we bear those losses without bitterness against God and people? disciplining our mind to bring every fear-based thought into captivity and "Rejoice in the Lord always; I will say it again: 'Rejoice'! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving,  present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally, brothers,  whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent, praiseworthy--think on such things". 

Paul reflects on his life on this earth this way: "But whatever things were gain to me those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things and count them but rubbish in order that I might gain Christ."

I will keep on giving God's Word to a handful of woman and some men, expecting them to do something with it instead of piling on more doctrinal knowledge without legs on it.  I will keep on fighting against the evil one through God's infallible Word for couples and families who continue to come through my doors, my phone and my internet.   "Stand-up women"  have to be reminded by our gentle Jesus to let Him fight for us. Ted tapped into I Samuel 17:47 early on:  "...for the battle is the Lord's and He will give you into our hands."  There has never been any hope except in the Powerful Cross, the  Powerful Resurrection and the Powerful Word of God.  ...and there never will be. ...and that's just the way the Lord wants it. "Not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit,",  saith the Lord.

There is power, power, wonder-working power in the blood of the Lamb
There is power, power, wonder-working power in the precious blood of the Lamb.

Love,  Jo