Saturday, March 29, 2008

You Are What You Eat #1. . .

I'm still praying and working at it, but I seem to be rather stumped on my series of compound names of Jehovah. I thought I would do a little series on the impact and implications of eating in the Bible. Here is my first article in this series:

1. Adam & Eve ate the forbidden fruit:

Genesis 2:16-17
And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: (17) But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

Genesis 3:6
And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

First of all we must grant that God is no fool. He created the entire universe in all its somber complexity, the intertwining tapestry of physical relationships and dependencies, beyond any mortal to at this point to even begin to comprehend, let alone to develop and to put into execution. He cannot have been surprised in what shortly followed the creation of man.

He created Adam and Eve fully formed adults, with completely formed hormonal and reproductive systems. Being created in His image they are, presumably well formed at the minimum, but again in being formed by God, let us not be ashamed to say, Adam and Eve were very likely in every respect stunningly beautiful, no wounds, no scars, no malnutrition, no sickness, nothing in their past to leave a mark upon them. In likelihood perfect physical specimens as created by God and physically capable themselves of viewing and appreciating beauty in the opposite gender.

What is this eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge? The fruit of knowledge is action. The fruit of knowledge, is the use of that knowledge. The fruit of this tree that they ate of, spawned within them knowledge and a desire for action. A young man studies for years and gains knowledge of medicine. At that point, on the day of his graduation from medical school, his knowledge has born no fruit. The fruit of his knowledge, is the healing he does in his career as a physician. To have knowledge known, but unused is to be capable, but virginal. That state represents Adam and Eve. To partake of the fruit of knowledge, is to be set out upon the road to act upon knowledge.

Genesis 3:7
And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.

After eating of the fruit they then create aprons for themselves in an attempt to take away nakedness, that with knowledge has now become a source of temptation for each other. Before the knowledge they gained from the tree, their nakedness had no significance. Now realizing what those bodies were designed to do, they attempt to re-close eyes that have been opened, by hiding their bodies with clothing. Knowledge once imparted, is impossible to stifle. It lies in wait: growing, maturing into, and then bearing fruit of that knowledge in action.

It has always troubled me as to why did God put the tree right in the midst of the garden? Why did God not put it on some remote island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean? God surely is no fool and what happens with Adam and Eve cannot be seen, or thought of as as surprise to God, but as a necessary and maybe even inevitable consequence of God's creation. It would have been so easy for God to prevent the failure of Eve and then Adam, but God knew what He was doing in His creation and what would happen. Notice this verse:

Genesis 2:5
And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground.

On first reading this makes no sense to me. What are these words trying to tell me? . . .'before it was in the earth'. . . 'before it grew'. . . I can make no sense of those words as they are translated. The Hebrew words used in Genesis are ancient, simple, and primitive, well reflecting the antiquity of the book of Genesis. The root of this Hebrew word 'terem', translated here as before, (from Strong's) is derived from: an unused root apparently meaning to interrupt or suspend. Let's try to make some sense of this verse using this meaning:

Genesis 2:5
And every plant of the field (was interrupted, suspended as) it was in the earth, and every herb of the field (was interrupted, suspended as) it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground.

God had not made it to rain. He had not watered the plants. The plants were there, but in some kind of hibernation, in some kind of suspended state. . . Why???. . . because there was no man to till the ground, but what further does the Bible say about this?????

After the fall, from his actions, from the opening of his eyes, Adam receives his future, the fruit of his newly gained knowledge:

Genesis 3:17. . .23 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;. . .(23) Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.

God sent Adam forth from Eden to till the ground as a result of his eating of the apple. This word till, is the same word used in Genesis 2:5, before man was even created. Before God created man, He did not water the plants of the earth because there was no man to work the ground and yet man was not sent forth from the perfect garden to till the ground until after his fall from grace.

In some way, and I do not fully understand the implications of what I am about to write, but in some way it was necessary for that tree of knowledge of good and evil to be in the midst of the garden of Eden. It was necessary for Adam and Eve to eat of it. Without knowledge, without action based upon knowledge man is nothing. Without knowledge, without action upon knowledge the garden would have become a prison, a zoo exhibit containing a representative example of human members in an artificial environment. A zoo exhibit provides all that is necessary for the survival of the animal, in terms of physical needs, but it does not provide any purpose. There is no reason for existence in a zoo exhibit. . .Without knowledge. . . without action. . . there was no reason for Adam and Eve to exist. . .

I am overcome with this revelation. I weep. . . . .a zoo exhibit is not heaven. . . a zoo exhibit is hell. . .Physical needs provided for, but endless days of no purpose, nothing to do. . .Eden. . .undoubtedly a nice place to visit, but I surely would never want to live there. . .In a very strange moment of clarity of vision. . . I see. . .I thank God for the tests and battles of life. They are what gives my life purpose and meaning. . .I thank God that I do not live in Eden. . .

I love you my God. . .
Again I am shown. . .
Your plan is perfect. . .

I love you. . .


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Prayer Walk 3-25-8

We are praying and walking up and down the streets of our city. I am posting these reports of what happens on our evenings of street ministry. I bought a Radio Flyer Wagon to pull along behind us. That is kind of our trademark for people to recognize us by.

Hello All,

Terry Wallin and I had a super time tonight handing out fliers in the neighborhood. We did Middlebury street down to Main and back, completely covered the low income apartments at Prairie and Middlebury, much of the Gladstone area, and the area around Greater Wayside Temple/Penguin Point and the new apartments catty corner from the barber shop. We started a little before 5 and finished a little before 8. It was cool and some spotty sprinkles, but really not bad at all.

The ATW Radio Flyer was just great on it's maiden voyage, it's shake down cruise so to say. . . :) We carried quite a bit of stuff. I haven't found a cooler that I like yet. I'm still looking, but I made up a little plastic mini-case of Bible verse cards like the one I take to the jail each week. I had three Bibles along to give away if the occasion arose (it didn't). I took quite a few tracts from the back of the sanctuary to give out also. As I explained to Terry, the wagon maybe isn't so much needed for it's carrying capacity. We could surely do that ourselves with cases or backpacks or something like that. People might forget a couple of guys walking down the sidewalk, but they're pretty sure to remember a couple of grown men pulling a red wagon and that's what I'm after, familiarity, recognition, the people being comfortable with seeing me and knowing who I am and what I am doing.

Terry remarked what a tremendous time he had. It was grand. We talked to lots of people. A couple of interesting things happened. I had my second bad rejection. I left a flier on a porch on Center Street over in the Gladstone neighborhood. I could hear yelling and cursing in the house. I didn't know what was going on. I thought it must have been an argument between a husband and wife, for all I know maybe it was. Anyway, as Terry and I walked up the sidewalk a man stormed out of the house, grabbed the flier, pointedly tore it up and took it to the garbage can sitting between the street and the sidewalk all the while muttering (not very quietly) and cursing under his breath. That was pretty interesting. We prayed for him.

A real first tonight, I was accosted by Elkhart's finest. A couple of men were walking down Monroe street north toward the railroad tracks. Terry and I were just coming out of the apartments at Prairie & Middlebury. I kind of hurried, half ran across the parking lot (leaving Terry behind pulling the wagon) and into Monroe street to catch up to the men. Wonderfully nice men, anyway we were standing on the side of Monroe street, maybe a couple of feet onto the pavement, not in the middle of the street by any means. An EPD squad car from half a block away, turned on his loud speaker and bellowed very sarcastically at us, "HERE'S AN IDEA. HOW ABOUT YOU ALL GETTING OUT OF THE STREET." That was one of the strangest things I've ever had happen. We surely were not blocking traffic on that quiet little street. We had only just briefly paused to talk for a moment. The fellow I was talking to said that officer was the worst and that if we did not move quickly, he would give us a ticket. It was an older man, maybe 65 and his nephew, maybe in his late 20's or early 30's. They are from down south, Tennessee I think he said. They have two families in the neighborhood. They've just sold one house and bought another. They had attended West Side Assembly of God until recently. The old Pastor had left and they did not care for the new Pastor. The older man took care to tell me with some pride (not yet knowing anything about me) that they were Pentecostal. . . They wanted a Bible believing church, one where the Man of God read words out of the Bible in his sermons that they could follow along with in their Bibles. This new Pastor did not do that. He didn't use the Bible very much at all. They might come visit us. It was pretty cool

We passed out around 200 fliers and maybe 30-40 Bible verse cards from my new little plastic box for the wagon. I was passing out Revelation 3:20. One of my favorite verses and I have such a pretty picture to go with it. I have to change. I have to learn to slow down. This is not an evening to hurry. I'm accustomed to hurrying to get all the prayer walk fliers handed out. I've got to change that. The wagon helps me go slower. This night is about meeting people face to face and ministering to them in what ever way they will allow me. If I don't get all the fliers handed out, that's OK. This isn't about fliers. It's about people. Thank you my God!. . . what a night we had.

We talked to lots and lots of people. Numbers and numbers of Moms with their kids. I gave everyone I met, kids and adults Bible verse cards and the adults fliers. I talked to two young men maybe 20 years old, on the north side of one of the apartment buildings at Prairie & Middlebury. The first young man promptly pulled the string loop and tore it out of the card. The other young man. . . very very nice told me He thinks about God a lot, He prays and thinks about godly things. Such an unexpectedly precious moment. . .it touched me deeply. We spoke for a minute or two and then as we left he called to us, "God bless you". . . .

One lady hollered to us from the other side of Middlebury street, I went across. . . she knew who I was from last year. She wanted a flier. I gave her a flier and a card. We talked for a few minutes. . . . .she called across the street as I was leaving. . . "Thank you Pastor". . .

I know I am no Pastor. I surely know that, but walking and talking with these wonderful people and praying for three hours on a Tuesday evening. . .It is such a blessing. It's not just me. Terry has a terrible back. He was in great pain by the time we were done, but he, like me, by the time we were done, was just pumped up. This is so cool. If I had the money I would do this every night of the week all across the city.

I stopped by Kerry's Grandma's house. We prayed for her on a prayer walk last fall. I knocked. She called me in. She was so happy to see me. She said that Kerry is living in Angola. She hasn't seen him in quite a while. I anointed her and prayed with her. I'm going to make that a regular thing. Every week I'm going to call on her.

It was such a wonderful night. . .
Thank you my God. . .
Thank you my God. . .

Dave Stokely

Friday, March 21, 2008

Make Straight the Way of the Lord. . .

Isaiah 40:3-5
The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.

Matthew 3:1-3
In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

Why was John the Baptist sent before the arrival of Jesus? What did John do that Jesus could not have done for Himself? He was told, his purpose was to "prepare ye the way of the Lord." When a king travels, when President Bush travels a man or more likely a team of men are sent ahead of his visit to make sure that everything is ready for his arrival. It surely would not do for such an important man to waste his time waiting while proper accommodations were found. This was the purpose of John, to prepare the people to receive Jesus.

Before you are ready to receive God, your heart must be convicted that you have a need for Him. Who will accept anything that they are not convinced that they need? We have lots of wants in our lives that we do not act upon. When our desire changes from a want to a need, we act upon it. We act upon that which we believe we need.

Smart marketers of new products attempt to through advertising, create an excitement, they try to create a hunger within us, they try to make the market see what they offer not as a want, they try to elevate what ever it is they are selling from an option to something that is a necessity. For the shelves of every store are filled with things that are merely wanted. Shopping carts are filled with things that are seen as needed. . . They prepare the way for the arrival of their product by creating a hunger in the people for it. That was the purpose of John, to convict the people in their hearts, to show them that they had a need of change.

John went around the Hebrew nation preaching a message of how sinful the people were and how much they needed to repent, how much they needed to change their ways.

Repentance has two levels to it. In the Old Testament, in the Hebrew there are two words both often translated into English as repent. The first word:

Strong's H5162 nâcham means to sigh, to breath heavily, to be emotionally convicted.

Jeremiah 15:6
Thou hast forsaken me, saith the LORD, thou art gone backward: therefore will I stretch out my hand against thee, and destroy thee; I am weary with repenting.

God is saying that He is tired of being sorry. This is repentance without action. This is the first level of repentance. We can be convicted in our hearts that we need to lose weight or quit smoking or start exercising and it may be that our conviction stays at only that level. If we do not act upon our conviction we have only attained the first level of repentance. It doesn't do us any good. Belief without action is not worth much.

The second word:

Strong's H7725 shûb means to turn around, to change direction

Ezekiel 14:6
Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Repent, and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations.

The word is used twice here. It is repeated: shûb shûb repent and turn. This is the second level of repentance. Do not just change your belief, but God is calling the house of Israel to physically turn away from their idols and every other sin.

We are called the same as John called the Jewish people, not just to be convicted in our hearts, but to act upon our conviction. John called them not just to believe that they needed to change, but demonstrate through an act of faith, the act of being baptized that they were willing to change their behavior.

This was necessary before the people could receive their Messiah. Before you can enter into a close relationship with God you must be convicted in your heart that you have a need in your life for Him and you must also be convicted to act to fill that need. This is the purpose of the baptism of John. It is first of all an act of faith, an acting upon your belief that you are a sinful person and need to change. Then the Bible says in this act of baptism your sins are remitted, they are washed away by God:

Acts 2:38
Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Change your heart, change your ways, come to full repentance and then act upon it by being baptized in water in the name of Jesus Christ, but do not stop there. There are two baptisms:

This is John the baptist speaking:

Matthew 3:11
I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:

After the baptism of John, after John has made the way straight for the Lord in our hearts, we are to be then baptized by Jesus, This is the second baptism spoken of by John in Matthew 3:11. This is not a baptism of water. This is not a baptism that man can have anything to do with, This is the entry of Jesus into the heart that was made right for Him through repentance. This is the coming of the Lord into that prepared land of our heart.

How were you baptized? Were you baptized into repentance? That is a wonderful and necessary thing, but do not stop there. Seek the second baptism, the baptism of Jesus. Ask Him to come into your heart. . . ask Him for the baptism of the Holy Ghost and with fire!!!!

I love you my God. . .
I thank you for opening my eyes. . .
I thank you for my repentance. . .
I thank you for washing me clean. . .
I thank you for remitting my sins. . .
I thank you for your baptism. . .
I thank you for your Spirit living within me. . .
I love you my God. . .


Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Power of a Name. . .

For the last nine months I have been working on writing articles on each of a list of 38 compound names of Jehovah.  These are names given to God both by Himself and by others in the Bible.  Right now I have been stuck, for over a month, on name #33 on my list.  I am waiting for God to reveal the meaning of this name to me.  I just have to be patient.  

It is clear from reading the Bible that both God and people in biblical times placed importance on the meaning of names.  Here are just a few verse references to names and the reason for the giving of it:

Genesis 4:25  And Adam knew his wife again; and she bore a son, and called his name Seth: For God, said she, hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew.

Genesis 5:29  And he called his name Noah, saying, This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the LORD hath cursed.

Genesis 11:9  Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.

Genesis 16:11  And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the LORD hath heard thy affliction.

Exodus 2:10  And the child grew, and she brought him unto Pharaoh's daughter, and he became her son. And she called his name Moses: and she said, Because I drew him out of the water.

Matthew 1:23  Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

For the most part we no longer name our children for the meaning of their name.  Names are now given for reasons of fashion, they increase and decrease in popularity as celebrities or other famous personalities either give it a good or bad connotation.  So for good or ill we have escaped placing much meaning on our names.

It is very clear that God placed importance on names.  As I mentioned before, we have numbers of names for God, each describing an attribute or role or power that He has.  He is not a simple God to understand.  There are literally hundreds of descriptive names for God and God Himself placed importance on the names of the people that He dealt with in the Bible.

Numbers of times men and women in the Bible had their names changed as their roles changed.  It is somewhat unusual and would be a major undertaking today to change your name.  Think of all the places, all the databases where your name appears.  I am sure that this is familiar ground to women who get married, but for God the name you held was important.  Here are a few examples:

Genesis 17:3-5  And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying,  (4)  As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.  (5)  Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee.
Genesis 17:15  And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be.

[The change though not explained in the text is from Sarai ~ my princess to Sarah ~ THE PRINCESS mother of a great nation]

Genesis 32:27-28  And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob.  (28)  And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.

Acts 13:9  Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him,

We do not know the details of this last change.  We do not know why or when Saul changed his name from Saul to Paul, but it surely can be imagined that he wanted to distance himself from his dark and bloody past.  What better way than by to take another name.  

"Yes a man named Saul did those things, but my name is Paul.  I am no longer named Saul. That is my past.  That no longer me."   

When we are baptized into the name of Jesus, we are taking His name upon ourselves.  His is a name above every other:

Philippians 2:9  Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:

There is no name that can compare with the name of Jesus, therefore we should be very jealous and protect the name by which we are called.  Names are not meaningless.  The name of Jesus has power for healing and deliverance.  We cannot fail to recognize that other names have power also.

I once had a young person reveal their name to me.  This person was maybe 14 or 15 years old.  The first name that they took for themselves was 'failure'.  I wept. . . I weep for any so young who take that dark name for themselves. . . What a terrible terrible name to be burdened with at any age, but especially for one so young.  

What kind of a failure can you be at 14 years old?  To begin anything new, is to occasionally stumble and fall.  A young toddler is not called a failure at walking merely because they often topple over and bump their noses. . . We have understanding and patience with those first attempting new challenges. . . We surely need to have the same patience with our teenagers trying on adulthood for the first time.  We need to let them know that a few bumps and bruises along the road of life are the mileage markers of increasing wisdom and ability

This one I loved so much, took another name for herself that day. . . a name I will not repeat. . .there is power in a name and unfortunately many remember old names. . . I denied that name.  At fourteen years old, you do not have the wisdom to name yourself.  We try on different things in those years, radical political views. . . sometimes shocking fashions of hair and dress, in an attempt to gage our place in this big big world, but we cannot make the mistake of thinking that we will always be those things that we try on as we first fly our wings.

I cringe at some of the decisions I see youth make that are not easily undone.  What a terrible thing, young girls having eye color tattooed into their eyelids or the young men that when I go to the mall, I see with huge bone-like accessories stuck through their noses or ear lobes, permanently distorting their bodies.  It is one thing to try on purple eye makeup or dyeing your hair blue to shock you mother and father at the dinner table.  It will wash off or grow back as quickly as your tastes change in that period of your life, but to have purple eyelids when you are 60 years old with grandchildren on your knee, as a painful reminder of an impulsive decision 45 years previously. . .I shudder.  Some things cannot be easily undone.

This young beloved of mine revealed her name to me and I denied it.  It is important for us to not be afraid to give our young people the perspective of the wisdom of age.  We cannot be ashamed of our wisdom.  No, they will probably not want to hear what what we have to say, but neither have they wanted to eat their vegetables or to be vaccinated against diseases and yet we have suffered them to do that also to their benefit.  Not over every issue, not on every day, but at strategic times, we must regardless of their desires give them our wisdom and let them know that they are wrong.

I told my beloved, that she was too young to know what her name was.  Maybe at 25 I might believe a little bit more that she could know, but not at 14, or 15, or 16 years old.  I do not know the effect, if any, of my words upon her that day, but coincidently or not, a few weeks before her 25th birthday, she cast off the name she had taken at such a tender age.  I rejoice. . .I thank God!!!

There is power in a name.  Jealously protect your name and if you have taken a name that you do not like, then change it.  If you have made the mistake of taking an undesirable name, then cast it away.  Do not be ruled by your name.  Do not for evermore claim that name.  Put it off.  Replace it with another.  Everything is made new when you take the name of Jesus. . . God showed us time and again that with Him we can have a new name. . . even after trials and falling down a wonderful new name can be given us. . .

I once had a name of men and the world. . .
I did not see its meaning. . .
I learned a new language. . .
I gained a new heart. . .
I have taken a name of righteousness and power. . .above all others. . .

Thank you Lord. . .


Saturday, March 8, 2008

My Heart. . .Soul. . . Mind. . . Strength

Mark 12:30
And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.

Heart. . .
This is the first of the first. . .My heart beats for you alone. My life's blood is taken in and set out by my heart. In first aid, it is this beating heart and the life giving blood that are the first priority. The heart distributes breath. . .to all my members. . .Without my heart I do not live. I am to love you with all of my emotions. My passion, my feelings are not to be led away to someone or something else. I am to be yours alone in all my feelings, all my emotions. The seat of this, the core of me is my heart. My life is to be a never ending love affair with you my jealous God. To love another in any way in competition with my love for you is to be an oath breaker, an adulterer.

Soul. . .
Your breath gave me my living soul. You took that which was already created of the dust of the ground, You formed my body of that humble dirt and gave me a part of yourself. . . your essential breath flowed into me, now making my eternal soul. Without breath to distribute the blood has no purpose. Without breath to distribute the beating of the heart is of no avail. . . This breath of Yours, this soul of mine, is my most precious gift from you. I must value this beyond any of my other possessions. It must remain all Yours and totally devoted to You. My soul, Your breath must flow free and pure and unobstructed within me. I must value my soul and guard it against any attempts to enslave it with hungers of the flesh. . . appetites falsely promising fulfillment. . . lies of the dark one meant to capture that which is my most holy and precious gift from You. . .

Mind. . .
My most wonderful mind is from you, it is of you. It is created in a minimal and pale reflection of Your unchartable depths. My mind is what sets me apart from the animals of the earth. It is my greatest advantage and my greatest vulnerability. It was through our minds that the dark one first struck. Through its follies, I am fully able to create my own gods within the domain of my mind, though without power in any sense of being able to save, these do indeed have the power to destroy. My thoughts. . . my logic. . . my pride. . . my ego are all filters which can prevent me from being able to see or recognize You. My minds creations can become a death maze for me. Whenever my vision of You dims, I must clear the obstruction and restore my the clarity of my vision. Of all the organs of my body, my mind is the most sensitive to any interruption of breath or blood. If it is ever distanced from heart or soul the mind begins to suffer irreversible damage almost immediately. . . memories are lost, fine function is impaired and certain death will follow if the interruption continues. . .My mind must remain focused and of single purpose and fully connected to the heart and soul. . .

Strength. . .

My physical body. . . weaker than the elephant. . .slower than the cheetah. . . less agile than the dolphin. . .far less graceful and not at all capable of anything approaching the fascinating aerial dance of the tiny hummingbird. . .Fed by the blood, sustained by the breath, controlled by the mind. . .is still, for all it lacks, beyond the entire animal kingdom in its capacity of commit acts ranging from those of greatly sensitive tenderness and beauty to the perversely unspeakable bloody horrors of evil and darkness that we commit against ourselves. We have been made, in the higher sense, of the image of God and in the lower sense, of the image of an animal. Within our heads, at the very base of our brain is found the medulla, the same structure as is found in the brain of a crocodile. It is the part of the brain that controls our base functions: breathing, blood pressure, heart rate, swallowing, vomiting, defecation. . .many of our base desires originate here. It is through the medulla that the flesh speaks. It is very very similar to the brain of the cold cold reptiles. The desires of this primitive animal brain structure are a basic part of us. Our flesh expresses itself through the medulla. . .its hungers. . . its passions scarcely recognized of dim knowledge, waiting for a chance and erupting in a time of weak control, unbidden. . .silent. . .unseen. . .waiting. . .waiting. . .waiting within us. . . wanting. . . hungering to be in control. . . to have its way. . . The desires of this animal structure are to be battled and subdued, never allowed to rule within us. The strength that I am given through this marvelously designed body must be totally committed to the glory of God. The strength that I have must not be given over to any hunger or passion other than God. I must love you with all that I have, all my strength devoted to You, never allowing anything to eclipse Your brilliance in my life.

Heart. . .Soul. . .Mind. . .Strength

These are the four points of my compass. . .
These are the four corners of my world. . .
This is me. . .
I dedicate myself to you. . .
I dedicate my all to you. . .

I pray always. . .
Let Him reign in me. . .
I love you my God. . .

Dave Stokely

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Matthew 25:31-46: The Sheep & Goats

Matthew 25:31-46

When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: (32) And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: (33) And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

(34) Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: (35) For I was hungry, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: (36) Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

(37) Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee hungry, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? (38) When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? (39) Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? (40) And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

(41) Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: (42) For I was hungry, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: (43) I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. (44) Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee hungry, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? (45) Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. (46) And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

Christianity has certainly traveled down a strange path to arrive at the sad state of affairs that we are in today. There is one God. There is one set of Holy Scriptures agreed upon by almost everyone, but after those two legs of the stool are set down, it gets very interesting. . .maybe depressing is the better word. We have traveled so far from what is right before us. One of the doctrines that we run into more than any other at the jail in which I minister is the doctrine of once saved, always saved. Adherents of this misguided belief focus upon a few isolated scriptures and ignore huge chunks of the Bible. This little theory goes like this, we are saved by faith and therefore anything beyond mere mental assent that Jesus is Lord and died for our sins is then considered a work and since we are not saved by works of our own but by our faith in God, it is impossible for anything that we do or fail to do after our initial time of belief to effect our salvation.

A few years ago, I sat in a classroom in open astonishment, listening to a man say these words. . . (this is as close as I can remember it to an exact quote):

Now that you have opened your heart to God and asked Him in, you know with 100% certainty that you are going to heaven. I know that you are rapists, child molesters, wife beaters, drug dealers, murderers, etc. and further more I know that you are going to continue doing those things, but now you know that you are surely going to go to heaven.

Those words that I just typed really are not in any way an exaggeration of the message I heard preached in the jail that night. That message is such an abomination of the Lords doctrine.

In the verses above Jesus is speaking. . . what is Jesus saying? There is not even any mention of faith or belief. Jesus says to the ones on his left, to the goats. . . you did not show any compassion on your fellow man, therefore by implication you cannot love me. If you do not show kindness and caring for the least of these, recognize that we are not talking here about the kindly little old lady who lives next door, but we are talking about the refuse of society, those who are not recognized as being anyone worthy of our kindness and consideration. We are talking about the poor man lying bloody in the gutter. If you do not show kindness, compassion, generosity. . . If you do not spend of yourself upon them, it is not just that your crown will have fewer jewels in it, but:

Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. (46) And these shall go away into everlasting punishment.

Hell fire and torment is reserved for those who show no compassion and kindness to their fellow man. It little matters what you believe in your heart, if you do not let it out of that innermost place and act upon it.

Luke 10:30-37
And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. (31) And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. (32) And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. (33) But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, (34) And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. (35) And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. (36) Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbor unto him that fell among the thieves? (37) And he said, He that showed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.

The priest and the Levite passed the wounded man by. The Mosaic Law finely defined what was clean and unclean. Literally if you merely touched something unclean you could not minister in the temple, there were lots of other things that you could not do until you had again purified yourself. It would be a great disruption of your day, a great inconvenience to even touch an injured and bloody man, let alone to minister to him like the supposedly ungodly Samaritan man did.

The priest and the Levite were by implication on their way to the synagogue. They were on an important mission. Jesus convicted them for not recognizing what the truly important mission was. They did not see that they had an opportunity to minister to and to worship God through service to their fellow man. They were in a hurry to get to an appointed place to do their duty to God. They were in a hurry not seeing that every place offers equal opportunity to minister to a God who is everywhere. . .They were in a hurry to somewhere and when they got there it was a place full of the stench of goats.

What about us? Would you. . .would I, being on our way to church and seeing a family broken down along side of the road, would we recognize what the priority of the situation was? Would we see where our godly obligation lay?

The issue is the same for us as it was for the Levite and the priest. We mentally point and wag our fingers at them. We are so superior to the hypocritical Levite and priest. . . we have so much in common with that good Samaritan. . . and yet what scenes might the Lord put before our eyes, out of the passages of our lives, in which we might be seen averting our eyes to the disheveled form half hidden in the weeds and hurrying on by, on our way to the temple. . .

I love you my God. . .
Please keep me from the place of the goats. . .


Monday, March 3, 2008

A Snowy Night. . .

Last night after Jackie and I got home from shopping, I took Luke, our St. Bernard, out to Pipewort Pond the little nature refuge north of Bristol where I take many of my pictures. What a wonderful night. A couple of months ago I bought a pair of snow pants at a resale shop. A couple of weeks ago I got a pair of like new insulated boots and a wonderfully warm and very heavy leather coat at the same store. I'll bet that coat weighs 10 lbs. This really isn't meant to be an advertisement for Goodwill, but all these things cost me less than $10 total and I was totally comfortable in the knifelike cold west wind and moonlit, knee to thigh deep snow. It is amazing what a difference warm clothing makes in your enjoyment of the winter weather.

The loop around the refuge is a little less than 1 mile (.86 as measured on Google Earth). The wind was bitter, the snow was deep, it was very quiet. I was very warm and comfortable. The moon was in and out of the scudding clouds. It was Luke and I and God in a deeply restorative and peaceful hour. I walked. I prayed. I worshipped. Luke ran and ran and ran. The virgin snow being so very deep on trail made me slow my pace and take my time. Hurrying was not a possibility. A number of times, I had to stop and rest, not accustomed to with every step my being a bull dozer/snow plow. I merely sank to my knees and immediately I was hugged by the downy comfort of the embracingly deeply drifted snow. I would sit quietly for a moment enjoying the peaceful scene. I was very still and it took a few moments before Luke would realize that something was amiss. His normal position would be romping 30 or 40 yards to the front of me, always checking to the rear for my progress and direction. When he discovered my motionlessness and prone position in the snow, he would turn and come galloping at me and in an exhuberant body slam, very nearly bowling me over as he discovered me to be all right and accessable to his attentions. We would embrace and I would give him a good scratching or have a one sided snow fight with him periodically around our little loop.

God was there. I talked and He listened. He talked and I listened, all the while Luke ran and ran and ran in the soft stillness of this snowy wintry night. . .

Dave Stokely

Tests & Trials

One night I was on a long drive home from Peoria, Illinois when my wife called. She told me of the wonderful church service that night and how things went. She said that a good friend was having some complications from his surgery to correct complications from another surgery several weeks ago and that his wife was requesting prayer for him.

After Jackie hung up and I was again alone in the quiet of the car with the long miles stretching ahead of me, I began to pray for my friend, but then I stopped and I wasn't sure of just what to pray. . . . I have great great respect for my friend. He and I came to Life Tabernacle at roughly the same time. He is much younger than I, just starting his family, but still we've grown together in our faith in many ways. I know that he is capable of huge things in the kingdom of God and while I want God to spare him an attack, a trial from the evil one, but then again I don't want him to miss a blessing by not enduring a test from God. . . I started pondering. . .

How do you tell the difference. What is the difference between a test and a trial. These two words you often hear associated with these difficult events we face. . .

Trials have several basic components: You must have an accused and an accuser. At the minimum, you also must also have a judge, a prosecutor. In my experience, if you are the accused nothing good ever comes out of a trial. All you can ever hope for in a trial is a 'not guilty' verdict and you had that before the trial, but the trial consumes many many things. You always end up losing something in a trial. There are men and women in jail who are absolutely innocent of the charge they are being held upon. If they have no money for the bond, they will wait many months for their trial. They will lose everything they own. Their car will be gone. Their house will be foreclosed upon. Often they will lose their children to foster homes. Friends will abandon them. Family, spouses, coworkers, people they don't even know will often consider them guilty just because they are accused. A trial doesn't even have to take place for you to lose. Only to be accused is to suffer a loss. A private lawyer will cost you thousands of dollars and all you can hope for is to be found not guilty. None of the things you lost will be automatically restored to you if you are found innocent. As I said before, I don't know of anything good for the accused that can ever come of a trial.

A test is another matter. At it's minimum, a test has three components: The person taking the test, the giver of the test and the substance of the test. A test is really in many ways the opposite of a trial. Good things always come out of a test. A well constructed test is a learning experience. I remember only one thing about my college zoology class and that is a question that I missed on a test. I cannot remember a single thing about that entire course, but I remember perfectly that one question that I answered wrong on an exam. The answer to that question has stuck with me for more than 25 years, while everything else has faded away. Tests are to be looked forward to. They are milestones in life. Do you remember your first driving test? How about your physical exam for entrance into the military? How about the exam where you found out you were pregnant? Big events, promotions, advancements are very often preceded by tests. Tests surely aren't always fun, but failing a test isn't the end of the world. . . study hard, prepare better, take it again and go on. A test can take any form. I have taken tests where I had to weld two pieces of metal together, accurately copy very fast Morse code coming through my headsets, story problems, true/false questions, essay questions, find your way from point 'a' to point 'b'. A test can take any form the test giver wants it to. It is a learning experience.

I watch men and women go through the jail. I see men and women charged with the same crime, facing the same possible sentences, react in very very different ways. Relatively minor charges, say a DUI, and two people will react totally differently. One young man will be suicidal, the other will use his time in jail learning how not to end up in jail again. It comes to me that the difference between the two, is all in their perception of their difficulty. Is it a trial or a test?

The suicidal one, views it only a trial. As I said before, no gain is possible in a trial. You can only lose and that is the focus of the person who goes into despair at what has happened to him. All he can see is what he has lost and what he stands to lose. All he can see are the costs.
The other man looks upon the time in jail as a test, a learning experience. He is focused on what positives he can receive from this time in jail. As I said before, a test can take any form. A test can even take the form of a trial. The whole difference is in knowing and having a relationship with the test giver. . . .

Dear Lord,
Please heal my friend and if for reasons only You know, that is not possible please give him the strength and wisdom and courage to ace this test. . . . .


Sunday, March 2, 2008

My Little Bottle of God. . .

My head hurts. I go to the cupboard. I find the bottle of aspirin, struggle with the child-proof cap for a moment and take one tablet to make my head ache go away. . .

My heart hurts. I go to my prayer closet. I find God. I come into His presence for a moment and take one dose of Him to make my heart ache go away. . .

When my head hurts, I take an aspirin. When something else hurts, I seek God. When I am lonely, scared, sick. . . I ask Him to do a mighty work of healing, to be with me, to support me. . . to demonstrate His power, His majesty, and grace to the unbelievers so that they might believe. I ask Him to heal my brothers. I can always count on God. Whenever I have a need, I open Him up and pour Him out. . . When He is done, I put Him away back in my cupboard until the next time of need. . . I thank you God for always being there when I need you!

I ponder. . . in the cupboard, next to my little bottle of aspirins, is a big bottle of vitamins. . . . powerful multivitamins. . .100% complete. . . supplying my minimum daily requirements for dozens of vitamins and minerals the label proudly proclaims. . .the list of ingredients on the label is quite impressive. . .to be effective I am supposed to take those every day. . .

Saul took aspirins. . .
David took vitamins. . .