january 2014


[PDF]january 2014 - Rackcdn.comc919297.r97.cf2.rackcdn.com/qtdia8iusdpjj0z6ztosmkjstung1e-optimized-pub.pdfCached18 My Journey to Pro-Life Ministry by...

18 downloads 92 Views 3MB Size

CHURCH OF GOD

Evangel JANUARY 2014

remember israel • obey radically pray faithfully • speak up quit pretending • choose to worship

Contents

january 2014

volume 104 n issue 1

AS CHRISTIANS, what does Jesus Christ expect of us in 2014? • He expects us to “love God, and keep his commandments” (1 John 5:2). • He expects us “always to pray, and not to faint” (Luke 18:1). • He expects us to “not be like the hypocrites” (Matt. 6:5 NIV), but instead to serve Him in humble sincerity. • He expects us to “not be ashamed to testify about our Lord” (2 Tim. 1:8 NIV), but instead to boldly speak up for Him. • He expects us to “admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone” (1 Thess. 5:14 NASB).

divine expectations 10 Radical Obedience by David White Sacrifice . . . trust . . . yield . . . persist 12 We Must Never Forget Israel by Michael Utterback “One flock, one Shepherd” 14 From Discipline to Delight by LaVoy Newton Leading a life of prayer



16 An Eagle Scout’s Courageous Decision by Victor Morris Standing for morality 17 Speak Up! by Dewayne Hamby We need holy boldness. 18 My Journey to Pro-Life Ministry by Sherry Ivy Reed Reaching the unborn and their parents columns 20 Quit Pretending! by Charlotte Gambill 5 In Covenant, Mark L. Williams Join God’s great adventure. 7 On My Mind, Lance Colkmire 22 Choose to Worship by Scott Rasco 30 Where Are They Now? David Roebuck Going beyond emotion departments 23 Gathering Sticks by Daniel Sylverston 4 Ministry Snapshot Do the small things. 6 By the Numbers features 8 Currents 26 Viewpoints 24 Evangel Interview: The VITAL Initiative A new focus on small churches 28 People and Events

EVANGEL • jan 2014

3

PUBLICATIONS MINISTRIES DIVISIONAL DIRECTOR M. Thomas Propes DIRECTOR OF PUBLICATIONS Terry Hart ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT Raymond Hodge MANAGING EDITOR Lance Colkmire

MINISTRY SNAPSHOT Participants in the Neighbor Project (sponsored by City Church of Chattanooga) serve Bess T. Shepherd Elementary School by updating the landscaping, adding mulch to the playground, and painting.

CENTRAL DISTRIBUTION COORDINATOR Robert McCall CFO Wayne Walston PRINTING DIRECTOR Mike Burnett

EVANGEL STAFF EDITOR Lance Colkmire EXECUTIVE SECRETARY Elaine McDavid COPY EDITOR Esther Metaxas GRAPHIC DESIGNER Bob Fisher

EDITORIAL AND PUBLICATIONS BOARD Stephen Darnell, Les Higgins, Ray E. Hurt, Cheryl Johns, David Nitz , Tony Cooper, Antonio Richardson

INTERNATIONAL EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE Mark L. Williams, David M. Griffis, J. David Stephens, Wallace J. Sibley, M. Thomas Propes

CHURCH OF GOD congregations meet throughout the United States and in more than 180 other countries. To find a church and times of services near you, access the church website, www.churchofgod.org, or fax your request to 423-478-7616.

If you have a ministry photo to be considered for this page, send it to [email protected]

December Evangel Poll What is your favorite way to celebrate the Christmas story? Read it from the Bible to my family - 44.4%

Listen to a minister preach about it - 11.1%

Publication of material in the Evangel does not necessarily imply endorsement of the Church of God. The Church of God Evangel (ISSN 0745-6778) is edited and published monthly. n Church of God Publish­ing House, 1080 Montgomery Ave., P.O. Box 2250, Cleveland, TN 37320-2250 n Subscription rates: Single subscription per year $17, Canada $24, Bundle of 15 per month $17, Canada $28, Bundle of 5 per month $7.50, Canada $11.25 n Single copy $1.50 n Periodical postage paid at Cleveland, TN 37311 and at additional mailing offices n ©2014 Church of God Publications n All rights reserved n POSTMASTER: Send change of address to Evangel, P.O. Box 2250, Cleveland, TN 37320-2250. (USPS 112-240)

Visit a live Nativity display - 5.6%

Watch a movie or play about Christ’s birth - 13.9%

Sing hymns that tell the story - 25%

4

MEMBER OF THE EVANGELICAL PRESS ASSOCIATION AND THE INTERNATIONAL PENTECOSTAL PRESS EVANGEL • jan 2014 ASSOCIATION

IN COVENANT mark l. williams general overseer

365 UNOPENED TOMORROWS

T

HE NEW YEAR is a great time for a new beginning. George Meredith called the anticipation of a new year “the rapture of the forward look.” One newspaper headlined New Year’s Day with the caption “Out Where the New Begins.” Before us are 365 unopened tomorrows, each cloaked with mystery that only time will reveal. In a Peanuts cartoon, Lucy says to Charlie Brown, “Life is a mystery, Charlie Brown. Do you know the answer?” Charlie Brown replies: “Be kind. Don’t smoke. Be prompt. Smile a lot. Eat sensibly. Avoid cavities, and mark your ballot carefully. Avoid too much sun. Send overseas packages early. Love all creatures above and below. Insure your belongings and try to keep the ball low.” Before he can get out another platitude, Lucy interrupts, “Hold real still, because I am going to hit you a very sharp blow on the nose!” Many of us can understand Lucy’s frustration. After all, we want to find the answer to life. We want to live to the fullest and meet our tomorrows with a sense of confidence, assurance, and peace. But where do we go to find the answers? Who is wise enough to direct our path? Who is discerning enough to see into the future and get us on the right track, and then keep us on the right track? Cecil Adams, who calls himself “the world’s smartest human,” writes a nationally syndicated column in which he attempts to succinctly explain the mysteries of the cosmos. He has answered questions such as “Do turkeys really drown when they look up during rainstorms?”

and “Do you get better gas mileage when driving with the air conditioner on or with the windows open?” But when it comes to finding an answer to questions about life’s purpose, Adams is short on advice. The late author Henry Miller said, “Life has to be given a meaning because of the obvious fact that it has no meaning.” However, when we come to the Scriptures, we see life does have meaning. Men and women are not creatures of fate. We are not products of random selection nor are we simply the highest rung on the evolutionary ladder. The meaning of life is not found in existentialism, humanism, realism, stoicism, or any other “ism.” The answer is found in Him who is “the bread of life” (John 6:35), “the living water” (4:10), “the resurrection and the life” (11:25), and “the way, the truth, and the life” (14:6)—Jesus Christ. Do not face the future with fear. Do not go into your tomorrows with a sense of foreboding confusion that comes through “feeling” your way through the decisions and challenges of contemporary living. Peace, assurance, and confidence are all available to you. You can begin this New Year with the sense of divine enablement that comes through an intimate relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ. With God, all things are still possible, and the future is as bright as His promises! So, walk through the unopened days of the New Year in the following way: • In happy moments, praise God. • In difficult moments, seek God. • In quiet moments, worship God. • In painful moments, trust God. • Every moment, thank God.

Do not go into your tomorrows with a sense of foreboding confusion that comes through “feeling” your way through the challenges of contemporary living.

EVANGEL • jan 2014

5

BY THE NUMBERS

FIVE FACTS ABOUT ATHEISTS 1. The number of people who identify themselves as atheists in the United States has been rising, modestly but steadily, in recent years. A Pew Forum aggregated poll shows that 2.4% of American adults say they are atheists when asked about their religious identity, up from 1.6% in 2007. 2. Atheists, in general, are more likely to be male and younger than the overall population (67% are men; 38% are ages 18-29). About four in 10 atheists (43%) have a college degree, compared with 29% of the general public.

TOP NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS 1. Lose weight. 2. Get organized. 3. Spend less, save more. 4. Enjoy life to the fullest. 5. Stay fit and healthy. 6. Learn something exciting. 7. Quit smoking. 8. Help others in their dreams. 9. Fall in love. 10. Spend more time with family. —Journal of Clinical Psychology (University of Scranton, Dec. 2012)

State Laws Regulating Abortion Providers States that require abortion clinics to meet ambulatory surgical standards (26)

States that require abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a local hospital (12)

3. Although the literal definition of atheist is “a person who believes that God does not exist,” 14% of those who call themselves atheists also say they believe in God or a universal spirit. Alternatively, there are many people who fit the dictionary definition of atheist but do not call themselves atheists. More Americans say they do not believe in God or a universal spirit (7%) than say they are atheists (2.4%). 4. Not all atheists see a contradiction between atheism and spirituality. A quarter (26%) say they think of themselves as spiritual people, and 3% consider themselves religious people. Four in 10 atheists (41%) say they often think about the meaning and purpose of life.

Source: Guttmacher Institute / Pew Research Center

6

EVANGEL • jan 2014

5. Among atheists, 82% say they either often (52%) or sometimes (30%) feel a deep connection with nature and the earth; among all American adults, 85% either often (58%) or sometimes (26%) feel such a connection. —pewforum.org

ON MY MIND lance colkmire editor

GOD’S ROAD SIGNS

T

HIS SCHOOL YEAR, I’m leading a weekly after-school Bible class for three at-risk middle-school boys. I quickly discovered that this trio knew almost nothing about the Bible, so I’m guiding them through major events in Genesis. When teaching about God making covenant with Abraham, I said, “God had a plan for Abraham’s life, and He has a plan for your life.” One of the boys immediately replied, “Does God really have a plan for my life?” For this rowdy sixth grader from a crime-scarred family, this truth was a great revelation . . . as it should be for all of us. The question we then ask is, How do I discover God’s plan for my life? Time for an embarrassing confession. When I was in high school, I felt uneasy about a certain girl I wanted to date. So one day in my bedroom, I closed my eyes and prayed, “Lord, when I look at my clock, if it is OK for me to date her, let the second hand be between the 10 and the 2. Amen.” I opened my eyes, and the answer was no! So I tried again. “Lord, if it is OK for me to date this girl, let the second hand be between the 4 and the 8. Amen.” I looked, and this time the answer was yes . . . leaving me more uncertain than before I prayed. While God did miraculously use a timepiece (a sundial) to show Hezekiah that his life would be extended (Isa. 38:4-8), this is not how God usually reveals His will. Instead, the Lord typically guides through a divine process. 1. God reveals His will to individuals who are in relationship with Him. The psalmist prayed, “Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God. Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground” (143:10 NASB). If we are waiting for God

to show us His plan so we can decide whether or not to accept it, we will keep waiting. Instead, we first must be in a committed relationship with Him. 2. God primarily reveals His will through His Word. The psalmist declared to God, “I’m single-minded in pursuit of you; don’t let me miss the road signs you’ve posted” (119:10 TM). Here are a few of those “road signs”: • “Don’t let us YIELD to temptation” (Matt. 6:13 NLT).

If we are waiting for God to show us His plan so we can decide whether or not to accept it, we will keep waiting. • “Never STOP praying” (1 Thess. 5:17 NLT). • “Do not TURN to the right nor to the left; TURN your foot from evil” (Prov. 4:27 NASB). • “Everyone must be quick to hear, SLOW to speak and SLOW to anger” (James 1:19 NASB). If we are studying God’s Word, applying it to our lives, and obeying it through God’s help, we are following God’s will. 3. While we are living in obedience to God’s Word, at times He will give us a specific path to follow. This directive might come through a divine impression while we are praying . . . a word of knowledge or prophecy someone speaks to us . . . an opportunity that opens to us . . . or by some other means. If it is a word

from God, it will never contradict the Bible. Often, God will use more than one means to confirm His leading. Consider Joy Barnett, whose story is told in her son’s book, Dream Again. One night this quiet pastor’s wife overheard some people say about her, “She can’t do much of anything!” She was devastated, and she stayed awake all night long, silently praying. When morning finally dawned, she remembered the story of Moses, who also felt worthless until God asked him, “What is that in thine hand?” (Ex. 4:2). Joy sensed God asking her, What is in your hand? She knew she had the gift of faith and artistic skill, and she gave them to the Lord. “She became an outstanding pastor’s wife,” her son wrote. “She was a terrific counselor, drama and choir director, teacher, and much sought-after public speaker.” We should follow the example of Joy Barnett, who lived out Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take” (NLT).

Four ways to contact the editor: • [email protected] • 423-478-7592 • Church of God Evangel on Facebook • Box 2250, Cleveland, TN 37320-2250

EVANGEL • jan 2014

7

CURRENTS The purpose of CURRENTS is to inform readers of trends and events influencing the culture.

rebrand the mainline church? n WHO ARE THE mainline Protestants

Diogo Morgado plays Jesus in the new movie Son of God.

the bible on the big screen n TEN YEARS AFTER the blockbuster success of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, which earned $611.9 million worldwide, Hollywood studios are looking to the Scriptures for movie material. Future films include these: • Paramount will release Noah, a $125 million adaptation starring Russell Crowe, in 2014. • 20th Century Fox is developing Exodus, a film about Moses, featuring Christian Bale. • Warner Brothers has another Mosesthemed film titled Gods and Kings. • Warner Brothers also is working on a film on Pontius Pilate, rumored to possibly include Brad Pitt. • Sony is producing Will Smith’s The Redemption of Cain, on the sibling rivalry of Cain and Abel. • LD Entertainment is financially backing Resurrection, a drama set immediately after Jesus’ death and directed by Kevin Reynolds. • Lionsgate has been developing Mary, Mother of Christ, described as a prequel to The Passion of the Christ, and rumored to include Ben Kingsley. Alongside the string of upcoming Bible-related films, producers from the History Channel’s The Bible miniseries 8

EVANGEL • jan 2014

have announced that the series’ film adaptation Son of God will be released in theaters nationwide in February with 20th Century Fox. As more people are sitting in front of the TV on a Sunday morning rather than in church, “filmmakers are the new high priests of our culture,” said publicrelations specialist A. Larry Ross. “For many faith and family films, the impact on the screen is less the answers given than it is the questions asked that you could discuss over coffee with someone who would never go to church with you but go to a movie with you.” Independent films have dealt with the Bible in the past, but it’s significant that major Hollywood studios are taking this up, said Tom Allen, a partner in Allied Faith & Family, a Hollywood marketing firm. “We’re beyond the cheap ministry movies that appeal only to a certain constituency,” he said. As Hollywood looks to epic tales of floods, burning bushes, and parting seas, films with biblical themes will continue to pop up. Nicolas Cage is slated to star in Left Behind, a movie based on the best-selling book series. Sony’s adaption of the popular book Heaven Is for Real is also scheduled for this year.—Sarah Pulliam Bailey, RNS

today? Vintage Protestants? The VPCC— Vanishing Progressive Christian Church? The Legacy Church? Half a century ago, the denominations under the mainline umbrella dominated the American faith landscape. Now, after decades of declining numbers, only about one in five U.S. adults identifies with a mainline denomination such as United Methodists, the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbyterian Church (USA), and American Baptists. Could replacing the mainline name help stem the slide? The challenge came from scholar and Presbyterian pastor Carol Howard Merritt. Writing in the venerable Christian Century magazine, she called for a new brand that conveys her view of the mainline churches’ rising diversity and social justice leadership. “Mainline was a good historic marker, but the future needs to reflect who we are now,” said Merritt, an author and speaker who lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee. (Tradition holds that the term “mainline” was

born in the tony suburbs just outside Philadelphia, along the Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line, that defined the mostly white, mostly affluent churches in the area.) Religion News Service took up the challenge, inviting votes and comments in an informal survey. More than 200 people voted, many posting comments that ranged from theological to historical, serious to snarky: “Liberal Church” led with 24 percent of the votes. But the word carried a double whammy. Some liked the social and political connotation. Others used “liberal” as a slam on a church they thought was too loose on doctrines of sin and salvation. Merritt said Monday she preferred a different spin: “Liberationist Church,” she said, “because it taps into the good news that our beliefs lead us to seek liberation for all the oppressed, to expand freedom for all.” Next, at 17 percent, were those who said labels just don’t work for religious distinctions anymore. National surveys find growing numbers just want to call themselves “Christian.” “Old Line” drew 6 percent, which fits, since mainliners have the greatest percentage of members age 65 and older of any Christian tradition. “Grandma’s Church” garnered 3 percent of the vote. Most folks—46 percent—preferred their own picks. For instance, social scientist and blogger Mark Silk would stick with mainline because “it identifies a social location in American communities—a religious tradition that takes a broad view of its responsibilities to the community at large—that continues to serve as meaningful shorthand.” Steven Hunter said names, new or old, would not matter. “People didn’t leave these churches because of marketing or branding, and they won’t come back for it either. Sorry. But you can’t water down a faith until it’s essentially meaningless and then expect to still draw people.” Pastor Merritt ultimately came up with her own first choice: “Social Justice Christian.”—Cathy Lynn Grossman, RNS

Gavin MacLeod and his wife, Patti, renewing their wedding vows on Valentine’s Day

‘this is your captain speaking’ n TO MANY, he is Murray from The Mary Tyler Moore Show, or Captain Stubing from The Love Boat. However, Gavin MacLeod says his new calling is “ambassador for Christ.” The 82-year-old actor is out with a new book, This Is Your Captain Speaking: My Fantastic Voyage Through Hollywood, Faith & Life. He writes about how his star-studded career was interspersed with a faith walk that began as a Roman Catholic, detoured through the New Age movement in the 1970s, and ended up firmly planted in the Pentecostal faith. That path included depression, alcohol, and divorce, but he credits God’s grace with carrying him through. He said his acting career was capped with the 2009 Christian movie, The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry, in which he played an old man who teaches Bible lessons to boys in his neighborhood. MacLeod said family ties, and especially his second wife, Patti, are the reason for his focus on faith. They married in 1974 but divorced while he was starring on The Love Boat. In 1984, when his mother had brain surgery, he promised Jesus that if his mother survived, he would live for Him. “Right after I did that, something told me to call Patti, who I hadn’t talked to for three years,” said MacLeod, whose mother survived for almost two more decades. Turns out, while he had left his second

marriage behind, his wife still had hope. She had helped form a support group called LADIES (“Life After Divorce Is Eventually Sane”), and had prayed that her ex-husband would come back to her. Their reunion was capped by his baptism at Church on the Way, a Pentecostal congregation in the San Fernando Valley. In 1985, they had their second wedding at a “Born-Again Marriages” conference. MacLeod relates in his book how he led Ted Knight, his ailing former co-star on Mary Tyler Moore, to repeat a prayer of commitment to Christ. After The Love Boat ended in 1986, Paul Crouch of Trinity Broadcasting Network asked the remarried MacLeods to co-host Back on Course—a program that encouraged couples with marital problems. “We still get letters and communications from people from all over the world whose lives have been affected,” said MacLeod of the TBN show that aired for 17 years. MacLeod continues to serve as ambassador for Princess Cruises, a post he has held for almost 30 years, and that has become a place for him to sometimes witness about Christ. Recently, he was asked to speak at a nondenominational Sunday service aboard a Mediterranean cruise. “I got up there to tell people what God has done in my life,” said MacLeod. “I’ll go anyplace to give my testimony.”—RNS EVANGEL • jan 2014

9

by david white

radical obedience sacrifice…trust…yield…persist

A

BRAHAM KNEW that voice, and it could only mean one thing: God was about to do something radical, and He would expect the same in return. It had worked this way since the “father of faith” was simply known as Abram. It started when God called him to leave his home, his country, his family heritage— everything he had ever known—and go to a place he had never seen. That followed with a staggering promise about his family tree blessing all the world (Gen. 12:1-3). And how could he forget the time the Lord made him laugh out loud by telling 100-year-old Abraham he would father a child with his 90-year-old wife (17:15-17)? When God spoke, radical came out. This day would be no different. God said to Abraham, “Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of” (22:2). No explanations given. No reasons offered. Not even an assurance that everything would turn out peachy. Just a radical command that required radical obedience, because with God, there is no other kind. Sacrifice Required The prophet Samuel told King Saul, “To obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Sam. 15:22), and he’s right: obedience is better. But by no means are they mutually exclusive, because obedience to God is always going to require some level of sacrifice. 10

EVANGEL • jan 2014

To obey God’s command against lying, we might have to sacrifice the chance to escape undetected from the current mess we’re in. To obey God’s call to forgive our enemies, we might have to forfeit ownership of a hard-fought grudge.

knowing his mug was on Egypt’s mostwanted list.

Some acts of obedience seem simple enough, because the sacrifice is small. It’s easy for a Chistian to not be a drunkard if he never had a drinking problem in the first place. Other acts of obedience—any volunteers to offer up your own kid on a

What does radical obedience look like to you?

To the apostle Peter, it meant going into Cornelius the Gentile’s home, where no self-respecting Jew had ever gone before.

No Explanation Given For me, it meant leaving a dream job to become a full-time pastor at the Porterville Church of God in central California in 2011. I was covering the NFL for the San Francisco Chronicle, appearing on ESPN, traveling the country, taking 10-week vacations in the off-season, and enjoying a comfortable bank balance. After five years at the Chronicle, and 17 years in sportswriting, God told me to give up my career— my only career, the career that I loved—and go to a place He would show me.

mountain?—require us to take a turn for the radical. Put another way, radical obedience is not calculated by the size and magnitude of God’s commands. Instead, it is measured by what we perceive to be the width and breadth of the sacrifice God is asking of us when it’s time to pick up our end of the piano.

He did not tell me how it would work out. He did not explain how my family of five would make ends meet when our annual income took a serious haircut. He didn’t even promise me years of ministerial success and prosperity.

For Abraham, it meant being willing to take a blade and a torch to his and Sarah’s only son—the son of promise, whom he loved.

God just issued a radical edict: Go. No explanation given. No assurances granted. Some relatives thought I’d lost my mind for even considering it. One state official joked, “Either this is really God, or you’re the stupidest man in California to leave what you’re doing.”

For Moses, it meant stuttering his way into Pharaoh’s court to free God’s people,

The question, though, was not how could I afford to walk away from all I’ve ever

known. The real mind-bender was, how could I afford to not go where God was sending me? Refusing to be radical in our obedience is to be disobedient. Ask King Saul how half-measured obedience worked out for him that day when Samuel called him out for not sacrificing everything, as God had commanded (1 Sam. 15:9, 26). Yielding Our Will If God is giving us a radical command, it’s because He wants to bring radical change and results in our lives. Ordinary living yields ordinary results. The “same old” produces nothing but more of the same. For something radical to happen around here, maybe we have to do some radical things. Like, give what we love most to God—our Isaacs, our careers. And go where He tells us, to new mountains with different peaks. We must follow Abraham’s example—not sure how it’s all going to shake out but confident enough to tell the servants, “We’ll be back.” Abraham knew God’s voice; as His sheep, so do we (John 10:27). God told him to slay his child on a fire pit, and Abraham “rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him” (Gen. 22:3). So must we obey no matter the sacrifice, lest we sacrifice God’s will for our lives. Radical instructions, radical response. Only, Abraham’s obedience wasn’t even the most radical to go down that day on Mount Moriah. Lost in this story of sacrifice is Isaac, who likely was not a child. The Bible does not specify his age, but it does offer some clues. In the Hebrew language, na’ar (translated “lad”) is the word Abraham used in reference to Isaac (22:5). However, it’s a flexible term, as seen in verse 3, where na’ar describes the “young men” who were Abraham’s servants. We do know Isaac was old enough to carry the load of firewood up the mountain. He

was old enough to understand something wasn’t adding up in this sacrifice. Wood . . . check. Fire . . . check. But where is the lamb, Dad? God did not tell Isaac a word about any of this. Abraham was the one given specific instructions; Isaac was left in the dark. Imagine what Isaac had to be thinking as his aged father began to bind him with ropes. Think of what raced through his mind as his father laid him on the altar. What was Isaac’s response when his father picked up the knife to slay him?

Isaac didn’t kick and scream against God’s radicall y different plan. All we see is Isaac’s perfect submission. There is no record of Isaac resisting. Surely, he was strong enough to fight off a man who was over 100 years old. Isaac could have wrestled his way to freedom and fended off an elderly Abraham, or at least gone down swinging. Isaac was a young man with a future. No doubt, Isaac had his own dreams. He had plans to get married, raise a family, find his own trade, and live up to the potential he had as the future heir of the Abrahamic covenant. Yet, Isaac didn’t kick and scream against God’s radically different plan. All we see is Isaac’s perfect submission, trusting his father’s word that God would provide a lamb (v. 8).

further instruction. We know what He promised at the outset of this journey, just as Isaac knew where his family lineage would lead, but what do we do when His voice goes silent? For me, that moment came two years into my pastoral ministry. I had no doubt God had called me. It’s just that things weren’t going as I planned. Scandals rocked us to the core. The financial losses were staggering. Two years of attendance growth began to stagnate. I began to wonder what was going on, even as I was approached with constant opportunities to go back to sportswriting and TV reporting. The job offers kept coming, unsolicited and quickly dismissed. But as things got worse on the outside, I began to ask God if maybe He wasn’t sending me back where I came from— that this had been a season of learning which had run its course. God didn’t tell me what was going on. He didn’t say much of anything at all to me as I prayed for an answer. His Spirit just showed me that, sometimes, we must have the radical obedience of Isaac and tie our lives to the altar as “a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God” (Rom. 12:1) even when we’re not hearing from Him in a crisis—even when it seems it’s all coming undone. The results since that time have been nothing short of radical. Lives have been saved, people have been baptized in water, teens have been filled with the Holy Spirit, and wounded saints have been restored. While I didn’t hear God’s voice thunder from heaven, I heard a still, small whisper remind me “the gifts and calling of God are without repentance” (11:29) . . . so do what you’ve been told until told otherwise.

When God Is Silent

As Abraham and Isaac learned, God moves most mightily when our radical obedience is met with perfect sacrifice.

Perhaps the most radical obedience comes in those times where we are like Isaac— when we’re not hearing God’s voice giving

David White is pastor of the Church of God in Porterville, California. [email protected] .net EVANGEL • jan 2014

11

If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill! If I do not remember you, let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth—if I do not exalt Jerusalem above my chief joy (Ps. 137:5-6 NKJV).

by michael utterback

we must never forget israel

J

ERUSALEM! It is difficult for me to say that name or describe this land without emotion spilling out of every word. I am mesmerized by the sites, the history, and the people—but, most of all, what I know will happen here in future days.

This compelling love for Israel I have is not mine alone. Over the past few decades, the hearts of millions of Christians have been captivated by the land of Israel and the Jewish people. Without hesitation I can tell you, it is the work of the Holy Spirit.

From my balcony, where I am writing now, I see the ancient walls surrounding Mount Moriah, where the temple of God once stood. Ascending from the south, I see places where Jesus stood and taught on so many occasions.

Israel’s Purpose

After living here with my wife, Gina, for many years, it still seems new. Perhaps I’m sentimental, but anytime I travel from here, I come to this balcony to take a mental picture of the city one more time. When I return, it’s not long before I’m standing once again gazing at those walls and at the Mount of Olives where Christ will return. 12

EVANGEL • jan 2014

Israel is unique. No other nation can rightfully claim they are the chosen people of God. In the opening pages of the Bible, we hear God promising Abraham he will father a nation that will be a blessing to every family on earth. He also promised the land of Canaan as Israel’s inheritance forever. The purpose of God’s choosing Israel is not revealed until Exodus 19. Here we catch a glimpse of Israel camping as a little flock before Mount Sinai. Dramatically, God reveals their earthly destiny. He says to Israel, “You shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is

Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (vv. 5-6 NKJV). To seal their calling, God descended on the mountain with fire, completely surrounding it with smoke, accompanied by violent shaking. Then a trumpet blast grew louder and louder until God’s thunderous voice was heard by every person present. Wow! What an ordination service! What a revelation of the purpose of Israel’s existence! Among the many responsibilities of priesthood, none is more significant than being the revealers of God and His Word—precisely what Israel has done. We would know nothing about God’s existence, the creation of the earth, the fall of humanity, and God’s efforts to bring us to Himself without these revelations that came through the Jewish people. Most important, the Jews were exclusively chosen to present Jesus the Messiah to

the world, demonstrated by what He said to a desperately inquiring Gentile woman: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 15:24 NASB). Furthermore, all the apostles chosen by Jesus were Jewish. The early church was Jewish, and the spreading of the gospel in the first century was generally a Jewish movement. Of course, many in the nations became believers and began spreading the word as well. In A.D. 70, Jerusalem was tragically destroyed and the Jews were scattered throughout the nations of the earth, where they existed for over 1,900 years. Their path was unbelievably difficult, suffering persecutions and expulsion from one country after the other. To the casual observer, their priestly calling was apparently withdrawn. Israel’s Restoration In the late 1800s, God began stirring the hearts of the Jews to return to their homeland as the first wave of Jewish immigrants made their way from Eastern Europe to reclaim their promised land. A half century later, after the unimaginable horrors of the Holocaust, just as the prophets proclaimed, Israel and its people came back to life in 1948, when Israel officially became a nation once again. From a prophetic point of view, these are the days of restoration spoken of by the prophets. Ezekiel described Israel as nothing more than dry bones scattered across a valley. But then he watched as the Spirit of God breathed on them, giving them life. God said to Ezekiel: Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, “Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!” Therefore prophesy and say to them, “Thus says the Lord God: ‘Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves’” (37:11-13 NKJV).

And the prophet Isaiah stated it would be Gentiles who would help bring them home: Thus says the Lord God: “Behold, I will lift My hand in an oath to the nations, and set up My standard for the peoples; they shall bring your sons in their arms, and your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders” (49:22 NKJV).

It is no coincidence that when the Iron Curtain came down in 1991, numbers of Christian ministries from the nations, including Ministry to Israel (MTI), crossed into the former Soviet Union to help bring Jewish people home.

God is calling Christians to come alongside the Jewish people— praying for them, blessing them, and comforting them. I remember one particular time in the Ukraine when we were bringing Jews by bus to the airport in Kiev to fly to Israel the next morning. We had ridden for eight hours, and it was late. There was a 40-year-old invalid woman on the bus and no one was coming to help her, so I picked her up in my arms and carried her into the airport. As the automatic doors opened, the words of verse 22 exploded in my heart: “They shall bring your sons in their arms, and your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders.” Tears began streaming down my face. The next morning we flew 186 Jews to Israel. Since we chartered the flight, just before landing, I had the opportunity to speak over the public-address system, telling them that their God was finally bringing them home. The whole plane broke out into applause.

Today, MTI and her sister organization, Ezra International, have over 200 Christian workers in the former Soviet Union helping Jews return to Israel. To date, we have assisted over 130,000 Jews to return home. Also, MTI has established the Jerusalem Support Center and the Israel Support Network of Jewish fellowships, where we have assisted tens of thousands of new Jewish immigrants, including thousands of Lone Soldiers (members of Israel’s military whose families live abroad). Understanding the Spiritual Events of Our Time These are remarkable days. In our times, after 1,900 years of waiting, we are seeing the final ingathering of believers from the nations while also watching the miraculous return of the Jewish people to their beloved Promised Land. With great precision, the Lord is setting the stage for His soon return to the nation of Israel. Jesus said, “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd” (John 10:16 NKJV). This is His work, His final intent in these days—one flock, one Shepherd. The restoration of Israel, however, is by no means complete. It is a process, not an event. Though they are coming home physically, there is still a spiritual void in the hearts of many Israelis. As darkness approaches the planet, Israel will become more isolated than ever. God is beckoning to Christian believers to come alongside His people—praying for them, blessing them, and comforting them. The reason Christians are so drawn to this land and the Jewish people is because we have been gathered into their flock, adopted into the priestly calling, and grafted into their olive tree. They are our spiritual family. Like Ruth the Gentile and Naomi the Jew, we are inseparable. May we never forget. Michael Utterback is the director of Ministry to Israel (ministrytoisrael.com). EVANGEL • jan 2014

13

by lavoy newton

P

RAYER IS AS essential to our spiritual life as food is to our physical body. There are many different types of prayer mentioned in the Bible—prayers of praise, petition, intercession, thanksgiving, and praying in the Spirit, just to name a few. They are all important and useful. There are times I feel led by the Holy Spirit to pray in a particular way, and this may change from day to day. The most important element of prayer is the simple fact that we pray. Prayer is dependence on God. It is where we humble ourselves before God and He turns our weaknesses into strengths through a transfer of His power. James 4:2 says, “You do not have because you do not ask” (NKJV), so our first step is to simply talk with God. We must establish a pattern of prayer in our life. This is the beginning of a new year and a good time to set a new pattern in our lives. It takes about 21 days to establish a habit. I set aside time for prayer early in the morning. I love the stillness of the

from discipline to delight establishing a pattern of prayer morning, and this time works best for me. It is important for you to find the time of the day that works best for you. My grandpa, Rev. E. L. Newton, found that late at night, after everyone else was in bed, worked best for him. Whether it is morning, noon, or night, put together a pattern of prayer in your life. If you do not have a plan of action, you will not have a successful prayer life. However, if you do establish the discipline of a daily quiet time, you can move from a discipline to a delight! Once your prayer time has become a delight, it can then move to discipleship. 14

EVANGEL • jan 2014

I begin my quiet time with God through reading the Word of God. It has become such a delight for my life that each night as I go to bed, I anticipate this time of reunion with my God. During these early morning sessions, God speaks to me in powerful ways.

praying in the Spirit. I have many responsibilities, so I have found this type of praying to be essential. There are times I feel overwhelmed and do not know where to even start praying, but the Holy Spirit is always there to lead me and intercede through me according to the will of God:

I also like to take a daily walk with God. As the hymn says, “He walks with me and He talks with me.” Each day presents new circumstances and challenges, but “the Lord’s mercies . . . are new every morning” (Lam. 3:22-23).

Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God (Rom. 8:26-27 NKJV).

The next step of my pattern is intercession, which for me includes worship and

Here are some suggestions to help you in establishing a daily time with God. These are taken from experience and have been used in discipleship training. Make Prayer a Priority Jesus spent much of His time in prayer. Luke 5:16 says Jesus “often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed” (NKJV). We need time to get alone with God to hear His directions and receive His strength. Battles are waged and victories won on our knees in prayer. If Jesus, who was the Son of God, needed to get away to spend time in prayer to maintain a life of victory, then how much more do you and I need to pray? Are you facing a battle today? Are you in need of peace or direction for your life? If so, pray about it. You have worried about it long enough. Pray today in expectation of meeting with the God of heaven. Listen for God’s Voice Over the years, I have learned God will rarely interrupt my busy life nor shout at me over the noisy activities of my day. However, God does speak to me

when I take time to get away from the busyness and sit quietly in His presence.  Elijah found this to be true as well. He did not hear the Lord speak in a mighty wind, a powerful earthquake, or a raging fire, but in “a gentle whisper” (1 Kings 19:12 NIV). God speaks clearly but quietly, so we must listen closely. True prayer involves both talking and listening. Could it be that God wants to speak to you today? You might never know unless you get alone with Him in a quiet place. Do you have a quiet place to get alone with God and pray? This is an essential element in developing a deep relationship with Christ.

Not only do I set aside regular time to get alone with God, but I also like to have a continual conversation with Him. This sometimes takes the form of an outward talk, but many times it takes place in my head and spirit. That might sound strange to some, but I have found this continual walking and talking with the Lord to be very helpful. It follows Paul’s instruction to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). Try it. Such prayer can be transformational. Learn to Wait

The Word of God says those who know the Lord will know His voice (John 10:27). The Bible is one of God’s ways of speaking to us. Listen to what He says to you through His Word, and listen to His gentle whisper as He speaks to guide your life.

Have you been praying and waiting on an answer from God? Sometimes the answer is not “yes” or “no” but, rather, “wait.” But we don’t like to wait! We want instant gratification. We have microwaves, fastfood restaurants, and instant messaging . . . and we expect the same “quick service” from God. However, God doesn’t always move on our timetable. The psalmist said, “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him” (Ps. 37:7).

Practice Persistence

Start Now

Jesus instructed us to “always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1 NIV). Persistence in prayer is another secret to our victory.

Establish a daily quiet time that works best for you. Pay the price of discipline, and in time, praying will become the delight of your life. Once this time is a delight, you will grow as a disciple. God speaks to me through His Word and prayer each day as I seek Him. I daily dig out nuggets of truth and encouragement and listen to the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit. Out of this overflow He has allowed me to grow in discipleship.

Important Appointment

The chairman of the board unexpectedly came to see the company president. The president’s secretary said, “I’m terribly sorry, but he cannot be disturbed. He has an important appointment.” The chairman became very angry. He banged open the door and saw the young president of his corporation on his knees in prayer. The chairman softly closed the door and asked the secretary, “Is this usual?” She said, “Yes, he does that every morning.” The chairman responded, “No wonder I come to him for advice.”—Billy Graham (Choice Contemporary Stories and Illustrations)

I now share these daily words of encouragement to others through Facebook, Twitter, texting, and a daily radio program “An Apple for Today” (anapplefortoday.com). Don’t wait another day. Set a new pattern in this New Year to have a daily time alone with God. LaVoy Newton is lead pastor of Lighthouse Church of God in St. Augustine, Florida, where he has served for 21 years. He is the founder and overseer of Beacon of Hope Christian School, and the author of War in the Heavens. EVANGEL • jan 2014

15

by victor morris

I

N AUGUST 2013, I witnessed an unforgettable event—the Court of Honor for 16-year-old Jimmy Temple, who had achieved the rank of Eagle Scout.

AN EAGLE SCOUT’S

COURAGEOUS DECISION

I have known Jimmy’s family for many years. His dad, Jay Temple, in addition to being an able Church of God minister, is a close friend of mine. So, I joyfully anticipated Jimmy’s special day. The Court of Honor was impressive. Jimmy’s father, grandfather, three of his uncles, and his scoutmaster all shared words of commendation, rehearsed the values of scouting, and reviewed the journey of a scout. Finally, Jimmy stepped forward to receive recognition as an Eagle Scout. It was inspiring to witness this young man declare his appreciation for scouting, his love for God, and his moral convictions. In announcing that he was now leaving the Boy Scouts, Jimmy boldly took a moral stand based on his personal principles and values. Let him speak for himself. . . .

Jimmy Temple

Jimmy Temple’s Speech First off, I’d like to give honor where honor is due. I couldn’t have done this without my God Almighty. He has strengthened me, given me the skills and understanding to achieve merit badges and ranks; He has given me wisdom and guidance on how to conduct my Eagle project; and He’s been with me from the very beginning. James 1:17 tells us “every good and perfect gift is from above” (NIV). In other words, it’s from Jesus Christ. I’m very thankful to have the honor of receiving Eagle. I will greatly treasure it and look back on the great memories that were made. I’d like to say thanks to some of the scout leaders who have been a huge help to me. . . . Scouting has been a great experience for me. It’s been a great place for me to make friendships, even from when I was in Cub Scouts. I have enjoyed many, many great camporees and hiking events we’ve done. 16

EVANGEL • jan 2014

Scouting has been a great window for me to experience the outdoors, and enjoy God’s wonderful creation. I’ve learned how to be tough (if you will) outside, because of merit badges like Wilderness Survival. I’ve learned the importance of taking care of oneself by Personal Management and Personal Fitness. I’ve learned many, many other great skills from all the many merit badges, and have had a lot of fun. I have learned the Scout Law, and doing my best to keep all of the points. I remember staying up late on campouts playing card games. I have so many memories, fun friendships, and great experiences. And Eagle—it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. We came across so many obstacles throughout the entire process. And the prayer shelter was finally completed in March. I’ve learned essential leadership skills, learned how to deal with paperwork, and how I need to be a blessing to everyone.

Scouting has been a tremendous experience for me. But sadly, my scouting journey ends today. It has been a great disappointment to watch an organization that has long taught the importance of standing against peer pressure [to] crumble in the face of financial and social pressure. While I am not at odds with any person, I can no longer support an organization that has compromised on an issue of morality. Though there will be many who disagree with my decision, and some who will take it personally, to my regret, I am trying to stand for what is right, for what my God expects of me. I learned it from scouting. As the Boy Scout Handbook says, and I quote, “The BSA has always encouraged its members to be independent, to stand on their own two feet, and to use good judgment rather than being swayed by peer pressure. Trusting in yourself is an important quality to have.”

Again I quote, “Baden-Powell, the founder of scouting, had faith that scouts were smart enough to figure out what is healthy and right. Have faith in yourself and in your judgment.” I recognize that faith in myself and my own judgment will get me nowhere. I am thankful to serve a God who leads me and guides me through His Word and His presence. He has walked with me through this journey to Eagle, and I am confident He will walk with me through the rest of life’s journey. Thank you for your prayers, care, and support. The Lord bless you! Tearful Hope This moving speech brought tears to my eyes. Not only was there such conviction in Jimmy’s presentation, but there was compassion also. Further, Jimmy extemporaneously shared thoughts straight from his heart—words of sadness at the current situation with the Boy Scouts. He said, “I do not leave with regret, but I do leave with disappointment.” And he added he could no longer be part of an organization that had “bowed to peer pressure” and “compromised moral principles.” This new Eagle Scout did a wonderful job of asserting his moral frustration at the position the BSA had taken in favor of homosexuality, but he did it with a Christlike demeanor. What we saw and heard that day was the product of both the once-virtuous Boy Scouts and godly parents who have invested heavily in their children. All present gave this young man a standing ovation. As we witness the rapidly increased moral decline in our country, I often wonder about our future. However, I do not completely despair. The righteous stand taken by Jimmy Temple gives me hope. Victor Morris is teaching pastor at Victory Hill Church of God in Crozet, Virginia.

T

HERE ARE EVENTS you look forward to attack and harm you, because I have many to sharing with your children: riding a people in this city” (Acts 18:9-10 NIV). roller coaster for the first time, visiting Regardless of our reluctance, “evangelism” a beach, celebrating birthdays and holidays. continues. But it’s not always coming from us. Then there are other life moments you don’t Last summer, two major motion pictures were particularly rush to do: explaining the comreleased that play the Book of Revelation for plicated way the world works, having the laughs—including Jesus’ return, the four horse“facts of life” conversation, or walking them men, the Antichrist, and other familiar concepts. through heartaches and disappointment. I am not naming the movies because I don’t Although the more challenging converwant to give the producers the satisfaction sations are not always fun or of hearing my protest. Through even comfortable, they interviews and reviews, are necessary, it’s apparent the because if we movies are disas parents tinctively vulgar are not the and completely ones disirreverent. In seminating one scene, a the informareturning Christ by dewayne hamby tion and being is “accidentally” there for support, shot and killed while we know others are coming back to earth. waiting in the wings to do so. For most of the young In the same way, Christians have an people who flocked to those movies, obligation to not only share the Gospel but the first education they received about to give an answer to the world for the questhe end times or the Revelation came tions they have about God, eternal life, and from those ridiculing the Christian faith. how to live. Isn’t that sad? A decade ago, the Left Behind Why are we sometimes reluctant? Have books, which didn’t line up with every Christian’s we abdicated our role? Perhaps there’s a theology, at least took the care to present the level of intimidation. Church leaders and events for the sake of Christian evangelism. laity once enjoyed a certain respect from the It’s hard not to notice how many other public. Preachers were called on for public blockbuster films depict the end of the world in prayers without critics poring through years various manners. Their popularity is understandof their sermons. As that respect has waned able: people are searching for answers about life (and Jesus predicted it would—Matt. 24:9), after death. And the body of Christ has those we have retreated from the public square. answers. It is a shame to keep them secret. Some have withdrawn into a “quiet faith,” I once met an old man who was so intent on avoiding confrontations from those who sharing Christ that he would grab the servers’ disagree. hands in restaurants when he prayed for the In Corinth, the apostle Paul encountered meal, also praying for a surprised and somestrong resistance to his preaching that Jesus times reluctant person in the process. It was is the Son of God. Paul shook his clothes and jarring to me. But I realize this man took the told them, “Your blood be upon your own Great Commission seriously and did not miss an heads” (Acts 18:6); and was probably left opportunity to share the hope he had. Lord, let rattled by the encounter. such boldness fall on us. God then spoke to Paul in a dream: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be DeWayne Hamby is editor of the White Wing silent. For I am with you, and no one is going Messenger. This article is reprinted by permission.

speak up!

EVANGEL • jan 2014

17

my journey to pro-life ministry by sherry ivy reed

O

N A TYPICAL DAY, 3,400 unborn babies are killed by abortion in the U.S., according to the Guttmacher Institute. Does this shock you? It stunned me. With that in mind, I want to tell about my journey into pro-life ministry. My trek began with a step in the wrong direction. Although I grew up in the Church of God, during my teen years I walked away from my Christian upbringing. While in my early 20s, an unmarried friend confided in me with tears streaming down her face that she was pregnant. I strongly advised her to have an abortion. I gave my friend this advice because I viewed the unborn baby as only a clump of cells or tissue. Thankfully, my friend did not take my advice. Somehow, she found the courage to continue her pregnancy. The first moment I held that precious newborn, I immediately knew how wrong I had been to even suggest abortion. The Lord used this experience as the driving force in my passion for pro-life ministry. From Quiet to Active I was quietly pro-life for years, even after returning to the faith. Then one day while shopping in a thrift store, the Lord guided me to Abby Johnson’s book unPLANNED, which tells her story of being the director of a Planned Parenthood abortion center. After eight years of working in the abortion industry, Abby witnessed an ultrasound-guided abortion. She saw a 13-week fetus struggle and lose his battle for life. Abby left her job and became an advocate for life. She credits her conversion to the peaceful prayer vigil 40 Days for Life 18

EVANGEL • jan 2014

(40DFL), which began on the sidewalks of the abortion center she managed in College Station, Texas. Her book sparked a fire in me. I could no longer just say I was pro-life; I had to do something. I contacted the local pro-life ministries and joined this worthy cause. Soon I became part of the planning committee for my city’s 40DFL campaign, which is held in the spring and fall each year. This campaign draws attention to the evil of abortion through a three-point program: (1) 40 days of prayer and fasting for an end to abortion, (2) peaceful prayer vigils on the sidewalks of abortion centers, and (3) community outreach. The mission of 40DFL, now international, is to unite the body of Christ in prayer to abolish abortion. The results have been astounding. According to their website, since 2007, 41 abortion clinics have closed where 40DFL has been held. More than 7,500 babies and their parents have been spared from abortion, and 83 abortionclinic workers have left the industry. There is tremendous power when God’s people join in focused prayer. Changing Minds During last spring’s 40DFL campaign, I was praying outside a Planned Parenthood center on a busy abortion day in Mobile, Alabama. A man who brought a young woman to the clinic for an abortion was standing near me, and I was given the opportunity to speak to him. He told me the young woman was his sister. I felt the Holy Spirit prompt me to gently say, “You know that is your niece or your nephew she is carrying.” This simple sentence seemed to awaken him to the reality of what was happen-

ing. His niece or nephew was about to be aborted. He went inside to talk to his sister. About 10 minutes later, they both came out and stood at the door talking. Then she walked toward the car with her hand in his. As they approached us, she said with a smile, “I’ve changed my mind. I’m going to keep my baby.” Those of us praying on the sidewalk rejoiced in a life saved, knowing this young woman would not suffer the pain and regret of an abortion. We also have learned of instances when women have changed their minds simply because of a person standing or kneeling in prayer on the sidewalk. Being present makes an enormous difference. A Church Issue Since 1973, when abortion was legalized by the Supreme Court, some 50 million babies have been aborted. When I learned nearly two-thirds of women having an abortion profess the Christian faith, it made me realize the church must address this issue. These women need to feel loved and know forgiveness and healing can be found in Christ. There are many ways to participate in pro-life ministry in a Christlike way. In addition to participating in 40DFL (40days forlife.com), my home church, Forest Hill Church of God (Mobile, Alabama), assists the local crisis-pregnancy center by giving monetary donations and baby items. We are also involved in a nationwide event called Life Chain. It features an annual public witness of individuals who peacefully and prayerfully line up along the highway in front of the church, some holding pro-life messages. We are also

working to provide a confidential Bible study to help post-abortive women begin their journey to healing. Our involvement in these ministries is a visual statement that the church supports the sanctity of human life from the moment of conception. The psalmist David wrote, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb” (139:13 NIV). We believe abortion kills children created in the image of God.

Mobile’s Planned Parenthood center, where abortions take place, is located across the street from the Women’s Resource Center, which offers counseling and baby items to pregnant women. Spiritual Battleground Abortion is a spiritual battleground. We read in Ephesians 6:12, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world.” Abortion is a weapon the Enemy has used to destroy the lives of millions of babies and to mar the lives of countless mothers and fathers who suffer the consequences of a deadly decision. Abortion affects each of us. Women and men are suffering in silence in our churches. Many children are learning of siblings they will never meet because of abortion, and our society has lost the contributions of 50 million people. We can no longer ignore this evil. The church must be an open door preventing abortion and providing healing. You can make a difference by simply spending one hour a week in prayer on the sidewalk near an abortion center, or volunteering at your local pregnancy center. You could be the vessel God uses to save His next great evangelist, artist, educator, or scientist. Sherry Ivy Reed volunteers as the pro-life director at Forest Hill Church of God in Mobile, Alabama. [email protected]

EVANGEL • jan 2014

19

by charlotte gambill

quit pretending!

I

God is not looking for once-a-week performers but daily practitioners.

T WAS A SATURDAY afternoon, and a group of neighborhood children had congregated in our kitchen. They talked excitedly of the adventures they were going to embark on that afternoon. The pirate ship they had created in our yard was about to come under attack after this short interval for juice and cookies. Their imaginations created a world of possibilities that made this ordinary Saturday afternoon an extraordinary day. As they set out into the yard, the conversation rapidly changed to which role everyone was going to play. Some were deemed worthy of the role of pirate, while the girls became mermaids and princesses. When all the roles were filled, each character headed out to the “high seas.” After several hours of playing, tired from the sword fights and treasure hunts, the small group of friends went their separate ways, heading home for dinner and bed. Just like that, the game was over. There had been no fatalities, no permanent damage—just a lot of swashbuckling fun. As I watched this scenario play out, the Spirit of God reminded me that the adventure we are called to as His children is not an imaginary one. It is not a call to pretend for a few hours each weekend at church or to pretend with each other in our relationships. Just because we are considering changing our towns, cities, and neighborhoods and have a desire to see people saved, transformed, and restored does not mean this will happen, though this is the start. Unless we marry our desires with a partner called action, then we are only playing pretend when it comes to turning around our communities.

20

EVANGEL • jan 2014

We are called to something that is much more serious. God has called us each to play our part in a real adventure. The fight we are called to engage in is very real—and our enemy is not playing games.

adventure for us to consider embarking upon. God has enrolled us all in His commission; therefore, we are to stop pretending and get serious about the responsibility God asks us to carry.

In 1 Peter 5:8, we are instructed to “be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (NIV). The Enemy is not messing around, nor is he merely threatening to bring harm. He is seeking people to devour and destroy. He is seeking those who are living unaware of his schemes, whose imaginary play has left them vulnerable in this very real battle.

Our society today is in danger of having many dreamers who are not real doers. All you have to do is flick through your TV channels to see countless programs where people have been told: “You can be the next greatest star if you just believe.” You can watch thousands standing in line, waiting to be auditioned in the latest popmusic singing competition, hoping to find a shortcut to fame. While many in the line are hardworking musicians who deserve to be heard, they are always outnumbered by thousands of people with no musical background or practical experience in playing an instrument. These hopefuls

REALITY CHECK God is not asking people to merely think about turning our world around; He is relying on us to do it. It’s not just a nice thought for us to talk about or a potential

are standing in line thinking they might stumble into an escape route to the celebrity life. They believe that just by showing up at the auditions, they will somehow end up a potential star. These imaginary contenders, much like the children in my backyard, are looking to play a role in a world they have dreamed up. Big dreams come crashing down for these aspiring artists, when after standing for a few hours in the cold, waiting for their big moment, they are stunned when one of the judges faces them with the reality of their lack of talent. Deflated and often emotionally volatile, they are forced to face facts and leave the room in which their dreams collided with reality. As believers, we need this experience where dreams face reality. As God’s children, we are not called to stand in line, hoping for our own moment of greatness, or wait to become some spiritual superstar. There is no shortcut to God’s turnaround. God does not give imaginary callings, nor does He play pretend. We need to enter God’s reality room, not to be judged but to allow His Spirit to nudge us from our dream-state into a realization of what serving the turnaround God requires from each of us. We are not called to pretend-play the change; we are commissioned to be the change. Our lives are not about the end performance but about the discipline of daily practice. God is looking for those who will faithfully commit to develop their spiritual gifts and grow in faith. He is looking for those who will not waste time standing in a line but instead will invest a lifetime into helping needy lives. God is not looking for once-a-week performers but daily practitioners. He wants people who are taking what they have learned and passing on their wisdom, taking what they have grown and helping others to grow. We are not given gifts and talents so we can entertain or impress one another but so we can help the people

whom others pass by. We need to position our lives and ministries so that real challenges of this world shape the priorities of God’s people. We must be ready to respond to the call of the broken, lost, and vulnerable. Our stage is our streets; our greatest gift is our acts of service.

show up even when no one else will. It’s the study no one sees and the sacrifice no one applauds. It’s David’s diligence on a hillside to protect a few sheep when no one else is looking. It’s the diligence shown by Joseph in prison to be a faithful steward when no one expects it.

Wherever God’s people gather, we need to commit not merely to enjoying one another’s company, but to allowing our commission to shape our conversations and making the needs of others affect our choices. We need to talk about real problems and determine to play a real part in being an answer. When we see the full scale of what we are called to do, when we see the real reason we are called to turn things around, then we will stop standing in line dreaming and instead start taking our turn and doing.

Our community does not need God’s people to charge in like knights in shining armor. They don’t need promises that are never going to be kept or commitments that are never seen through to completion. God’s turnarounds require those who understand what it is to persevere and to be diligent.

Let’s consider those who have biblical legendary status: Joseph the prime minister, David the giant killer, Daniel the lion tamer, Elijah the fire starter, Peter the rock, Solomon the wise, and many more. None of these men was a performer. They were never found wasting time in a line dreaming of being great. Instead, these men went to obscure places to be faithful, to serve diligently, and to commit to being a disciple of the difference they sought to see. BE DILIGENT The apostle Paul said, “Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim. 4:15-16 NIV). Paul was asking Timothy to give himself wholeheartedly and regularly, not in a one-off grand statement of commitment, but with a consistent commitment to preserve his growth ethic. Often the difference between those who make a difference and those who imagine they are called to make a difference is the word diligence. It’s the commitment to

In our city, we have been involved helping the street girls for over ten years. The reason that their lives are being turned around is not because we impressed them with our gospel presentation or that we quoted our best messages to them. The reason they want God to turn their lives around is because we have diligently turned up. Diligence is a language the Enemy hates. He can’t throw diligent people off their cause with a few problems because they have developed a perseverance that will keep them turning up. Paul knew Timothy had a call on his life to turn people to Christ, and he wanted Timothy’s commitment to reach maturity so his diligence would forge in him a deep determination to see the job for which he was sent completed. God is looking to you and me to grow up and to progress from the flight simulator of Christianity into the real work that we are called to do. God’s turnarounds require His people not just to show up, but to grow up and to mature. There are many risks out there that we will need to embrace, but God is waiting for you and me to get to the height they require. Charlotte Gambill and her husband, Steve, lead Life Church in England. Article excerpted from Turnaround God. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson Publishers.

EVANGEL • jan 2014

21

by scott rasco

choose to worship

T

HE SANCTUARY LIGHTS are dim, and the music is loud. Everyone is standing with their hands stretched high, eyes closed, in an act of surrender to God. Some people are weeping, others clapping, some laughing, and others swaying with the music. One thing is for sure—if you’re not feeling it, you need to have a spiritual tune-up. Aren’t those the preacher’s words when he enters the pulpit after a wonderful time of worship in song? I think we all know what he means, and I know we all love those services. Why, then, are those times rare even in Pentecostal circles? Why are people always trying to find the right church that checks off every one of their preferences, allowing them to “truly worship”? I had the chance to attend a megachurch in Texas. The lighting, music, audio, and media all helped create an exciting atmosphere. Music played before the service began, helping the congregants to prepare their hearts to focus fully on God. They sang songs that worshipers could relate to and help them move into a deep level of worship.

when everyone else is feeling it too. However, when those around us are checking their watches and whispering back and forth, it is difficult for us to worship God. As a worship leader, this is the hardest part of my ministry—getting people to move beyond their emotions into true worship. It is easy to worship when the situation is right and everyone around us is enthusiastically praising God, but that should not be the reason we praise Him.

In John 4, Jesus has an important encounter with a woman whom He meets at a well in Samaria. Being a Samaritan, this woman had been taught to worship God on nearby Mount Gerizim, where her ancestors had built a temple three centuries earlier. She asks Jesus why the Jews worship at the Temple in Jerusalem instead of at Mount Gerizim. Jesus tells her, “A time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers

the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth” (vv. 23-24 NIV). It no longer mattered if a person worshiped here or there; what mattered is how one worshiped. The Scriptures give us many reasons to worship God, but our primary motive should be Jesus’ sacrifice for us. For some people, the joy of salvation motivates them to worship exuberantly—they might shout and dance. For others it is solemn reverence, and they kneel at the altar. Over time, that initial reaction begins to fade away. We can sing the words while making a shopping list or trying to decide where to go for lunch. Attending Sunday worship can easily become nothing more than a routine. More than once, I have heard a longtime churchgoer tell a new Christian, “Oh, you’re excited now, but soon it will fizzle out and you’ll be like the rest of us.” Sadly, it is often true. After a few months, too many new believers take their salvation for granted like other Christians easily do.

I have also been in small churches with no special lighting, poor sound quality, and maybe a piano and a couple of singers, where the Spirit of God moved powerfully. So, what constitutes true worship?

We try to rationalize our indifference by saying, “I am a mature Christian, and I do not need that type of worship to be close to God,” but our justification just covers up our waning desire. We get into a rut, and we find ourselves going through the motions.

In Pentecostal churches, we love to feel the excitement of worship—the person beside us is jumping up and down, others are clapping, and the whole room is filled with electricity. It drives the worship inside our hearts, and makes us want to move. It is easy for us to get revved up

How, then, do we break through? We might go from one church to the next looking for a place that will boost our passion. We find evangelists and revivalists who can pep us up. We look for the “next big thing” to help us encounter God. However, when the services are over, that

22

EVANGEL • jan 2014

same old feeling creeps back in, causing us to begin looking for the next high. There is no special formula or secret ingredient. The only way to break through is by choosing to worship.

(b) the church with a choir, bright lighting, and a loud preacher; (c) the church with flashing lights, a praise band, and a seeker-friendly preacher; (d) many other combinations. No church will check off every box on a person’s preference list.

When everyone looks to the style of music, the setting, or the type of preacher, no one will be completely satisfied. To meet everyone’s preferences, we would have to organize churches by labeling them: (a) the church with acoustic worship, dim lighting, and a mellow preacher;

The solution is choosing to worship. No matter the musical style, choose to worship. No matter the lighting, choose to worship. No matter the preacher, choose to worship. When we think about who God is and all He has done for us, we should be prompted to worship Him.

gathering sticks by daniel sylverston

Portrait 1: Elijah is sent by God to a widow who has been instructed to care for him. The prophet finds her gathering sticks! (1 Kings 17). It did not look promising. It certainly did not look nourishing. Perhaps Elijah wondered whether he had made a mistake, or perhaps missed God. The poor woman, down to her final bit of food, had been told by God to receive the prophet. Instead of responding, “I can’t,” she prepared as best she could—she went out and gathered more sticks. That was faith and obedience of a high standard. Great things can be accomplished on an open fire, and much comfort comes from it; but before any fire is kindled, someone must gather sticks. While gathering sticks is laborious and dull, the fire totally depends on it. Portrait 2: Elijah is sleeping under a broom tree. He is tired and on the run from Queen Jezebel (1 Kings 19). An angel awakens him and tells him to eat “a cake baked on coals” (vv. 5-6 NKJV). While Elijah was sleeping, the angel had gathered sticks to kindle a fire. Portrait 3: We observe the disciples—after the Crucifixion, on the Sea of Galilee—dispirited, tired, and hungry, rowing toward shore with no fish (John 21). Then a man on the beach tells them to cast out their net once more, and they make a huge catch. The man on the shore is Jesus.

Our worship is an act of expression to God of our appreciation, love, and reverence to Him. Our choice to worship— whether we run the aisles, kneel, or lift our hands—will move the heart of God. If we want God’s Spirit to move in our worship services, it is time that we stop trying to make Him move, and just let ourselves worship Him. Scott Rasco serves the South Side Church of God in Abilene, Texas, as music pastor. [email protected]

On disembarking, they catch sight of the burning coals. While they had been toiling with their fishing nets, Jesus had been gathering sticks to build a fire for their warmth, comfort, and nourishment. Jesus tells them to bring Him some fish they had caught so they can eat. Portrait 4: See a shipwrecked, shivering company on the seashore of Malta (Acts 28:3). They stand cold and cowed in the rain; but one man searches out and gathers sticks, and then kindles a fire. It is the apostle Paul—the great preacher, writer, church planter, and theologian. Kindling Fires We want the fire of love burning in our homes. We want to see the fires of compassion and indignation kindled that would burn away the cruelty, selfishness, and bitterness manifested in society. We want to see the fire of faith kindled in all the Church of God, so that frozen hearts will thaw and the glow of warm, new life will shine in our worship of the King and service in His kingdom. This can happen only if everyone gathers sticks. After all, it is futile for fire to fall from heaven if there is nothing to help kindle the fire when it comes! We should never despise any humble task, for we do not know how significant it might become. We must bring our prayers—even if they seem frail and dry, slight and wooden, disjointed and brittle—for they will stoke the fire. We must come to God with faith and without prejudice, letting Him kindle the fire of spiritual renewal, causing fulfillment of the Great Commission through His Spirit. Instead of polishing scepters, we must gather sticks. We must not let the fire burn out! Daniel Sylverston and his wife, Millie, are national directors of chaplaincy, education, and credentialing for the Church of God in Drogheda, Ireland. [email protected]

EVANGEL • jan 2014

23

evangel interview

The vital initiaTive General Overseer Mark Williams speaks with Michael Nations about The VITAL Initiative for congregations with less than 100 members. Pastor Nations has been shepherding the Church of God in Clyde, North Carolina, for nearly 20 years.

Describe Clyde, North Carolina. Clyde is a mountain community of 1,500 people located 20 miles west of Asheville. It’s a great place, and our church was started in 1918. We have 78 members, and we minister to the community. Last Sunday, we had 65 people present. In recent years, the Lord has burdened your heart for pastors of smaller churches. I even hate to use the word small because we’re talking about the majority of churches in all denominations. That’s true. According to my research, of the 6,575 congregations in the Church

General Overseer Mark Williams (left) interviews Pastor Michael Nations.

24

EVANGEL • jan 2014

of God in the United States and Canada, 5,260 have less than 100 in Sunday morning worship. Eight out of every 10 pastors lead a church that has less than 100 people on Sunday morning. You have the conviction that a small church is not a failed large church. That is one of the bases for The VITAL Initiative. Small churches are on the cutting edge and on the margin, and anything on the cutting edge is naturally small. So we believe there is a great harvest that small churches can reap in the 21st century. You’re a bivocational pastor, and you believe that’s not necessarily a liability or a handicap, but actually an open door for ministry. Being bivocational, I’ve been able to connect with people. I understand what it is to be tired and not want to go to

church. It helps me connect with church members, not to mention the people I meet on my job. What is the unintended message that sometimes comes across to a pastor of a congregation running under 100 people, maybe with a pastor that is bivocational? I have battled in myself the idea of being less than what I should be since I don’t pastor a larger church. Most pastors of smaller churches deal with that. We hear that if we were doing this, this, and this, then naturally the church would have 400 or 500 members. It just hasn’t happened for many folks, but that’s not a negative thing, because I believe God is still God even in a small church, and He can bring increase even there. You’ve discovered some things that large churches have a hard time

doing, but the smaller church can do very effectively. There is solid research about the power and the impact of small churches. Small churches can be intimate gatherings where people connect with other people who are authentic in their worship. It’s hard to hide in a small church. Giftedness that comes from the Lord can be utilized in a small church. Hence The VITAL Initiative, with VITAL being an acronym. What does it stand for? To Value, Integrate, Train, Appreciate, and Launch pastors of smaller churches across the country. Our goal is to create a network of pastors united to reap the harvest in the 21st century. You’ve already started a pilot of this initiative in western North Carolina, and you’ve talked with pastors in other states. What are you hearing? It’s amazing. When I spoke at the prayer conference in Mississippi, it seems like the pastors came in feeling like, Well, I’m going to hear four or five things I’m doing wrong and how this hasn’t happened for me. When I started talking with them about God working in a small church, it seems they lifted their heads and realized, He’s talking to me. There was an immediate connection. It was the same in Pennsylvania and North Carolina. It’s been very refreshing. How do church leaders, even in the position that I serve, unintentionally contribute to the feelings of isolation, dislocation, and lack of affirmation that pastors of small churches sometimes have? We have a penchant to count everything and to quantify what we do. I understand that, but there is some ministry you cannot count. Pastors serving in small places minister to families that will never attend their church. They’re performing weddings and baby dedications that aren’t “counted.” They are making an impact in these communities. So the idea of saying, “Well, you’re

not doing enough because you had 63 in church on Sunday,” is a bit off-putting. That leads to their feelings of being a failure, of being flawed. I think there should be a new ethos, a new paradigm of ministry where we value the small things. Jesus talked about a lot of small stuff. He talked about the mustard seed and about leaven. He talked about things that were very small yet very powerful. I think that is where the conversation needs to go. How can I be small and impactful?

Third, we are going to connect you with your general overseer, your state administrative bishop, and pastors of larger churches. Fourth, we want to focus on and emphasize a renewed dependence on the creative power of the Holy Spirit. In our small churches, we do not need more programs or more packaged ideas. We need dynamic interaction with the Holy Spirit in our community to understand what God wants to do.

“ We small-church pastors are not there by accident; we’re there for a purpose. I believe great things will happen in small communities and in small churches.” —michael nations

How is The VITAL Initiative striving to create a new ethos? We show appreciation. We simply say, “We recognize these small steps you’re taking now are impacting people, and that can multiply.” We have to catch the idea that small is not bad, it’s just different. You have the opportunity to speak to a shepherd who is pastoring in a community like Clyde, or even in a large city at a church that has less than 100 people. What do you say? I would say there are four things The VITAL Initiative focuses on. First, we will value, integrate, train, appreciate, and launch pastors. Second, we are promoting a new ethos. We’re going to talk about the power of small things.

We small-church pastors are not there by accident; we’re there for a purpose. I believe great things will happen in small communities and in small churches. I really believe that. I am the product of a small-town church that grew under my dad’s ministry. Being in a small town, you have the opportunity to not only pastor the people in your church but also their families beyond your church, and eventually the community. I believe The VITAL Initiative is going to help us continue to support shepherds throughout the United States and Canada, and even around the world. A fully resourced website—thevitalinitiative .com—is being launched in January 2014. EVANGEL • jan 2014

25

VIEWPOINTS

What expectations do you believe the Lord has for you in the New Year? know and follow my unique purpose AARON BREWER IS THE MEDIA AND DISCIPLESHIP PASTOR OF WINCHESTER CHURCH OF GOD IN WINCHESTER, VIRGINIA.



I’VE OFTEN BEEN GUILTY of creating resolutions that aren’t really mine to resolve. Sometimes I chase after dreams that I’ve seen other successful people accomplish, and I create a secondrate version of what has already been conquered by someone who is wired to master it. I believe God has blueprinted a specific purpose for my life that He has wired only me to accomplish. How do I ensure that I’m chasing my God-created purpose? I need to discover my uniqueness, embrace my discovery, and attack my purpose. Discover my uniqueness. God created only one me. There has never been another me in the history of the world, and there will never again be another me in the future. I was born into a unique situation to two unique parents during a unique period of time. God designed me to have unique features, complemented with a oneof-a-kind personality. I have a specific blend of hobbies and interests that are integrated with my particular talents and abilities. When I begin to understand who I am and how God made me, I can begin the journey of my purpose. Embrace my discovery. So many people discover their uniqueness only to chase after someone else’s dreams and ambitions, because they aren’t confident in the person they’ve discovered. What does this say to the God who designed us? When we choose to embrace who we are, we can capitalize on our strengths and pursue dreams that God has wired us to accomplish. A God who has a specific plan for our lives designed us with intense precision and targeted accuracy. We can be at our best only when we are functioning within our God-created uniqueness. Attack my purpose. No one has ever changed the world by accident; it has been changed only by those who pursue their

26

EVANGEL EVANGEL • jan jan 2014 2014

purpose intentionally. When we begin to function in the unique way God created us to be, we begin to see our purpose through our God-given passions and desires. From those passions, we begin to dream dreams that can be accomplished only through divine intervention; and we begin to attack these dreams as the very purpose that God created us to live. In summary, resolve to chase your destiny: Discover your uniqueness, embrace your discovery, and attack your purpose. You are the only person who can accomplish the God-given, Godsized dreams that your passions demand. And you were uniquely designed to live in this specific time to accomplish your particular purpose. In the words of Mordecai to Queen Esther, “It may very well be that you have achieved royal status for such a time as this!” (Esther 4:14 NET).

be faithful and advance god’s kingdom SAMUEL EVERS IS PASTOR OF THE PATHWAY INTERNATIONAL CHURCH OF GOD IN PARIS, TEXAS.



BEFORE THE START of each year, through a time of prayer I ask myself, What does God want me to do this year? For 2014, two things are in my heart: Be faithful, and advance God’s kingdom. As a pastor, God has asked me to be faithful in my local church. Many times, I have looked at the many powerful preachers and gifted pastors and felt so inadequate. I have been guilty of trying to be someone else, but as David found out, Saul’s armor never fits right. Being faithful to my church in 2014 means delivering a fresh word to my congregation, praying for their needs, discipling converts, and helping the hurting. I must be faithful in the good times and in the bad seasons. God never asked me to pastor a church that is bigger than everyone else’s; He simply asked me to faithfully serve the church He has blessed me to pastor. Ministry can be messy at times. There will be successes and heartaches, but I must remain faithful.

My call to faithfulness goes far beyond the pulpit. God has also called me to be faithful at home. I have a wonderful wife and a precious little girl. I must be a faithful steward to the family God has given me. In a recent sermon, I heard Bishop Tim Hill say, “You will be remembered for what makes you quit.” That statement has stayed in my heart. When I get to heaven, I want to hear the Father say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Also, I believe 2014 will be a year of advancement for the body of Christ. Our congregation’s mission is “to be a church overflowing with God’s love.” We strive to do that through outreaches, local missions, support of world missions. In 2013, we set a missions goal of $10,000. It seemed like a huge goal, but with God, all things are possible. The great people of Pathway International got behind that vision, and by September we had surpassed our goal. In 2014, we are setting higher goals, and believing God to help us. We are striving to advance God’s kingdom. We will do that in our regularly scheduled services. Our kids ministry and youth are striving to reach more students. We will advance the Kingdom on our outreach nights, where we visit different neighborhoods and present small gifts from our church. God’s kingdom will be advanced in our local missions giving. We will support world missions as we fulfill our calling. While thinking about 2014, my mind wondered back 25 years, when I sat in a children’s church. Sitting in that little room with a simple flannelgraph in front of our small class, I learned that Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (NKJV). I believe it now, more than ever.

go further than before

JORDAN WILSON, M.A., IS LEAD PASTOR OF THE TRUE LIFE CHURCH OF GOD IN BEAVER FALLS, PENNSYLVANIA.

WE SOMETIMES WONDER, Is God really concerned about our future? When will our dream or vision become a reality? The better question is, How do we fit into what God’s future and thoughts are for us?

As Christians, God is expecting us to be more Kingdom- minded than ever before. The Lord has commissioned us and expects us to advance the Kingdom through radical and sacrificial discipleship. This will require us to be less focused on what pleases us and more about what pleases Him. This sacrificial discipleship will require (1) investing a greater amount of time to cultivate a deeper relationship with God and (2) giving of our time and resources to connect with our community and culture to a deeper understanding of the living God. The Lord tells us, “Make disciples . . . teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20 NASB). God is calling His church to greater maturity, which can only be found in biblical instruction and is the core of the spiritual formation process. We need to ask ourselves, How does God this year want us to reproduce disciples? There are three levels in this process that should be considered this year: 1. Discipleship—aiding new converts in a growing relationship with Christ. This is helping individuals begin their journey with God. 2. Mentoring—developing emerging leaders for the Kingdom. God is expecting us to identify and develop prospective leaders. 3. Coaching—helping developed leaders to go to the next stages in their leadership and relationship with God and others. Andy Stanley, in his book Next Generation Leader, suggests that coaching requires observation, instruction, and inspiration. Coaching elevates the disciple to a greater level of influence. God doesn’t expect for us to make a resolution this year, but to start a revolution of spiritual sons and daughters being born into His kingdom. These disciples must then be developed to ensure there will be future coaches and leaders in church who will go further than ever before with our help.

EVANGEL EVANGEL • jan jan 2014 2014

27

PEOPLE AND EVENTS

TRAGEDY TRANSFORMED TO MINISTRY

WURTLAND, Ky.—Paula Rymer’s life was shattered and her dreams destroyed by a tragedy. One day she came home to find her beautiful daughter—a straight-A college student who seemingly had no problems—hanging in the bedroom with a rope around her neck. Paula freed her beautiful daughter and held her in her arms until the coroner arrived and pronounced her dead. With her daughter in her arms, I can’t imagine the pain, the hurt, and the emptiness she and her family experienced. The Lord directed Paula to our church—the Wurtland Church of God—and He has sustained her and her family. He has taken this dark time and turned on a light of hope in her life, filling her with His Spirit. Paula went back to school and received a degree from the University of Kentucky in social work and guidance counseling, focusing on suicide prevention. The World Recovery Center At our church, Paula started the World Recovery Center (WRC),

which is based on “Celebrate Recovery” (the rehabilitation ministry started by Saddleback Church). She meets with her clients on our church campus, and the power of God is breaking drug and alcohol addictions. Many other works of evangelism and discipleship are also occurring. The WRC offers a biblically based intervention program for the healing of hurts and heartaches people have suffered in life. It is based on the words of Jesus recorded in Matthew 5:3-12, commonly known as the Beatitudes. Each client is given a study Bible and a 12-step program workbook. This program is influencing the communities surrounding the Wurtland Church of God by interacting with the court systems, detention centers, and mental-health systems. The court systems of Lewis, Greenup, and Carter counties are working with us by sending troubled families to the WRC. Our area has a great need for a program of this nature because it is one of the worst in the state

Billy Rucker (left) and others who have been helped through Wurtland’s World Recovery Center

28

EVANGEL • jan 2014

of Kentucky for prescription drug abuse, meth labs, alcohol addiction, and poverty. We constantly encounter individuals who have a background of abuse and neglect, and have suffered through years of addiction and low self-esteem. The lives of many of the individuals sent to us are seemingly hopeless. They are headed for a life in prison or a premature death, but the Lord is enabling us to change that. He is using Paula to touch lives through her abilities and by sharing her personal experience. God has given her the motivation to make something good come out of her personal struggles. William “Billy” Rucker is an example of how this program is working. He was on every kind of drug imaginable. He was in jail and then released on probation. Through the ministry of the World Recovery Center, God healed him instantly from all drugs and alcohol. When he first came to church, he had to wear an ankle device from the jail system, but now he is no longer required to wear it. Others who are not involved in a life of crime need this ministry as well. Many of our pastors are hurting because they have children whose lives have been destroyed with addictions. We know this is not their intended destiny; God has a purpose and a calling for them, and we want to help them find it. Our community is responding with support for our efforts. A local businessman has opened his heart and is giving jobs to those who attend the program and are seeking work. Also, volunteers have come forward to help individuals obtain their GED.

Henry Montgomery Our vision for the future is to have a World Recovery Center campus where people can come for physical, emotional, and spiritual recovery. We want to see God raise up missionaries, pastors, teachers, and worship leaders and place them in good jobs where they can be happy and lead productive lives. Following God’s Will We believe ministries to hurting people place our congregation in the perfect will of God. Although we have a population of only 1,400 with surrounding towns and communities, we are reaching many people. We feel constrained to develop ministries for the lost and lonely people around us. Recently, the Wurtland Church of God led the fight to “Keep Greenup County Dry.” Area churches of all denominations came together and successfully campaigned to keep liquor sales out of the county. We cannot sit idly by doing nothing; we must use the tools God has given us for His glory.—Henry Montgomery Henry Montgomery serves as pastor of the Wurtland, Kentucky, Church of God. He is the author of The Red-Headed Boy From Tank Pond Hollow: My Journey Into Ministry (derekpress.com).

For daily news updates about what’s happening in the Church of God and Evangelical world, visit FAITH NEWS NETWORK, at www.faithnews.cc.

DECEASED MINISTERS

Evangelist Ray Branham recently presented a plaque to Pastor and Mrs. Mitchell Wilson in honor of the 90th anniversary of the Bancroft Church of God in McDonald, Tennessee. W. F. Bryant was the first pastor of the congregation, which was set in order in 1923.

COOK CELEBRATION MARKS 100 YEARS IN INDIA CHENNAGUR, Kerala, INDIA— In late October, hundreds gathered to celebrate the 100th year of the arrival of Church of God Missionary Robert F. Cook in India. The Cook Centennial Committee challenged the full-gospel believers in India to finish the work that Cook began by taking the message of salvation and freedom to the unreached people groups spread throughout India. Among the guests were Church of God General Overseer Mark L. Williams and General Director of World Missions Tim Hill.

Robert F. Cook

Missionary Cook left Los Angeles with his wife, Ann, and daughters Blossom and Dorothy, arriving in the city of Bangalore in October 1913. He suffered both physical and spiritual hardships for the sake of the gospel during his 37 years of ministry, moving from village to village proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ. The Church of God in India has now spread to over 20 states, and continues to grow.  As part of the centennial, several mission-oriented conferences and conventions were held in the U.S. throughout 2013. In addition, the office building of the Church of God in Kerala— built by Cook—is being converted to the “RFC Pentecostal Heritage Center” to preserve the history and legacy of the Church of God in India. Also, Cook’s autobiography is being translated into Malayalam —a major language spoken by 40 million people in India. The anniversary was scheduled to conclude in December with a social-work project in Kerala.

n ADAMS, Jack Howard; 84; ordained bishop; Georgia; Reba Adams (wife)

n KILPATRICK, Darrell B.; 73; ordained bishop; Texas; Beunie Kilpatrick (wife)

n ADKINS, Homer Estil; 89; ordained bishop; Kentucky; Evelene Adkins (wife)

n KING, Alton Clarence; 65; ordained bishop; Maryland; Debbie King (wife)

n BRICKLE, Winnie B.; 82; ordained minister; South Carolina; Carol Ertzberger (daughter)

n LANE, Paul Hilton; 68; exhorter; Florida; Linda Lane (wife)

n BRYANT, Ronald Allen; 64; ordained bishop; Pennsylvania; Linda Bryant (wife)

n MILES, Vera K.; 90; ordained minister; South Carolina; Carol Hamby (daughter) n RIVERA, Jesse; 51; exhorter; Florida; Norma Rivera (wife)

n CORTES, Juan E.; 68; ordained bishop; Florida; Mery Cortes (wife)

n SARGENT, Asa Amos; 94; ordained bishop; Florida; Lulu Sargent Jackson (daughter)

n EASTON, David Scott; 50; ordained bishop; Louisiana; Jo Karen Easton (wife)

n SKELTON, Frank Hayse; 67; exhorter; Alabama; Brenda Skelton (wife)

n GIBSON, Joseph David; 64; ordained bishop; Virginia; Debbie Gibson (wife)

n STUMP, J. D.; 78; ordained bishop; Tennessee; Brenda Stump (wife)

n ISBILL, Walter H.; 64; ordained bishop; Tennessee; Barbara Isbill (wife)

n STURCH, Clois Eugene; 82; ordained bishop; Arkansas; Sandy Rodgers (daughter)

n JOHNSON, Robert P.; 72; ordained bishop; Florida; Marian Johnson (wife)

n WOOD, Thomas William; 82; exhorter; Alabama; Mildred Marie Wood (wife)

Celebrating the Past, Present, and Future of Children’s Ministry

Knoxville, Tennessee • March 6-8 Special Guests: Craig Jutila & Jim Wideman Register at COGYOUTH.ORG or call 423-478-7229.

EVANGEL • jan 2014

29

WHERE ARE THEY NOW? by david g. roebuck

r. hollis gause

living in grace

A

T THE ANNUAL Azusa Lecture in Cleveland, Tennessee, the Dixon Pentecostal Research Center recently presented the 2013 Spirit of Azusa Award to Dr. R. Hollis Gause Jr. The center presents the award each year to a person whose life exemplifies the ministry of the 1906 revival at the Apostolic Faith Mission on Azusa Street in Los Angeles. In accepting the award, the renowned educator and author acknowledged the grace of God in his life with reference to Romans 5:20. Dr. Gause has received many awards, tributes, and honors during his ministry. Born to Rufus Hollis Gause Sr. and Blanche King Gause in 1925, his family transferred from the Pentecostal Holiness Church to the Church of God in 1942. He received his first ministerial credentials in 1943 and was ordained (bishop) in 1954. Since 1947, Gause has served on the faculties of Lee College and the Pentecostal Theological Seminary, along with serving as pastor in Warren, Michigan. He significantly influenced the development of both schools through leadership in vital administrative offices, including dean of Lee College and the inaugural dean and director of the seminary, where he continues to serve as professor of theological and New Testament studies. Through the years, Dr. Gause has authored numerous books and articles for the church, including Living in the Spirit: The Way of Salvation. His service as parliamentarian aided the work of many Church of God General Assemblies. Gause’s wife, Beulah, was an active partner in ministry. Along with the many roles the spouse of a teacher/ administrator/writer/pastor typically fulfills, she joined in the writing of adult Sunday school literature for 20 years and co-authored Women in the Body of Christ. Likewise, the Gauses’ son, Valdane, 30 30

EVANGEL • jan 2014 EVANGEL • jan 2014

co-authored The Emmaus Road. Such collaboration has marked Dr. Gause’s life and ministry as colleagues quickly affirm. Beulah went to be with the Lord in 2002, and Valdane in 2006. As director of the Pentecostal Research Center, I had the privilege of presenting the Spirit of Azusa Award to Dr. Gause.

work of God rather than his own accomplishments. In expressing appreciation for the Azusa award, Gause focused on the theme of God’s grace, which has been a central feature of his ministry. As he has done in many sermons, on numerous printed pages, and in countless classrooms, Gause

In my comments, I paralleled the pastoral and theological leadership of William J. Seymour with the influence of Hollis Gause in shaping the doctrine and discipline of the Church of God. I reminded the audience of a few of his principal characteristics, including the daily discipline to study and write, preaching that reflects the presence of the Lord, authoritative teaching, collegial relationships, and sometimes surprising humor. Finally, I cited “the quiet grace and humility with which he lives among us” so that, like Seymour, Gause’s life reflects the grace and

proclaimed: “The center of the gospel of Jesus Christ is a statement of the apostle Paul, ‘Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.’ . . . No place can be shown where sin abounded more than at Calvary. And no place can it be shown where grace abounded much more over that but at Mount Calvary. In that grace, I am an example of it.” David G. Roebuck, Ph.D., is the Church of God historian and director of the Dixon Pentecostal Research Center on the Lee University campus. [email protected]

32

EVANGEL • jan 2014