CHURCH OF GOD
Evangel FEBRUARY 2014
trusting christ in crises
EVANGEL • feb 2014
volume 104 n issue 2
“I WAITED PATIENTLY for the Lord; and He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. “He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; many will see and fear and will trust in the Lord. . . . “Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders which You have done, and Your thoughts toward us; there is none to compare with You. If I would declare and speak of them, they would be too numerous to count.” —Psalm 40:1-3, 5 (NASB)
trusting christ in crises 10 God Is Our Rock and Strong Tower by Jeremy B. Robinson A pastor’s incredible recovery 12 Tired to the Bone by Lynn Chambers Jesus Christ gives rest. 14 Like Nothing Ever Happened! by Robert Gurley Miraculously surviving a deadly wreck
16 God Gives Peace When We’re in Pieces by Sue Carloni Saved from suicide 18 Oh, So This Is Boot Camp! by Max Lucado Asking what instead of why columns 0 Through the Storm by Wanda Griffith 2 5 In Covenant, Mark L. Williams The Bowling Family keeps singing. 7 On My Mind, Lance Colkmire 30 Chronicles, David Roebuck 22 When You Are Betrayed by Bill Isaacs You must deal with the hurt.
4 Ministry Snapshot 6 By the Numbers 23 Loving People and Praying 8 Currents Fervently by Lance Colkmire 26 Viewpoints Mount Bethel Church of God 28 People and Events features
EVANGEL • feb 2014
PUBLICATIONS MINISTRIES DIVISIONAL DIRECTOR M. Thomas Propes DIRECTOR OF PUBLICATIONS Terry Hart ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT Raymond Hodge MANAGING EDITOR Lance Colkmire
MINISTRY SNAPSHOT Since 2009, volunteers from the Tabernacle Church of God have operated this “Prayer Station” at the Warren, Michigan, City Hall for anyone wanting prayer.
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. 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)
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Church of God DECLARATION OF FAITH WE BELIEVE: 1. In the verbal inspiration of the Bible. 2. In one God eternally existing in three persons; namely, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. 3. That Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of the Father, conceived of the Holy Ghost, and born of the Virgin Mary. That Jesus was crucified, buried, and raised from the dead. That He ascended to heaven and is today at the right hand of the Father as the Intercessor. 4. That all have sinned and come short of the glory of God and that repentance is commanded of God for all and necessary for forgiveness of sins. 5. That justification, regeneration, and the new birth are wrought by faith in the blood of Jesus Christ. 6. In sanctification subsequent to the new birth, through faith in the blood of Christ; through the Word, and by the Holy Ghost. 7. Holiness to be God’s standard of living for His people. 8. In the baptism with the Holy Ghost subsequent to a clean heart. 9. In speaking with other tongues as the Spirit gives utterance and that it is the initial evidence of the baptism in the Holy Ghost. 10. In water baptism by immersion, and all who repent should be baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. 11. Divine healing is provided for all in the Atonement. 12. In the Lord’s Supper and washing of the saints’ feet. 13. In the premillennial second coming of Jesus. First, to resurrect the righteous dead and to catch away the living saints to Him in the air. Second, to reign on the earth a thousand years. 14. In the bodily resurrection; eternal life for the righteous, and eternal punishment for the wicked.
IN COVENANT mark l. williams general overseer
PREACHING IS GOD’S PLAN
HE HEARTFELT CRY of the believer and the secular person alike in the 21st century is for a presentation of truth that will make a profound difference in life. In spiritual terms, that means a message from someone who knows what the Bible says and who shares it in the power of the Holy Spirit. The sharp rebuke of Jesus to the would-be preachers and teachers of His day was, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God” (Matt. 22:29 NKJV). As in His times, the need of the hour is for preachers who know the Word and who deliver its eternal and unchanging truths under the anointing of the Holy Spirit. That kind of preaching is relevant and life-changing in today’s world. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said: I can forgive a man for a bad sermon, I can forgive the preacher almost anything if he gives me a sense of God, if he gives me something for my soul, if he gives me the sense that, though he is inadequate himself, he is handling something which is very great and very glorious, if he gives me some dim glimpse of the majesty and the glory of God, the love of Christ my Savior, and the magnificence of the gospel. If he does that I am his debtor, and I am profoundly grateful to him.
Called to Preach How do you know if you are called to preach? For me, the call of God can best be described as an unmistakable, inescapable, irresistible, inner compulsion and constraint; a sense of absolute urgency and necessity to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. Scripturally, it is probably best expressed by Paul: “For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Cor. 9:16).
The call of God came to me on Sunday night, November 23, 1983, at the Conn Center on the Lee University campus. I had transferred to Lee from the University of Denver as a premed major on an academic scholarship, hoping to complete my studies, continue to medical school, and become a cardiovascular surgeon. But God had other plans for me.
“the call of God can best be described as an unmistakable, inescapable, irresistible, inner compulsion and constraint; a sense of absolute urgency and necessity to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.” On the surface, things were going great for me, but inwardly I was miserable and dying. That Sunday night in chapel, Lee president Dr. Ray H. Hughes preached a sermon on Calvary, “What Does the Cross Mean to You?” As the Holy Spirit brought me face-to-face with the Cross, I saw Jesus in all the glory of His passion. I saw myself and all my pitiful attempts to direct my own life. But I also saw a world that was lost and hopelessly dying. In broken repentance I cried out, “God, why do you need me? You have Ray Hughes, T. L. Lowery, Billy Graham, Steve Brock, and all those other preachers. I have no talent, nothing to offer You. But if You will help me to hide Your Word in my heart, I will go where You want me to go, I will be what You want me to be, I will say what You want me to say.” With simplicity and sincerity, I accepted God’s call and that vivid experience—
as real to me as my conversion—has served as a point of reassurance through years of ministry. In my understanding, the call to preach follows a Trinitarian formula: The authority to preach comes from God the Father (“As the Father has sent me, I also send you” [John 20:21]); the message preached is Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; and the power for preaching is the anointing of the Holy Spirit. This frames a theology of preaching that encompasses the God who speaks, the Son who saves, and the Spirit who empowers.
No Better Way Voices arise from time to time suggesting there ought to be a better way to communicate the gospel than preaching. Surely with all the new technology that exists, they say, someone should come up with a new way for the church to maintain itself and proclaim its message. But, according to Scripture, “It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (1 Cor. 1:21). Preaching is God’s plan. Those who look for an alternative are usually young believers who do not know better or old believers with poor memories.
EVANGEL • feb 2014
BY THE NUMBERS
EXPANDING THE MEANING OF
NEW RESEARCH is expanding the meaning of “religious giving.” It counts motivation for giving, and measures not only gifts to houses of worship but also donations to faith-connected nonprofits that are doing secular service such as fighting poverty or offering job training for the disabled. “Most people cite their religious commitments, but most also cite the belief that they should give to benefit others. Many people hold both these impulses at the same time,” said Shawn Landres, a co-author of the research report, “Connected to Give: Faith Communities.” The report found that in 2012 . . . • 63% of all Americans donated to some kind of cause, charity, or philanthropy. • 71% of those donors gave both to religious groups (including congregations) and to nonreligious organizations. • Any given follower of one religious tradition is no more likely to give to charity than a follower of another faith. Differences in the likelihood of giving are due more to variations in household income, education, and age. When the study looked at amounts donated overall in 2012, researchers found: • The median amount given among all donors was $660. • 41% of all household dollars donated went to religious congregations. • 32% of donated dollars went to religiously identified nonprofits such as Catholic Charities or Jewish Federation, or small programs such as a Muslim medical clinic. This aligns with research by sociologist Jonathan Hill of Calvin College, who studies religion and financial generosity. Hill said, “Giving is a transferable habit that happens to be cultivated in religious settings.” However, the “Connected to Give” report said 34 percent of those who claimed no religious identity nonetheless give to religiously identified organizations. 6
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Until now, most studies have defined “religious giving” as donations to religious congregations for specifically religious activities. It did not count as “religious giving” if you gave to a church’s soup kitchen, or to a combined-purpose group doing secular work (such as the evangelical relief group World Vision). Landres, who is CEO of Jumpstart (a Jewish philanthropic group), said the research had two purposes. One was to widen the understanding of who gives, why, and where they give. The second was to wedge open new sources of venture capital to groups that had been shut out because they were religiously identified. It’s a real issue: Some major funders will not award grants to groups that they fear may proselytize or promote a specific religious view, he said. “Giving is personal,” Landres added. “People give as whole individuals and should not have to check their motivations at the door. Those who are motivated by their faith to do good in the world deserve a seat at the funding and policy tables.”—Cathy Lynn Grossman (RNS)
CHINA HAS MOST INTERNET USERS Size of Chinese Internet Users and Internet Penetration Rate
Source: Statistical Survey on Internet Development in China
CHINA HAS MORE Internet users than nearly all other countries have people. (The lone exception is India.) According to the China Internet Network Information Center, 590.56 million people in China were using the Internet at mid-2013, an increase of nearly 53 million (or 9.85%) from a year earlier. By comparison, the U.S. has the second-most Internet users—254 million, according to the Harvard Business Review, but that’s less than half as many as China. Internet penetration in China continues to rise, but is still just 44.1%, according to the center’s report; a year earlier, it was 39.9%. By contrast, according to the Pew Research Center, almost everyone in the U.S. who wants to be online already is: 85 percent of Americans ages 18 and older (and 95% of teens) use the Internet or email, and only 8 percent of nonusers say they’re interested in starting.
ON MY MIND lance colkmire editor
SNAKES, BLING, AND TRUTH
AVE YOU seen Snake Salvation on the National Geographic Channel? The show is aptly named, as it highlights Appalachian pastors Jamie Coots and Andrew Hamblin, who believe handling poisonous snakes in church services is both a command of God and proof of one’s faith. Church members will sing and shout themselves into frenzy, often speak in tongues, and then pick up a rattlesnake or a cottonmouth moccasin. Is that Pentecostalism? Change the channel to Oxygen and catch the latest episode of Preachers of L.A. Hear Pastor Rob Gibson—a former gang member and drug addict—tell his Life Church of God in Christ congregation, “You’ve seen my bling. You’ve seen my Bentley. You’ve seen my glory, but you haven’t seen my story.” Gibson lives in a mansion, as does Bishop Noel Jones, pastor of L.A.’s City of Refuge, which holds to Pentecostal tenets. The megachurch’s website declares, “No matter your point of reference, there are few places you will travel on this side of heaven without hearing the great name of Bishop Noel Jones.” A 64-year-old grandfather, Jones said women are attracted to him: “It’s the whole rock-star thing— pictures, emails, just sticking numbers in your hand.” Is this Pentecostalism? Meanwhile, last October, John MacArthur held a “Strange Fire” conference at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, where he serves as pastorteacher. The conference coincided with the release of his Strange Fire book, in which he writes: In earlier generations, the PentecostalCharismatic Movement would have been labeled heresy. Instead, it is now the most dominant, aggressive, and visible strain of so-called Christianity in the world. It claims to represent
the purest and most powerful form of the gospel. Yet it primarily proclaims a gospel of health and wealth, a message completely incompatible with the good news of Scripture. It threatens all who oppose its doctrine with charges of grieving, quenching, resisting, and even blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Yet no movement drags His name through the mud with greater frequency or audacity.
Is MacArthur right? Weeks after MacArthur’s conference, one of the most visible faces of the Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement died. Paul Crouch, 79, was founder of Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN)—the world’s largest religious broadcaster, with 84 satellite
Foolishly, many Pentecostals swallow every spiritual fad that pops up. channels and over 18,000 television and cable affiliates around the world. Crouch’s network reaches every major continent; provides programming in Spanish, Arabic, and Farsi; and has a cable channel in Asia, Europe, and Russia. Many of TBN’s programs are scripturally solid, beaming Christ’s light to demonic strongholds. Meanwhile, many other TBN programs spread the healthand-wealth doctrine, often damaging the cause of Christ. One TBN program—It’s Supernatural! —is instructive. Some of the show’s guests give uplifting, biblically sound ministry reports and testimonies like these: • Individuals testify of deliverance from the occult, depression, and pornography.
• A man tells how he teaches the validity of the Bible to students whose schools undermine the Christian faith. • Men and women give verifiable accounts of healing. • A woman urges viewers to pray for Israel. Sadly, It’s Supernatural! also endorses wacky guests like these: • The guy who leads people into the “glory zone” where instant weight loss and sudden hair growth supposedly occur • The man who says heaven contains a storage place of body parts that injured people can access by faith • The singer who says he leads people in singing that stirs up angels, who respond by taking gifts to the worshipers Foolishly, many Pentecostals swallow every spiritual fad that pops up. This contradicts what the first Christians did after the Holy Spirit was given to the Church on the Day of Pentecost. Those believers “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine” (Acts 2:42)— they adhered to everything the apostles taught about Jesus Christ, who said, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed” (John 8:31). This is Pentecostalism: Christians who “do not quench the Spirit” and “do not despise prophetic utterances” yet who “test all things” and “hold fast to that which is good” (1 Thess. 5:19-21 NASB).
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EVANGEL • feb 2014
CURRENTS The purpose of CURRENTS is to inform readers of trends and events influencing the culture.
views on end-of-life issues n IN THE FOLLOWING summaries, religious leaders, scholars, and ethicists from various American religious groups (Christian and non-Christian) explain how their faith traditions’ teachings address physician-assisted suicide, euthanasia, and other end-of-life questions. Assemblies of God. The second-largest Pentecostal denomination in the United States opposes physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia. “We simply feel that it is not our prerogative to end life,” said Edgar R. Lee, chairman of the church’s Commission on Doctrinal Purity. At the same time, when there is no hope for recovery, the church does not hold that life must be extended by artificial means. Episcopal Church. In 1991, the church passed a resolution against assisted suicide and other forms of active euthanasia. According to Timothy Sedgwick of Virginia Theological Seminary, this teaching comes from the church’s broader view “that one should never take a life, even 8
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your own.” At the same time, Sedgwick said, there is a sense within the church that hard-and-fast rules on end-of-life issues may not fit every circumstance. “There may be cases that stand beyond judgment,” he said. Hinduism. There is a general concern in Hinduism that prematurely ending a person’s life could negatively influence their karma, said Deepak Sarma, a professor of South Asian religions and philosophy. The concept of karma centers on the belief that good and bad occurrences in one’s life are caused by actions taken in past lives, since Hindus believe in reincarnation. “We believe that whatever suffering you experience now is because of something you did in the past,” Sarma said. “So if you circumvent karma by taking some action to stop suffering, you will pay for it later.” Islam. Muslims teach that Allah alone decides how long someone will live and when they will die, according to Ayman
Shabana, a visiting fellow at Harvard’s Islamic Legal Studies Program. Shabana said, “In the Islamic tradition, end-of-life suffering is seen as a way to purify previous sins so that by the time you meet God, you do so in a [more pure] state.” Judaism. Jewish teachings prohibit suicide and assisted suicide, even in cases of painful, terminal illnesses. Doctors and caregivers should not do anything to hasten death, and they generally must work to keep people alive as long as possible. However, in dire cases “there is a distinction made between active and passive euthanasia, between killing and allowing to die,” said Rabbi Leonard A. Sharzer of New York’s Jewish Theological Seminary. National Baptist Convention. The nation’s largest historically black Protestant denomination does not have a specific teaching on physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia. However, Charles Brown of the Payne Theological Seminary said, “Within the traditional teachings of our church—and black churches in general—there is this notion that the length of one’s life is the providence of God, and you let it take its course.” Brown adds there is no requirement that patients near the end of their lives continue treatment just to extend life a little longer. “I’ve had people in my congregation who have made that choice [to forgo treatment], and I didn’t offer biblical warrants against that.” Roman Catholic Church. John A. Di Camillo, staff ethicist at the National Catholic Bioethics Center, said, “We don’t have the authority to take into our hands when life will end. That’s the Creator’s decision.” Catholic thinkers like Di Camillo contend that the decision to take one’s own life often comes as a result of issues like poor pain management, despair, and loneliness, or the feeling of being a burden on family and others. “We don’t give enough attention to people near the end of life because we’re afraid of the end of life and don’t want to come to grips with it,” Di Camillo said.
Seventh-day Adventist Church. In 1992, the church issued a statement opposing euthanasia and assisted suicide. This opposition is rooted partly in the Adventist belief that the physical body and the soul are permanently linked and both will be resurrected after death, according to Roy Branson of Loma Linda University. At the same time, the church’s position statement on care for the dying states patients are not obligated “to accept medical interventions whose burdens outweigh the probable benefits.” Southern Baptist Convention. The nation’s largest Protestant denomination believes life is sacred from conception until natural death, and suicide is selfmurder, according to C. Ben Mitchell, a professor at Union University. “We believe that [physician-assisted suicide] is a usurpation of God’s prerogative because He is our Creator and sustainer,” Mitchell said. As an alternative, a dying person’s doctors, family, and community have a duty to alleviate factors such as physical pain and psychological despair that often drive people to consider taking their own lives. United Church of Christ. This denomination supports the right of terminally ill patients to make their own decisions about when to die—including whether to hasten death. The Rev. Timothy Tutt of Bethesda, Maryland, said, “We believe that each of us approaches God on our own terms, and this includes at the end of our lives.” United Methodist Church. The denomination teaches that “dying well” is an integral part of Christian life, said James Thobaben, a professor at Asbury Theological Seminary. It is important for Methodists to show their family, friends, and others that they remain believing and committed Christians even if they are suffering “on the deathbed.” Trying “to control death in a late, modern, hyper-individualistic way, or [being] afraid of pain” is contrary to what the church considers its great tradition, Thobaben said.—Pew Research
jewish worshipers seeking access to temple mount n KNOWN TO JEWS as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Haram AsSharif (the Noble Sanctuary), Jerusalem’s most sensitive site is making headlines again. Miri Regev, a parliamentarian from Israel’s ruling political party, is pushing for Jews to be permitted to worship there. He has held several hearings on the matter, with one degenerating into a heated argument between right-wing Jewish parliamentarians and Israeli-Arab representatives who eventually stormed out. “Every citizen of the state of Israel should be allowed to pray in the places holy to them, whether they are a Muslim, a Jew, or a Christian,” Regev said. Israeli-Arab parliamentarians countered, claiming Regev and other parliamentarians were “pyromaniacs,” playing with fire around an issue “that could lead to a conflagration.” The Temple Mount was the site of the Jewish Temple, destroyed by the Romans in AD 70. The Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site today, is the last of
the ancient Temple’s massive retaining walls. Perched directly above the Western Wall is the Al-Aqsa Mosque as well as the Dome of the Rock, from where Muhammad ascended to heaven, according to Islamic teaching. Muslim authorities say any talk of allowing Jewish worship on the Temple Mount is a provocation that would undo the status quo. Mahmoud Abu Atta, spokesman for the Al-Aqsa Institute for the Preservation of the Trust and the Heritage, said, “If they try to change past agreements—to divide Al-Aqsa—there will be a religious war in the entire world.” Jewish pressure groups, both within government and outside, say they only want a small area in the Temple Mount courtyard set aside for Jewish worship. However, Israeli police officers securing the Temple Mount complex uphold the ban on any form of non-Muslim worship, although Jewish zealots often recite prayers under their breath when visiting the site. —RNS Ultra-Orthodox Jews in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City look out onto the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
EVANGEL • feb 2014
by jeremy b. robinson
god is our rock and strong tower god’s miraculous intervention for the robinson family
EEING THE Declaration of Independence on the 237th anniversary of its adoption, followed by a spectacular July Fourth fireworks display, concluded what was to be the first part of our family’s 2013 vacation to Washington, D.C., and New York City. That night also culminated a five-week endurance of increasing but tolerable pain in my stomach and lower back.
As I finished our brief prayer, Ginger told me that right then, at the outset of our new journey, God had just given us a confirmation of His presence. Unknown to me, while I had been undergoing one of the tests that night, she had sat alone in the exam room resisting the Enemy’s voice of death and despair by repeating over and over, “Lord, You are our rock and You are our strong tower.”
The next morning, when Ginger and I, along with our daughters, Madray (14) and Mallory (13), left Washington to travel to Norfolk, Virginia, I was suffering from what I had come to think was a kidney stone. We were going to spend a couple of nights with friends Les and Tressa Woodard, and then I would preach on Sunday at the Azalea Garden Church of God.
Unable to stay and preach in Norfolk, we left early Sunday morning for a hectic, holiday weekend drive back to Washington, D.C., where we had arranged to fly home. Becoming much weaker and suffering intensifying pain, I reluctantly had to let Ginger and our daughters handle the luggage as I dragged myself through the airport. Another of God’s provisions was experienced when we were upgraded to first-class tickets, which enabled us to avoid incredibly long security lines at Reagan International and also have a more comfortable flight home.
After arriving at the Woodard home that Friday evening, we drove to the Chesapeake General Hospital, expecting my selfdiagnosis to be confirmed. However, after several tests and scans, Ginger and I were shocked from our relaxed, vacation mindset when shown that my right kidney had a very large tumor. While the emergencyroom doctor hesitated to tell me I had cancer, he was clear that it might be and told me I was very sick. He strongly urged us not to continue our vacation to New York but instead to return home immediately and find a urologist. My wife of 20 years and I walked out of the hospital stunned, and before leaving the parking lot we held hands and prayed. I said, “God, You are our rock and our strong tower. We don’t even have a general doctor; we don’t know any doctors. Thankfully, we have not been sick. We don’t know what to do—You are going to have to lead us from this moment.” 10
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We boarded the plane to fly nonstop to St. Louis with much anxiety about what was
taking place, but with a sense that God was ordering our steps and going before us into the storm we sensed was brewing. We did not know how dark that storm was becoming with every passing minute. However, the Lord knew! We learned later that our friends from a church on our district—Pastor Doug and Lynda Bowers, and their Granite City Church of God praise team—had felt an intense and unplanned burden all day Sunday to pray and intercede for “someone’s” healing. I am fully convinced the Holy Spirit called them to pray when at the time no one—including us—knew how much we needed prayer. After an almost two-hour delay, with us sitting inside our plane on the tarmac and many flights being canceled due to poor westerly weather conditions, our flight was rerouted and we took off. After landing in St. Louis, our plan was to ride the Metro Link train from the airport to downtown and spend the night at the Parkway Hotel that adjoins the sprawling Barnes-Jewish/Washington University Hospital complex, where I would “shop” for a urologist on Monday. The Robinson family on July 4, 2013, in Washington, D.C.—the night before Jeremy was diagnosed with a tumor on his kidney.
Once in St. Louis, we made our way through the airport to the Metro Link station. Thinking we might miss the train, we rushed to board it. The moment I stepped onto the train, I announced I was about to faint. I collapsed into an empty seat as the train began moving from the platform. With my eyes rolled back, extreme difficult breathing, profuse perspiration, and my lips turning blue, Ginger held my head in her hands. Just as the train was leaving the station, someone pressed the emergency button to stop the train while strangers offered water and comforting words of support. One man asked if he could pray, and he did so fervently “in Jesus’ name.” After coming to a sense of my surroundings and thinking I could still get to the hotel, a Washington University medical student on board assured us we needed immediate medical attention. He called ahead to the university’s security staff in order to have a wheelchair ready for me at the Central West End station, which was several stops away. After getting off the train, I was quickly wheeled into the full, bustling emergency room of this massive hospital. The next few hours were filled with tests that revealed the tumor on my kidney had actually grown through the renal vein and up the Inferior Vena Cava (IVC) toward my heart and lungs. When running to board the Metro Link in St. Louis, three pieces of the tumor had broken off and passed through my heart and into my pulmonary arteries. In the words of my cardiac-thoracic surgeon, Dr. March Moon, “One tumor clot should have killed you instantly—let alone three.” With one of the tumor clots approaching the size of a golf ball, Dr. Moon used the word “miracle” to describe how the tumor clots had “nudged just enough to let a trickle of blood through” until I could get to the emergency room. With my difficulty breathing, there was discussion with Ginger about the possibility of life support as my condition grew more critical. After being stabilized, I learned that if I had arrived at the hospital just one day later, I would probably not have lived.
The decision was made to proceed with major open-heart surgery to inspect for almost certain heart damage, remove the three tumor clots from my lungs, remove the tumor and right kidney, and determine the extent of any possible cancer. By Monday afternoon, we were told to call our family to come from Tennessee and other parts of the nation as the 12-hour surgery would be critical. One out of three people don’t survive such a surgery, and I was as risky of a patient they had seen. In fact, my urologist, Dr. Arnold Bullock, told his wife that he was not sure about the rationale of even attempting such a surgery, given my condition.
A little more than two months after his surgery, Jeremy and Ginger Robinson celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary in New York City.
That night, I asked Ginger, “What do you do on what could be your last night?” I’ll never forget the heart-wrenching discussion with my family—especially with Ginger, Madray, and Mallory—of things I wanted and felt I needed to say to them if God didn’t bring me through the surgery the next day. Though against policy, given the severity of my condition, Ginger was allowed to stay with me the night before surgery. We held hands through the night, with Ginger occasionally awaking to make
sure our hands were still clasped if this were to be our last night together. The next morning, Tuesday, July 9, just four days after first learning about my illness, I entered the operating room with several teams of doctors standing by to each do their part. In addition to prayer from our family at the hospital and those unable to come—as well as many of our incredible local congregation gathered across the river in Bethalto, Illinois—hundreds of people worldwide were fasting and praying with us for God’s hand to be evident . . . and evident it was! The 12 hours reserved for the operating room turned out to be unnecessary, as the surgery only lasted four hours! The large tumor was removed in a very uncharacteristic single piece without any need for the vascular team to fish for any fragments. Incredibly, there was no damage to my heart. The tumor clots were easily taken from the pulmonary arteries, and there was no evidence of any cancer spread to any other organs or nearby tissue. Rather than keeping me sedated for 24 to 48 hours after surgery as planned, I was awakened the next morning. Within a day after surgery, I was moved out of ICU. By Sunday, I was discharged with no pain medicines needed. Three weeks later, I started attending weekly worship services at our church, and was able to preach for the first time on September 15. As of this writing, all scans and tests continue to show no evidence of further cancer! For the next several years, I will continue to be checked regularly for any possible recurrence. For now, I’m not on any medicine, have had no type of treatment, and am finding out how easy it is to live with just one kidney. And, yes, what I knew before is now clearer than ever no matter the future: God is our rock and strong tower! Jeremy Robinson is pastor of the Church of God in Bethalto, Illinois. He said, “There is much more to our family’s testimony of God’s miraculous interventions. We shared the story with our congregation on August 25, 2013. It can be heard or downloaded from our church website” (www.bcog.cc). EVANGEL • feb 2014
HEN I WAS a little girl, my daddy would come home from a long day of working at the chicken plant. He would be nasty-dirty, covered with . . . well, you can imagine. As I would run to meet him, I would ask, “How was your day, Daddy?” His response was always the same, as I hung onto the dirty leg of his faded blue jeans. “Hard, Sissy—hard and dirty. Daddy is ‘tired to the bone.’ Let me go get cleaned up now.” Many years later, I came to understand that phrase “tired to the bone.” It hit me particularly hard one day when I was huge pregnant with our second child. Jim and I
tired to the bone by lynn chambers
were struggling to get our little church going, and things were very tight financially. I’d taken a job at a local doctor’s office three days a week—sometimes four. We had events at the church nearly every night of the week it seemed, trying to get attendance up and make people in the community aware of the ministry. While I truly enjoyed our work with the church and was very involved in
the women’s group that was forming, I also loved my work at the clinic and had become quite good at being a medical assistant. On any given day, I might be called on to take and develop an x-ray of a child with a broken bone or an elderly man with emphysema; or I might be the one to share the results of a pregnancy test with a new mother. Sometimes a patient was happy beyond belief, while at other times, a patient was simply, well, unwilling to believe. One particularly hard day, I had been on my feet for eight hours. My feet were swollen over the tops of my white nursing shoes, and my huge baby belly was causing my back to ache until I could barely stand it. I was watching the clock, waiting and hoping for the end of the day. The clinic had been packed all day—full of sick people and those who weren’t sick but thought they were. About 5:00, just before closing time, I heard a frantic banging on the back door of the facility, just off the exam rooms. Wondering who on earth would be there when most everyone used the front entrance, I hurried to the door. Standing in the late afternoon sunset was a young mother and father and their little boy. I knew them well. We had seen her through a recent pregnancy and rejoiced in the birth of their beautiful baby girl. The mother was holding the baby close to her breast, and a look of utter terror was on her face. Shoving the baby toward me, she said, “Do something! Please do something! She is not breathing!” Seeing the tiny bundle held tightly in her mother’s arms, my heart nearly stopped. It seemed like yesterday when this baby with black curls had been born. I had
rejoiced with the family as she squalled in all of her squirming glory, turning beet red, when she had her six-week checkup. Ushering the family to an empty exam room, I turned to find the doctor at my elbow. The receptionist had alerted him of the crisis. As I watched, he gently took the tiny girl from her mother’s grasp.
Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28 NIV). Laying her on the exam table and turning back the soft blanket, he did what all good doctors do—he tried his best to find any sign of life. There was none. It was too late. The beautiful little girl was waxen and white, only a shell of what she once was.
a situation you can do nothing about— being hopeless. Yet, Jesus Christ tells us to cast all our burdens on Him. He says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:2830 NIV). A few months after the woman lost her baby daughter, she came in for another doctor’s visit. I was again on duty that day, and was asked to run the blood work to see if she might be pregnant again. As I watched the test turn positive, I didn’t know whether to rejoice or to cry. How would this young mother react to knowing she was once again pregnant shortly after losing her little girl? By this time I had my own baby girl to hold and cherish, and could not imagine the pain of losing her, as had this mother. As the doctor and I together shared with her the results of her pregnancy test, joy filled her eyes and her face. She began sobbing and thanking us for giving her the good news.
We all wept as we stood helplessly in that cold, stark room. I remember well that feeling of being tired to the bone.
A few months later, this mother was blessed to hold another beautiful baby girl in her arms. I remember rejoicing as I saw the sweet head nestled to her mother’s breast and realizing there truly is rest for our weary souls. And that “bonetiredness” does not last forever if we lay it at our Savior’s feet.
During my life, I have felt that tired just a few other times . . . but I will save those episodes for another day. It’s a feeling of desperation—being caught in
Lynn Chambers and her husband, Jim, lead the Institute for Organizational Leadership, Inc. They live in Evening Shade, Arkansas. [email protected]
EVANGEL • feb 2014
by robert gurley
like nothing ever happened! a heavenly word in a hopeless situation
N JULY 1, 1999, doctors gave me three hours to live.
Why was this happening to me? What happened to me? Why can’t I move or speak? Those questions surged through my mind over and over. My eyes were the only means by which I could interact with the world around me. Like radar, they scanned through the accumulating fog of moving people to identify some rhyme or reason. I eventually saw my mother tucked away and seemingly unnoticed by the medical staff in the back corner of the operating room.
At 10:29 p.m., I felt my pager alerting in my pocket as I sat in the front passenger seat of Michael’s new car, which he drove down a wet highway in Newport News, Virginia. Six-foot-tall Nick, who had graduated from Woodside High School two weeks prior, had his legs spread length-wise across the back seat. Then, it happened. A drunk driver crossed the highway centerline and plowed headfirst into our
vehicle at over 85 miles per hour. The blunt force of the impact sent our vehicle airborne . . . then colliding with another vehicle several feet away . . . and finally coming to rest in a ditch. Nick South, Michael Alley, and the drunk driver perished on impact. I was rushed to the emergency room, where the doctors informed my parents that I did not have long to live. My brain had begun swelling; I lost too much blood;
Without me saying a word, she somehow discerned the next question racing through my mind and down my face in tears: Mama, am I going to die? Despite the complicated mass of broken bones and mangled features her 18-year-old son now possessed, my mother looked me in the eye and said, “No, Son. God said you’re going to live.” That was the first memory I was able to recall during an uncontrollable cycle of broken consciousness during the next week. Each time I woke up, I had to be reminded again of all that had transpired. The Deadly Wreck A week earlier, I was at the home of my mentors—Pastor Victor and Teresa Alley—hanging out with their son, Michael Alley, and Nick South (the son of my youth leaders, Jeff and Becki South). Our conversation soon turned toward eternity, and I was able to lead us all into a recommitment to Christ. The next day, we celebrated by fishing/ crabbing and randomly witnessing to anyone we encountered. Our celebration lasted well into the night. 14
EVANGEL • feb 2014
my jawbone was broken in nine places; my left ear was severed; my left hand was crushed, with every finger and base of the hand broken; and my body was covered in various cuts, scrapes, breaks, burns, and bruises. The doctors debated whether or not I should undergo surgery. Even after I passed the three-hour marker, the negative reports kept coming in. The doctors said I would lose 60 percent of my hearing, have permanent brain damage, not be able to walk normally, be unable to speak normally, and I would probably never regain full use of my left hand. Meanwhile, I went through an internal emotional struggle. Why was I alone allowed to live? Could I have done something to avoid all of this? Would I have to live like this for the rest of my life? Depression and confusion quickly set in. I withdrew. I wanted to be left alone and, to be honest, I secretly wanted to die. I cried much during my nights at the hospital because of both the pain I was feeling emotionally and in my body. Neither medicine nor encouraging words could bring me comfort. A Word From God Hundreds of people from my church visited the hospital, holding 24-hour prayer vigils petitioning God for my life and healing. Their presence resulted in police officers, hospital staff, patients, and visitors coming to faith in Christ.
There is nothing more comforting in the time of crisis than the voice of God. Depression immediately lifted off me, and I was now ready to face tomorrow and the next day. The words of Romans 8:28 became a living revelation to me. Despite the contrary evidence, God was somehow on the scene to work this all out for the good.
“Unable to move without immense effort, I finally realized my best option was to join my church family in prayer.” I became totally dependent on God for the first time in my life. He was now in charge. After that night, my physical condition began to improve rapidly. With the help of friends, the next day I was on my feet. The doctors and my family were amazed. Amazing Progress
Unable to move without immense effort, I finally realized my best option was to join my church family in prayer. I remember lying awake at night in my hospital room praying while in pain. I could barely speak the name of Jesus because my mouth was wired shut.
Upon being released from the hospital, I was determined to walk in the newness of life. Within a week, I was able to move about on my own, and I knew it was the Lord’s doing. Still unable to hear or use my left hand, I was determined to preach even with my mouth still wired shut.
That night, I had an encounter with the Lord that changed my life. The Lord told me He was going to heal me and it would appear as though nothing had occurred. He also said He would send me to the nations.
In November 1999, after preaching a youth revival, one of my team members began to scream and rejoice when he saw me yawn. I asked what the commotion was about. He quickly pointed out, “J. R., your hand is moving!” I hadn’t
even noticed I had used my left hand to cover my mouth while yawning. I was further surprised when I succeeded at doing something I had been unable to do for the previous five months—move every finger. Tears streamed down my face, but still God wasn’t done. As I moved my hand, two of the six pins the doctors had inserted in the bone to reform my hand and fingers slipped out and hit the floor. The Lord was performing His word! The next day I was in the waiting room of the doctor’s office to have the remaining pins removed from my hand. I sat reflecting on the miracle of the day before, when suddenly I felt this itching and heat sensation in my ears. I alerted my mother, who was sitting beside me. As she put her hand on my left ear, I heard a loud pop. I could now hear in my left ear, so she moved to my right ear. A few moments later, I heard another loud pop. I now had 100 percent hearing in both ears! We both began crying in the waiting room. What a miracle! Over the next few months and years, God systematically continued to heal me physically, emotionally, and psychologically. It was a struggle at times, as nightmares frequently plagued me with suppressed memories of the ordeal. However, God faithfully performed His word. God’s Promise Realized As of today, I have been in full-time ministry for over 12 years and have traveled to many places to preach the gospel and share my testimony of God’s healing power. I have seen many people saved, healed, and delivered. Whenever I share my testimony of the accident, people are in shock and disbelief. I laugh to myself when I hear them repeat the promise of the Lord to me in my hospital room, “It looks as if nothing ever happened!” Robert “J. R.” Gurley serves the World Outreach Worship Center in Newport News, Virginia, as pastor of young adults. [email protected]
wowcenter.org EVANGEL • feb 2014
HANDED MY HUSBAND, Kurt, the phone and held my breath. He listened for a few moments, then turned toward me and mouthed “tumor.” I clasped my hand over my mouth as tears poured down my cheeks. The minute Kurt heard the news, he felt God’s peace come over him. Not so for me. While we rushed to the doctor’s office, I repeated, “Our God is mighty; our God is great.” Yet all the while, I cried. The brain surgeon showed us Kurt’s MRI result and said he needed to operate on Monday. The tumor was most likely cancerous and growing fast. This was Friday. Kurt came out of the shower the next day and surprised me by saying, “I feel strongly that God wants me to speak during the church service. He wants someone there to know they need to put their trust in Him.”
GOD GIVES PEACE WHEN WE’RE IN PIECES by sue carloni
Our pastor told us a woman who heard Kurt speak had been contemplating suicide, but immediately those thoughts had disappeared. We didn’t know the whole story until a year later. Amanda contacted us and wanted to meet Kurt. “He saved my life,” she said. We were eager to meet with this woman so we
EVANGEL • feb 2014
Amanda struggled for hours, then found herself driving to church. She does not even remember getting into the car. She had not showered nor changed her clothes that morning. Yet, she was on her way. Amanda sat in church with her arms crossed and head held low. Why am I here? I don’t want to be here! She nearly got up to leave several times. However, when Kurt stood in front of the congregation and began to speak, her eyes were drawn to him. The message spoke to her heart; God loved her and wanted her to put her trust in Him. Immediately, God’s peace came over her. She no longer wanted to kill herself; she wanted to live! After relaying her story, Amanda reached over and hugged Kurt. “See?” she said, misty-eyed. “You saved my life.”
Kurt had never asked to speak at church before, but he wanted to be obedient to the Lord. He called our pastor and explained everything. The pastor readily agreed and said it even fit in perfectly with his sermon. Throughout the agonizingly long weekend, I repeated, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Prov. 3:5-6 NKJV). I knew God would help me get through this crisis, but I was still afraid. After hearing Kurt speak at church, God’s perfect peace came over me.
However, that afternoon she sensed God urging her to attend church the next morning. “I don’t want to,” she said aloud. But in her mind she kept hearing, Go to church!
Kurt and I gently took hold of Amanda’s hands. “God saved your life,” Kurt said. “He spoke through me so you would know you needed to trust Him.” Amanda nodded and hugged us both.
could explain it was God, not Kurt, who had rescued her. As the three of us sat in a coffee shop, Amanda told her story. She had experienced so many health issues, discouragements, and other crises that she felt she could not handle them any longer. She developed a suicide plan. Her husband would be out of town on a particular Saturday night. She was going to enjoy a leisurely dinner, then swallow a full bottle of pills and lie down. Her husband would find her body when he returned from his trip.
If Kurt had not obeyed God by speaking at church . . . and if the pastor had not agreed that he could speak . . . and if Amanda had not obeyed God’s urging to attend the service, she would probably not be alive today. God gave Kurt, Amanda, and me His perfect peace—peace that comes when we put our trust in Him. As Jesus promised, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27 NKJV). Sue Carloni lives with her husband, Kurt, in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.
W W W. C H U R C H O F G O D. O R G / G A 2 0 1 4
FAITH | LORD | MISSION
07.29.14 - 08.01.14
7 5 t h I N T E R N A T I O N A L G E N E R A L A S S E M B LY
EVENING: GENERAL COUNCIL
Reserved seating via online GA2014 registration.
CO-PASTOR OF REDEMPTION POINT CHURCH, AND FOUNDER OF THE ZION PROJECT
Speaker: DEVEN WALLACE
TUESDAY, JULY 29
AFTERNOON: GENERAL COUNCIL
AFTERNOON: GENERAL COUNCIL
AFTERNOON: LEADER LABS
AFTERNOON: GENERAL COUNCIL
MORNING: GENERAL COUNCIL
AFTERNOON: GENERAL ASSEMBLY
MORNING: GENERAL COUNCIL
Contact Church of God International Offices by email [email protected]
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MORNING: GENERAL COUNCIL
MORNING: GENERAL COUNCIL
EVENING: PRAYER, COMMUNION AND FELLOWSHIP WITH GENERAL OVERSEER
- Dr. Mark L. Williams
My dream is that you will leave this gathering informed, LQVSLUHGDQGSURXGWREHLGHQWL¿HGZLWKDPRYHPHQWWKDW is committed to completing the mission for which Jesus died!"
DR. MARK L. WILLIAMS
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be ONE, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:20-21 NIV).
Historically, the International General Assembly has been a marvelous opportunity for our global movement to connect and set the priorities for our future. This one will be no different.
"Plans for the 75th gathering of the International General Assembly are under way, and I am so looking forward to seeing you in Orlando!
FROM THE GENERAL OVERSEER:
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Hyatt Regency Orlando(formerly The Peabody Orlando) 9801 International Drive, Orlando, FL 32819 Rate: $152
Hilton Orlando 6001 Destination Pkwy, Orlando, FL 32819 Rate: $155
Embassy Suites Hotel Orlando - International Drive/ Convention Center 8978 International Drive, Orlando, FL 32819 Rate: $145
Rosen Centre Hotel 9840 International Drive, Orlando, FL 32819 Rate: $129
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Clarion Inn & Suites International Drive/ Convention Center 9956 Hawaiian Court, Orlando, FL 32819 Rate: $119
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Rosen Inn at Pointe Orlando 9000 International Drive, Orlando, FL 32819 Rate: $85
EVANGEL • feb 2014
by max lucado
oh, so this is boot camp! This season you’re in may puzzle you, but it does not bewilder God.
N NOVEMBER 28, 1965, the fighter plane of Howard Rutledge exploded under enemy fire. He parachuted into the hands of the North Vietnamese Army and was promptly placed in the “Heartbreak Hotel,” one of the prisons in Hanoi. When the door slammed and the key turned in that rusty, iron lock, a feeling of utter loneliness swept over me. I lay down on that cold cement slab in my 6-by-6 prison. The smell of human excrement burned my nostrils. A rat, large as a small cat, scampered across the slab beside me. The walls and floors and ceilings were caked with filth. Bars covered a tiny window high above the door. I was cold and hungry; my body ached from the swollen joints and sprained muscles. . . . 18
EVANGEL • feb 2014
It’s hard to describe what solitary confinement can do to unnerve and defeat a man. You quickly tire of standing up or sitting down, sleeping or being awake. There are no books, no paper or pencils, no magazines or newspapers. The only colors you see are drab gray and dirty brown. Months or years may go by when you don’t see the sunrise or the moon, green grass or flowers. You are locked in alone and silent in your filthy little cell breathing stale, rotten air and trying to keep your sanity (In the Presence of Mine Enemies).
• I had coffee yesterday with a man whose wife battles depression. He feels stuck (chain number one) and guilty for feeling stuck (chain number two). • After half a century of marriage, a friend’s wife began to lose her memory. He had to take away her car keys so she wouldn’t drive. He has to stay near so she won’t fall. They had hopes of growing old together. They still may, but only one of them will know the day of the week.
Few of us will ever face the austere conditions of a POW camp. Yet to one degree or another, we all spend time behind bars.
Each of these individuals wonders, Where is heaven in this story? Why would God permit such imprisonment? Does this struggle serve any purpose?
• My email today contains a prayer request for a young mother just diagnosed with lupus. Incarcerated by bad health.
As long as Satan “prowls around like a roaring lion” (1 Peter 5:8 NIV), he will wreak havoc among God’s people. He will
lock preachers, like Paul, in prisons. He will exile pastors, like John, on remote islands. He will afflict the friends of Jesus, like Lazarus, with diseases. But his strategies always backfire. The imprisoned Paul wrote epistles. The banished John saw heaven. The cemetery of Lazarus became a stage upon which Christ performed one of His greatest miracles. Intended evil becomes ultimate good. As I reread that promise, it sounds formulaic, catchy, as if destined for a bumper sticker. I don’t mean for it to. There is nothing trite about your wheelchair, empty pantry, or aching heart. These are uphill, into-the-wind challenges you are facing. They are not easy. But neither are they random. God is not sometimes sovereign. He is not occasionally victorious. He does not occupy the throne one day and vacate it the next. “The Lord shall not turn back until He has executed and accomplished the thoughts and intents of His mind” (Jer. 30:24 Amp.). This season in which you find yourself may puzzle you, but it does not bewilder God. He can and will use it for His purpose. Rather than say, “God, why?” ask, “God, what?” What can I learn from this experience? “Remember today what you have learned about the Lord through your experiences with him” (Deut. 11:2 TEV). Rather than ask God to change your circumstances, ask Him to use your circumstances to change you. Life is a required course. Might as well do your best to pass it. God is at work in each of us whether we know it or not, whether we want it or not. “He takes no pleasure in making life hard, in throwing roadblocks in the way” (Lam. 3:33 TM). He does not relish our sufferings, but He delights in our development. “God began doing a good work in you, and I am sure he will continue it until it is finished when Jesus Christ comes again” (Phil. 1:6 NCV). He will not fail. He cannot fail. He will “work in us what is
“Life is a required course. Might as well do your best to pass it.” pleasing to him” (Heb. 13:21 NIV). Every challenge, large or small, can equip you for a future opportunity. Howard Rutledge came to appreciate his time as a POW in Vietnam. He wrote: During those long periods of enforced reflection, it became so much easier to separate the important from the trivial, the worthwhile from the waste. . . . My hunger for spiritual food soon outdid my hunger for a steak. . . . I wanted to know about the part of me that will never die. . . . I wanted to talk about God and Christ and the church. . . . It took prison to show me how empty life is without God. . . . On August 31, after 28 days of torture, I could remember I had children but not how many. I said Phyllis’ name over and over again so I would
not forget. I prayed for strength. It was on that twenty-eighth night I made God a promise. If I survived this ordeal, the first Sunday back in freedom I would take Phyllis and my family to their church and . . . confess my faith in Christ and join the church. This wasn’t a deal with God to get me through that last miserable night. It was a promise made after months of thought. It took prison and hours of painful reflection to realize how much I needed God and the community of believers. After I made God that promise, again I prayed for strength to make it through the night. When the morning dawned through the crack in the bottom of that solid prison door, I thanked God for His mercy.
Don’t see your struggle as an interruption to life but as preparation for life. No one said the road would be easy or painless. But God will use this mess for something good. “This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; it’s training, the normal experience of children. . . . God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God’s holy best” (Heb. 12:8, 10 TM). Over 100 million readers have found comfort in the writings of Max Lucado, who ministers at Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas. This article is excerpted from his book You’ll Get Through This (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2013). Used by permission. “If you openly admit by your own mouth that Jesus Christ is the Lord, and if you believe in your own heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9).
“Men have preferred darkness to light because their deeds are evil” (John 3:19).*
HATE LUST OSSIP G STEAL KILL COVET CHEAT
“Christ died for our sins . . . and rose again on the third day” (1 Cor. 15:3-4).
*All scriptures are from the Phillips translation.
EVANGEL • feb 2014
the bowling family keeps singing
through the storm W HETHER IN A large concert hall, a Gaither taping session, or a church service, The Bowling Family communicates the power of the gospel through their music and through their testimonies of God’s faithfulness to them following a serious bus accident. The group is comprised of Mike and Kelly Bowling, their daughter Hope, and a longtime friend, Troy Peach. First Songs Kelly, born in Beaver Dam, Kentucky, remembers singing her first song, “He’s Still Working on Me,” at age 3. She was saved at age 14 shortly before attending a Church of God youth camp. About the same time, her family broke up and later became part of a blended family—the Crabbs. For 17 years, Kelly sang with Jason Crabb, twin brothers Aaron and Adam, and their sister Terah. 20
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by wanda griffith
Mike grew up in London, Kentucky. At age 8 he started playing piano for his church. His mom paid for piano lessons, but his teacher finally said, “There’s not much I can do with him because he insists on adding chords and playing his own style.”
Church of God. “I was privileged to live with Uncle Alphus (LeFevre). He was my mentor and the closest thing to a saint I had ever known,” Mike said. “I had to finish high school by home schooling, which wasn’t popular at the time.”
Mike loved piano so much that he wouldn’t let anyone else play for services in his home church. He also loved to sing solos. “My favorite time to sing was during the offering when no one was shouting and everyone was quiet.” He admits that’s not the case today, but the spiritual lessons he learned as a child in that country Holiness church stand true today. “I remember my daddy telling me, ‘Son, don’t ever step on the stage without the anointing.’ The Holy Spirit taught me how to do that,” he said.
After high school, Mike attended college and earned a degree in respiratory therapy before returning to the music world. In 1995, he joined the New Hinsons, a singing family known best for their song “The Lighthouse.” This was a perfect blend, considering Mike’s vocals are similar to those of the late Kenny Hinson. After a short time, Mike joined another successful group of family singers, the Perrys.
When Mike was 16, he rode a Greyhound bus to Atlanta to begin singing and playing the piano with the popular LeFevre Trio, who attended the Mount Paran
In 1996, Mike was singing lead with the Perrys when he met Kelly. The first year of their marriage, he traveled with the Perrys; she traveled with the Crabb Family until she got pregnant. Then he traveled with the Crabb Family and opened for them as
soloist. Although this was his first time as soloist since his childhood days of singing for the offertory, his first single went to number four on the Southern Gospel charts. Mike and Kelly knew they would sing together, but it was all in God’s timing. The Bus Accident On July 1, 2010, the Bowling Family’s touring bus was involved in a serious accident. Kelly describes what happened: “We were on our way to a TV taping in Indian Trails, South Carolina, which is close to Charlotte, North Carolina. Most of the time we travel at night, but on July 1, most of the family was up front. The weigh-station sign should have been posted ‘Full,’ but it wasn’t. “Going 60 miles per hour, our bus hit a semitruck that was stopped in traffic. Mike was holding Katelanne, our youngest daughter, in his lap. He was knocked unconscious and sustained a brain injury and bleed, a broken arm, lacerations, and bruising. Katelanne had a large cut on her face that barely missed her eye, and her clavicle was crushed. They were both airlifted to the hospital in Charlotte, and the rest of the family was taken to a Charlotte hospital by ambulance. “My back was broken. Our families were eight hours away. Terah Penhollow, who was singing with us at the time, was not injured seriously, so she was able to go through the tests with the three children.
agedy “When tr, you strikes just ’s realize, ItGod.” d me an owling —Kelly B
“When tragedy strikes, you realize, It’s just me and God. In the ambulance, I remember thinking, This could easily be the worst day of my life, but I know God is with me. After five days, I was released from the hospital, but I lived in a body brace— what I called my turtle shell—for many months, and then I was on a walker. “I had never been sick, but now I couldn’t even give my 3-year-old a bath or hold her in my lap. My bones were collapsing at one point, and the doctors thought I would need surgery, but God intervened.” Mike said, “You can’t help but think, If we were in God’s will, this would never have happened.” Then he read Jesus’ words about Lazarus in John 11:4: “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory that God’s Son may be glorified through it” (NIV). The Healing “My mother’s home looked like a hospital room with wheelchairs, hospital beds, and months of physical therapy,” Kelly said. She experienced the words to the song she had sung for years with her brothers and sister: “He will take you through the fire again.” The Bowlings were unable to travel and sing for seven months. Mike said, “We couldn’t take care of our kids, and we had no way of supporting the family. The days seemed unbearable, but God provided. Every day when the mail ran,
the checks came in so that we never missed our payments. Singers like Ricky Skaggs, the Gaither Vocal Band, and many others held several benefits for us that made it possible for us to regroup and survive. “Katelanne required plastic surgery, but God was so faithful. Even with a crushed clavicle, in three weeks she was turning cartwheels. I believe this happened so we could encourage others. God didn’t cause the accident, but He used the outcome to reveal His plan.” Back in Ministry “It was natural for us to fear getting back on the bus,” Mike said. However, their calendar is now filled with 200 dates a year, and all of the Bowlings are doing well. “It’s hard work when you’re home three days a week and gone four, but God has opened so many doors for us,” Kelly remarked. One Alabama pastor, Tony Matheny— who has had the Bowlings minister in his church more than once—said, “Mike and Kelly Bowling are an amazingly talented family. I have been listening to Mike Bowling sing since he was with the New Hinsons. He sounded so much like one of my all-time favorite singers, Kenny Hinson, but over the years he has developed a style that is all his own. Most of all, I love his heart and his desire for ministry. He and Kelly are true examples of what Christianity is all about.” Mike offers this advice to anyone who desires a singing ministry: “Be sold out to God first. He gives gifts to imperfect people, but you must put God first and work hard. Ask yourself, Why do I want to sing? If it’s because you’re a good singer and want to be heard on the radio, it’s not the right reason. You can have a great gift, but you also have to love people.” Visit bowlingsonline.com to learn more about their ministry of music. Wanda Griffith is a writer, singer, and teacher who lives in Cleveland, Tennessee. EVANGEL • feb 2014
by bill isaacs
when you are betrayed
E HAVE ALL been touched by some form of betrayal. Maybe you can remember when . . .
• He said he would love you and you alone. But the note on the table says he’s not coming back. He asks for a divorce, and his attorney’s card is stapled to the note. • She said she would always be your best friend, but now she’s taken your place with him. • It was your idea. He listened to you share it over dinner, and then he took it to the boss and got the assignment. • You shared something very personal and believed everyone understood it was confidential. Now you’re embarrassed beyond belief, and deeply hurt that someone you trusted betrayed you. When we feel the bitter sting of disappointment and betrayal—as Joseph did when his brothers betrayed him (Gen. 37:23-28) —we have to deal with the hurt. There will be no peace until we settle this issue. A wise friend once told me, “When someone trusts you, it is a heavier weight than when they don’t!” Broken trust may never be fully restored. Watch marriage partners struggle to regain their relationship after dealing with unfaithfulness. It’s indescribably difficult. Observe the businessman, whose partners sold him out for a large profit, struggle to even speak peaceably with them again. Anger is inevitable when faced with betrayal. Emotions run deep. Several years ago, I was the victim of vicious criticism by two men I trusted
EVANGEL • feb 2014
and believed in. Although I am not usually sensitive to such things, there was something in this act that hurt to the core. When I overheard these men talking about me, enumerating my inabilities and shortcomings, I was wounded. To my knowledge, they never knew I was around the corner. To this day, I doubt they even recall their words. Unfortunately, I do. When it happened, I quietly left the building and started home. Only God and I knew what was in my heart. Hot tears rolled down my cheeks and my heart screamed, Why me?
If you leave a decaying apple in the bowl long enough, the other fruit will rot along with it.
The only time in my life I believe I saw a vision was in the car driving home that afternoon. In the vision, there was a beautiful bowl of fruit on a kitchen counter. I saw a body move past the bowl and accidently knock it off the counter. The bowl and fruit came crashing to the floor. While I saw no faces, I heard a voice say, “Pick it up and put it back into the bowl. Nothing is hurt.” The voice was wrong. The fruit had been bruised from the fall. If you place a bruised apple in a bowl with healthy fruit, no one would notice—for a while. But over time, the apple would decay. If you left it in the bowl long enough, the other fruit would rot as well. As I drove, the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart, That’s what will happen to you if you allow this bruise to go unattended. “But it’s not my fault,” I protested. “I didn’t do anything to them.” Even so, the bruise is yours to deal with. It is your spirit that will be affected. Then I remembered the words of Jesus, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me . . . to set at liberty them that are bruised” (Luke 4:18). I realized the Lord would have to help me deal with my bruise. “That’s what I want!” I cried with all my heart. Supernaturally, the Lord touched me in that car. By the time I got home, I was a different person. I still remember the experience, but I am not negatively affected by it anymore, because the Lord set me free from the bruise I had suffered. Bill Isaacs is administrative bishop for the Church of God in Ohio. Adapted from his book Embracing Destiny (Pathway Press). [email protected]
by lance colkmire
Mount Bethel Church of God
lovinG people and praying fervently
HEN CECIL MULLINGS was appointed pastor of the Mount Bethel Church of God in Trenton, New
Jersey, he cried. He and his wife, Delores, had been serving the thriving East Flatbush Church of God in Brooklyn, New York, for 14 years—most notably as youth directors— when he was asked to fill Mount Bethel’s empty pulpit for five weeks in fall 1986. Two weeks later, the pastor of East Flatbush, Peter Gayle, received a letter from New Jersey’s overseer, Harold Downing, appointing Mullings as Mount Bethel’s pastor. Seven people were attending newly planted Mount Bethel, which met in a school. “I didn’t want to go,” Mullings admitted, yet he accepted the appointment. Twenty-seven years later, he is still there.
Pastor Mullings said, “If Bishop Downing hadn’t given me that opportunity, I don’t know if I would be a pastor today. And I thank [the late] Bishop Gayle for pushing me to move on.” Long Commute Cecil was a social worker for the state of New York, while Delores was working as a registered nurse, when they accepted the Trenton pastorate. At first, they traveled to New Jersey on the weekends—a drive that took from three to five hours, depending on traffic. They stayed in a hotel at their own expense. They also covered the church’s monthly rent payment of $500. The church slowly began growing, so the couple sold their house in Brooklyn and moved to Trenton. However, Cecil continued working in Brooklyn for several years, which meant leaving home at 6:00
each morning and returning around 9:00 each night. Delores’ sister moved to Trenton with them, and one morning while taking her son to school, she spotted a “For Sale” sign in front of a church. The price was $155,000, and Overseer Downing advised, “Put some money down on it quick.” At that time, the church had 20 members. Delores recalled, “We had concerts and chicken dinners and everything else, and came up with the down payment of $25,000.” Pastor Mullings said, “When we bought that church, they wanted me to go full-time, but I knew we could not afford it. I promised the Lord when my son, Gary, graduated from college, I would go full-time.” A Praying Church When Mount Bethel outgrew its building, they purchased another facility in
EVANGEL • feb 2014
Bishop Cecil and Delores Mullings
1996. Ten years later, they purchased the current site—a former Jewish synagogue with a beautiful sanctuary that seats several hundred. “Loving people and praying” has fueled the church’s growth, Pastor Mullings said. Delores said, “We love to pray. When we have a week of prayer, the church is packed. If it’s at 6:00 in the morning, it’s packed. On Friday evenings, the church has a prayerand-deliverance service. We try to pray for about an hour, but you know Pentecostals—it doesn’t usually work out that way.” About 20 years ago, Delores was diagnosed with breast cancer. She said, “It was really a trying time. My son was in college, my husband was working in Brooklyn, and I was down here. The church formed a prayer group that met every Monday night, whether there was snow or rain. The doctor was ready to do surgery, but the Lord spoke to me from Isaiah 3:10: ‘Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well.’ I told the prayer group, and we spent time in fasting and prayer. “When Evangelist Jackie Smith came to speak for our ladies service, there was a tremendous move of God. She didn’t know I was sick, but she called me out for prayer. The Holy Spirit overwhelmed me.
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“When the doctor performed the surgery, he found nothing but tissue where it looked like the cells had died. Everything was clear.” Last April, a new convert, Vivian Spencer—well known for operating a mechanic’s shop for many years—was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He had surgery in July. A Friday medical exam showed an infection where a colostomy tube had been inserted, meaning that Spencer needed a second surgery. That Sunday, Pastor Mullings prayed for Spencer at the altar, and by Tuesday, the infection had totally healed. Vivian smiled when the doctor told him, “Your body healed itself because it was afraid of another surgery.” Vivian told the doctor, “I believe in God.” Hands-on Ministry Carlene Moore has attended Mount Bethel since Bishop Jeremiah McIntyre started the church in a hotel in 1985. She serves as Pastor Mullings’ secretary and as director of the church’s education board. Moore said, “My life is the church. I was married here, and raised my three kids here.”
When Carlene’s father passed away last summer, she went to his burial in Jamaica. While there, she received word that her mother was nonresponsive in a hospital back in New Jersey. Because of Jamaica’s Independence Day celebration (August 6), she could not get a flight home before her mother died. She said through this turmoil, Pastor Mullings was her “tower of strength.” Then she added, “What he has done for me he does for others—even those he does not know.” The Mullings’ daughter-in-law, Jacqueline, who serves as minister of music, said, “They both want to be at every graduation, every wedding, every funeral, every baby shower, every hospital visit. They want to do it all. It’s a special quality. You really have to have this love for the people. “They’ve been hurt, and I’ve often said, ‘You guys are setting yourselves up to be hurt again. But when you love people, you get hurt.’ I’m still learning from them how to accept people as they are. They take everything with grace and pray about it.” Jacqueline added, “In 2006, the pastor was in the hospital for the first time. We took that as an opportunity to kind of restructure things. So instead of him doing everything, we separated into different
Gary and Jacqueline Mullings
entities—the same principle as Moses and Jethro. So, we have five ministers over the different ministries.” Those ministries include Sunday school, children’s church, women’s ministry, men’s ministry, evangelism, care program, nurses’ ministry, parent and toddler group, youth ministry, chaplaincy, creative arts, and choirs. Mount Bethel also supports missionaries to Liberia, and a delegation from the church will be traveling there in fall 2014. A Diverse Congregation Mount Bethel began with Jamaican immigrants. Carlene Moore remembers when the first Haitian family, the Emmanuels, joined the church, primarily so Sister Emmanuel could learn English. Now there are 10 national flags displayed in the sanctuary, representing the church’s various nationalities. “We have Jamaicans, Haitians, Liberians, other Africans, Trinidadians, American blacks, and Caucasians,” said Delores Mullings. “We have lawyers, nurses, teachers, a pilot, an actor, people in school, and people not working.” Worshipers come from near and far to the church’s inner-city location, where the poverty rate is high. Carlene Moore helps connect individuals with job opportunities and prepares them for interviews. The church is multigenerational. One young member, 24-year-old Dexter Pennant, joined Mount Bethel along with his parents and brother in 2010. He said he quickly “felt at home” among the many young adults, who socialize through chat groups, basketball games, and meals. Pennant, who is an armor bearer for Bishop Mullings, described the pastor as being “well-connected, aware of who is and is not here, and what people’s needs are. It’s like he has spies out there!” Pennant also complimented Gary Mullings, Mount Bethel’s associate pastor, saying, “When I need someone to talk with, Pastor Gary is available, even when it is inconvenient.” Son of Cecil and Delores, Gary also serves as youth and discipleship director
Sounds of Praise choir
for the Church of God in New Jersey. He was 12 when his family moved to New Jersey, and was the church’s choir director, praise and worship leader, and sole musician in those early days. Recently, he has recorded a CD with Mount Bethel’s young adult choir, Sounds of Praise. Team Effort Delores and Cecil grew up in Jamaica, but did know each other. They met after they both moved to England, where Cecil became a Christian in 1964 under an American evangelist’s ministry. She is a third-generation Church of God member; he is first-generation. After getting married in England, they moved to the United States because “we were very young and adventurous,” Delores said. They settled in New York, where Cecil earned his bachelor’s and master’s degree in social work and she became a registered nurse. Delores has participated in many medical missionary trips to Jamaica. Cecil, who serves as a hospital chaplain in Trenton and was appointed by Governor Chris Christie to New Jersey’s Occupational Therapy Advisory Council, says, “My social work and her nursing have
helped us in our ministry. We complement each other.” At Mount Bethel, Delores serves as copastor and women’s discipleship president, and she preaches and teaches. “I do everything there is to do,” she summarized. “There is nothing too big or too small.” Regarding their daughter-in-law, Jacqueline, Pastor Mullings said, “She is from England. Her uncle is Jeremiah McIntyre, who was the Church of God overseer in England and moved to Canada before coming to New Jersey. When my son married her, we did not know her uncle had started Mount Bethel!” Jacqueline and Gary have two daughters: Chloe, 8, and Ashley, 5. A Pastor’s Calling Reflecting on his first years of pastoral ministry, Bishop Mullings said, “I was young and athletic, and I would just keep going. Now I stop. I don’t want to do anything inappropriate. I pray, read, adjust, look ahead, and then move on. “I don’t think I got a call to pastor; I think I got called into the youth ministry. I just followed the Lord’s leading. I thought being a pastor was the hardest job. But now I’m doing it, and I’m enjoying it.” EVANGEL • feb 2014
Discuss a couple of strengths/advantages of the Church of God in the region where you are serving as administrative bishop. connectivity and opportunity TOMMY POWELL IS ADMINISTRATIVE BISHOP OF THE CHURCH OF GOD IN THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN REGION.
I WAS IN A DEEP SLEEP. It was 12:32 a.m. and my cell phone was ringing. It was the early morning of the last day of the 2012 General Assembly. When I answered the phone, the voice of a Church of God Executive Committee member on the other end said, “Tommy, you are going to the Rocky Mountain Region.” When I thanked the member and hung up, I looked at my wife and told her the news. We both immediately felt a sense of divine direction. When we arrived in the region, we found some of the most loving and caring people we had ever met, along with some of the most beautiful country that God has created. Many factors make being in the Rocky Mountain Region so rewarding, but here I will focus on only two. One is the unique connection of the people in the region. Having grown up in the Church of God, our fellowship always has been special to me. We knew people in other congregations almost as well as we knew those in our local church. Here in our region, the ministers and laity enjoy getting together to see one another. The ministers celebrate each other’s victories and successes. There is no sense of competition which leads to division. Instead, there is a deep need for connection and accomplishment. When one succeeds, everyone succeeds; and we acutely realize the importance of Ecclesiastes 4:9: “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed” (NLT). The other issue I find so rewarding is the abundance of ministry opportunities throughout our region. The Rocky Mountain Region is not inundated with churches on every corner like in the Bible belt, where I was raised. In Denver alone, with the churches that are here, only 4 percent of the population is churched. In Utah, 62 percent are Mormon. In Wyoming, we only have one Church of God congregation; it is in Gillette. The opportunities are limitless, and that brings a sense of great excitement.
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With so few churches, we see the chance to take the Church of God into unreached areas. That will require personnel, funding, and cooperation on both local and national levels. We believe God is raising up laborers in the Rocky Mountain Region for a great future harvest. We also believe this region is open to those whom God is calling to come and join us in reaching our cities and communities for Christ. I am thankful for the privilege to serve the kingdom of God in this area of our country and to work with the outstanding ministers and churches in our region. I look to the future with great anticipation.
unity and diversity DOYLE P. SCOTT SR. IS ADMINISTRATIVE BISHOP OF THE CHURCH OF GOD IN SOUTHERN NEW ENGLAND.
Two Advantages The Church of God in Southern New England, as well as other Pentecostal groups in the Northeast, is sometimes faced with unfavorable sentiments toward Pentecostalism. Notwithstanding this, one of the greatest advantages the Church of God has over other Pentecostals is the unified approach, the holistic values and resources it brings to the various communities we serve. The Church of God has many churches of all sizes in the states of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. Because of our Declaration of Faith and our commitment to being a compassionate movement (in response to the mandate of Matthew 25:35-40), these churches have been influential in providing the resources to meet the needs of many in the various communities and, more importantly, to win the lost at any cost. Another advantage in this region is the cultural sensitivity we have, as we are quite aware “one size does not fit all.” Even though we adhere firmly to our beliefs, we also understand there needs to be some cultural relevance as we embrace our communities. We
have developed programs that meet all levels of the cultural communities. Those communities include Hispanics, Africans, Caucasians, Native Americans, African Americans, and people from all over the Caribbean Islands. As we minister in these communities, we provide learning resources to the disgruntled believer and/or the church member who desires to elevate their potential.
dous growth, greater church awareness, higher education, and support to diverse groups. Most important of all, lost people are being saved.
Two Strengths Two strengths in Southern New England are our Department of Education and our major growth in ministry. In addition to our ministerial credentialing process, we have established a functioning Department of Education. The chairperson and appointed members of the Education Board, along with our Ministerial Examining Board, oversee every aspect of ministerial training in this region. There is a mandatory lay leadership training program for every layperson who desires to become a leader in the Church of God, training programs for youth and discipleship, equipping of ministers who have been dormant in their respective ministry calling, as well as chaplaincy training. These training programs meet all levels of ministry learning—serving those who are not sure of their calling, those who know their calling, all the way to college level or the highest ministerial rank in the Church of God. There is also a large participation in ministerial credentialing in this region as those who desire to serve in specific ministries are seeing its importance. In addition to our Hispanic groups, a great number of Africans and Haitians are becoming credentialed due to a strong presence of these ethnicities in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and more churches are being established to reach these groups. Although there is a language barrier between some of our churches, the beauty of it is at our yearly camp meeting, where people of many nations and tongues come together as one to worship and celebrate the King of kings and Lord of lords. The Church of God “brand” in itself is a major strength in Southern New England—we have a powerful presence here. Also, we are always prepared to deal with the planting of churches and establishing ministries, and we are experiencing tremen-
HAVING SERVED in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) and Western Canada as pastor and now administrative bishop, I feel this is our home. The Church of God is here to reach the unbelieving community with the message of Jesus. People in the PNW are not looking for a particular denomination, or a certain tradition or culture. In most cases, they are not concerned with the name on the building but, instead, with what goes on inside and outside the building. Many times the effort to push a program pushes people away. The churches that are making an impact are those giving the gospel. If you were to ask the average PNW churchgoer what they believe, they can’t explain their doctrine. Although doctrines have their place to identify who we are, it does not help the unbeliever know Jesus. This is true in all denominations in the PNW, not just the Church of God. Once a person accepts Christ, he or she can be taught the truths and doctrines of the church. All too often, however, we have driven people away by becoming legalistic in our approach to reaching unbelievers. The purpose of the Church of God in the Pacific Northwest is to be the church and not do church. We must know our community and how best to reach that community. It is not “one size fits all.” Styles, music, and décor may all change, but an unbeliever finding Christ must never change. So, the question: What are the strengths and advantages of the Church of God in the PNW? Answer: We aim to give the world Jesus, not a program or tradition. The world is smart enough to know if we are what we say!
being the church
VAUGHN MATHEWS IS ADMINISTRATIVE BISHOP OF THE CHURCH OF GOD IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST.
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PEOPLE AND EVENTS
TIM AND ROBIN REDMOND’S MINISTRY ROAD LEVITTOWN, Pa.—June 14 is a red-letter date in Timothy and Robin Redmond’s lives . . . and not because it is Flag Day. Tim grew up in a Catholic family in Maine, while Robin grew up in a Presbyterian home in Pennsylvania. Her family moved to Maine on June 14, 1974. Exactly one year later—on June 14, 1975—Tim and Robin had their first date. “We were far away from God, but God put us together,” Tim said. Precisely one year later—on June 14, 1976—after Robin graduated from high school, her parents moved back to Pennsylvania. Robin said, “My parents said they had to move to Maine to find me a spouse!” On their wedding day, Robin was 18; Tim, 19. Robin worked at a bank. Tim was going to college to become a lawyer while working at a grocery store in northeastern Pennsylvania. When he was offered a manager’s job at the store, he dropped out of school. He managed a grocery store for 11 years.
Church Life Robin said, “I decided I didn’t feel comfortable going to a Catholic church. I didn’t want to go to confession. But he didn’t want to come to a Presbyterian church. So we agreed on a Lutheran church. We could have Communion after the service.” Several months after Robin visited a couple of events at an Assemblies of God church with a friend, Tim had to work one Sunday. Robin said, “The Lord woke me up and told me to take my two little boys to that church. I got saved that day. My boys were 4 and 2.” Tim had become very involved in the Lutheran church, becoming a good friend with the pastor, but he agreed to try the Assemblies of God for a few months. He said, “The day I walked in, I knew this was right. I asked the pastor, ‘Why do I feel so welcomed?’ He said, ‘Well, it’s a small church.’ That was not it—it was the drawing of the Holy Spirit.” Tim and Robin Redmond
Tim soon accepted Christ as Savior. He said, “I am a Christian because of Robin’s parents. They loved God and were very devoted to their Presbyterian church. I felt like her dad was someone I could model after. Not that my dad wasn’t, but Catholicism was just not that personal.” Robin said, “My parents stayed with their Presbyterian church, but they came and visited our church all the time. They had a small-group Bible study in their home. We called them ‘closet Pentecostals.’”
Call to Ministry Tim transferred into the trucking business as a supervisor—a job he learned to hate. “During that time, I felt the call to ministry. I was a deacon and an elder in the Assemblies of God. I knew if I was called, Robin would have to be willing. . . . She was.” Through various events and the influence of Pastor Allan Alaimo (Camp Hill Full Gospel Church of God), the Redmonds entered the Church of God Ministerial Internship Program (MIP). Tim’s trucking company moved to Carlisle, where the Church of God State Offices are located. Rodney Jeffords, then administrative bishop of Pennsylvania, hired Robin to work there.
New Start in Newville After they finished MIP training, the Redmonds were appointed to their first pastorate—the Big Spring Heights Church of God in Newville—in 1999. “Brother Jeffords gave us one word of advice, Pastor Tim remembered: ‘Just love the people.’” Robin said, “It was a little church of 30 people. Their pas-
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tors would stay for two years and leave. It was one of those tough situations. We didn’t know what we were doing, but God led us. He would bring people to that church. People would say, ‘l was praying and God showed me the mill in town where I was supposed to come to church.’ “We were there 11 years and never thought we would leave. We moved my mother there. Our grandbabies were born there.” (The Redmonds have two sons and four grandchildren.) For their first six years in Newville, as the church steadily grew, Tim was a bi-vocational pastor. One factor in the church’s growth was a “grief share” program that began after several members lost a parent around the same time. Meanwhile, “the Holy Spirit spoke to a woman in the church about starting a care ministry,” Robin said. “We prepared meals for people. We also would help people run errands. “Every Monday, this woman would ask the pastor to identify who needed to receive a card. Out of a church of 100 members, there were 30 senior adults whom she would contact about sending a card. People knowing that someone cared enough to contact them helped a lot. You could not stay away for three or four weeks without being cared for. One 80-something-year-old lady would make her own cards. Everyone wanted a card from her.”
Move to Levittown Eighteen months after building a home in Newville, the Redmonds were approached about moving to Levittown—about 25
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DECEASED MINISTERS n ARNOLD, Selwyn Edmund; 79; ordained bishop; New Jersey; Muriel Arnold (wife)
n JOHNSON, Robert P.; 72; ordained bishop; Florida; Marian Johnson (wife)
n BOOTS, Deborah; 51; ordained minister; California; Marty Boots (husband)
n KINCAID, Kenneth Cecil; 75; ordained bishop; Ohio; Judith Kincaid (wife)
n CALDWELL, James J.; 80; ordained bishop; Delaware; Cindy Johnson (daughter)
n LAWWILL, Gene Donald; 86; ordained bishop; Ohio; Theresa Daniel (daughter)
n CLARK, Billy; 83; ordained bishop; Ohio; spouse deceased
n MINAY, José Gustavo; 82; ordained bishop; Tennessee; Eliana Minay (wife)
n EASTON, LaVerne; 90; ordained bishop; Indiana; Jean Easton (wife)
n MOORE, Harold Edward; 86; exhorter; Indiana; Jeff Moore (son) n POOLE, Alf; 82; ordained bishop; Florida; Mary Poole (wife)
Levittown, Pennsylvania, was built as a self-contained, economical planned community following World War II. Its more than 17,000 homes were located in 41 “sections.” In each section, all the street names begin with the same letter.
n FRANCIS, Floyd Edward; 76; ordained minister; South Carolina; Deannie Francis (wife)
miles northeast of Philadelphia. The beloved pastor, Robert Varner, was retiring after leading the Levittown Church of God for more than four decades. “Who would follow a couple everybody loved—who is crazy enough to do that?” Robin asked. “We were! God dealt with us over time. At first, we said no; and then, yes. We’ve been here for four years.” Pastor Redmond said, “One of our first services here, I asked a council member to pray over the offering. He was wearing a Philadelphia Phillies jersey. He prayed, ‘Thank You for this offering, and please let the Phillies win!’” The pastor continued, “The pace is different. The culture is different. Some of the things we did in Newville don’t work here. However, my secretary and I send cards every Monday—sometimes
n GARFIELD, Direne; 60; exhorter; New Mexico; Evan Garfield (husband)
n SHEPHERD, Boyd Jackson; 75; ordained bishop; California; Ruth Shepherd (wife)
n HARDEMON, K. P.; 96; ordained bishop; Florida; Helen Hardemon (wife)
n STIDHAM, Robert K., Jr.; 89; ordained minister; North Carolina; Michael Stidham (son)
n HUNT, Roy James; 86; ordained bishop; Illinois; Jim Hunt (son)
n STONE, Roland C.; 75; ordained bishop; North Carolina; Jean Stone (wife)
n JOHN, Babu M.; 63; ordained bishop; Florida; Susan John (wife)
n WARD, Michael Raymond; 58; ordained bishop; Tennessee; Lisa Ward (wife)
30 cards—all with a handwritten note. When you visit our church, you don’t get a form letter; you get a personalized letter welcoming you to the church.” This area has a high rate of alcoholism and drug addiction. Robin said, “We have so many recovered alcoholics and drug addicts, which is awesome. We had to learn how to disciple these people.” She told about “a young lady who left the church for a little while, and got involved with a Methodist church’s sign-language choir. She then went on a mission trip to Joplin, Missouri. God touched her on that trip. When she came back to our church, I told her, ‘You start a choir here.’ She said, ‘I can’t do that.’ I said, ‘God will help you.’ “To see her today, there has been such a change. She recom-
mitted her life, and she is an amazing person. She is training other kids to worship with sign language. Her group is going to do sign language for [an outreach to] the homeless.” Pastor Redmond said, “When we made the move from Newville to here, I asked someone who is pretty wise, ‘How do
n ROWE, Donald Eugene; 75; ordained minister; Pennsylvania; Nordell Rowe (wife)
you know you’re doing God’s will?’ “He said, ‘Tim, continue doing what God asks you to do. If you’re not doing His will, He’ll let you know.’ “Sometimes we’re looking for the mountaintop experience, but He speaks in that still, small voice.”—Lance Colkmire
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CHURCH OF GOD CHRONICLES by david g. roebuck
following a favorable wind: edmond and rebecca barr
N NOVEMBER 1909, the wind was blowing in the wrong direction for a small sailing ship attempting to transport passengers from Miami, Florida, to the Bahamian capital of Nassau. Edmond and Rebecca Barr were on board, and their only recourse was to pray for a favorable wind. Rebecca later reported, “Just before we closed our prayer, the wind turned in our favor; the sailors hoisted their sails and began to sail, and the dear Lord landed us safe in Nassau.” Despite the physical winds blowing around them, the wind of the Holy Spirit had stirred compassion in the hearts of the Barrs for the people of the Bahamas. Edmond was a black Bahamian, born on the island of Exuma about 1868. He immigrated to the United States in 1893 and married Georgia-native Rebecca
Although damaged, Edmond Barr’s ordination certificate has survived in the Office of Business and Records at the Church of God International Offices.
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Clayton, in 1894, at an African Methodist Episcopal Church in Arcadia, Florida. In May 1909, the Barrs attended the Pleasant Grove Camp Meeting near Durant, Florida. Many of the Holiness people who regularly attended the camp had come into the Pentecostal Movement during the previous two years. While there, they met A. J. Tomlinson, who preached on the importance of restoring God’s church. Tomlinson credentialed both Edmond and Rebecca as evangelists on May 31, making them the first people of African descent in the Church of God. The following October, Tomlinson returned to Pleasant Grove, and the Barrs experienced a call to preach the gospel in the Bahamas. As was their custom, campmeeting attendees raised the funds to make the journey possible. Robert M. and Ida
Evans were leaders of the Pleasant Grove Camp Meeting, and they joined the Barrs in the Bahamas the following January. Returning to Florida in 1911, the Barrs began to minister among Bahamian immigrants, and Edmond served as pastor of a Miami congregation. On June 4, 1912, Tomlinson wrote in his journal: “Held a conference meeting yesterday to consider the question of ordaining Edmond Barr (colored) and setting the colored people off to work among themselves on account of the race prejudice in the South.” Ordination as a bishop permitted Edmond to establish churches and grant ministerial credentials. Then, in 1915, Tomlinson appointed Edmond as overseer of black congregations. Regrettably, the racial prejudice Tomlinson had referenced in 1912 made it difficult for black men and women to serve in a predominately white movement. After moving to Tampa, Edmond and Rebecca disappeared from Church of God records by 1920. Recent research reveals they later relocated to Palatka, Florida, where Edmond became the first “settled” pastor of the local Church of God in Christ in early 1925. His time in Palatka was short, however. Edmond died of heart failure on October 31, 1925, and was buried in Miami. Rebecca lived until March 31, 1934, when she died of diabetes in St. Petersburg. On February 7, 2014, the Church of God will honor Edmond and Rebecca Barr by placing a memorial marker in the International Offices’ Prayer Plaza. Because of their obedience to the wind of the Spirit, the marker will recognize that they were the first Church of God ministers to carry the gospel outside the United States. 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]
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