Thursday, June 26, 2008

It made a difference for that one. . .

I very much like the following story. I emailed this a couple of years ago to a number of people:

Adapted from 'The Star Thrower' by Loren Eiseley 1907-1977
Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.

One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.

He came closer still and called out "Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?"

The young man paused, looked up, and replied "Throwing starfish into the ocean."

"I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?" asked the somewhat startled wise man.

To this, the young man replied, "The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them in, they'll die."

Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, "But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can't possibly make a difference!"

At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, "It made a difference for that one."

Last night on my way home from the jail I had an experience that was very much like catching starfish and throwing them into the sea. . .

I stopped at Meijer's grocery store to pick up some fruit for Jackie and my lunches. I typically park on the north end of the building. There are three or four parking spaces right next to the building there. It might be a few steps further away than what I could find in the large parking lot, but I don't have to cross any lanes of traffic while walking into or out of the store and the building gives a little shelter from the wind and snow or rain if the weather is bad. That is typically where I park. Further to the north of the store is a little retention pond where the water from the parking lot runs off. . . as I walked into the store, I began noticing little newly transformed toads hopping on the sidewalk. These were very small little fellows, just out of the tadpole stage, about the size of a small pea. . . . and there were hundreds of them. They were making the initial voyage of their life from the little retention pond of their spawning. They were heading for hundreds of yards of asphalt. . .filled with cars, pedestrians, and shopping carts. . . really a direction of disaster for them.

I did my shopping with these little toads on my mind. On my way out of the store I found an empty plastic water jug that had a rip in the bottom, that would make a perfect little toad catching container, so I spent close to the next hour catching these wee little toads. My miniature herd had not yet made it up to the store entrance. They were congregated along the store wall to where the shopping carts were stored outside. I cleaned the entire sidewalk of them. At one point I almost gave up and then I remembered the starfish story that I related above. I've been praying to God, asking Him to please help me be a better man. I knew that I couldn't save all the little toads, but while shopping I had made it my goal to catch all the ones between my car and the shopping carts. Thinking of my prayer to God, I decided I was going to complete my goal of cleaning them up regardless of any inconvenience or discomfort on my part. I had made a commitment and I was going to follow it through to completion.

I was kind of hunched over crab walking with my jug in one hand catching toads with the other and periodically getting up to pull my shopping cart with groceries along behind me. It was humid from the recent rains and I grew very hot and had sweat dripping off my face. . . at one point three girls, I suppose from the neighborhood behind the store, walked by. They were probably 10-12 years old and though they passed within four or five feet, I don't think any of them looked directly at me, but I could see them very much peering out of the corners of their eyes trying to figure out what that 50 something year old man was crawling around, catching and putting into an empty milk jug. . .I finished my self-imposed task. The sidewalk was toad-free when I stopped.

When I got in the car, I called Jackie and told her if she guessed for 50 years she would never come up with what I had with me as I drove home. . . When I told her I had hundreds and hundreds of tiny little toads in a jug on my lap she laughed and agreed. . . When I got home, I let them go all around the yard, in our various little gardens and plantings in our yard, around the pond, in the back in the pine trees. . . I said little prayers and thanked God as I released them. . . I have no idea how many there were. I would say the jug was about 1/8th full, about a solid pint of toads I would guess. . . many hundreds anyway.

The way of nature is that for every thousand little toads maybe only a couple (if that) are still alive a year later, but at least in my yard they do not face certain death from being smashed by cars, etc., they will make their own decisions, fight their own battles, struggle to survive with at least a small chance of surviving. . .there are many parallels with ministry. . . the world says much of what we do is foolishness, hopeless. . .of no use. . .not many of the seeds we plant will ever find good ground. . . but at least we must try, at least give them a chance to avoid certain death. . .

Let us not weary of doing good. . . in spite of what the world thinks. . .

I love you God. . .
I love you all. . .


Monday, June 23, 2008

All Rock is not Created Equal. . .

Igneous, Sedimentary, Metamorphic. . .

When I was a boy, really for most of my youth I had a passion to be either a geologist or a paleontologist (a person who studies fossils). I grew up near an old gravel pit. . . hog nose snakes, toads, frogs and tadpoles galore, cliff swallows, opossums, salamanders. . .baby birds, nests of blind hairless mice and precious small rabbits. . .That was my classroom. The sun. . .the wind. . .all of God's creation was my teacher. I loved studying there. I loved rocks. I was fascinated by them, by the stories they told. They were the ballast of my youth. I spent youthful ages of time hunting for fossils, brachiopods, crinoid stems, compound corals, anemones. . . geodes. . .I had my own little excavation in a nearby peat bog, where I spent many days digging and looking for ancient species of snails, their shells preserved in the boggy soil. I romanticized myself on some important paleontological dig. . .Digging away in the hot sun, alone in a swamp, observing, sorting, and placing into collection my fascinatingly old snail shells. . .happy doing what I was doing, contented beyond words. . .OK, I'm a bit different. . .My Dad and I polished rocks in a tumbler. I was a member of the Elkhart Mineralogical Society. A couple of times we took trips to rock quarrys looking for trilobite fossils. That phase of my life passed, but I learned much about rocks.

For two weeks I've been pondering and meditating on one of the parables of Jesus:

Matthew 7:24-27
Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: (25) And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not; for it was founded upon a rock. (26) And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: (27) And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.

I started to wonder what kind of rock was it, that this wise man built his house upon? The more I thought about this question the more interesting the question became to me. All rocks are not the same. All rocks are not created equal. Rocks fall into one of three different types . . .

This is original rock, the primal rock that the earth was first created from. This is the rock of Genesis 1:

Genesis 1:6
And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.

The rock of the original firmament was igneous rock. This is the starting point. . . basalt, pumice, obsidian, and granite are examples of igneous rock. This form of rock divides the liquid water of our external oceans from the liquid, molten core of the earth. It divides the liquid from the liquid. . . it divides the waters from the waters. . .Lava when it is birthed from the interior of the earth and cools, it freezes from a flowing liquid fire, it changes phase into a crystalline solid and becomes igneous rock. Every other type of rock started as this original firmament. The differences between the different types of this rock are due to local variations of chemical makeup and differing cooling rates. . .In the beginning was igneous rock.

This form of rock is composed of other types of rock which have weathered. This is rock which water has acted upon, it is born of the action of the water and has thereby been worn into small pieces. This is rock one step removed from sand. In fact in the case of sandstone, you can easily erode it away with your fingernail. The mere force of a fingernail is required to send it back to its origins. Shale, limestone, siltstone, chalk, and the previously mentioned sandstone are a few of the types of sedimentary rocks. The weight of time has acted upon sediments which were laid down by the action of water. These are rocks with history, rocks with the past an inherent part of them. The past is written in their layers. . . still identifiable. . . the transformation incomplete for the lack of fire. . .All fossils, the dead remains of once living plants and animals are found in this type of rock. This rock is weak. It easily erodes, splits and fragments along the plane of its laying down. Age and weight go into making sedimentary rock, but little in the way of heat.

This is rock that has been transformed, born by fire. . .It may have started as igneous or sedimentary rock, but it has been to the surface. It has been weathered. It has seen the sun and has then again been submerged and subjected to the heat and fire that originally spawned it. Both igneous and sedimentary rocks can become metamorphic rock. Metamorphic rock is strong. The heat always strengthening, renewing. . . With the transforming fire, soft sedimentary shale turns to durable slate. . .lowly and perishable sandstone is rebirthed as quartzite. . .the common limestone turns to exquisite marble. . . The transformation goes very deep. This heat forges a new material from old elements. Lines of history and fossils are not found in metamorphic rock. The heat burns away all trace of what has gone before. Through this transformation of fire, it has a new identity, a new name. . . the old things are passed away. . . all is made new. . .

What type of rock did the man build his house upon? Was it basalt, the deep permanence of the very mountains?. . .The root of all else. . .Was it chalk? . . a siltstone?. . . or a sandstone? All these prone to fracture and quick erosion. . .or did he choose as his foundation, a base of noble marble. . .transformed, transfigured. . .reborn by fire. . .

Thank you for my transformation my God. . .
Thank you for the fire my Lord. . .

I love you my God. . .
I love you all. . .


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Neighborhood prayer walk - 6-19-8

Marion/Harrison Street Neighborhood

No question, by a wide margin this was the most difficult evening of prayer walking that I've been on. We faced more opposition and negative responses, more than than any other 10 evenings put together. That is not an exaggeration. . . I really ask for your prayer support to tear down this wall of opposition to the work of the Lord in the Marion/Harrison Street neighborhood.

So much went on tonight, I cannot begin to tell everything and every one we prayed with.

Melissa Wolfinger, Ryan Barkley, and I walked and prayed tonight. While the opposition was heavy, so were the victory reports. We talked with Cigar Bob for a good while. He was going on about some things that I could not really follow. I'm not sure what he was talking about, but we listened to him for maybe 10 minutes. We asked him if he had anything he would like us to pray with him about, like his shoulder maybe. We've prayed and anointed his shoulder just about every time we've prayed with him. . . But NO!!! His shoulder is healed. He quickly swung his formerly very stiff and sore arm around in a full circle repeatedly. He said he probably would have trouble lifting anything really heavy. . . :) OK Bob, like an 85+ year old man is going to be carrying sacks of concrete or something. . .:) Praise the Lord!!! We joined with Bob again in prayer for peace of his mind and for him to grow closer in his relationship with Jesus.

We next went to the little store to buy our water. The little girl was again sitting on the sidewalk and writing about God at the corner. We gave her fliers and cards. The lady shopkeeper was watching in the direction of Bob's porch as we came into her store. We were kind of talking about Bob and going on about how much better he is doing. The shopkeeper agreed. I asked her how a lady from the holy land came to be in a little store on Marion Street. I'm not sure if she ever answered me, but she did tell us that her uncle owns the store on Middlebury street and that her husband works there. He's the guy I stop in and talk to and give fliers to every Tuesday. That is pretty cool. I asked her to say Hey to her husband for me. We talked about praying for the neighborhood and for the violence to stop. I hadn't noticed it before, but she has a very very big gun on the shelf right behind the cash register. A customer of hers was killed last week by a gunshot to the head (not in her store, but somewhere else in the city).

We left her store and walked up sixth street. A fellow came running across the street after we left a flier on his door, “What did you put on my door? Who are you?” He thought we were Jehovah Witnesses. He is Catholic. He came from Italy in 1958 when he was 11. Both of his parents were killed in 1961. He is a Vietnam war vet and has many mental problems as a result of all these things that have happened to him. He went into his house and came out to show us a gallon size Zip lock bag about half full of bottles of prescription drugs for his mental illness. He said that he takes 31 different pills each day. At first he was very very very negative and angry with us, but the more we talked. . . I kept telling him we were just praying for the drug houses to close and for the violence to stop. . .praying for good things to happen to people. . . I cannot say he ever became warm and fuzzy friendly toward us, but he became much much friendlier. He is going down to Marion VA hospital for a month of in-house treatment. I think he's leaving Monday. He has very severe mental problems. His name is Dustyne. I told him we would be praying for him. He appreciated that and thanked us for our prayers.

Not long after this, I was walking up Marion street when a pickup truck parked next to us and a very bald man with big sunglasses on, got out of his truck and approached us. I thought he was going into the nearby apartment, but instead he just kind of stopped right next to the sidewalk and just looked or stared at me. He lifted his sun glasses and after pausing for a moment said, “You don't recognize me do you?” I had to search my brain for a moment before I knew. . . “Ivor. . .Ivor my friend from high school.” I hadn't seen him for 35 years. Last summer, just almost a year exactly ago, he came to my mind and I did a Google search on his name. I found an email address for him and took a chance that it might be his and it turned out to be him. Ivor and I have been emailing back and forth sporadically over the last year. I've included him in my email list and have been sending him my articles, my pictures of the day and the prayer walk reports, etc.. He said he was moving some furniture, I think for his sister, when he remembered that we walked on Marion/Harrison on Thursday evenings. I think he said he saw us and circled around the block to greet us. We shook hands. I gave my friend a hug. It was very good to see him after all these years. I do not believe in coincidence. . .Ivor there is a reason for our paths crossing. There is a reason for you and I meeting after all these years. . .

Too much happened to write about everything tonight. Tonight was a night of pregnant ladies. We anointed and prayed for several. One lady is going in to have a c-section tomorrow.

We spoke with Julio. His lady friend, whom we prayed with to get a job last week, got a job the next day after we prayed. She was just WOWed by the working of God. She said something to the effect that, “Boy that prayer really works doesn't it.” Unfortunately Julio is back smoking. He's cut down much, but he is still smoking about ½ a pack a day. He was all smiles though. . . very very friendly and we prayed with him again.

We spoke with 3 Hispanic gentlemen, who were drinking beer on their back porch. None of them spoke very much English, about as much as we spoke Spanish, but we managed. We really had a wonderful time talking to them. They like America so much. They think the people are just wonderful. They were very touched by our wanting to talk and pray with them. We anointed one of the men and prayed with him, at this point I cannot even remember about what. . . He wants to come to church. They all want to learn English. We told them about Cathy Valdez's free English classes at the church. I tried calling her to verify the time, but couldn't get through. Later Sister Cathy said she would start giving me her fliers to hand out. The one fellow rides his bicycle past Life Tabernacle on his way to work every day in the industrial park. He reads our sign. He quoted this weeks sign for me in his very broken English. Not knowing that I do the sign, he said enjoys reading and thinking about the message every day as he rides by. That tickled me. I think we must have talked with them for 15 or 20 minutes.

Ryan noticed a young man in a t-shirt and shorts walk by us. I didn't see it, but Ryan said he had a hand gun clearly silhouetted in the waistband of his shorts, under his shirt. . .

We met a young girl, maybe 12 years old writing praises of God in a notebook on her front porch. She shared her writing with us. What a blessing that was.

Another lady was sitting on her porch writing down the words to hymns in her notebook. She showed us page after page of writing. Her notebook was almost full. She had just copied, earlier in the day Psalm 91 in her journal, copied it from the Bible we gave her a couple of weeks ago. The Spirit of God was heavy in the evening air. . . I read Psalm 91 aloud from her journal. . . It was wonderful. She wanted to know if we knew of a Pentecostal church she might attend. “Yeah, we might know of one. . .” She is going to come to worship service Sunday.

Another young man, we've prayed with each week since we've been in this neighborhood. . . last week we prayed for his Grandfather, who was very very ill. Praise the Lord. His grandpa is now very much better. The young man giving credit to God, but his grandpa is driving everyone a little crazy in his recovery at home. We anointed a prayer cloth for this young man to take to his grandpa, to calm his mind and give him peace while he completes a very speedy recovery.

I don't know what all. . . Lots of things. . .One lady met us out at the sidewalk for prayer. She is very troubled and wants her home back. I'm not sure what that means, but I think her home is filled with people whom she does not want there. That is the impression I received.

It was a tremendous evening. It was also a very difficult evening. I'm not going to dwell on the negative, but we really need your prayer support. We are really running into some significant resistance. . .


Saturday, June 14, 2008

Chocolate or Vanilla?

I ponder in my mind about the struggles of life. . . How do I tell the difference between a roadblock that God places in my path to force me aside from a path that he does not want me on and a mountain that must be climbed on my journey? Do you remember Balaam & his talking ass? The text is in the book of Numbers verses 22:20-34. Balaam was on a wrong path. God did not want Balaam going where he was headed. Got put an obstacle in Balaam's path. The ass Balaam was riding on, saw the danger ahead, but Balaam did not see it. Are the obstacles in my life, in my career, in my ministry, that God is using in an attempt to deflect me from a path He doesn't want me on? Have I figuratively hit my donkey twice and is the angel of the Lord getting ready to smite me, like in the case of Balaam?

Think of Jonah. God told him to go to Nineveh. Jonah went in another direction. The Lord brought a great storm, He placed a huge obstacle in Jonah's path. Another example, is the entire testing of Job. The Bible goes to great lengths to show us that Job did nothing to deserve what happened to him:

The righteousness of Job
Job 1:1
There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.

Job 1:8
And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?

Two verses, two witnesses. . . the writer of the book of Job says that he was perfect and upright, in addition God held Job up to satan as a perfect and upright man. What happened to Job was a lesson for satan and for us. Everything was taken away from Job, his family, his health, and finances were all ruined. His friends abandoned him. His wife turned against him. For pages and pages, chapter after chapter we read of Job's testing. Job at times wavering but never changing course. In the end everything was restored to Job:

Job 42:10
And the LORD turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before.

I cannot help but believe that if Job had given up, if Job's supposed friends had been successful in discouraging him, if Job had denied God and lost his faith, if Job had detoured from the path he was on, I do not believe that everything that Job lost would have been restored to him. It was necessary for Job to continue fighting against the terrible test that he faced in order to overcome and be redeemed.

How do I tell the difference in my own struggles? I want to side track for a bit and come at this question from another direction. Upon meditating and pondering this question, I remembered that the way of the Lord is perfect:

Psalms 18:30
As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him.

I've used this verse to minister to people in the past who did not understand what was going on in their life. Some event would happen that seemed terribly unfair. We surely do not understand everything that occurs, in the midst of our struggle we cannot see the purpose, but we can have faith that "As for God, His way is perfect. . .", his plan is perfect. Everything will work out in the end. At the end of the day no one will ever be able to point a finger at God at say that He was anything but correct and perfectly righteous and just. In like manner His plan, His way of getting things done are also perfect. There are no errors. There are no misjudgments. There are no miscalculations. There are no imperfect techniques.

Have you ever worked for someone who was (to put it kindly) what is called a micro-manager? This is a boss who must be involved in every detail. No decision is too small for this kind of a manager. He doesn't let his underlings do anything without his review and stamp of approval. This is a terrible way to run any organization. Not much gets accomplished. No one can move a finger without first consulting the boss. The organization cannot respond quickly to changing events. The subordinates have no power of their own to make decisions. When anything unexpected occurs, when quick action is needed most, nothing happens. The members of this organization are frozen until this micro-manager, this control freak can be found and consulted. Terribly bad things can happen due to inaction or great golden opportunities can pass by due to the impotence of the underlings. . .

Reading the Bible you must be very aware that this is not how God has setup His creation. A micro-managing God would never have left any chance for Adam and Eve to stray by disobeying Him in the garden. They would have had no chance of independent action. Procedures, lock out boxes, safety fences, ropes. . . all sorts of things would have been in place to prevent any independent decision making, any chance of making a mistake on Adam and Eve's part would have been removed. The giving of the Law was the giving of guidelines for man to act under without having to constantly consult with God.

Moses tended toward micro-management. His trying to be the sole judge of the millions of Hebrew people was a symptom of someone who tries to micro-manage. People new to management are typically poor delegaters. They are usually very confident in their own abilities and hesitate to take the chance that those under them will have the same degree of proficiency that they would have. The delegation of authority did not come naturally to Moses. His father-in-law had to strongly urge Moses give authority to those under him to make decisions on his behalf. Moses to his credit, did listen to the good advice and learn from it. Micro-management is a symptom of many people newly put into authority. Notice the difference between the Mosaic Law, with its micro-management tendency, with its hundreds of rules to the empowerment that Jesus gave us with His very simple guidelines. I've spoken upon this numbers of times before, but Jesus boiled all the rules and regulations of Moses down to just two:

Mark 12:29-31
And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: (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. (31) And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.

This is classic empowerment management. Jesus is an empowering manager. He gives us guiding principles and the assurance that we cannot not go far wrong if we adhere to these commandments. It is important to realize from this that He expects us to make our own independent decisions based upon the guidelines that He has given us.

Look at the last words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew:

Matthew 28:18-20
And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. (19) Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: (20) Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

And His last words recorded in the book of Acts:

Acts 1:8-9
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. (9) And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.

Jesus has been given all power in heaven and in earth. There is no power that Jesus does not have. All power means all power. If I have all the money, how much do you have? There is no exception to all. Now then in Acts we are going to be given power, Jesus will share His power with us when the Holy Spirit of God is come upon us. Jesus is not a micro-manager. He is delegating. . .He is giving power to us to make decisions and to act on His behalf.

I have asked people to pray and have had them respond that they must pray about that. They must pray as to whether they pray about something. They have to ask God for direction to tell them whether they should talk to Him. In the past I have made the statement that I believed that God had a perfect will for my every move. I thought that if I could learn to hear Him well enough He would guide my every step of the day. . .He would prefer me to eat at one over the other Burger King or Wendy's. I thought that it was only my own spiritual deafness that kept me from hearing from God as I selected either chocolate or vanilla for my ice cream cone. . . :)

After this study, I have changed my mind. I believe that the Lord had given us power to minister as best we see fit. Notice what Jesus says in Matthew. Reread verses 28:18-20

And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. (19) Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: (20) Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

This is our mission statement. These are our instructions for ministry. Our compelling foundational principles must be to love God with everything we have and to love our fellow man as ourselves. Within those two principles we are to reach our world for Jesus. He does not give us detailed minute instructions as to how to accomplish this. I am not saying that we have no doctrinal requirements, but He has given us power to reach our world in the ways that we see fit within His guidelines, the doctrine given in the New Testament.

We can pray and pray and pray for guidance, but the guidance in large part is already given in the Bible. Surely when God has specific instructions for us, He will let us know:

Act 16:6
Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia,

This is not something that Paul could have discovered on his own by adhering to the two great commandments. He needed specific instructions from God as to His plan and God gave it to Paul.


Acts 16:9-1
And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; there stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. (10) And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavored to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them.

More instructions directly from God to Paul. Paul knew that God had spoken to him in the dream. Again there is no way for Paul to have picked Macedonia over all the possible places he could have gone solely on the basis of the two great commandments. Paul has the power of the Holy Spirit within him, but he needed Specific instructions. Note though that God instructed Paul to go to Macedonia. He did not lay out a complete itinerary for Paul. God left the details up to Paul.

My original question, how do I tell if I am to fight through an obstacle or allow something to change my course and cause me to either detour or even head to a completely different destination? Balaam was not on a godly path. Balaam disobeyed God:

Numbers 22:20-22
And God came unto Balaam at night, and said unto him, If the men come to call thee, rise up, and go with them; but yet the word which I shall say unto thee, that shalt thou do. (21) And Balaam rose up in the morning, and saddled his ass, and went with the princes of Moab. (22) And God's anger was kindled because he went: and the angel of the LORD stood in the way for an adversary against him. Now he was riding upon his ass, and his two servants were with him.

Balaam disobeyed the instruction from God. God told Balaam that if they came for him he was to accompany them, but Balaam went without the princes of Moab coming for him. Balaam, if he had searched his heart, would have known that what he was doing was wrong. He did not follow God's instruction. He was led, he succumbed to the desire of an earthly appetite, the promise of riches, he was motivated by greed and lust for money. God put obstacles in front of him because of his wrong path. Other examples abound. . . Jonah, Saul the king. . . Saul on the road to Damascus. . .

Job on the other hand, according to the writer of Job, according to God, according to Job's own self-evaluation was on a correct path. Job had lived his life righteously. Job was motivated correctly. Job was not chasing greed or other fleshly appetites. Job persevered in spite of everything that came against him. He did not lose heart. He kept to his path not caring for everything that opposed him. He kept the faith in doing right no matter of what might happen. . . Other examples. . . David in his struggle with Saul, Abraham, Jacob, Paul going to Jerusalem. . .

For me, the lesson for this is, when I face troubles, when I face obstacles, when I face stumbling blocks in my path. I need to search my heart, evaluate my motives, study the Word of God. . .pray for God to reveal any darkness of intent in my actions. Am I serving God or am I serving my flesh? Balaam surely knew that he had disobeyed God. It was within his ability to discern where he had varied from God's will. Just as Job was correct in his confidence that he had not strayed from God's path for his life. If wrongness is discovered then I need to detour. If a sinful foundation or purpose is revealed in my searching of my heart, then I must repent. . . repenting means to change direction. An obstacle then placed in my wrong path, is God's attempt to change my direction, to bring me to repentance. A detour is a change of direction. A detour placed in my incorrect path should always lead to a repenting of my heart. Disaster awaits, as in Balaam, the angel with the sword stands ahead of me if I ignore a detour sign, if I fight to overcome a hindrance that I should heed. . . If on the other hand I can find no ill purpose within me. If my mission, if my journey lines up with God's Word, with His guiding principles then I need to continue on my course, in spite of any hardship or hindrance. . .Continuing in the face of obstacles and hardship while on a correct path then becomes a demonstration of our faith. . . and we know that demonstrating our faith pleases God greatly:

Hebrews 11:6
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

This study has given me confidence that the silence of God is not necessarily a rebuke on His part or spiritual deafness on my part. I need to constantly check my holiness of purpose, the righteousness of my motivation, my goals, my dreams, my desires. . .if they are pure and right then I need to continue on in spite of anything that might come against me. . . if they are wrong then I need to change course. . .repent. . .

I thank you my God. . .
I love you my Lord. . .
I love you all. . .


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Neighborhood Prayer walk 6-12-8

Marion/Harrison Street neighborhood

A simply tremendous night tonight. Melissa Wolfinger, Terry Wallin, Chris Nord and I walked and prayed tonight. It was wonderful. The weather was very warm, but with a delightful breeze. So much was happening tonight all over the neighborhood, twice I was taken away from the immediate area where we were walking. . . I think Melissa noticed it first, it is like the neighborhood is opening up, blossoming before our very eyes. There are numbers of people and happenings that I only heard reports of, I'll let someone else tell of the happenings that I did not see.

We stopped and talked with Cigar Bob for quite a little bit. He was obviously waiting for us and had much to tell us of his week. We just chitchatted for a little bit. . . I asked him what the happiest day of his life was. He said, "When my family was alive. I loved my family so very much. . ." Bob has made comments like this before and I thought that his family was literally dead, but they are only apparently dead to him. They live in the immediately surrounding area, mere blocks away, but they never come to see him. His happiest days were when his family surrounded him. He spoke very wistfully about this. . . He asked for my name. I don't quite understand. I gave him my name and my cell phone number. . . he said the funeral home was wanting to know where he went to church. I'm not sure. Maybe Bob is making his funeral arrangements. . . I don't really know. He asked me what I was doing for Father's Day. I said nothing much probably. He scoffed at that. Smiling with certainty, that he had uncovered some supposed slyness on my part, "Aw. . . You'll have big doings. . . I'm sure of that. . ." The thought comes to my mind. . .I'm going to get Bob a nice Father's Day card and put it in the foyer of the church, maybe with the greeters, for anyone who is interested to sign and I think I'll take maybe a cake over to Bob for Father's Day. I don't think Cigar Bob has anyone in his life who cares about him. Maybe I'm wrong, but I think he's very much alone. The four of us joined together and anointed, laid on hands and prayed with Bob. He was visibly moved. It was a wonderful time.

Next we went to the little store to buy our water. Again it is apparent that the lady who owns the store, enjoys our stopping in, leaving our fliers and Bible verse cards and talking with her. Her little girls, like every little child we meet, especially enjoy the Bible verse cards and the pretty colored strings and beads on the fliers.

My joy. . . the Spirit of God had just been building in me all day long. It got to the point where I could very scarcely contain it any longer. I prophesied to Terry, Melissa, and Chris that God was going to do something wonderful tonight. . . it was something that we would see, but that we could not even begin to understand. I almost started dancing on the sidewalk. . .

A younger lady maybe 30 or 35 met us as we were leaving a flier on her porch. I was expecting a rebuke. . . She said that these fliers were the highlight of her week. They really uplifted her. She has kept them all and has them hanging in her house. . .that was pretty cool. . .That made my day. . .

Melissa saw a couple sitting on their porch halfway down a side street and she wanted to go talk to them. On our way there, we met another man and woman (not apparently a couple) sitting in the back of their house. . . it was Julio and a lady who also stayed in his same apartment building. He greatly smiled when he saw us. Two weeks ago we prayed for a job with him. He got a job the day following our prayers and he told us of that victory last week. Last week we prayed for him to quit smoking. Tonight he has conquered smoking. He told us that he has no cigarettes and doesn't feel any worry, anxiety, or craving for them. We praised the Lord with him for a few minutes before anointing and praying with him again for continued victory over his addiction, for peace, for continued financial blessing, for God's protection for he and his family. We left and were a little ways up the sidewalk when he came running after us, the lady he was sitting with on his steps, also wanted to be anointed and prayed for. She needs a job. We lifted up wonderful prayers to God for her.

I went and gave a card to the little old Hispanic lady with the broken arm and again through sign language told her I would be praying for her healing. Her bright eyes smiled a huge smile at me. . .

We came back by the little store. . . Melissa headed across Marion Street. . . Melissa magnets were out. . . kids!!!. . . Melissa is just powerfully drawn to any child. . .There were four little girls, maybe 5, 6 and/or 7 years old sitting on the sidewalk, doing something between the street and the entrance to the store. Chris, Terry, and I kind of hung around on the other side of the street before Melissa began excitedly waving to us to come across. She told us that two of the little girls wanted prayer, their grandpa had died recently. Melissa asked the shop keeper if it was OK to anoint and pray with the girls. The lady said that was fine with her. I didn't know that until later. . .Anyway so Melissa and I sat on the sidewalk with the little girls, put some oil on our hands, told the little girls what the oil represented, what anointing was all about and held hands with the little girls and lifted up a prayer to God of healing and peace on them as the store owner looked on at us. . . Her girls were with us, sitting in our little sidewalk prayer circle, but they are not the ones who lost their grandfather.

All of the little girls had little journal-like notebooks and various colors of the rainbow magic markers. They were all sitting there in bright sun, cross legged on the very warm sidewalk chattering away and drawing and writing gibberish characters in the unknown language of children before they learn the lexicon of adults. . .They informed us that they were all writing about God. . . they proudly told us and showed us their journals. They had our little fliers and cards from our visit before. . . and they were writing about God. . .

The shopkeeper lady taking all this in, looked at me with very dark and serious eyes. . ."You don't know where I am from do you?" My first guess would have been that she was Hispanic, but in hindsight her accent was not really right. . .I kind of shrugged my shoulders, "I don't know." She told me, "I'm from the Holy Land. I'm from Jerusalem. . ." My girls and I have not long ago gotten back from a visit there. . .I told her that was a dream of mine to see her land. . .Just then she had customers enter her store and had to go tend to them. . .I have no idea. Is the lady Jewish? I do not know. . .I do not know. . . paths crossing. . .random events. . . Thank you my God. . .Where this leads I have no idea, but you are right God. . . I see and I do not even begin to understand. . .

Lots of other people. . . luscious dripping ice cream from the street vendor. . . lots of prayers. . .

A lady named Bernice. . . we prayed for her three times tonight and right before we left the neighborhood for the evening we anointed, prayed over and she took a prayer cloth for a friend who was having a problem north on Second Street. Anyway, she came and got me from Harrison Street (she lives on the beginning of Marion). She had her boyfriend's bicycle. He is strung out on drugs pretty badly. She wanted me to anoint and pray for him. I took another route. She didn't want him to know that she brought me to him. I walked probably 6 blocks back to her apartment steps, he was gone when Bernice got back there. Bernice couldn't figure that out as she had his bicycle and he would never leave his bike with her. She can only figure that the devil made him leave before I got there. . . I told her that when it comes to God you can run but you can't hide. . . We laughed about that. . .

As I said just as we were leaving the neighborhood Bernice came to us again. She wanted a prayer cloth. . . she pointed to a church in the neighborhood. She said that they were nice people at that church. . . but you people are coming out in the neighborhood and talking with us and praying with us. . .getting involved in our lives. . . Aren't you afraid? There are mean people here. . . we watch. . .we see. . .

What a Holy night. . .
Holiness was the topic of our flier tonight. . .
What a Holy evening. . .

Thank you my God. . .
Thank you for blessing us my Lord. . .

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I call Him Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. . .

Earlier this week a friend invited me to join a Christian community on Orkut. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Orkut, you can join or create communities there and discuss pretty much any topic under the sun with people from all over the world. I was active there for a while about a year ago, before tiring of the constant baiting and bickering and downright nastiness that came to dominate almost every discussion on Christianity. It just became tiresome to me. It wasn't like talking to people who had sincere questions and an open heart, but rather it was more of an arena for the continued scourging of Christ and Christians. . .

But I thought out of courtesy to my friend in India, that I would look at this Christian community. It looked interesting and I joined it. One of the first threads that I read had been posted by a Muslim man, again another baiting opportunity for him I suppose. In his opening post, he challenged anyone to show him an Old Testament prophecy that could be proven to be fulfilled by Jesus. This man said that if he could be shown one prophecy about Jesus that was fulfilled he would then become a Christian.

This thread had gone on unanswered for some weeks, with him making comments that reminded me (whether it was intentional on his part or not I do not know) as being similar to what Elijah said to the prophets of Baal while waiting for Baal to consume their sacrifice with fire. He taunted and said things like, "I'm getting sleepy. Where are all the Christians at?. . . I'm getting bored. . ."

The difficulty in saying that Jesus fulfilled the various predictions of him, virgin birth, born in Bethlehem, put to death on a tree, etc. is that you are using the Bible to prove what the Bible says. Even the Scriptures, in the Mosaic Law states that everything must be proven by two or three witnesses. And while you and I might consider the four gospel writers as independent authorities or witnesses, to a person who thinks of the Bible as being fabricated, all the writers of the Bible are lumped into the same category of non credible references.

So what is the way around this Muslim man's challenge? I pondered on this for several days before I was reminded of this verse:

Isaiah 9:6
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

There is very good evidence of the antiquity of the book of Isaiah. One of the most important finds of what are called the Dead Sea scrolls, were two complete copies of the book of Isaiah. Through various means scholars are in agreement that these copies of the book of Isaiah were made hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus. The book of Isaiah is thought to have been first written about 700 years before the birth of Christ, so obviously any statements that Isaiah made which are come true in Christ are indeed fulfilled prophecies. . .

I say to anyone who will listen. .I worship you my Lord. I love you my God. . .

I say again:

Jesus your name is Wonderful,
Jesus your name is Counselor
Jesus your name is The Mighty God
Jesus your name is The Everlasting Father
Jesus your name is The Prince of Peace. . .

My saying of those words this June day in the year of our Lord 2008, was predicted some 2,700 years ago by the prophet Isaiah. . .now for the requirement that everything be proved by two or three witnesses, we only need one or two more of you to repeat those same statements. . .Will you join me in this proclamation that fulfills prophecy?

I think there is going to be one unbeliever who is going to be baptized soon. . .


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Neighborhood prayer walk - 6-10-8

Middlebury Street Neighborhood

We had a really great night tonight. It started out a little quiet. Terry was having dinner with his father and Melissa rushed to Elkhart from the other side of Goshen, so she was a bit late.

It was a wonderfully pleasant evening, many people were out working in their yards. I talked and prayed with a few people before Salah's Market. I was met by a young girl, maybe 8 years old and a friend who has been coming to Life Tabernacle for a while. I always give her a pile of last weeks fliers and Bible verse cards to hand out. It makes her feel special that she can help hand out the fliers also. Terry wasn't along (he jealously guards the wagon pulling task), so this young girl took the wagon handle from me and she and a friend began hanging fliers on door knobs and giving them to people on the sidewalk as we walked.

Apparently these two young girls were playing dress up without permission. They had on big tall boots from the girl I didn't know, from her house. As we passed, where she lived, her mother came out and made the girls take off the ritzy and very adult boots the girls were wearing. The girl ran back and gave her mother a card and a flier. Mom waved and said hello. She seemed OK with her daughter helping me. We were only a few doors from the market and I had told the girls I wanted to buy some bottles of water there. They wanted to hand out fliers and cards in the market and they thought it a pretty good idea if I bought them something while we were in there. I bought a couple of bottles of water for me and a couple of ice creams for my helpers. Just as we walked out Melissa walked up. Neither girl were allowed to cross the street so their helping was at an end. . . again Melissa showed up right at the right time.

It was just a blessed night. One young girl, maybe 8th, 9th, or 10th grade meets us every single week at the door of her house and takes the flier. She's the one who several weeks ago said her mother wanted to talk with us. Each week her mother is sleeping or tired or something. . .I don't know, but this girl loves speaking to us and praying. Again tonight she was there at the door waiting for us. Her mother wasn't home, but she called to her Auntie inside, asking if she wanted prayer for anything. . .the response from inside was 'no'. . ., but this girl wanted prayer. . . nothing specific that she wanted to share that she wanted prayer about. . . she just asked us to anoint her and pray for her. . . We anointed her and held her hands as we prayed on the sidewalk in the beautiful June sunshine. . .she just has such a sweet special heart. . . I prayed for the Lord to protect her, to anoint her life, to give her a hunger for His word, to open the Word of God for her great understanding . . . to help her be a mighty woman of God . . to raise up a godly man for her in the future to protect her and cherish her as she deserved. . .It was an amazingly powerful moment. . .

The evening was filled with very special moments. . . we gave a flier to a young girl maybe 10 years old in the apartments. She ran inside taking the flier with her. In a few moments the lady came out who we took to the jail to visit her husband last week. The girl who took the flier is his daughter. It has been a good week for this lady. Prayers have been answered. Things are working out in her life. They continue to pray each evening at 9:00 for their family. Wonderful hungry hearts for God. They may be at church Sunday. We anointed and prayed with them. . .

Just a few minutes after this we were surrounded by a little flurry of kids all wanting fliers and cards. They especially like just the multicolored string loops if I have any extra. I don't know what they do with them, just little trinkets that catch a kids eye, but a little girl, Riesha (I surely do not know how to spell that name) she said she was six years old, asked for us to pray with her. She had such a serious deep look about her. . . I nearly wept at her first words. I got down on my knees. . . "What is it darling??". . . she replied, "I feel worthless. . . .I don't feel like I'm worth anything. . ." What a bankrupt world we must live in where six year olds have no worth in their own eyes. . .I wept as I prayed with this precious child for Jesus to show this terribly solemn little girl how very much He loves her. I prayed for Him to talk to her and to give her Hugs. I told her we would be back next Tuesday and talk and pray with her again. . .she said that she doesn't know if she will be there or not. . .I cannot imagine. . .Thank you my God. . .I love you my Lord. . .

We stopped by Tina's house and spoke with them for a few minutes.

Terry called while we were on Aspenwald. His dinner with his father was over. He joined us shortly after calling us.

I anointed and prayed with a couple of men, in the midst of a group of their friends. . . we joined hands and prayed for them to get jobs. It was a very powerful time.

Zoe needed help getting her car to the repair shop. Terry and I followed her and brought her back after we finished at Penguin Point.

We prayed and talked with numbers of other people too many to remember. It was a very special night.

I love you my God. . .
I thank for this wonderful blessing. . .

Dave Stokely

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Neighborhood prayer walk - 6-5-8

Marion/Harrison Street

Chris Nord, Terry Wallin and I walked and prayed tonight with the people of the Marion/Harrison Street neighborhood. It wasn't maybe a night of flash bang excitement, but very much a night of building. . . We are very much growing relationships in the neighborhood. It is very nice to walk up and down the streets chatting, sharing the Word of God and praying with people.

As we started Terry prayed, he has been having a rough time, he prayed to find joy on this prayer walk. . .

Terry and I stopped and talked with a couple of ladies for a good maybe 15 or 20 minutes. Terry knew both of them I believe. The one lady did not have a Bible, so we gave her one. We talked about why we go to church, what going to church does for us. The being spiritually fed by a man of God, the fellowship, the worship, the being surrounded by brothers and sisters who are not perfect, but trying. . . The other lady had objections to all the hypocrites in churches. We ended up praying with her. . . this woman badly needs our prayers and deliverance.

It is obvious that the lady who owns the little store enjoys our stopping by, chatting and the buying of our water. She has several small children who like the Bible verse cards.

A man named Julio gave us a victory report. We prayed with him a week ago for him to find a job and he did get one. His landlord was there at the moment mowing the grass and even though Julio is $700 behind in rent, his landlord is allowing him to keep his place and make payments to catch up. Julio has a couple of little children. Julio gave thanks to God for answering his prayer. He had another prayer request, we anointed him and prayed for the Lord to help him quit smoking.

Cigar Bob wasn't out tonight when we went by the first time, but he was waiting on the porch when we came back on the other side of Marion. He waved to us and we went over and chatted with Bob for maybe 10 minutes or so. He asked that we always knock on his door when we come through so we can talk for a little bit. . . . that really made my day. If we can just touch one person, show them the love of Christ. . . . that makes it more than worth it. This isn't work. This is joy. We receive so much out of these evenings of walking and praying. Just being able to exercise our faith, just being able to step out and fight for the kingdom of God. . . It feels so good.

We anointed and prayed with Bob for his shoulder to be healed. His family is all dead. He wanted us to pray for God to let His family know how much he loves them and misses them. He also wanted us to pray for George (the fellow I mentioned last week who chain smokes) not to burn the house down. George smokes and just throws his cigarette butts on the floor in the house. Recently he caught his pajama pant leg on fire. . .We prayed for God to watch over Bob and George. . .

The names kind of run together, we talked with so many people.

Little prayers we offered up, joining with the people. . .

A lady would like to find a home away from the drug houses and violence. . .

A 10 or 12 year old girl wants her mother to have a speedy recovery from her surgery.

A couple of drunk/high guys on a front porch, one of them was very confrontational. . . we didn't pray with them, but for them. . .

A pretty large group of young people smoking dope in their back yard. . . convicted by Chris. . .Chris handing out fliers and cards . . .them feeling bad. . .talking about God while rolling joints. . .

A lady Beverly, covets our prayers. She was fascinated by what we are doing, very intrigued. . . "You're doing outreach. . . praying in the streets for us???" In a most beautiful voice she started singing praises to God and blessing us right there on the street.

A very old Hispanic lady with her arm in a cast. I gave her a Spanish Bible verse card, Psalm 51:10, and held my hands together in a position of prayer and pointed at her arm to let her know that I/we would be praying for her arm to heal.

I got a laugh out of the lady who doesn't want any of our fliers. As I walked by, I gave her a big smile and wagged my finger as I said,"I remember, no literature for you. . ." She smiled and laughed. . .

Lots of very nice people we talked with and prayed with. It was a peaceful quiet night. It was warm, but a wonderfully refreshing breeze came up every so often and made our time very pleasant.

Terry was very happy. He felt that this is where he was meant to be tonight. He felt uplifted and energized after this night. . .

Chris treated us with ice cream from one of the street vendors with the little push cart. Chris, Terry and I went back to Penguin Point for a little bit of fellowship, rest, and reviewing of the evening. We joined hands and prayed in Penguin Point for the different people and requests before going home. It was a wonderful night. . .

Thank you Sister Tresa and Sister Darla the cards are beautiful. . .

Dave Stokely

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Neighborhood Prayer Walk - 6-3-8 - Middlebury Street

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 as we walk. That is kind of our trademark for people to recognize us by.

It was just Melissa Wolfinger and I last night praying and handing out fliers. I don't know what happened to Terry Wallin. I called him, but could not get in touch with him. It was very unusual for him not not be there. It was an abbreviated night. As I've said before our purpose is to minister to people, not to hand out a specific number of fliers. We did the south side of Middlebury Street and back to the subsidized apartment complex at Prairie and Middlebury. We covered most of that complex. I was praying and speaking with a gentleman in the parking lot when Melissa came, "Brother Dave a lady over here needs prayer." There was a young woman, a couple of small children and a friend (or maybe a relative of her husband I'm not sure) standing at one of the entrances to the apartments. This young woman wanted us to pray for her husband. She is new to belief in Jesus. She and her daughter get on their knees by the daughters bed every night at 9:00 and pray for their family. They've been doing this each night for several weeks. Her husband is in jail. He has been there since April. He is a trustee and is being ministered to in the jail, doing Bible studies, attending church services, etc. We anointed the lady and made a little circle, some bystanders joined in, there were maybe six of us in the little prayer circle, the lady and her two children inside and several looking on who did not join in. The man I had been talking to and praying with in the parking lot followed us over and was watching. As we prayed with her for God's protection and for His peace. . . healing/deliverance for her husband, tears just started streaming down her cheeks. She ended up just weeping in Melissa's arms in great despair. . . Her husband had court this morning. It was supposed to be in Goshen at the courthouse, but either through a mixup in communications or a change in plans the hearing was held at the jail and she missed it. She was under great stress, not knowing what happened and with no way to communicate with her husband.

It was a little after 7:00. We hadn't done Aspenwald or the Gladstone area yet, but I offered for us to run her out to the jail and have a visit with her husband. Melissa and I left and walked straight back to Life Tabernacle down Middlebury street. We had people coming out of their houses asking for cards and prayer and wanting to talk. . . .we finally made our way back to the apartments about 7:30 or a little later and took the lady to the jail.

She wanted me with her during her video visit so her husband would know who I was when I came to see him tonight. As it turns out he knows me. I'm not sure I remember him, but he knows who I am. The lady found out that there was a postponement of her husband's hearing so nothing had happened in court. She was very relieved. It was a very different night.

Please keep Melissa in your prayers. She is in a very difficult situation.

Dave Stokely