Friday, March 27, 2020

County-Wide Scream

County-Wide Scream

     It was a sunny day and windless which made it feel especially hot for a farm on the Oregon Coast.  The farm had about 50 Guernsey and Holstein milk cows and calves and a 1,400 pound Guernsey Bull called Pat.

     I was in my sophomore year working my way through high school on Jack McDonald's dairy farm.  Jack was a true father-figure-role model.  He was the first person I ever heard say grace before meals.  I never heard a single swear word or any unkindness either.  His physique reminded me of a smaller version of the incredible hulk.  He both farmed and logged and was a bit introverted and often communicated with just a nod, smile or gesture.

     Jack also had a sense of humor that sprang up out of the blue.  It made even tense situations calm.  I still recall my first day milking cows.  I was carrying an 86 pound, 10 gallon milk can to the cooler when I tripped and spilled the milk into the creek.  I froze...thinking I'm such a klutz he'll fire me on the spot.

     Jack looked at me with a deadpan face...just about melting me.  Then he smiled broadly and laughed jovially.  "Larry, it's no use crying over spilt milk."  That was an adage as old as the sun, but boy, just like a cow's tail, it swished my stress away.

     Pat, the Bull was staked in the ground with a 20-foot-long- steel cable holding him by a ring in his nose.  He could graze and was relocated when needed.  My boss also anchored him to a deeper stake next to the creek for drinking water.

     I'd seen my boss lead Pat to the creek and or new grazing areas several times.  So, in my eagerness to earn my keep I decided I would take Pat to the creek today.  I unhooked Pat's cable from the stake in his grazing spot and, holding the steel cable tightly, led him down the hillside to the edge of the creek.  Unaware that Jack had just come around the barn corner and was watching, I bent over to hook the cable in the creek-side stake.

     The loudest scream I've ever heard filled the whole county. "Look Out Larry!"  It was Jack's voice and instantly I glanced toward his voice and saw death above me.  The giant- three-quarter-ton bull was up on his hind legs starting to come down on my back.  He would have pummeled me to death instantly.  Immediately I rolled sideways over and over as Pat's front hooves slammed into the ground beside me.

     I was shaking so badly I couldn't even say Thank You.  I learned two valuable lessons that day: Never turn your back on a wild animal.  Bulls have a horrid reputation which they've earned many times over.  It is not wise to ignore a wild or angry critter.

     Better yet was the 2nd Lesson: the Lord often uses people to do His will.  The old story about the man complaining to God that He didn't rescue him from his trauma though he prayed over and over expresses this well.  Heaven's reply was - I sent your neighbor to help you...but you didn't accept him.  Then I sent the fireman - but you turned him down encapsulates this lesson well.  The Lord uses His created beings to do His will.

     He certainly caused my boss to rescue me from instant death for which I'm forever thankful.

     My wife and I watched a true story of a woman, along with her dog, who parked her car at the trailhead and then hiked into a rocky terrain.  A little over a mile in she fell and was injured badly enough that she could barely crawl.  Talk about desperation.  It was scorching hot and she only had a small container of water.  She'd also dropped her cell phone when she fell and couldn't reach it.

     She knew that she'd be missed at home but how would anyone find her out here?  Her dog stayed by her side.  Then the shadows darkened the hillsides and the temperature dropped and chills ran through her body.

     Back home her family had notified authorities and rescue people began a search but darkness shut them down for the night.  The next morning her car was spotted and the search began.  But where was she?  Which direction had she gone?  For hours rescuers scoured the area...but could not find her.  The day grew hotter and her water ran out.  Then she pondered...could my dog help me?

     She looked him squarely in his eyes and said, "Go ~ find help." She gestured to him.  Then she collapsed from the fatigue, pain and lack of sleep.

     At the trailhead rescue camp the chief saw a Golden Labrador coming towards him.  He wondered where he had come from but was interrupted by a question from another rescuer.  Then the Lab came up to the chief, wagged his tail and darted back up the trail and then suddenly paused, turned and looked back at the chief.

     But the chief just looked back at the grid search map.  So the Lab came back to him and nudged his leg and then darted back up the same direction.  The chief said, "I think he is wanting us to follow him."  They set out behind the dog who would run way ahead stopping every little bit and looking back at them.  3 1/2 hours later the Lab turned down the hillside and wagged his tail at them to follow.  In about 20 more minutes they found the woman when the dog led them to her side.  She was rescued.

     The Lord uses a variety of created beings and inanimate objects to work his plans.

     (1)  Balaam's donkey saw an angel blocking the road and after Balaam beat him 3 different times it still obeyed the Lord and refused to go past the angel.  Then the Lord gave the donkey a voice with which to chew out Balaam and tell him God's message.  (Numbers 22:21-39)

     (2)  Moses had fled from Pharaoh and was hiding near Mt. Sinai. Suddenly he saw an angel in flames of fire in a bush that didn't burn up. (Exodus 3:1-6)

     (3)  Jonah was disobedient and fled from God into a ship. God caused a great storm to imperil the ship.  The crewmen threw Jonah overboard.  But he didn't drown he was swallowed by a whale that vomited him on land 3 days later.  (Jonah 1:1-17)

     (4)  Jewish leaders jealously told Jesus to silence the praising crowd as he rode on a donkey into Jerusalem.  Jesus responded, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out." (Luke 19:40

     (5)  When Pharaoh's army was chasing Israel to the Red Sea's edge God's angel placed the cloud pillar between Israel and the Egyptians.  It was pitch dark on the Egyptian's side and bright and shiny for the Israelites for the entire night.  During the night the Lord brought a fierce east wind causing the waters to divide and drying out the river bed.  In the morning Israel walked across on dry ground with a wall of water on their left and right and got away safely.  (Exodus 14:19-22)

     (6)  When Israel was besieged and captured by the Babylonians the invaders grabbed the gold and silver goblets from the temple.  King Belshazzar gave a great banquet and drank wine from them.  As they drank they praised the gods of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood and stone.  But suddenly the banquet was silenced as a human hand appeared on the wall and wrote a death message to the king. (Daniel 5:1-30)

     Have you experienced someone or something unusual that caught your attention?  Have you sensed that you were being helped as you stumbled through a difficult situation?  Were you in a car wreck far from town and hurt badly ~ only to discover that the driver in the car right behind you was a Trauma physician?  Did your Golden Labrador save your child from drowning...when you couldn't get there quickly enough?

     Are these all just coincidences?  Luck?  Happenstance?  Or was the Lord whispering softly: "I'm trying so hard to get your attention.  Come Home my child!"

     For God says, 'Your cry came to me at a favorable time, when the doors of welcome were wide open.  I helped you on a day when salvation was being offered.'  Right now God is ready to welcome you.  Today he is ready to save you."  (2 Corinthians 6:2, TLB)

     Today  the world is battling a horrid pandemic.  Some are turning to or returning to their spiritual roots.  Sadly, faith in the Creator, has been so horribly assaulted by our world's cultures that many don't have a clue how to seek His love nor realize that this life is a preparation for our future destination.

     If you're  anxious, fearful, ill, uncertain of the future and not sure if you'll make it another day ~ write and ask for spiritual or emotional support or prayer.  One very dear woman wrote, "I think of you often and remember all the help you gave me during a really dark couple of times.  In fact I do believe you saved my life."

     Each of us needs to realize that there is an Eternity ahead for which we should prepare.  A wise man, when considering his future, said "He whose head is in heaven need not fear to put his feet into the grave."

     There's that soft voice again: "I'm trying so hard to get your attention.  Come Home my child!"

Didn't I Walk On The Water
The Dunaways

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Thursday, March 19, 2020

I'm Still Hugging The Holy Spirit

I'm Still Hugging The Holy Spirit

     An opportunity arose for us to broadcast a half-hour program on a local radio station.  Our church was in its infancy and funds were very limited.  We approached Heaven's throne to receive the go-ahead.  After a few days I felt the Lord's assurance that He would supply the funds, so we signed the agreement.

     Then we began praying that the Holy Spirit would lead curious, honest folks to listen.  At the end of the first message we offered free in-home Bible Study videos.

     The next evening our home phone rang.  A local woman asked about having the in-home Bible study.  It was obvious that at least one person had heard the program.  We made an appointment for my wife and I to show her the first video.  Then we began to pray earnestly that she would be a receptive-hearted woman.

     When we met Carolyn she was so cordial and intensely interested that I wished I could hug the Holy Spirit for making this connection.  She had two very young children: Alan and Paula. Carolyn had just recovered from a serious illness and was concerned about her soul's relationship with the Lord.

     I watched her eyes and countenance as the Bible story was playing.  I was astounded when I asked if she had any questions ~ ~ she had a basket full.  She was one of the most perceptive and intelligent people I'd ever met.  We scheduled the next session and left with our hearts full of joy.

     Scripture records the Apostle Peter's very first sermon:

     "When they heard this they were crushed and realized what they had done to Jesus.  Deeply moved, they said to Peter and the other apostles, “What do we need to do, brothers?”
     "Peter replied, “Repent and return to God, and each one of you must be baptized in the name of Jesus, the Anointed One, to have your sins removed.  Then you may take hold of the gift of the Holy Spirit.  For God’s promise of the Holy Spirit is for you and your families, for those yet to be born and for everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” (Acts 2:36-39, TPT)

     Over the next few weeks we completed the studies and read Peter's words to her.  Then she asked, "Can you immerse me?"  The videos had explained God's Plan of Salvation and she believed that Jesus was God's Son, that she no longer wanted to sin against God and wanted to complete her conversion.

     After the baptism Carolyn and her children came to every service: three times a week.  And her curiosity increased and increased.  At the end of any sermon she would quiz us about anything that wasn't absolutely clear to her.  In the adult Sunday School class she kept a notebook of each week's Bible questions and answered them as we worked through the Acts of the Apostles.

     As we walk down life's pathway we meet many people.  Some are more special than others.  She was that kind of a special Christian.  We were not the only ones who felt she was a dear soul.  She invited many town's folks to the services because she was adored in the community.

     Soon Carolyn brought a teenage girl with her.  We learned it was her sister, Lauri.  A week or two later she brought a senior woman ~ her mother, Edith.  Then she brought a woman who owned a laundry in town.  Over a period of six months or so Lauri and Edith both were converted.

     Carolyn was a superb author and entered several contests for writing the best story for a chance to win a prize.  She was so good she won several of them.  This led to the local newspaper hiring her as a reporter.  Faithful to the Lord she used the opportunity to spread the good news whenever she could.

     Carolyn's husband owned a race car and she was the treasurer for the local racing association.  So some of the other driver's wives began to attend with her.   I befriended her husband but he was "too busy" to go to church.  I went a step further and worked on his race car with him and attended a couple of his races.  For some reason it made no difference.  To this day I don't know if he ever yielded to the Lord.

     It was just a pain in her side when she made the doctor appointment.  But it was more than a painful nerve or muscle that he found.  This sweet woman had pancreatic cancer and after a few months went to her eternal home where I'm sure the Lord hugged her and said, "Well done. Welcome home."   I look forward to seeing her when I cross that final river.

     I marveled about a few things.  What if the radio station didn't have a program time available?  What if we hadn't been able to pay for it?  What if she hadn't heard the broadcast?  What if she hadn't just recovered from her illness which sparked the interest in her soul?  What if we hadn't heard the phone call?  But most of all - How many other Carolyns are there out in our neighborhoods just waiting to connect with us?

Ernie Haase & Signature Sound
Plan of Salvation

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Friday, March 13, 2020

Wrapped In His Loving Arms

Wrapped In His Loving Arms

     A while back I was preaching in a small town where only about 2,300 people lived.  I set out to make a personal call to each family inviting them to church.  I knew it would take some time but I put one foot in front of the other and got at it.

     After a few months I'd reached most of the town and I needed a boost.  My shoes were nearly worn out but the church wasn't flooded with new folks.  It was on a Tuesday morning I prayed for that lift, "Heavenly Father ~ please lead me to someone new who needs the gospel."

     I spent the early part of the day working on Sunday's sermon.  Then, with my wife and little girl, we drove out into the country to have dinner with a church family on their farm.

     On the way home the car coughed and sputtered and ran out of gas.  We coasted to a stop on the edge of the gravelly country road.  It was just getting dark but my wife recognized just where we were.  She said, "That's the graveyard!"   Her nerves were frazzled and she didn't like being stuck next to a cemetery.

     Trying to allay her fears and our little daughter's I said, "I'll hurry in to town - there's a gas station about 2 or 3 miles from here.  It won't take me long."

     I had only gone about a half mile when a car pulled along side of me.  "Do you need help Sir?"

     Embarrassed I told them I'd run out of gas.

     They said, "C'mon, we'll take you."  He opened the door and stepped out of his 2-door Chevy Bel Air coupe to let me get in.  I crawled in and sat on some cardboard as the backseat was missing.

     They were a young couple.  Married a year ago and expecting their first in 3 months.  I instantly liked them.  David and Connie had just moved here from out of state and were living with his mother and brother in a mobile home.

     I asked where their mobile home was.

     They chuckled, "Our house is out in the boonies and that horrendous thunderstorm last weekend caused a flood that washed our access bridge out.  Now we've got to drive an extra mile up to the next county road and come in from the back side."

     Dave turned into the gas station and pulled up to the pumps.  I climbed out and before going inside turned and said, "Thanks so very much for helping me.  I can make it from here."

     Instead of driving off Connie said, "Oh No, we're taking you back to your car."

     So I got the gas can and they drove me to my car and waited until it started and we were able to head to the station.  They followed us all the way.  I gave them a big wave when they left.  It wasn't until later that night that it dawned on me.  I told my wife, "You know what...I prayed this morning that the Holy Spirit would lead me to someone new today.  And He just did."

     We both began praying for Dave and Connie and for wisdom to know just how to proceed.  And the Lord provided the plan.

     I knew just where the washed out bridge had been as the local radio station had broadcast it the day after the thunderstorm.  Midday Saturday we bought a gallon of ice cream and headed to find their mobile home.

     When we pulled up on their lot they warmly greeted us. We spent a couple of hours sharing stories and eating ice cream.  Dave's mom was really special and his brother was a prince of a man.  Before we left we invited them to church.  I had brought a brochure about an in-home Bible study series and offered to share it with them.  All four of them said they'd really like that and also wanted to visit the church.

     The four of them showed up Sunday morning and from that moment on they attended the services regularly, studied the Bible videos and were immersed. 

     Following this I marveled at God's unique timing: If we hadn't run out of gas ~ ~ If they hadn't just moved in  ~ ~  If we hadn't taken ice cream ~ ~ I praise the Lord today for directing the path to their conversion. 

"Don’t overlook the obvious here, friends.  With God, one day is as good as a thousand years, a thousand years as a day.  God isn’t late with his promise as some measure lateness.  He is restraining himself on account of you, holding back the End because he doesn’t want anyone lost.  He’s giving everyone space and time to change." (2 Peter 3:8-9, MSG)

     Thank you Lord for giving these 4 Eternal Souls space and time to become Christians.  Now they are wrapped in Your loving arms.

Michael W Smith
Mighty To Save

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Thursday, March 5, 2020

From A Rut To A Tear Fest

From A Rut To A Tear Fest

     Linda caught me as I headed to my counseling office in the back of the church.  "You've got to do something about Marlene she gives me lip every time I try to get her to follow my advice.  After all, I am in charge of the primary Sunday School classes."

     As her words sunk in I recalled that she seemed to get perturbed periodically.  I tried to recall the last time I saw her smile, let alone laugh.  One of the leaders had said, "I think Linda was baptized in lemon juice."

     I went to the Lord in prayer as I was feeling Linda wasn't the only member uptight right then.  I asked for wisdom to help bring peace and tranquility to the whole church.  Then I waited for His answer.

     A couple of weeks later the Lord laid on my heart what needed to happen.  But it was so unique that I hesitated for a few days.  Church members often don't like change.  At least not a big dose of change.

     And the Lord had given me a huge dose of change.

     The common itinerary for Sunday mornings was 15 minutes of singing.  Followed by prayer, Scripture reading, a communion talk and song, service of communion, followed by a sermon, invitation song, prayer and dismissal.  But a big change was in store for next Sunday.

     The Praise Team led us in a couple of songs after which we began with prayer.  Then a video player performed a heart-warming DVD song onto our large screen.  I had tried to carefully select about 9 or 10 videos expressing the love of God, deep faith, forgiveness, prayer, thankfulness and so on.  I had begged the Lord to soften the hearts of the members as the songs were played.

     The audience watched and listened and some even sang along with the different songs.

     I earnestly prayed that what was coming next would be used by the Holy Spirit to change the atmosphere of the church.  I read the Scripture the Lord had laid on my soul a week ago:

“This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God."  (Matthew 5:23-24, MSG)

     We still had communion service to go and so I read this Scripture and said, "In preparation for continuing our worship by taking Communion I challenge you to ponder this teaching of Jesus and get up and go to anyone in the church with whom you have a problem, or who you know has one with you."

     Before I even sat down to pray movement was happening.  First just a couple of people left their pew and headed to make things right, then another, and before long I was hearing a lot of movement, crying, saw hugging and nearly every pew had activity.

     It's hard to recall how long this part of the service lasted but it was quite a while before we served Communion and dismissed.  I noticed people didn't leave but stood around and talked and hugged and hugged and hugged.

     By the way one visitor stood just before the dismissal prayer and she said "This was the most touching church service I've ever been in."

     Personally, I'll always remember that Linda came up and hugged me and never spoke a word as she wiped tears from her face.

     God is so good.  How often do we get in such a routine that we wouldn't dare try something so different from our norm.  Seems like I recall someone saying if you can't change the routine you're in a rut... and do you know what a rut is?  It is a grave with the ends knocked out.  A dictionary described a rut as, "a habit or pattern of behavior that has become dull and unproductive but is hard to change."

     Sometimes we become so predictable we don't give God's Holy Spirit any room or time to affect His purposes in our services.

Holy Spirit
Kim Walker-Smith

This song has been played more than 36 million times.

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