Monday, September 25, 2017

Entry number 4 Rossville GA 9-24-17

  Eric wanted a country-fried steak biscuit with egg and cheese from Hardees. We were heading to Chattanooga, TN from Holly Springs, NC on Friday morning, September 22. Thursday night's meeting with the Gashler's, Mark, Trace, and before her bedtime, their adorable daughter Ellie, was enjoyable and productive. There weren't too many Hardees on our route and we finally saw a sign indicating that the elusive biscuit could be had at the next exit. Eric drove right by the off-ramp. I asked Eric why he had changed his mind....he hadn't. He thought the exit was further down the road. Several miles later, much to Eric's chagrin, we settled for Waffle House.
  Chattanooga was our destination because several years earlier, Eric had a profound experience with a pastor and his congregation in Lookout Mountain, GA, which is right next to Chattanooga. Eric's aunt and uncle have a beautiful home in Chattanooga. He had promised his aunt that he would not fail to contact her if he ever found himself in that area. She and her husband Jim kindly invited us to stay with them.
  We tried to find a contact number for the church as we drove but were unable to come up with a working one. We did find a website; but that actually presented additional problems. There was no longer a Friday night Bible study, and the pastor Eric previously knew was apparently no longer serving there. Up to this point, we had been blessed with assignments that seemingly just materialized, which is awesome. But this pastor and this congregation were, in a very real way, the catalyst that propelled us to action. We truly expected to at least meet with the pastor. In fact, very near our TN destination, Eric found his number and actually contacted him. He confirmed he no longer worked at the church. He asked Eric to call him back later that evening, which Eric did. His call was never returned. I must say, we were more than a bit perplexed by this. The website for the different church in the same place showed an 11 am. Sunday service. We decided to attend and see what the Lord had in store.....or so we thought.
  After thanking Jim and June for their hospitality, we set out for the Sunday service. Eric's quest for the biscuit grail had not yet been achieved so we left very early. Siri cooperated. There was a Hardees close by.
  We sat down after purchasing what turned out to be (sorry Eric) spectacularly mediocre breakfast sandwiches. While we were eating, Eric noticed some odd activity in front of him. I was facing the other way. Eric got out of his chair and approached an elderly man who was very troubled and unable to rise. He was rigid, gritting his teeth and clinging to his chair. Despite the fact that he resisted, Eric and another stranger (we didn't know he was a stranger until afterward), stepped up to assist. Eric commanded the demon (the stranger helping Eric shared this same perception) to leave the elderly man. Both of them prayed for the man commanding him to get up and walk in the name of Jesus. Within seconds, that's exactly what he did. I know one thing for certain; none of this would have happened if Eric had not missed his Hardees' exit two days earlier.
  The more you try to walk with the Lord, the less you believe that occurrences of this sort are coincidences. Minutes later, that was confirmed. A gentleman who witnessed the healing approached our table with his family. He asked us if we had any plans to attend worship service that day. As best we could in a few moments, we tried to explain where we were headed and why. I doubt it was well conveyed; because Perry invited us to his church instead. We thanked him and told him we would discuss it and pray about it.
  My take was that God doesn't put a road map like that in front of us to be ignored. Eric didn't have a strong sense either way. So we joined Perry and his brothers and sisters in Rossville, GA.
  I don't know if we had an impact at the church. It's likely we never will know. We also will never know what would have happened had we "stayed the course" and gone to Lookout Mountain. I can only tell you that we're doing the best we can to follow Him and if nothing else, I think this makes a pretty good story.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Entry number 3 Bristol TN 9-21-17

  Fatz cafe. Eric's dad mentioned this establishment Monday as we drove around Bristol discussing the various food options. Many restaurants were mentioned but for some reason Fatz stood out. I wanted to eat there and come lunch time Tuesday, that's where Eric and I headed.
  A very pleasant lady named Angie led us to our table and also served us. Eric noticed that Angie was wearing a bracelet with a Bible verse on it. As she showed Eric her wrist, I noticed Zeph. 3-17 inked on her other hand. Eric asked her if these were merely ornamental or if they were indicative of  a Christian world view. I think it's safe to say, the answer Angie gave us was exactly the one we expected to hear. She was a believer and a very passionate and dedicated one at that.
  In the natural, that would be called a coincidence. In the Spirit, we call it what we know it to be; a Divine appointment. Very often, one Divine appointment leads to another. Angie's church conducted a Wednesday meeting which included a time of prayer and a dinner, both of which preceded the service. We accepted her gracious invitation to join her.
  When we left Fatz, Eric and I expressed our mutual apprehension. To be frank, between the two of us, we have had many more negative experiences with the "institutional church" than positive ones. But we had given Angie our word we were coming and never once considered reneging on our promise to attend.
  The prayer time began at 5 pm. I have never seen anything quite like it. Several folks milled about the sanctuary, some praying audibly, some silently. Eric and I were sitting toward the back of the church observing. Afterward, the man who had been praying the most fervently approached us and introduced himself as the congregation's pastor. We spoke briefly and he impressed both Eric and me as a willing servant of our Lord.
  We then went to the gym area to eat. Eric jokingly (I think) tells me he prefers to be in any food line ahead of me as he doesn't want to end up with an empty plate. He found a table where a lone elderly woman sat. We joined her and were very blessed to do so. Mary Maxine was a most gracious and Godly woman. We were both encouraged by her faith and grace.
  One of the men who had been praying, whose name was Dave, stopped by our table to greet us. Eric asked him what he had been praying about in the sanctuary. Before he answered, Eric stressed that he wanted him to be specific and completely truthful. Dave took a deep breath and put his head down for long moment. He then, very humbly, confessed his struggle with spiritual arrogance. His specific prayer was that God would enable him to worship Him in spirit and in truth. Upon hearing Dave's answer, Eric's eyes widened and a look of awe came over his face. Because earlier, while in the sanctuary, Eric had privately asked the Lord, "Are there any here, Lord, who seek to worship You in spirit and in truth?"
  If you have ever experienced a spiritually electrifying moment, you can probably comprehend the amazing feeling that the three of us were blessed to have. If you have never had such an experience, pray that you will. It's an awesome confirmation of the Lord's active presence in our lives.
  We then returned to the sanctuary for the service. Eric and I were both impressed with the pastor's love and zeal for the Lord and for his congregation. After the service, as we waited to say farewell to Angie and others, an older gentleman we had not spoken with or seen before, walked directly up to us. This is what he said: "I was sitting over there and the Holy Spirit told me that you two were angels sent to us by God. As the Scripture says, we often entertain angels unaware." Now, as Eric pointed out, the word angels comes from the Greek word angelos, which means, messenger. And we are messengers, just not the celestial kind. It was another confirmation for Eric and me that we are on the right track in service to our Lord. (Incidentally, we came to realize that all of this was taking place as Rosh Hashana was beginning!) There were other confirmations, and those also are to His credit and glory, not ours.
  Thank you, Angie, for facilitating our incredible visit with these wonderful folks. Your obedience to the Holy Spirit was manifested in the invitation you extended us. Please know that you can be confident in the prophetic confirmation the Lord, through Eric, blessed you with in regard to the fruit your continuing service will bear.

Friday, September 15, 2017

2nd entry. Noblesville IN. 9-15-17

 I plan on meeting Eric in TN. this coming Monday, September 18th. As I ponder what lies ahead for us, the Lord impressed on me how important it is for all of us to keep our focus on His will. Every believer has work to do. We must be mindful of this.
 "For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty." 2nd Peter 1:16 NKJV. Ten of the original twelve apostles were martyred. Judas committed suicide and most scholars believe John died in Ephesus. While it is true that many have died for illegitimate causes in which they believed, why would anyone, ever die, for that which they knew to be false?
  "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable." 1 Corinthians 15:19 NKJV. The gospel is very consistent throughout: We are telling you the Truth about Jesus. If we're wrong, consider us pathetic lunatics.....Believe it or dismiss it. All or nothing.
  A very famous pastor wrote a book titled, "Your Best Life Now". It fails to mention the cross even once. I think this is one aspect of what Paul is referring to when he speaks of being pitiable for placing hope in Christ for this life (or even primarily for this life) only, thereby denying the resurrection and our eternal home in heaven. It is one thing to deny Christ and besmirch Him, it is quite another to take His name and do it. Make no mistake, this is exactly what "Your best life now" does. The prosperity sunshine and lollipop spiel is not only false, it's dangerous. "And you will be hated by all for My name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved." Matthew 10:22 NKJV.
  Now, I KNOW His way is, without question, the best (in fact the only) way. Spiritual rewards are vastly superior to earthly rewards. But here's the thing. If your focus is on this life, you can never expect to receive these Spiritual rewards. Eternity is endless. We are here but for a moment... and we can make our moment here so much better. If you focus on working for the eternal Kingdom of God, whatever time you are called to spend in this earthly realm will be much richer. But you will almost certainly be mocked. You may even be called to surrender your life. 
  "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand." Ephesians 6:12-13. NKJV. The world is changing. No one knows the exact hour of His coming, but we are called to recognize the times. The harvest is great and will be greater still. If you are in a lukewarm environment, try to affect change or get out. Read your Bible. Pray for guidance. We all benefit from fellowship with brothers and sisters but at the same time understand that you are primarily responsible for your relationship with Christ. The time to get serious is now!

Monday, September 4, 2017

1st entry. South Florida

"I can understand how people don't believe. I can understand how people fervently believe. What I can't understand, is how people casually believe." (about God). C.S. Lewis. Parenthesis mine.
    Eric Wheeler was nearing the end of his rope. He was about ready to hang up on me, and looking back, he probably should have. It was our first conversation. The only reason he endured as long as he did was because of his friendship with my brother. Eric didn't know it at the time but he was to be the proverbial straw that broke the camel's (my) back.
   I had been looking into Christianity for quite some time and despite the myriad of challenges I presented to my aforementioned brother and my good friend Pastor Bob Morrison, I had to admit it. Their claim was supported by the facts. There is one God, Jesus is His Divine Son and the Bible is the Word of God. This troubled me greatly. I didn't much care for the ramifications. You see, I was too new to perceive the Holy Spirit's part in all this. I viewed my theological conclusion as purely intellectual. The fact that my double brother (spiritual and biological) was, for many reasons, the ideal person to introduce me to the gospel seemed completely coincidental. As If that wasn't enough, I had literally picked Pastor Bob's church, randomly, from the phone book. My brother was in Colorado and I was in Ohio so we only communicated over the phone. Pastor Bob was to be the only face to face influence I would have during my spiritual search. And let's be real here, why in the world would a Pastor, who had a fuller plate than you would even guess, take time to deal with a complete stranger who was constantly peppering him with annoying questions? Well, it wasn't of this world and I'm forever appreciative  that he did. Pastor Bob has a unique combination of humility and strength of conviction. I've never met anyone quite like him. He never ignored my questions and he never once looked down on me. I know now, it was a Divine appointment that put me with Pastor Bob. I doubt there is one other clergyman who would have put up with me as he did. I wouldn't have been able to blame them either.
   My brother and Pastor Bob did much heavy lifting with me and for that I'm eternally thankful. But I wasn't yet ready to take the final, or more literally, baptismal plunge.
   Coming to the Lord, for me, was much like investigative journalism. I read many books and watched hours of video; debates and the like. Most of the content was suggested to me by my brother. One of the last books he recommended was written by a man he knew personally. He described him as a modern day prophet. His name was (still is) Eric Wheeler and he wrote a book titled "In His Service." Now, at this point I was just coming to terms with the ideal of Old Testament prophets: Modern day prophets?? C'mon man!
   If someone other than my brother had vouched for this guy, I would have laughed in their face. But I know my brother and I knew he wasn't lying. Mistaken, perhaps, lying, no chance. So I read the book. It was fascinating. Despite the super natural aspect that permeates from start to finish, it somehow rang true. I mentioned to my brother that I would like to speak with this guy. As I recall, it just came up casually in conversation but my brother said, "here's his number, call him anytime." So I did.
   I called him looking for an off ramp... OK this stuff is true but what's wrong with dipping the toe in before deciding to dive. I must have said that, or something similar a dozen times. Until the last time his answer never changed. "You need to go all in, repent and be baptized." The last time, it was more along these lines: "Look, you called me and I've had enough, you're not ready for this, give it up!" To which I replied, "You're right, all in is the only way. I guess I have to be baptized." Within a week Pastor Bob baptized me. And he was thrilled to do it. I didn't realize that Pastor Bob's son was about to go home to the Lord after a courageous bought with cancer. I don't think I've ever been able to convey to him just how much everything about my baptism meant to me. I would wish that everyone has the kind of baptism experience that I did.
   I ended up moving to Colorado. I felt that the Lord called me there to "train." That "modern day prophet" I so exasperated, is now as good of a friend and brother as I have in this world. I have been trying to follow the Lord for several years now and my last assignment put me in Florida with my elderly father. Dad is now home with our Lord
   Eric and I have both felt that, at some point, we would be called out to minister together. Until very recently, some point, seemed vaguely distant. No longer. We spoke in length this past Sunday and a general plan just seemed to take shape. Supernatural confirmations are hard to convey and I'm not going to try do that right now but after our conversation Sunday we agreed to pray and discuss later. Both of us came to the agreement that our decision was in line with the Holy Spirit. I already had a trip to Ohio planned and Eric was bound for Tennessee. You will just have to trust me (or not) as to other clear confirmations we were both fortunate enough to receive. Perhaps they will pop up in other entries as, Lord willing, I am going to write a journal of our adventure. Our tentative plan is to meet in Tennessee on September 18th........stay tuned.  

Entry number 7. So FL 11-2-2017

  I've been staring at my screen for several minutes. I feel led to write but I have no clue where to begin, or for that matter, where t...