Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Marion/Harrison Street ministry. . .

Marion Street 1-12-9

About a month ago or so, when I picked Blessing Bob (formerly known as Cigar Bob) up for church he met me at the door of his home very upset.  He had seen a news story that in the upcoming weeks or months that all television transmissions were going to be digital and that his little old TV with the small fuzzy picture wasn't going to work at all any more.  At the minimum he was going to need a converter box and with Bob and his friend George being on a very limited income and not understanding about the government sponsored rebate coupons, etc., Bob was very upset.

Bob is 87 years old.  He has been coming to church with Terry Wallin and I for probably 8-10 weeks now.  Bob, Terry, and I sit in the balcony and worship God together each week.  A few weeks ago, Bob's room mate George also came to church with us.  George is in his 90's.  87 year old Bob is 90 something George's caretaker.  George and Bob have almost no contact with the outside world other than television, so for Bob it was a crisis, facing the possibility of no television.

I sent out an email on December 22nd letting people on my little list know of Bob's need for a television.  I figured that someone might have an unused television in the garage or in their basement that Bob might be able to have.  Television really is an important contact with the outside world for Bob. 

A friend of mine. . . really a business associate who is a friend and brother in Christ from the state of Iowa whom I met for the first time almost a year ago, while making calls with him in his state, responded to Bob's need by email that he and some friends of his would like to contribute to getting a television for Bob.  I was very touched.

My friend from Iowa, Shane and his friends, who are members of a prayer group, gathered some money together over the holidays and sent a check to me for Bob.  I received the check a couple of days ago and tonight Bob, Terry Wallin, and I went out shopping.

I have no idea about televisions.  Anyway today I tried to educate myself as to prices, and different options for televisions so that I could spend Bob's money as wisely as possible, so I searched around the Internet to see what was out there.

Even it if were possible, I didn't want to buy Bob some huge 60" plasma home theater kind of system.  In the neighborhood that Bob lives in, that would just be setting him up for a robbery.   I felt that for the money that Shane had collected for us, that we could buy Bob a nice television, but when we picked up Bob and headed out I really felt strongly that rather than heading for Walmart, that we should go to a little locally owned TV and appliance shop on the north side of town.  I thought maybe that they might have something in the back room, an obsolete model or maybe a scratch and dent floor unit that we could pick up cheaply.  Bob doesn't have cable or satellite.  He just has a little pair of rabbit ears on top of his set for over the airways reception.

Bob wanted to go inside with us and look at the televisions.  It was a cold wintry Monday evening.  I think we were the only customers in the store.  The sales clerk who waited on us happened also to be the owner of the store.  I explained who we were, Terry and I knowing Bob from our street ministry and how a group of people from Iowa had donated money to get Bob a television and we were hoping that maybe he had an obsolete model or something that was less expensive, but would give Bob a nice television.

Mr. Higley replied that coincidently (Read: Thank you Lord!!!) just a few hours ago a man had traded in a relatively new 27" Sony digital TV.  His vision was going bad.  He had bought the TV at this same store, but now needed a larger screen due to his increasingly bad eyesight, so he traded in the 27" for a 32" just a few hours ago.  Mr. Higley wanted to go through it and make sure everything worked, etc., but that he could let us have it for $120.  I told him that would be wonderful.  It is a very nice television with a nice remote.  Bob's voice was quivering and cracking with emotion.  He was very close to openly weeping right there. . .Mr. Higley, Terry and I were similarly very emotional and happy.

Bob mentioned that he also needed a stand.  I told Mr. Higley we had roughly a $100 left to spend and if he had a stand we would like that also.  He is going to check out the TV and look for a stand today.  Hopefully Terry and I will be able to deliver Bob's TV tonight.  We may also end up having to get Bob an outside antenna also.  Mr. Higley said that the digital transmissions will not be nearly as strong as the present signals and that in all likelihood rabbit ears antenna will no longer work.

Please keep Bob in your prayers.  He is so very devoted to his friend George.  Terry and I tried to take Bob out to Cracker Barrel or Bob Evan's to eat last night, but Bob wanted to get back to George, so we stopped at Dairy Queen and got Bob his usual three chili dogs and large coffee.  Every Sunday after church we get Bob the same thing.  Two chili dogs for Bob, one chili dog and the coffee for George.

I asked Bob how George was doing.  He replied, "Rough."  George wants to die. . .Yesterday Bob called George's doctor and the nursing home where George recently spent two months recuperating from his pacemaker implant.  My guess is that George will soon be back in the nursing home and Bob will be totally alone. . .

When Bob heard Terry Wallin and I talking about going to the prayer meeting at our church tonight, initially Bob said he wanted to come, but then remembering how bitterly cold and the forecast of blizzard like conditions for tonight, he declined, but he said that he would like to start coming to our prayer meetings on Tuesday evenings. . .

It is such a blessing knowing Bob and having him in our lives.  It is such a blessing having wonderful friends from Iowa who care about a couple of old men in need in Elkhart. . .

Thank you my God. . .
Thank you my Lord. . .


Saturday, January 3, 2009

Flipping for Quarters. . .

Originally written April 19, 2007

The following is excerpted from and expanded upon from last Sundays lesson for my 5th & 6th grade boys.

A few weeks ago I had doctors appointment. It was just a regular blood test/diabetes monitoring appointment. Nothing really bothering me, just a checkup. My doctor wasn't very happy with me. My blood sugar has been running quite high and he told me just straight out I had two choices, either change my lifestyle and lose weight or start injecting insulin to control my diabetes.

We all know in theory how to live a healthier lifestyle. Most of us know we don't get enough exercise and we eat pretty poorly, but through most of our lives it is something we can ignore. we know there are consequences to the choices we make at the drive thru window or in the buffet line, but we see them as far removed in the future, and so we are able to ignore them.

In a way I guess that I am fortunate, for years I have been able to ignore the way I ate and my sedentary lifestyle. Since coming to God, I've given up drinking and smoking cigars and have no real lasting health effects from those vices. Cancer, heart disease, stroke, emphysema, liver problems and on and on are definite possible consequences of living, eating, drinking, and smoking the way I did. I escaped those things, to this point anyway, but I must now contend with and make choices, and then in the future face consequences based upon the choices that I make today in a very real way.

It's funny how when the perspective changes from a vague knowledge of what you should do, to specific instructions as to what needs to occur to prevent a very specific health problem, how much more motivated you become. Now alongside every wonderfully tempting and delicious chocolate frosted, cream filled long john, I see a syringe and a vial of insulin. The choice and the consequence are very near to one another. There is no separation of years or decades between the two. Now it is cause and effect with no separation.

Think about it this way, we touch and see and eat and do lots of things that aren't physically or spiritually good for us because there is so much of a lag time between when we do the thing we shouldn't and the consequence for it. We do not touch hot stoves, run sharp knives over our fingers, or drop heavy weights on our toes because the consequence follows so immediately upon the action. If there were a lag of days or weeks or months between touching the hot stove and the pain you would be far less cautious about touching them.

The heart of the the problem is how we assign value to risk and rewards that are seen as distant in time. We do everything we can to, again avoid touching the hot stove, but we fearlessly play with a much more serious and damaging fire when, as young people, we start dabbling with drinking, smoking, and sex. The perceived consequences of touching that fire and the value of what we are risking with are distorted by the hoped for long time between choice and consequence. 

We make these choices kind of like playing a little game of flipping quarters. You flip a quarter and I call heads or tails. If I'm right it get the quarter. If I'm wrong I give you a quarter.  It surely is gambling, but the stakes are so low and the odds so even that it's difficult to imagine anyone ever getting hurt too badly. That's how we look at these choices we are faced with, just a little gamble. No big deal! I smoked my first cigarette, I thought it was cool. I looked grownup. All I saw was the cigarette. I didn't see, not being a cigarette smoker as of any value. I didn't see the cost associated with smoking for the next thirty years in that one cigarette. Premarital sex, you're only looking forward to the next step, the next half hour. You're not looking at the emotional devastation. You're not looking raising a child as a single unwed mother or having a fractured dysfunctional family for the next 18 years as a non-custodial father.

These choices are a lot like the little game of flipping quarters, but the risks and payback are not quite what they seem. If you win, I give you my quarter. If you lose, you owe a million dollars. The quarter represents the little bit of pleasure that your choice will bring. The million dollars stands for what may possibly lose in your little gamble. Am I exaggerating?

The choice of sex outside of marriage is a gamble of a few moments of pleasure against the entire life of a not ready to be had child. Smoking, looking cool for a moment gambled against an addiction with a huge financial, physical health, and spiritual cost. Alcohol and other drugs are no different, a buzz, a high for a few hours against a lifetime of misery and despair.

What kind of a value do you place on your salvation and relationship with God? In only one aspect, just one aspect, if you only value going to heaven at $1 per year, what is the value of eternity? Please multiply that out for me. I don't think your calculator has enough zeroes on it. How much is a single day of health worth? Maybe when you are twenty years old, thinking your entire life is ahead of you, maybe it isn't worth much. Ask a man laying in bed, struggling for breath, his body wracked with cancer, how much is a day of health worth? Ask James Hill. Ask Butch Longenecker. If you don't know them, they were men, friends of mine, brothers. . . who died at an early age, from a choice made as young men. They flipped a quarter with the devil and lost.

Evaluate your life. Put a value on what you have. How much is a life without addiction worth? How much is a future that has the possibility of a wonderful marriage and a happy home for your children worth? Place a value on living to see your grandchildren have families of their own? How much are these things worth? As a young man I did not place a high value on any of these things. I gambled them away for quarters. I won quarters. I lost things of huge value. The game is just as I described it. The devil puts up a quarter, betting against your lifetime of hundred dollar bills . . . . 

A Study on the Soul. . .

On Fri, Dec 15, 2006 at 6:38 PM, Dave Stokely wrote:

Jackie and I were out on vacation for the last week. It is always a grand time of prayer, devotions, and Bible study for us. This week was no exception. We had a much needed time of rest and rejuvenation.

I have been through somewhat of a trial, a personal spiritual battle and at the beginning of this week, I felt like my heart was a raw lump of meat, with no protective covering, vulnerable to every slight bump and touch. I felt like it had just been stripped bare and it wasn’t comfortable. My mind went to those that I know whose hearts are really the other way, nothing seems to effect them. I thought of different family members and others that I know of in and out of church who have such hardened hearts against God. It seems such a great danger. Maybe my own experience is limited, but it seems to me to be a especial danger for men.

It’s usually traceable to hurts that they have suffered through the past. My father-in-law, for example, will relate to you things that happened literally fifty years ago with the same emotional intensity and bitterness, that if you didn’t know better, you would think they happened last week. Many times these outrages involve a very few dollars that he feels he was cheated out of in some way. It comes to my mind, I wonder what his response would be if I offered to pay him with interest the loss that he sustained those long decades ago? Would he forgive? Could he forget? It seems to me that the memory, the festering wound in his mind has a life of its own and is in some way has become a precious companion to him. It is now a part of him and too valuable for him to part with. In some strange way, it almost seems like it is an anchor for him that he uses to define his life since then.

I started wondering about the relationship of the heart to the soul. There is such a danger in a hardened heart, that we should find out about and study this relationship in order to prevent this happening in our own lives. The more I pondered on these questions, the more I came to realize that I really had no idea what the soul even was. We hear the word from the time of our childhood, but really what is the soul?

I like to let the context of the Bible define the words found in it.
Here is the Strong’s reference:

>From H5314; properly a breathing creature, that is, animal or (abstractly) vitality; used very widely in a literal, accommodated or figurative sense (bodily or mental): - any, appetite, beast, body, breath, creature, X dead (-ly), desire, X [dis-] contented, X fish, ghost, + greedy, he, heart (-y), (hath, X jeopardy of) life (X in jeopardy), lust, man, me, mind, mortality, one, own, person, pleasure, (her-, him-, my-, thy-) self, them (your) -selves, + slay, soul, + tablet, they, thing, (X she) will, X would have it.

This one word is found in many verses. The first verse in the Bible
(KJV) is early in Genesis:
(KJV Genesis 2:7) And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. (NKJV Genesis 2:7) And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.

I was using a NKJV unabridged concordance that I bought in Nashville. As you can see, Genesis 2:7 was not translated soul in the NKJV. The first reference in the NKJV is:

Genesis 19:20 See now, this city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one; please let me escape there (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live.”

This is Lot talking to the angel that wants him to move to the mountains and Lot convinces them to spare a small nearby city, so that he can move there and his ‘soul’ will live.

I won’t bore you with all the references, but I looked at every verse in the NKJV that had soul or souls or soul’s in it and found some interesting things.

I was surprised, but I think that it’s pretty clear that God has a soul:

Leviticus 26:11 I will set My tabernacle among you, and My soul shall not abhor you.

Isaiah 1:14 14 Your New Moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates; They are a trouble to Me, I am weary of bearing them.

Jeremiah 6:8 Be instructed, O Jerusalem, Lest My soul depart from you; Lest I make you desolate, A land not inhabited.”

This last verse is very interesting to me. If God’s soul departs then it appears that desolation and barrenness occurs. Is soul then a synonym for Sprit???? Is this a definition of soul? God is a Spirit. He can take many forms or manifest Himself many ways, but He is a Spirit. Therefore if he takes the essence of Him, His soul away is this the same as taking his Spirit away? Can we then say that our soul is our spirit, our eternal spirit? Is this obvious to everyone else? Do you all already know this? Is it just because I did not go to Sunday school as a child that I don’t know this or that this seems to be a revelation to me?

The next thing that made a great impression on me is that in many many verses there is a close association between heart and soul. Many times they are mentioned as a pair, ‘heart and soul’. Lots of verses talk about how when you sin you harm your soul:

Proverbs 6:32 Whoever commits adultery with a woman lacks understanding; He who does so destroys his own soul.

Proverbs 8:35-36 For whoever finds me finds life, And obtains favor from the LORD; But he who sins against me wrongs his own soul; All those who hate me love death.”

Proverbs 11:17 The merciful man does good for his own soul, But he who is cruel troubles his own flesh.

Proverbs 19:16 He who keeps the commandment keeps his soul, But he who is careless of his ways will die.

There are just a bunch of verses like this. I have just selected a few from many. Many verses in Psalms regarding the soul, an especially good passage is in
Ezekiel 18 19-28:

19 “Yet you say, ‘Why should the son not bear the guilt of the father?’ Because the son has done what is lawful and right, and has kept all My statutes and observed them, he shall surely live. 20 The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the
father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself. 21 “But if a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed, keeps all My statutes, and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 22 None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him; because of the righteousness which he has done, he shall live. 23 Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?” says the Lord GOD, “and not that he should turn from his ways and live? 24 “But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and does according to all the abominations that the wicked man does, shall he live? All the righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; because of the unfaithfulness of which he is guilty and the sin which he has committed, because of them he shall die. 25 “Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not fair.’ Hear now, O house of Israel, is it not My way which is fair, and your ways which are not fair? 26 When a righteous man turns away from his
righteousness, commits iniquity, and dies in it, it is because of the iniquity which he has done that he dies. 27 Again, when a wicked man turns away from the wickedness which he committed, and does what is lawful and right, he preserves himself alive. 28 Because he considers and turns away from all the transgressions which he committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die.

It is clear that sin has a bad effect on our soul, on our spirit. From personal experience I can testify that sin also hardens the heart, makes us more callous, less sensitive to the good and fine things of life. It is a struggle to come back from a life spent away from God and in sin. It takes a renewing on the part of God. We must take especial care to protect our heart, to protect our soul, to keep our childlike heart, to remain sensitive to the things of God.

This that I am writing tonight is a work in progress. I do not have it all complete and worked out yet, but I find it significant that the armor of God has at it’s center, the breastplate of righteousness. The breastplate covers and protects, defends our heart. Our heart, our soul, our spirit need the protection of our righteousness. If we make a compromise in our righteousness, there is a dear price to be paid. If our righteousness is pierced, a wound to the heart is likely. Wounds to the heart are never never minor . . . heart wounds are always serious and often fatal. . . .



The Presence of God. . .

My daughter Julia (Jakub's mother) newly has email and asked that I forward her emails from the past that she had not received.  I'm not sending them all out to you, but I will be posting them to my blog ~ anewcreature.blogspot.com

This was originally written Sun, Aug 20, 2006

The presence of God. . .

Jackie, Jakub, and I were going over to see my Mom and Fred at Americana nursing home last night. I was going to give them some pictures of mine to hang on the wall, but I needed to stop at Hobby Lobby first to get some supplies for framing and matting the pictures. As we crossed the railroad tracks by the mall, I noticed a man coming from the direction of the Goodwill thrift store. He was a black man, poorly dressed, in his late thirties or early forties, walking, kind of struggling with several very large plastic bags. It was apparent that they were very heavy and it was an effort for him to walk with them.

My mind conjured up images of a father, maybe raising his children by himself, buying back-to-school clothes for his children and making his way home with his treasures. I went into the store to do my business. It took a little while. I couldn't find what I was looking for and had to spend some time searching before I was happy that I had what I needed. When I returned to the car and left the mall parking lot, I saw the same man with his burden of bags. He had only maybe gone a quarter of a mile in the probably fifteen or twenty minutes that I was in the store. There aren't any places that I thought it likely that he would be staying very close to the mall. My heart broke under the burden of his load. God spoke to me, I needed to give that man a ride home.

We pulled into the parking lot behind a restaurant, near to the man. I got out and asked him if he needed a ride. He acted kind of puzzled. He stammered, 'No charge. . . or anything?' 'No charge man', I replied feeling close to tears. He had set his bags down on my approach. As he went back to get them, I saw more clearly that they weren't all Goodwill bags. He had a plastic milk crate and another bag or two that you could clearly see silhouetted inside trash, junk. . . plastic bottles and cups, pieces of balled up paper and other unidentifiable refuse.

What have I got myself into? I've got my wife and grandson with me. What is this person doing carrying big plastic bags, some of them filled with trash? He took the couple of bags with the trash in them and ran fifty or a hundred feet behind a little fence in back of the restaurant and threw the bags in a dumpster. It began to dawn upon me, "What ya doing with that trash, Man?" Again his stammering, halting reply, "People throw. . .pickup. . ." I finished for him, "People throw stuff along the road that shouldn't be there. . . and you pick it up?" By now, I am silently weeping. The power and presence of God is so strong. "Yeah man, I do that too. Everywhere I go, I pick up trash and throw it away.", I softly said struggling not to just openly cry.

We put his remaining very heavy bags from Goodwill into the trunk. They pretty much fill it up. He climbs in the back seat with Jakub. The innocence of a child, Jakub begins making him feel at home, "Hi! What's your name?" His name is Dennis and he lives in the Wildwood apartments on Hively, I'm guessing a good two miles from the mall. . . five minutes in a car. I'm sure much more than an hour at Dennis's agonizingly slow pace.

We drop him off and ask if we can pray for him. He doesn't attend church, but he would like our prayers, so Jackie and I anoint him, hold his hands, and pray a simple prayer for a simple man. There with people looking on. . . the presence of God was intense. As we drove off, we worshipped and thanked God for using us to lighten the load of a man with a burden. . . a man heavily burdened with his own load, who still had room to carry the refuse, the trash, the junk that should not have been in the parking lot and on the side of the road.

It was a tremendous blessing. . . Truly I say to you, Because you did it to the least of these my brothers, you did it to me. We wept and cried at the goodness of God and at the burden of a man. . .

Thank you Lord!

Jakub, Jackie, & Dave