Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Neighborhood Prayer 9-23-8

Middlebury Street

Terry Heath and I had a great night tonight.  We prayed and talked to so many people.  This was our last night on Middlebury Street for the year.  It was a great finale night.

Max and Crystal are moving soon.  They have found a place on U.S. 20 in Osceola.  Please pray for them.  They will be at church this coming Sunday.  We stopped and spoke with them and with Melissa and Cecil (the couple they have been living with) for quite a while.  We are making lots of new friends.

We handed out fliers to a group of young men at the apartments.  They were all drinking beer from 40 oz bottles wrapped in paper bags.  One young man just began violently cursing under his breath about the flier when I handed it to him.  I had never seen him before, but his two friends I had seen regularly over the past couple of months.  The one young man in particular was always kind of cocky and kind of smirking at us in scorn when we came through, but he and the other fellow were very obviously much embarrassed at the cursing, etc. and began trying to drown out the cursing with their seemingly sincere and profuse thanks.

One girl was braiding a fellow's hair in the entry way of one of the buildings.  They were just finishing a big joint (marijuana) as we walked up, actually just exhaling the pungent smoke as we handed them the flier.  The girl very much wanted prayer.  The man wanted to have nothing to do with us.  We anointed her and had a very moving time of prayer with her.

There was a whole group of people sitting on several park benches along he side of one of the apartment buildings.  All but one man wanted to be anointed and prayed with in that group.  I'm not sure how many people there were, but rather than being in a hurry about it, Terry and I went down the line and anointed and prayed with each person individually.  There were various requests from one woman who needed deliverance from an evil presence, to those who needed jobs, to a mother whose son in in Elk. Co. jail.  I'm going to see him and take him a Bible tomorrow night.  It was very good.

I ran into four ladies, one of whom was very very pregnant. . . :)  She wants to have her baby tonight!  Her three friends were taking the baby to be for a walk.  They were hoping to walk her into labor.  They wanted prayer.  I poured a liberal amount of anointing oil on the friends hands.  They anointed her belly and prayed for the labor to start soon  for the unborn little boy.  I held her hands as we lifted up a wonderful prayer of blessing and protection on the young one. . .I ran into these same four ladies on two more occasions.  Almost an hour later, I saw them still walking around the block with her hoping to prod the young one into action. . .They were having a good time laughing and carrying on as they encouraged her and emotionally supported her.

Four young boys, maybe 8 to at most 11 years old ran across the street and requested prayer.  It was primarily one of the young boys who wanted prayer for his family.  I poured anointing oil in each of their hands.  Had them sniff the unusual scent of it, rub it on their hands before we joined hands and prayed.  I asked for God to protect them, to help them grow into Godly young men, to put Godly people in their paths, and to keep angels around them as a protection for them.  It was very very sweet.

Just a few houses ahead of that, 3 or 4 young girls from Mary Beck, 2 of them with volley ball uniforms on asked for fliers and Bible verse cards.  One very very sweet young girl, told me she had run from across the street to get one of my fliers.  As I gave her one,  I explained that this would be my last night for the fliers.  This girl almost started crying.  Her face just crumpled.  She was visibly upset, "WHY?"  She cried.  I told her about it getting dark so early and about the weather changing soon, etc.  She was so relieved.  She began to broadly smile.  She thought I was going to quit going to church. . .now it was my turn to nearly weep.  I was very very touched at her concern.  To think that she would care whether I went to church again or not. . .I touched me greatly. . .

Numbers of other people.  I always think of things I should have included a half an hour after sending this little email report. . .It was a grand grand night. . .It's been a tremendous season of ministry on Middlebury Street. . .I won't lie.  I surely will enjoy the rest, but I am also quite sure I will miss all my new friends. . .

Dave Stokely


Lord my Strength - (H5797 )

Here are two verses where 'Lord my strength' appears:

Exodus 15:2
The LORD is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him a habitation; my father's God, and I will exalt him.

Psalms 28:7
The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him.

In studying these verses, I was struck by the parallels between them. The first verse is from the song of Moses. In Exodus 14, the Lord rescued the Hebrew people by parting the sea and allowing them to escape the army of Pharaoh. The second verse is a Psalm written by David. We're not sure of the circumstances, but we know that David is celebrating God's hearing his prayer. from verse 6:

Psalms 28:6
Blessed be the LORD, because he hath heard the voice of my supplications.

So the occasions of the writing of these verses, are times of crying out to God in time of need and God's hearing and answering.

Notice the first phrase of each:

Moses: The LORD is my strength and song
David: The LORD is my strength and my shield

Both Moses and David call God their strength. Moses then says He is a song and David calls Him a shield. Does the parallel continue? In what way is a song a shield? What are the primary weapons of the dark one? Fear and despair. . .hopelessness leading to depression!!! All of which are defeated by worship and praise of God. Every attack of fear and despair will be deflected, as if with a physical shield, by a song singing thanks and praises to the Lord.

Do you remember the giant Goliath?

1 Samuel 17:4-11
And there went out a champion out of the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, of Gath,
whose height was six cubits and a span.
And he had a helmet of brass upon his head,
and he was armed with a coat of mail;
and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of brass.
And he had greaves of brass upon his legs,
and a target of brass between his shoulders.
And the staff of his spear was like a weaver's beam;
and his spear's head weighed six hundred shekels of iron:
and one bearing a shield went before him.

Quite a list of things to be afraid of. . .

And he stood and cried unto the armies of Israel, and said unto them, Why are ye come out to set your battle in array? am not I a Philistine, and ye servants to Saul? choose you a man for you, and let him come down to me. If he be able to fight with me, and to kill me, then will we be your servants: but if I prevail against him, and kill him, then shall ye be our servants, and serve us. And the Philistine said, I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together. When Saul and all Israel heard those words of the Philistine, they were dismayed, and greatly afraid.

Everything about Goliath was designed to inspire fear, to cultivate the spirit of fear in his opponents. . . and The army of God was dismayed and greatly afraid. They were paralyzed by Goliath. Seeing a giant standing against us, strikes our heart with fear. He is such an imposing figure, but one giant cannot defeat an army. The giant required the spirit of fear to accomplish his task. It wasn't Goliath's great fighting ability which allowed him to prevail. We are never told that he had ever fought a battle before. His appearance alone undermined the confidence of his opponents and it was this spirit of fear which stopped the army of Israel.

Fear is a powerful opponent, much more powerful than any single giant, but fear is always defeated by faith. Singing praises to God in the face of fear, is a powerful act of faith that will prevail over any giant. It is this confidence in God in the face of fear, our faith in God in the face of overwhelming odds, that is the source of our strength. It is our strength. It is not God's strength, rather it is our confidence in God that makes us unconquerable. It is our lack of faith which will defeat us or it will be our overflowing abundance of faith, our singing in the middle of our darkness, our singing at midnight that will take us through. . .

Acts 16:24-26
Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks. And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed.

Paul and Silas sang unto God and the earth moved beneath their feet. Their chains were broken. They were set free from their bondage. When there is no hope, no light, in the time of our greatest weakness. . . we can still sing praises unto God. . .

Singing is a voluntary act. We do not accidentally sing. It is a decision we make. I'm quite sure that Paul and Silas did not feel like singing. If they had given in to their circumstances it would not have been a song they uttered. . . They were bound in a terrible dark place. To Sing was a faith filled spiritual decision they made. To fast is also a faith filled spiritual decision. In some ways singing in a time of trial is the vocal equivalent of fasting. Singing in a time of trial is our Spirit commanding our flesh, bending our flesh to do that which it doesn't want to do. Our flesh wants to run and hide and quake and cry. Our Spirit takes control, quells the spirit of fear and we sing a song to the Lord. . . That is our faith in God. . . It is that faith in God that is our strength. . .

I love you my God. . .
Thank you my Lord. . .

Let my heart always sing unto you. . .


Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Chevy, a Cracker, and the Cross

My grandson Jakub, whom many of you know, just began kindergarten.  His teacher explained to his mother that this was not the kindergarten of years gone by, with much time spent eating cookies and sleeping on nap rugs.  She said that he would know how to read by Christmas.  What a momentous event that is.  I believe it was while in first grade that I took my first trip down Main Street in Elkhart, after I began to learn to read.  I watched out the car window. I vividly remember in particular one red neon sign with the word, "BAR" on it and how wonderful it was to recognize for the first time, a word outside of a schoolbook that could be read and could understood to mean something.


Symbols abound around us.  They become such an automatic part of our consciousness that we don't even think of them as symbols.  Think of learning to read.  There are two stages to the process.  First comes the learning and recognition of the alphabet and how each letter has associated sounds.   The letters are symbols for sounds and offer a bridge between the written and spoken word.  Then words must be constructed and be recognized as correlating to the spoken vocabulary.  This is another step in the learning the rules of symbolism of language. 


The letters are arbitrary and abstract.  There is no actual correlation between the letter 'p' and the sound that we make when we pronounce the sound of a 'p', but the process is so automated for us, after we master reading, that we have trouble even thinking outside that knowledge, that all the letter 'p' is, is a symbol.  There is nothing more to it.  The same is true with words.  In some forms of language words are represented by little pictures, which have some similarity to the concept they represent, but that is a very complex and cumbersome way of communicating.  A Chinese typewriter may have thousands of keys and take a highly trained professional to master.  The English word "FLOWER", has no relationship to what in botany is known as the reproductive structure of a plant, but when you read the word 'flower' you will most likely, without any further description, entertain a visual image of flower in your mind, and quite possibly even a memory of the fragrance will pop into your head, whether it be a rose, a violet, or dandelion. 


That association is what Jakub will be learning this fall.  It is almost painful, and takes great patience to listen to new readers struggle at mastering first the pronunciation and then the comprehension of the printed words in their simple little readers, but once in place, this becomes second nature to us.  We cannot forget though that there is no universal meaning.  Numbers of languages share alphabets, but the sounds of the letters, the rules for how they are used together, the meanings of the words and the grammars of the languages are all very different.  There are no universal meanings to symbols.  The interpretation of symbols is learned through experience.


As examples, shown a simple silhouette of a man walking hand in hand with a child: for one who was raised in a loving two parent home, this can possibly summon feelings of affection and warmth, for one who was raised without a father in the home, the sight of the image may well fill them with thoughts of longing or sorrow at what they never had, and for still yet another who was molested by a male relative, the visual image might bring forth a panic attack and feelings of rage and/or fear.  Each response elicited by the same symbolic image.  Our experiences, our culture, our genetic makeup, our gender, our age, education, and on and on and on. . . our life space, that which goes into making us unique individuals greatly effect our responses to symbols.


In the business world, symbols. . . corporate names and trademarks are very highly valued.  The company whom owned the Tylenol brand name, McNeil Consumer Products, spent decades and untold millions upon millions of dollars building an image of their product that was very badly damaged, in a mere matter of days by an act of  domestic terrorism in 1982.  Seven people died in Chicago after taking cyanide laced Tylenol capsules.  The symbolism of the name Tylenol was transformed, nearly overnight from one of a feeling of confidence, heath, well being, etc. etc. to an association of illness, injury, danger, and death.  The market share of Tylenol dropped from more than 30% of all non-prescription pain medication to less than 10% almost overnight, thereby erasing decades long efforts to build up the publics warm feelings toward the brand.


All advertising is an effort to influence, or redefine the public's interpretation of symbols.  In a manner of speaking, each of the huge Madison Avenue Advertising agencies are focused upon teaching us to read the symbols of brand names and trademarks in such a way as to make us desire to buy the products offered by their clients.  Large corporations know how powerful these symbols are. 


Do I even need to give figures?  In 2004 Internet advertising alone amounted to roughly 10 billion dollars.  Companies are not spending this money without reason.  The day after the Super Bowl, people laugh and shake their heads at the thought of companies willing to pay millions of dollars for a few seconds of air time.  In 2008 the rate was $2,700,000 per 30 second advertising spot.  When people criticize the wisdom of spending that kind of money, they focus on how many cans of beer or how many soft drinks the company would have to sell to recoup that investment, but that is not what the Super Bowl ads do for the corporations which buy them.  It's all about creating a mental association between of the products shown with the glitz and the excitement and the sexiness of that mega cultural event.  People certainly will not rush out and buy enough colas the next day as a result of seeing the Super Bowl ad to pay for the investment, but the advertising companies clearly hope that their brand will gain an aura from being associated with the event which will pay them dividends for years to come when people decide decide which soft drink, etc. to purchase.


It is a balancing act.  Companies spend huge amounts to spread their brand names and in the reverse they spend large efforts to also control and protect the usage of their trademarks.  It is a companies worst nightmare if they are too successful and  their name becomes so closely associated with a generic action or item that it loses it's uniqueness.  Just one example,  Aspirin and Heroin were both trademarks at one time of the Bayer corporation. Today neither are associated with one particular brand of medicine.  They became common and entered into the common language.  They become generic words with no association with a specific drug manufacturer.


Companies must be vigilant in protecting their trademarked names, even to be point of looking for improper usage of them in newspaper articles, books, or even blogs.  If I were to post an article on my blog talking about my chevy truck (note the lack of capitalization), I would very likely receive an email or letter from some large legal firm asking that I correct my usage.  If I were to refuse, very likely the next letter I received would be to inform me of a lawsuit.  At G.M. and at most every other large corporation buried somewhere in the bowels of the organization, there is most certainly a person whose job it is to do daily Internet searches for wrong usages of the symbols of the corporation, looking for misapplication of their trademarks.   General Motors Corporation greatly fears their brand name coming to mean any truck driving down the road.  They must be most vigilant in their rooting out of any improper use of their trademarked brand names or they will lose them.


Symbols abound in our lives.  One that almost everyone would recognize is the exchanging of rings when a couple weds.  The ring symbolizes the oath that the couple make. It is a symbol of the contract between man and woman, the undying love, the purity of the commitment.  This symbol, like the letters which make up a word, is not important in of itself.  It is the meaning behind the symbol where the significance lays.  Jewelers today promote some ridiculous notion, that a young man is obligated somehow to spend the equivalent of 4 months wages on a ring for his bride to be.  That surely serves their purposes well, but it completely distracts from that which the ring is supposed to be the symbol of.


Like trademarks, symbols need to be protected and defended or they will be lost.  One of the earliest symbols given to us by God has been all but abandoned. The rainbow was a sign given to us by God:


Genesis 9:12-17

And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations:  (13)  I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.  (14)  And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud:  (15)  And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.  (16)  And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.  (17)  And God said unto Noah, This is the token of the covenant, which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth.


By our apathy toward it, and our lack of defense of it, the rainbow is now looked upon, it is read by society at large as the banner, as the symbol of a perverse lifestyle.  We can still claim it as our own sign.  It would take a broad effort to do that.  It doesn't seem that very many care.


Christianity also has other numbers of symbols associated with it:


The Sabbath day is a sign, a symbol between God and His chosen people -


Exodus 31:13

Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the LORD that doth sanctify you.


When the Hebrew people crossed the Jordon River into the promised land -


Joshua 4:5-6

And Joshua said unto them, Pass over before the ark of the LORD your God into the midst of Jordan, and take ye up every man of you a stone upon his shoulder, according unto the number of the tribes of the children of Israel:  (6)  That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones?


The Bible abounds in signs:


Isaiah 7:14

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.


Isaiah 38:5-9

Go, and say to Hezekiah, Thus saith the LORD, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will add unto thy days fifteen years.  (6)  And I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria: and I will defend this city.  (7)  And this shall be a sign unto thee from the LORD, that the LORD will do this thing that he hath spoken;  (8)  Behold, I will bring again the shadow of the degrees, which is gone down in the sun dial of Ahaz, ten degrees backward. So the sun returned ten degrees, by which degrees it was gone down.  (9)  The writing of Hezekiah king of Judah, when he had been sick, and was recovered of his sickness:


Isaiah 55:11-13

So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.  (12)  For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.  (13)  Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the LORD for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.


Luke 2:11-12

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.  (12)  And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.


Romans 4:10-11

How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision.  (11)  And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also:


1 Corinthians 14:21-22

In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord.  (22)  Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.


The important thing to realize is that the importance is not in the symbol itself.  The wedding ring is meaningless in of itself.  The Sabbath is not the important thing.  It wasn't the pile of stones that was significant.  It isn't the circumcision, speaking in tongues,  or a baby born in a manger that were important, but the importance of these remembrances lay in what these signs, these symbols stood for.  By the same token, like trademarks in the corporate world, if the symbols become too commonplace then they lose their significance.  If you have 9 other rings on your fingers then the wedding band cannot have the same significance as if it were found upon your hand alone.


Jesus gave us signs of Himself:


Luke 22:14-20

And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him.  (15)  And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer:  (16)  For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God.  (17)  And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves:  (18)  For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come.  (19)  And he took bread, and gave thanks, and broke it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.  (20)  Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.


The unleaven bread and the wine are symbols of Jesus.  If that is the case, then am I taking communion every time I eat a bowl of soup with crackers in it?  No, the importance is not in the crackers and in the wine, but in what they represent.  Indeed if not done with the correct attitude, even participation in the rite of communion is worthless.  Paul was very clear about this:


1 Corinthians 11:20-29

When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper.  (21)  For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken.  (22)  What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not.  (23)  For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:  (24)  And when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.  (25)  After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.  (26)  For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till he come.  (27)  Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.  (28)  But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.  (29)  For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.


Paul is saying that the symbols are important for what they represent.  The unleaven bread and wine are not important outside of the communion ceremony, but if these symbols are not taken reverently within the remembrance, (note verse 27) then the one who misuses them is actually guilty of the scourging and crucifying the Lord:


(27)  Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.


Internally then to Christianity our symbol given personally by Jesus, of the sacrifice of Christ is the wine and the bread.  This symbol must not be misused.  Clearly it is a serious offense to misuse a Holy symbol.  Which brings us to the ultimate symbol of Christianity, the cross.  This symbol was first mentioned in the New Testament by Jesus:


Matthew 10:37-38

He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.  (38)  And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.


The first thing that jumps out at me from this scripture is that Jesus said these words a good while before His crucifixion.  These words are prophetic.  That for me was a stunning revelation.  I had not realized that until just this moment.  So closely do I associate Jesus with the cross, I never thought about these words being said well before Jesus being forced to literally carry his own cross on the road to his death.  The listeners, when Jesus uttered these words had no idea of their significance and actual meaning. 


The second thought that comes to my mind from this verse is that the cross is used here as a symbol, a powerful symbol representing the instrument of Jesus' death.  Jesus states that we are to take upon our shoulders the instrument of our death and come after Him.  What is the instrument of our death but sin?  I have always looked upon the cross as a mere burden for Christ which we must carry, but isn't another way of looking at it possibly we must take control of our sin, handle our sinful ways, be in charge of that thing which would kill us. . . We have only two choices.  Human lives end in death.  We must either carry it and or it will carry us and if that be the case, if we allow that we are not worthy of His life and sacrifice for us.


And another passage:


Matthew 16:22-24

Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.  (23)  But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offense unto me: for thou savorest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.  (24)  Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.


It is interesting that Jesus is saying this to Peter, the one who very shortly after denied Him.  To deny yourself is to renounce yourself, to forsake your allegiance with your flesh, to repent from your sinful ways, to take charge of them and become one who follows the path of Christ.  To become one who follows Him on that path which led to the hill of Calvary. . .


All of this is contained in the symbolism of the cross, but when your and my crosses are considered, they are private matters.  Ours are generic crosses.  The Cross of Jesus is exclusively His trademark (note the capitalization).  He rightfully has sole ownership of that symbol.  Just consider, is then my association with the cross an infringement of His trademark?  Does not Jesus exclusively own the Cross?  Surely as we have explored in this article, symbols are important.  They have great value and should be highly prized.  For example by my wearing a cross pin on my shirt to identify myself as a Christian when I pray on the streets of Elkhart, am I not misusing the sign of Jesus?  I don't think it a moot point.  When the people I meet think of the Cross they should not think of Dave Stokely.  The sacrifice of Jesus is the only thing that should come to their minds, for any other association is a dilution of the power and uniqueness of His Sacrifice. . .From this point forward, no cross will be found upon my shirt pocket, I can bear the cross for no man.  I have scarcely the strength to carry my own.  No man can look to my cross for salvation.  There is a Christian symbol by which I can be known.  I can certainly display the emblem of a fish. . .I will henceforth take that as my trademark, for I am a fisherman. . .


I love you my God. . .

I love you my Lord. . .


The Cross is Yours. . .

   and Yours alone. . .



Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Neighborhood Prayer Walk - 9-16-8

Middlebury Street

This is our next to last week for the season.  Terry Wallin is in Florida.  Terry Heath started a new job today and was therefore unable to attend.  I haven't heard from Melissa in a little while.  Her phone has been disconnected, so for only maybe the second time since March, I was walking and praying alone this evening.

We had a good night.  I spoke with Donny, this is the fellow Terry Wallin and I met for the first time last week.  I spoke with him as he rode his bicycle back from the grocery store.  He seems to be doing pretty well.  

A fellow on the porch at the Serenity Hall building stopped me and wanted to talk.  We chatted for quite a while sitting in the chairs there, watching the traffic on the street.  His name is Jimmy.  He gave me his testimony, really his life story of being delivered from drugs and alcohol some 21 years ago.  He is searching for a church to attend.  We may see him soon.

I talked with Loretta and her crew over on Aspenwald. 

 I spoke with Barb and her boyfriend, they were living over on Marion Street, but are now on Middlebury Street.  They will be at church on Sunday.

Tonight was really a night of children.  The low income apartments at Prairie and Middlebury Street are always full of children wanting Bible verse cards and fliers, but tonight the children wanted anointing and prayer.  It started with one girl maybe 11 or 12 years old.  I gave her a flier and Bible verse card and I told her I was praying for the neighborhood or for anyone who had a need, I would join with them in asking God to do a work in their lives.  She said she wanted prayer for her mother and father to get back together.  This girl was so very sweet and earnest in her request.  I took out my sweet smelling Rose of Sharon anointing oil and poured a little in my hands, gave her some to rub on her hands as we began to pray, but she stopped me.  She wanted me to put a cross on her forehead with the oil before we prayed.  I thought this little gesture of faith was very touching.  I anointed her forehead with a cross and I held her hands together between us as I prayed for God to please help her mother and father to get back together.  The Spirit of God was very powerfully present.  We were surrounded by quite a group of children, watching as we prayed, somewhere between 15 and 20 kids in all, I'm guessing.

This girl then went in turn, to each of the onlooking children and spoke quietly with them for a moment before bringing them to me for likewise, to have a little cross put on their foreheads in oil, oil on their hands and then every one of the children again also wanted prayer for their parents to be reunited. . . every one of them wanted prayer for their parents. . . it was very very touching, quite powerful and ultimately very very sad, the number of broken homes we prayed for.  I can only imagine how it must have touched God to have these children crying out to him in faith, asking Him to act upon their behalf. . .It was very very neat. . .I was there in the middle of the complex praying with these kids for quite a little while as moms and older siblings looked on.

I anointed and prayed with quite a number of other people.  People need jobs.

It was a wonderful night. 

Dave Stokely

Monday, September 15, 2008

Where Art Thou?

Genesis 3:6-9
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.  (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.  (8)  And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.  (9)  And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?

What a very interesting passage this is.  Adam and Eve existed in a world of perfection.  All that they required, they had before them, and yet that wasn't enough.  They desired more.  They disobeyed God and tried to hide themselves from Him. . . and God asks, "Where art thou?". . .

When God speaks, we think with our flesh.  We consider what He says in terms of the physical.  Examples abound:

Matthew 16:6-7
Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.  (7)  And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread.

John 2:19-20
Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.  (20)  Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days?

John 4:10-11
Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.  (11)  The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water?

The disciples confused Jesus talking about leaven, with Him speaking of yeast and physical bread.  The Jews thought Jesus was talking about somehow being a one man wrecking crew and physically tearing down the temple.  Lastly, the Samaritan lady at the well was thinking buckets, ladles, and clay pots when Jesus talked about water.  I know we could find numbers of other examples.  When God speaks, put aside your thoughts of the physical and think spiritually.

God asks Adam, "Where art thou?"  This question makes no sense for God to be asking in the physical.  God knew where God was.  God knew where Adam was.  Adam knew where Adam was and from the hearing of His voice, Adam surely must have had a pretty good idea where God was.

When I was in the U.S. Army, we used direction finding to determine the location of transmitters of unknown radio signals.  We would find a signal that we didn't know where it came from on a particular radio frequency and send out a request for a DF (direction finding) shot for that signal.  In a few minutes we would get responses back from multiple sites, with the angle of where the requested signal came in strongest at the various locations around the world on the DF network.  We would then manually plot on a world map, with grease pencils, the lines of the direction where the signal appeared strongest from several stations.  With a strong signal (in a perfect example), the several stations would intersect at one point and we would know very precisely where the radio signal was transmitted from.   Usually though there would be error and some uncertainty and you would, depending on the number of stations have a box or a triangle or some other shape.  The DF shots wouldn't all intersect at one point.  You could say is that the transmitter was somewhere inside of the resulting shape bounded by the differing DF shot lines.  Today's GPS system works on the very same principle, but in reverse.  Instead of trying to locate an unknown signal, the little computerized GPS unit locates you, by your relationship to several very precisely known positions of satellites in a geosynchronous, a stationary orbit, far above the earth.

Neither of these examples have anything to do with what God was asking Adam.  When God asks "Where art thou?", there is no need to triangulate your position from several satellites.  There is no Spiritual network of direction finding stations that we need to check with.  We serve one God, therefore when God asks, "Where art thou?"  He knows where He is.  He knows where we are.  What He is asking is, "Do you know where you are in relation to Him?"  It is a very simple task to find God.  You simply turn away from darkness and toward the light.

By God's asking of Adam, "Where art thou?", God was asking Adam to look and come to the realization that he was no longer facing God.  Adam was facing in another direction.  Adam was not facing the light. . .

Genesis 3:8
". . .Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God. . ."  

Adam was in the shadows. . . He was in the darkness. . . You never hide in the light.  You seek shadows.  Hiding is always best in the darkness. . . By His question, God was trying to bring Adam into this understanding. . . trying to get Adam to change his direction. . . trying to get Adam to repent. . .

Sadly it is never recorded that either Adam or Eve repented all the days of their lives. . .We can only wonder. . .God forgives. . . it is never written that the eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge was an unforgivable sin. . .Adam messed up, but immediately after God called to him. . .still God awaited his change of direction. . .

When we stumble, God calls. . . He implores. . . He weeps. . . "Where art thou?. . . Where art thou?. . .Where art thou. . ."  He knows everything.  He knows where we are. . .By His question, He tries to illuminate our path.  He tries to get us to look and see just where we are heading?  By His voice He calls us to quit our place in the shadows and turn again towards Him. . . By His voice He beckons us to return to the light. . .He waits. . . expectantly He waits. . .

I love you my God. . .
Thank you my Lord. . .


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Neighborhood prayer walk - 9-9-8

Middlebury Street

Tonight Terry Wallin, Terry Heath, and I walked and prayed in the Middlebury Street neighborhood. We met Terry Heath through his girlfriend earlier this summer. One evening in June, we prayed with her. She was very upset and during our prayers she began greatly weeping. Melissa gave her a big hug. She just poured out her heart in Melissa's arms. We cut short our walk and took her out to the county jail to visit her boyfriend, Terry. He is now out of jail. Terry, Glenda and their children were at church Sunday. We anointed and prayed with them at the altar. Terry greatly desires to give something back to God's kingdom, that has done so much for him. He plans to be with us every time we go out on the streets praying.

We had a wonderful night. I repeat myself again and again, but we prayed with so many people. Tonight we had a very memorable happening. A house on the north side of Middlebury Street, like so many houses, appearing to be vacant, no signs of life around it, no bikes in the driveway, no skateboards on the sidewalk, no lights on in the windows. . .apparently another wasted flier. . .We see so many laying in the weeds, ruined by the wind and the rain and the dew. . .

Tonight we were handing out my usual weekly flier, Bible verse cards (II Corinthians 5:17), and a little tract that Terry gets from World Missionary Press in New Paris called, "Help from Above." Click on the link to go to a page to read the little tract. They are wonderful. We often give them out. You can get them by the case for free (a donation is requested, but not required).

Anyway, we left a flier on the doorknob and placed one of the little tracts on the stoop and walked away. We were a good ways down the sidewalk when a man came out, called down the sidewalk to us, "What is this?", as he held the World Missionary Press tract waving it in his hand. I was expecting some kind of negative response. I said something like, "The Word of God." Terry said to me, "We've got to go talk to this guy." I don't know if I've ever seen Terry move so quickly. He very rapidly did a U-turn with the wagon and went back to the fellow's stoop. He couldn't read the fine printing on the tract, so Terry read some of the verses for him. You could smell alcohol on his breath. He was not drunk, but he had been drinking. He told us that he has been watching us for months. He said, that each week he sees us through the blinds on his front porch window, dropping off our fliers and cards and tracts. Tonight he had to talk to us. He felt compelled. He knows that he needs God. His life is a shambles. He's lost his wife. . . his children. . .his home. . . his health. . . he still has a very good job, but he is at the bottom of the barrel. He is addicted to drugs and continually drinks. He is drunk and/or high every day. Everyone tells him to try God. . . he's been through all kinds of treatment programs, counseling. . . and on and on. His mind now is filled with thoughts of suicide. . .He wonders if he's beyond fixing. He knows that God is his only hope. Terry and I talked to him for a long time. We anointed him and prayed with him twice and prayed over a prayer cloth for him. He was very intensly emotional. He just sat there slowly reading the Bible verse card out loud, with a glimmer of hope in his voice. . . "all things are made new. . . all things are made new. . . all things are made new. . ." He clutched the little card so tightly in his hand. . .as a lifeline for him. . .He said he couldn't get those words out of his mind. . . He greatly requests our prayers. He will be to church with us. . .His wife still loves him and will take him back if he can change his ways. . .Terry and I told him a little about ourselves. . . we told him of our deliverances from alcohol, drugs, tobacco, . . . from sin in general. . .He listened with tears coming down his cheeks. . .

Just another stoop. . .
Just another wasted flier. . .
Just another broken down desolate house. . .
Just another evening on Middlebury Street. . .

How wrong I was. . .

Just another opportunity for God to move in a mighty way. . .

I love you my Lord. . .
I love you my God. . .


Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Grace of God. . .

I recently took a business trip to Canada. I go there several times a year. On my drives I keep a book of Scriptures that I found at a resale shop on the dashboard of the car, "Personal Promises from God's Word." It is small leather bound book of Bible verses arranged by category. On my trip, I have about 8 hours behind the wheel. I love this time alone with God. I don't listen to the radio. I don't often have a CD in the player. I talk to God and I take scriptures from my little book and I meditate upon them, for mile upon mile down the highway I chew upon the manna from God. . .The drive passes very quickly. I eagerly anticipate every opportunity I have for such extended period of communing with God. . . no distractions, no interruptions. . . no need to hurry. . .

This trip I spent much time pondering this verse:

2 Corinthians 12:9
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

This idea of grace, I do not know many things. I am very new to Christ. This lack of knowledge of mine can be both a disadvantage and it can also be a positive. I do not have a lifetime of assumptions based upon the teaching or maybe assumptions and traditions of others that I must unlearn. I don't have preconceived notions about things. I did not attend Sunday School as a child. I must learn purposefully, with greater effort as an adult. There is so much I do not know. I love to learn of Biblical concepts by looking at the context of the word usage in the Bible. Grace is one concept that I've heard used over and over again, but I really have only a murky idea about in my mind. How is it used in the Bible?

The first occurrence of a word in the Bible is usually significant. Following is the first usage (Hebrew) in the Old Testament followed by the first usage (Greek) in the New Testament:

Strong's Hebrew 2580
Genesis 6:6-9
And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. (7) And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them. (8) But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. (9) These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.

This is how the Hebrew word is translated and the number of times in the KJV
grace 38
favor 26
gracious 2
pleasant 1
precious 1
well favored 1

Strong's Greek 5485
Luke 1:26-31
And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, (27) To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. (28) And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. (29) And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. (30) And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favor with God. (31) And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.

This is how the Greek word is translated and the number of times in the KJV
grace 130
favor 6
thanks 4
thank 4
pleasure 2
misc 7

This Greek word, with one exception (James 1:11 ) is the only word translated as 'grace' in the New Testament. Similarly the Hebrew word, with minor exceptions, is the only word translated as 'grace' in the Old Testament. These words must be the key to our understanding of the Grace of God. . .

How very fascinating, in the book of Genesis, in the Old Testament, Noah was the first to find grace. . . In the book of Luke, in the New Testament, Mary was the first to find favor, or as otherwise translated, Grace in the eyes of God. . .I never saw this association before, but both Noah and Mary are inextricably involved with the Salvation of Man. . .Salvation comes only from God, but God used Noah and Mary to carry, to create the vehicles of salvation. . .

This is a rich vein to mine. . .

The salvation which came by way of Noah, the salvation of the vessel of the ark, was built by the hands a man, a just and perfect man, but a man nonetheless. Wood and pitch and undoubtedly various other unspecified materials went into the making of the ark. Men and animals entered into the ark, but it is never recorded that the Spirit of God entered into that place of salvation. The ark offered a miserable salvation, a salvation of the flesh. The world before and after the ark, were little different from one another. The salvation of the ark showed that even a fresh start, wiping the slate clean and beginning anew without the Spirit of God, really accomplished nothing much of any consequence. Only the number of the world's sins diminished for a time due to there being fewer people, but the severity of the world's sinful nature did not change much at all. This salvation did not give the saved power over sin, but created within the world a dependence for the continued killing of animals without blemish, the shedding of innocent blood for the payment of the endlessly recurring sins. There had to be a better way. . .

By contrast, the salvation which came by way of Mary, the salvation of the vessel of Mary's, the vessel of her womb was built by God, being virginal and never touched by man, never entered into by man, but filled with the Holy Spirit, now combined with the ovum of Mary, which could not pass along the sin of Adam. . . the fruit of that union, the fruit of that Salvation, the fruit of that Spirit building and doing its work within that virginal vessel:

. . .the fruit of the Spirit is .is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. . .against such there is no law. This was a salvation of the Spirit and soul of man by the power of the Spirit of God. Is there any better description of Jesus than those descriptive words of the fruit of the Spirit??? . . . love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith meekness, temperance. . . isn't that exactly what Jesus was? Against such there is no Law. . .The fruit of the Spirit is outside of the law. . .There is today and there was then, no power of the Mosaic Law over the fruit of Mary's womb. . .Jesus was outside of the Law. The salvation of Mary's womb represented such a dramatic departure from what the world had received from the ark. The world with its fleshly eyes, was unable to recognize it for what it was.

In your mind, assign hues to those wonderfully rich and vivid attributes of the fruit of the Spirit, again I repeat them: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, assign each a color across the spectrum of the goodness rainbow. All these hues combined together, equal the intense white light of grace. Leave one hue out and it is no longer purely white light. God's grace toward us is His undeserved acceptance of us, with all of our imperfections. His grace is the sum of all those attributes combined. They must all be present in equal amounts. Any single one of the fruits of the spirit omitted by Him would not result in grace. Choose one. Leave love out of God's acceptance of us or leave His joy in us out, leave out longsuffering or gentleness or goodness. Leave out His faith in us. Leave out His meekness or temperance toward us and you no longer have the pure white light of grace. . .

A rainbow is light split into its component colors. . . No one looking at a rainbow would ever guess that the origin of those beautiful colors was simply pure white light. . .This is no earthly palette, we speak of here, where mixed colors create muddy brown, but in the spectrum of light, all colors combined create white. . . the unimaginable purity and whiteness of grace. . .That is what the first rainbow of the flooded earth pointed to. In all its beauty, it was still a shadow of something more beautiful to come. It pointed to another promise. . . a promise of the grace to come in a more perfect salvation. . .

I love you my God. . .
I love you my Lord. . .

Thank you God
for your acceptance. . .
Thank you God
for your grace each day. . .