Friday, December 30, 2011

New Class at Browns Creek Church of God!

This Sunday, January 1, I'm beginning a Sunday School class at Browns Creek Church of God!  Browns Creek is beginning a restart on New Year's Day and I will teach the class.  (Previously the congregation had one adult class; this class will be the second.)  Sunday School begins at 9:30 A.M.

We will discuss what we want to study on Sunday; I pray that God's Spirit moves in great power as we seek holiness!  I named the class, "The Truth Seekers" because that pretty much sums up my view of life.  

In the event that I accept a pastorate my father, who is leading the restart, will take over the teaching responsibilities.

Browns Creek Church of God
2550 Browns Creek Road
St. Albans, WV  25177 

From U.S. Route 60 (Coal Mountain)
Turn onto Browns Creek Road (CR-1) and drive 2.7 miles.  The church will be on your left.

From Coal River Road
Turn onto Browns Creek Road (CR-1) and drive 2.1 miles.  The church will be on your right.

GPS Coordinates to Browns Creek Church  
N 38°21.950'
W081°53.671'

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Fourth Week of Advent Season!

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel" (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus. (Matthew 1:18-25 ESV)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Asbury's Ben Witherington Has Witnessed Miracles

Recently I came across a blog by Asbury Theological Seminary Professor, Dr. Ben Witherington, debating another scholar's conclusions.  What was of serendipitous surprise to me, however, was what Witherington mentioned in the comments section after the blog entry.   He has witnessed miracles.  He had two exchanges with a skeptic concerning miracles.  Witherington wrote:
Well, I am calling your bluff. Many of us have seen real miracles-- miracles of healing, miracles of paranormal phenomena, and yes I've run into someone who was genuinely raised from the dead in Siler City North Carolina-- flat e.k.g., dead for a good while, the whole shmeer. 
I quite agree that all such claims should be carefully scrutinized and you are of course right that there are plenty of gullible people out there. This doesn't mean miracles do not happen. And here's the problem for your point of view. Jesus warned us that believing is what leads to seeing and understanding miracles, not necessarily the other way around. 
I should tell you someday about the phone call my perfectly sane neighbor received from her dead best friend, in the presence of witnesses (woman had been confirmed dead a couple of hours before the phone call in Asheboro hospital). It freaked her smooth and I had to pick up the pieces.
Happy Easter--- and raise your expectations!
After the skeptic responded, Witherington replied:
I'll not have it, and neither should you. The woman in question had her son present in the very room she had the conversation with Mrs. Albright the woman who had been dead for some time. Her son not only was there when the phone rang, his mother told him whom she was speaking to.  
It is quite impossible for friends of 40 or more years to be mistaken for someone else in a 30 minute phone conversation! And her son was 25 years of age, shy and of absolutely sound mind. I am afraid you need to be skeptical of your own skeptism-- and if you will be, you shall be a much happier man by far. 
Of course you are right that the man in Siler City did not have a resurrection body. He was like Lazarus, coming back to this body. And frankly when there is no pulse, no heartbeat, no breathing, no e.k.g, no brain waves of any kind for a long period of time--- the man is dead! Sorry-- you can't blame it on faulty equipment. 
And what exactly would you make of what I saw in a faith healing service where I watched wretchedly deformed persons miraculously healed at Tremont Temple Church in downtown Boston in the late 70s? To see legs lengthened, goiters drop off, enormous deformities healed on the spot--- even the most skeptical would have to be Scrooge indeed to deny it happened. They would have to be willfully closing their eyes! 
So you must really rethink your posture in this matter--- you do not KNOW that we live in a closed materialistic system at all. You just believe we do--- in other words this is faith postulate based on what you take to be sufficient evidence. 
In other words, your posture is no different from mine. Its just my evidence differs from yours.  
Think on these things.
Wow!  Yes, we should be cautious about believing miracle stories but this is Ben Witherington we're talking about, not some sketchy televangelist trying to separate people from their money.  

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Third Week of Advent Season!

Luke 1:26-38 ESV  In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,  (27)  to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary.  (28)  And he came to her and said, "Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!"  (29)  But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.  (30)  And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  (31)  And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.  (32)  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,  (33)  and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end."  (34)  And Mary said to the angel, "How will this be, since I am a virgin?"  (35)  And the angel answered her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy--the Son of God.  (36)  And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren.  (37)  For nothing will be impossible with God."  (38)  And Mary said, "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The English Standard Version (ESV) Has Been Updated Again!

I am really behind the curve on this one!  The English Standard Bible (ESV) has been updated for a second time!  My favored translation originally was published in 2001.  I have both it and the 2007 updated edition in print Bibles.  Today I found out that the text was updated in the spring of 2011.  I downloaded the new edition (for free) to be used with the (free) program, theWord.  All is well again in my pulpit!

For a list of changes from the 2007 to 2011 edition click here.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Second Week of Advent Season!

This morning I conclude my series, "The Purposes of the Church."  It is fitting that the last purpose to be examined is evangelism.  This ties in nicely with our focus on the heavenly host announcing the good news of the Messiah's birth to shepherds watching their flocks.

Luke 2:8-20 ESV  And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  (9)  And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear.  (10)  And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  (11)  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  (12)  And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger."  (13)  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,  (14)  "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!"  (15)  When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us."  (16)  And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.  (17)  And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child.  (18)  And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.  (19)  But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.  (20)  And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
Like the angels we must announce the good news to those who need it.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Are We Still Going Together to Make Disciples?


I had a fascinating class at Mid-America Bible College (Now Mid-America Christian University) in Oklahoma City.  It was "Christian Worship."  My professor, Martin Shackleton, was chair of the music department at the time and taught a great class.  Our principal text was A. W. Tozer's The Knowledge of the Holy.

One day we were in for special treat; Martin's father, Frederick G. Shackleton, lectured.  The elder Shackleton taught various disciplines at different colleges throughout his career, including philosophy.  He answered to my satisfaction an age-old dilemma: If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?  Shackleton's answer: God heard it, so it made a sound!

Perhaps he is best known at large today in the Church of God (Anderson) as the writer of the song, Together We Go to Make Disciples.

Are we still doing that?  Have we ever done that?  Do we make disciples?  More than converts—disciples.  Fully matured saints who are stable.
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, (Ephesians 4:11-15 ESV)
Are we doing this?  Don't over-think this one.  Don't rationalize or excuse away.  Ask yourself: Are we doing this?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Advent Season Begins!

It may seem strange because we are still in November but Advent Season begins today!  O, come let us adore him, Christ the Lord!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving

Don't forget to thank God this Thanksgiving Day!
give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  
(1 Thess 5:18 ESV)

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Congregation or a Corporation?

I just read an article that John MacArthur wrote.  How is the church supposed to look?  How is it run?  What does it do?  Consider his first paragraph from "Built to the Master's Plan":
In many respects, the contemporary church in America looks more like a large corporation than like anything described in the New Testament. Even church leaders sometimes bear a closer resemblance to CEOs and corporate executives than to humble, tender shepherds. Sadly, the good news — that a sinner can find forgiveness for sins before a holy God by placing his trust in and committing his whole life to Jesus Christ — is often eclipsed by “success”-oriented programs and an interest in the bottom line.
It's a good article.  While I would add material to his points (which I am doing as I preach through the purposes of the Church) MacArthur's words are worth considering.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Theology Is Not Boring

While there may be boring theologians and boring theology classes theology, itself, is never boring. In the sublime words of the great Wesleyan teacher, William Burt Pope:
Hence every branch of this science is sacred. It is a temple which is filled with the presence of God. From its hidden sanctuary, into which no high priest taken from among men can enter, issues a light which leaves no part dark save where it is dark with excess of glory. Therefore all fit students are worshippers [sic] as well as students.

—A Compendium of Christian Theology, Volume I

What he said.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

English Standard Version (ESV) Free for Kindle!


As of this blog posting date Amazon is giving away the English Standard Version (ESV) for free for the kindle or computer software that reads the kindle format! This is my pulpit Bible and favorite English translation. (The New American Standard Bible—NASB—comes second.)

To download the ESV for kindle click here.

Amazon is also offering the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) for free. I would compare it to the New International Version (NIV) in "feel." Not my favorite translational philosophy by any means but free is free.

To download the HCSB for kindle click here.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Just an Old Sinner Saved by Grace?


Can a person be (or remain) a real Christian while living in willful sin? Many believe a person can. W. T. Purkiser wrote a small work that Amazon is offering currently as a free kindle ebook. It's called Security: The False and the True. Click here to get it. I don't know how long this free offer will last.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Digital American Standard Version (DASV)


Yesterday I ran across a fascinating project by Dr. Ted Hildebrandt, Professor of Biblical Studies and Greek at Gordon College. He took the (now) public domain American Standard Version of 1901 and modernized the language. Hildebrandt copyrighted his new translation only so another couldn't come along and steal his work but he has released the complete Bible over the internet for free use.

In the few places I've looked I agree with the translation philosophy; Hildebrandt apparently hasn't made it gender neutral (one big reason I love and preach from the ESV). It appears to be a solid update to a solid translation.

(By the way, I bought two programs on CD-ROM years ago, Hebrew and Greek tutorials, that Hildebrandt wrote. He is the one who taught me to sing the Hebrew alphabet to the tune of Yankee Doodle Dandy!)

DASV Old Testament
DASV New Testament

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Stained Glass Windows

I love stained glass windows in churches; however, they are so expensive that many new worship buildings never will see them installed. For your visual pleasure I'd like to share pictures of two windows from Southwest Church of God in Spring Hill, West Virginia. Enjoy!



Friday, September 2, 2011

Drill, Baby, Drill

I have no argument with green technology; we are called by God to be good stewards of the earth that he has entrusted to us. However, God clearly gave us raw materials for our consumption and enjoyment:

"Surely there is a mine for silver, and a place for gold that they refine. Iron is taken out of the earth, and copper is smelted from the ore. Man puts an end to darkness and searches out to the farthest limit the ore in gloom and deep darkness. He opens shafts in a valley away from where anyone lives; they are forgotten by travelers; they hang in the air, far away from mankind; they swing to and fro. As for the earth, out of it comes bread, but underneath it is turned up as by fire. Its stones are the place of sapphires, and it has dust of gold. "Man puts his hand to the flinty rock and overturns mountains by the roots. He cuts out channels in the rocks, and his eye sees every precious thing. (Job 28:1-6,9-10 ESV)
Do it responsibly...but do it.

Monday, August 29, 2011

John MacArthur on Alcohol (Or, John Barleycorn)


I've noticed an alarming familiarity that conservative evangelicals have today with alcohol that both bewilders and saddens me. It's a monumental shift from the evangelical Christianity of an earlier day. It's not an improvement.

Well-known evangelical preacher, John MacArthur, preached in great detail on the difference between "wine" as consumed in the biblical times verses the modern varieties of alcohol today. I think these sermons are very helpful.

Unfortunately, MacArthur—not from my Pietistic & holiness Tradition—was hesitant to say Christians just shouldn't drink, period. Perhaps he feared falling into legalism. Well, I'll say it: Christians just shouldn't drink, period. I don't think it's legalistic to expect this of holiness Christians. Through a checklist of eight questions...
1. Is drinking today the same as in Bible times? Or is the wine today the same as then?
2. Is drinking necessary?
3. Is drinking the best choice?
4. Is drinking habit-forming?
5. Is drinking potentially destructive?
6. Is it offensive to other Christians?
7. Will it harm my Christian testimony?
8. Are you really sure it's right to drink? I mean, are you absolutely sure? Because if you have any conviction about it at all you ought to deal with that.
...MacArthur seems to ask for abstinence without flat-out demanding it. Well, I'll demand it: Christians should abstain from alcohol.

Click the hyperlinks below to listen or download his sermons from 1978 for free. (Don't tell MacArthur I said this but if you're short on time I think you can skip Part 1 and jump right into the heart of the discussion with Parts 2 and 3.)


BeNot Drunk with Wine, Part 1
 Be Not Drunk with Wine, Part 2 
Be Not Drunk with Wine, Part 3

Update: In January of 2012 MacArthur again addressed this issue because some "young, restless and Reformed" Calvinistic pastors are openly celebrating alcohol today and, for some bizarre reason that escapes me, making the consumption of hooch a big-ticket Christian liberty issue. ("Christians and Alcohol" overlaps some material found in Parts 1 and 2 in the 1978 series. "Interrogating Alcohol" overlaps 1978's Part 3.) I think his 1978 sermons are crisper in presentation but MacArthur appears even less accommodating to alcohol in 2012, a stance I appreciate. Also, he makes very interesting points about slavery in the Bible as he draws a parallel.

Christians and Alcohol
Interrogating Alcohol

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

I Love Cologne


Oil and perfume make the heart glad
(Proverbs 27:9a ESV)

I'm a guy and I like dude stuff: guns, cars, WVU football, WVU basketball and Cheez-It crackers. (Women will never understand how much guys love Cheez-It crackers; it's a guy thing.) I also am an extremely low-maintenance guy. My favorite shaving cream is Barbasol (original scent). Yes, I unabashedly wear Aqua Velva aftershave (at fewer than $5 for 7 ounces at Walmart). My favorite soap is Ivory Spring with Aloe.

However, I allow myself one indulgence: I love cologne! (or, for the purists among us, Eau de Toilette, or EdT).

Here are some of my favorite colognes:

Polo by Ralph Lauren (1978)

I know of no more complex men's scent than Polo's original. It is a deep smoky campfire on a cool, early autumn night as one sits on a fallen mossy tree and is surrounded by the dewy grass. Polo is the essence of a Mountaineer; Montani Semper Liberi! Warning: Please spray no more than one time! Anything more is overkill!
Top Notes Pine, Lavender, Juniper, Artemisia, Bergamot, Cumin, Basil, Green Notes 
Middle Notes Coriander, Marjoram, Jasmin, Carnation, Geranium, Thyme, Rose 
Base Notes Oakmoss, Patchouli, Leather, Cedar, Amber, Musk, Frankinsense
Rive Gauche Pour Homme by Yves Saint Laurent (2003)This is the most versatile barbershop scent I have ever experienced. It is the smell of a shave, the quintessential essence of clean, of a well-groomed man. It is a power suit with a red tie, the cologne equivalent of Barbasol shaving cream (original scent). If this cologne is NSFW (Not Safe For Work) than NOTHING is safe for the office. Apply liberally—it won't offend anyone.
Top Notes Bergamot, Star Anise, Rosemary 
Middle Notes Lavender, Geranium Leaves, Cloves 
Base Notes Vetiver, Gaiac Wood, Patchouli
Polo Red (2013)

I love this juice!  Sadly, it lacks in sillage and longevity.  In these regards I wish it were like Ralph Lauren Chaps Weekend (2009), a scent already discontinued.
    Top Notes  Red grapefruit, Italian cedrat, Red cranberry 
    Middle Notes Red saffron, Lavandin, Red sage     
     Base Notes Red wood, Amber, Coffee berry

I want to like Dolce & Gabbana Pour Homme. The ingredients seem to be perfect—on paper. But it smells like rancid popcorn oil to me for some reason...and I'm talking about before I apply it to my skin. I still wear it. Perhaps I can't smell what so many ladies love.

I have several other colognes as well but they haven't made The McCallister List.

The Bible makes mention of fragrances often:
"Take the finest spices: of liquid myrrh 500 shekels, and of sweet-smelling cinnamon half as much, that is, 250, and 250 of aromatic cane, and 500 of cassia, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, and a hin of olive oil. And you shall make of these a sacred anointing oil blended as by the perfumer; it shall be a holy anointing oil. (Exodus 30:23-25 ESV)

Now when the turn came for each young woman to go in to King Ahasuerus, after being twelve months under the regulations for the women, since this was the regular period of their beautifying, six months with oil of myrrh and six months with spices and ointments for women-- (Esther 2:12 ESV)

your robes are all fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia.
(Psalms 45:8a ESV)

I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon.
(Proverbs 7:17 ESV)

A garden locked is my sister, my bride, a spring locked, a fountain sealed. Your shoots are an orchard of pomegranates with all choicest fruits, henna with nard, nard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense, myrrh and aloes, with all choice spices-- a garden fountain, a well of living water, and flowing streams from Lebanon. Awake, O north wind, and come, O south wind! Blow upon my garden, let its spices flow. Let my beloved come to his garden, and eat its choicest fruits. (Song of Solomon 4:12-16 ESV)

And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. (Matthew 2:11 ESV)

Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. (John 12:3 ESV)

Okay, look: as a chaste never-married man I tend to steer clear of the Song of Solomon; some of that Near Eastern poetry paints a pretty, uh, graphic word picture! Still, fragrance/scent is a powerful part of the human experience, even our spiritual quest.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Placing An Order For A Helpmeet

God, I'd like to place an order for a "helpmeet." Please pick any of your daughters from the catalog; she just has to be compatible with me who is good [Proverbs 18.22], fears Yahweh [Proverbs 31.30], excellent/virtuous [Proverbs 31.10] and prudent/understanding/wise [Proverbs 19.14] and one who will do me good, and not harm, all the days of my life [Proverbs 31.12]. I know Scripture says such a wife is worth more than jewels [Proverbs 31.10], so she's pricey. Charge her to Jesus. He's good for it. And thanks for the free shipping!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Let The Fire Fall On Me!



  1. Lord, I would be wholly Thine,
    I would do Thy will divine,
    From the world and sin and self I would be free;
    On the altar now I lie,
    And with all my heart I cry,
    Let the holy fire from heaven fall on me.
  2. I would have sufficient grace
    Every foe to bravely face,
    And an overcomer evermore to be;
    That I well may fill my place,
    And that I may win the race,
    Let the holy fire from heaven fall on me.
  3. Holy Spirit from above,
    Fill my longing soul with love,
    Till the Master’s image all in me may see;
    Make me gentle, true, and kind,
    Meek of heart, and humble mind,
    Let the holy fire from heaven fall on me.
  4. In the kingdom I would stay,
    There to labor night and day,
    Any way and anywhere Thy will may be;
    But that I may do my best,
    And that others may be blest,
    Let the holy fire from heaven fall on me.

Refrain:

Let the fire fall on me,
Let the fire fall on me;
The fire of Pentecost,
Consuming sin and dross,
Let the holy fire from heaven fall on me.


—William J. Henry

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Language of Heaven

Today I was out taking a walk when I came across a thoughtful church sign. I snapped a pic with my cell phone; in fact, you can see my reflection in the glass. Something to think about, isn't it?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

To My Future (My First) Wife On Mother's Day




An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. (Proverbs 31:10-12 ESV)
To my future wife: Happy Mother's Day, my Cherished One. I prayed for you today; may the Father bring us together soon. May the Lord Jesus hasten the day of your disclosure. I do so want to meet you!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

I heard tonight that 98% of Christians (I assume American believers) NEVER win one person to Christ. There's your church growth problem right there.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Woman Healed During Footwashing Service

Tonight at a Church of God unity service for the Kanawha Valley churches in West Virginia I heard a wonderful story of God's power to heal. A lady shared with the assembled congregations that for 15-20 years she had been unable to lift her right arm above her mid-torso.

During the footwashing service her pastor told the group to lift their hands as high as they could. She did...with both of her arms going over her head. In fact, she demonstrated to the congregations that her healing remains. It was wonderful to see both arms raised over her head! Praise God! He is just the same today!

Friday, April 29, 2011

When a Wesleyan Misspells "Wesleyan" On His Website

How embarrassing! I just noticed I misspelled "Wesleyan" on the banner of my site! It read Wesleysan. When I made the new banner something looked wrong so I checked the spelling; Wesleyan was spelled correctly but I had a weird feeling about it, anyway. Well, it wasn't spelled correctly! Pretty humbling for a Wesleyan site, isn't it?

My blunder reminded me of one of my Wednesday evening lessons available for playback or download:


Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Silence Is Not Empty

This morning in church at Abney Street I learned of a powerful article by Jill Carattini of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries entitled, "The Silence Is Not Empty." Enjoy this part of it, yourself:
Professor and psychologist James Loder tells of the case of Willa, a young adult who was hospitalized and classified as schizophrenic of an undifferentiated type. She was born into a home where she was unwanted and abused. She was a bright child, but everyone took advantage of her such that she grew up with no sense of boundary or healthy relationships. Tragically, the very individuals who pledged to help her also became stories of abuse in her life. She was in the second year of graduate school when she finally broke down and could not finish her examinations.
In the hospital, she sat for hours rocking her doll and staring into space. The head nurse on the floor told Dr. Loder that they expected Willa would never leave the hospital. One day, however, while she was sitting in her chair, someone came up behind her, put arms around her and said, "The silence is not empty; there is purpose for your life." She turned around, but there was no one there. The power of that experience began to build sanity, and to distinguish illusion from reality. While no one thought she would ever leave the hospital, she was released after three weeks. She was eventually baptized and returned to the profession for which she was training. Commenting on this encounter with God in the silence when all else seems lost, Loder writes: "The intimacy of the Spirit runs deeper than family violence and neglect, and has immense restorative power."(3) Indeed, the intimacy of God runs deeper than silence.
(3) Story as told by James Loder, The Logic of the Spirit (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1998), 264-265.
Wow. The grace of God is beyond comprehension.

Resurrection Sunday!


But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, "Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise." (Luke 24:1-7 ESV)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday


So he delivered him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. (John 19:16-18 ESV)
When I survey the wondrous cross
on which the Prince of Glory died;
my richest gain I count but loss,
and pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
save in the death of Christ, my God;
all the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to his blood.

See, from his head, his hands, his feet,
sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet,
or thorns compose so rich a crown.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
that were an offering far too small;
love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Maundy Thursday: Passover Seder, Communion and Footwashing

Tonight I attended my first "Christianized" Passover Seder. We went through the Seder and learned the spiritual significance of each step which, for Christians, culminates in Christ. The fourth cup was our Communion. What followed after would be new for many Christians. Footwashing.
Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, do you wash my feet?" Jesus answered him, "What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand." Peter said to him, "You shall never wash my feet." Jesus answered him, "If I do not wash you, you have no share with me." Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!" Jesus said to him, "The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you." For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, "Not all of you are clean." When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, "Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. (John 13:3-15 ESV)
In the Church of God (Anderson) we participate in footwashing (or feetwashing, or foot washing or feet washing, however a person may say it or type it). Typically we only do it once a year during Holy Week before Resurrection Sunday. The men and women separate and each gender goes to a circular set of chairs. We remove our shoes and socks and one person kneels before another with a shallow basin of water. We pour water over each foot (one at a time) and then dry them with a towel. What often follows is a hug and a, "God bless you."

Historically we have taught that footwashing symbolizes servanthood and humility, two vital virtues in the Kingdom of God and Church. Some years ago the late Dr. Gilbert Stafford of Anderson University School of Theology postulated that the washing of feet symbolized the forgiveness of our post-baptismal sins. (Just a symbol, like baptism: in the Church of God we do not teach that physical water can wash away sins.)

When all feet are washed we typically sing some songs, pray and testify to the Lord's goodness. God's Holy Spirit moves during footwashing in a unique way; yes, it can still feel awkward to bow before another and wash his feet in this present society but it is a moving experience. Christians leave feeling that they've "been to church."

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Our Majestic Creator God



The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. (Psalms 19:1a ESV)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Contentment

I am an unpretentious person. I shop at Walmart. I shave with Barbasol (original scent) shaving cream. I use disposable razors with the shaving cream. I drive a Honda Civic.

And I want a 1956 Chevrolet Corvette. Or a '57. A '58 with its quad lights would be nice. I think the C1 series is some of the most beautiful cars ever produced.

Not that I expect to own one, not on a pastor's salary. And not that I need one, either. It's just a wish. A wish I can easily live without. Sadly, many people think their lives are empty without stuff. But it sets them up for failure:
He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. (Ecclesiastes 5:10 ESV)
The Apostle Paul gives us the New Testament's definition of contentment while languishing in prison:
Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. (1 Timothy 6:6-8 ESV)
Food and clothes. Check. Therefore be content. Doesn't exactly sound like the warped American idea of contentment, does it? Our society is pretty shallow. Paul continues:
But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (1 Timothy 6:9-10 ESV)
The lust for cash and all of the trappings of that cash will ruin a man, even to the damnation of his soul. Living for stuff is so soul-sucking. And sad to see. And wrong.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Jesus, Lover of My Soul


Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to Thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll, while the tempest still is high.
Hide me, O my Savior, hide, till the storm of life is past;
Safe into the haven guide; O receive my soul at last.

Other refuge have I none, hangs my helpless soul on Thee;
Leave, ah! leave me not alone, still support and comfort me.
All my trust on Thee is stayed, all my help from Thee I bring;
Cover my defenseless head with the shadow of Thy wing.

Wilt Thou not regard my call? Wilt Thou not accept my prayer?
Lo! I sink, I faint, I fall—Lo! on Thee I cast my care;
Reach me out Thy gracious hand! While I of Thy strength receive,
Hoping against hope I stand, dying, and behold, I live.

Thou, O Christ, art all I want, more than all in Thee I find;
Raise the fallen, cheer the faint, heal the sick, and lead the blind.
Just and holy is Thy Name, I am all unrighteousness;
False and full of sin I am; Thou art full of truth and grace.

Plenteous grace with Thee is found, grace to cover all my sin;
Let the healing streams abound; make and keep me pure within.
Thou of life the fountain art, freely let me take of Thee;
Spring Thou up within my heart; rise to all eternity.

—Charles Wesley


Monday, April 11, 2011

Thy Will Be Done

I grow bored easily with my cell phone's background wallpaper so I make my own. I create the pictures on my computer and then upload them on my phone's micro SD card. This simple black and white picture is what I currently display on my phone.

For all of the uncertainties facing my life right now this short prayer is unimprovable. It signals the death of my self-will and my resignation into the hands of the Sovereignty of God. Whatever—wherever—my future is I want it to be in God's plan.

William Barclay rightly said that the most popular prayer is, "Thy will be changed," but the greatest prayer is, "Thy will be done."

Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

I Dream of John MacArthur?!

I had a strange yet intriguing dream. Well, part of one, anyway. I was in the huge imagined lobby of Grace Community Church. It wasn't a worship service time but people were around. I was searching the lobby for an information station that told me the worship service schedule so I could attend Sunday morning.

Even in my dream I was aware that John MacArthur and his church hold significant differences of theological opinion from me. (He/they are Calvinists and I am a Wesleyan. He/they are dispensational premillennial and I am an amillennial. He/they are cessationists concerning "miraculous" spiritual gifts while I am, to use Wayne Grudem's phrase, "open but cautious." But I am extremely skeptical about the nature of what many people claim today to be the gift of tongues.) I was even aware of how I would answer if someone asked me why I would come: Because many Wesleyan churches are hyper-Arminian (is that a word?).

I am a staunch Wesleyan, an Arminian and I do hold to free will. However, I also hold great theological belief in the sovereignty of God. While not a fatalist I do believe God controls this world far more directly than many people of my persuasion accept.

John Wesley, himself, said he was but a hair's breadth from Calvinism. (One of the sermons in his collected work is The Cause and Cure of Earthquakes where it is declared that they are punishment for sin.) Of course, many Calvinists—including George Whitefield of old—may passionately beg to differ about how small that hair's breadth was.

The Apostle Paul said God controls human history:
And [God] made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. (Acts 17:26-27a ESV)
I believe God's sovereignty and man's free will and responsibility are joined in this passage. Paul is clear that God is the cause for the rise and fall of every nation yet the apostle also declares that people may (or may not) seek God.

I do respect MacArthur's tenacity and loyalty to call it as he sees it even if I don't accept all of his theological conclusions. He certainly isn't afraid to jump into the fray of polemics. Though he has stated that he does not enjoy entering doctrinal disputes it must be said that anyone who writes books like The Gospel According to Jesus and Ashamed of the Gospel knows how to mix it up.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Embracing Grace

On Monday evening a storm tore through my region; trees were uprooted and power was cut to over 30,000 people. From 6:40 P.M. on Monday until yesterday afternoon I was without power.

It wasn't horrible but inconvenient. Electricity was gone and, of course, the Internet. Telephone service was spotty (I'm thankful for cell phones). I was relieved and grateful when power returned!

We live our lives under the convenient illusion of control. But it doesn't take much to destroy that illusion, does it? One storm causes us to light oil lamps, turn on generators and kerosine heaters and pray for relief. I should say, we pray for the illusion of control to return.

Our thin veneer of illusion has nothing to say to the Japanese who were (and are) suffering terribly in the aftermath of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis. It doesn't take much for a human being to feel helpless.

We don't like feeling helpless. We don't like realizing so much is out of our hands and control. Consequently it's often hard for we humans to embrace God's grace. The cross casts its shadow on our lives and whispers, "You never were in control. You have always been spiritually ruined. You can't gain control. Your only hope is to surrender your helplessness to the Christ of this cross to receive what you never can earn or deserve."

Grace is hard. The illusion of control is easier.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Churches: Strive For Excellence, Not Competition

I'm tired of competition in the Church. I'm tired of one congregation afraid she will lose members to another group (perhaps a sister congregation) in the community that has become the "It Church." The flavor of the month. "Hot."

It's so worldly and we Christians are supposed to be anti-cool, anti-slick, anti-commercialized. We are to be the very antithesis of "relevant" (whatever that means) but, rather, timeless. We rebuke society's fallen values, not applaud them.

Let's face it: not every church budget is created equal. Not every pastor will see the "success" of Francis Chan. Not every worship leader will be the next Darlene Zschech. Not every church will have an annual Passion Play with a cast of dozens and complete with live animals and multicolor lighting hitting angels as they descend (via wires) on the garden tomb.

Not every church will be a mega church. (And thank God for that. Seriously.)

No, not every church can compete with one another. But every congregation—whatever her size, whatever her budget, whomever her pastor and worship leader—can strive for excellence.

As Paul told the Philippians:
Finally, brothers...if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (4:8 ESV)
The word rendered "excellence" is ἀρέτη and it is an important word. William Barclay spoke of it this way:
In classical thought it described every kind of excellence. It could describe the excellence of the ground in a field, the excellence of a tool for its purpose, the physical excellence of an animal, the excellence of the courage of a soldier, and the virtue of a man. Lightfoot suggests that with this word Paul calls in as an ally all that was excellent in the pagan background of his friends. It is as if he were saying, "If the old pagan idea of excellence, in which you were brought up, has any influence over you--think of that. Think of your past life at its very highest, to spur you on to the new heights of the Christian way." The world has its impurities and its degradations but it has also its nobilities and its chivalries, and it is of the high things that the Christian must think.
Strive for excellence. Have you ever seen it? Or heard it? Years ago a girlfriend took me to see pianist Jim Brickman in concert. He walked out onto the stage, sat down and began playing his song, The Promise, from his "Simple Things" CD. I was a novice to Brickman and didn't know his compositions but when The Promise began flowing from his piano I was instantly mesmerized, transfixed. I was haunted by its simple beauty. I whispered to my girlfriend, asking her for the song's name. I experienced excellence that night.

A high school English teacher told my class that when she laid her eyes on Michelangelo's "David" at Florence, Italy she began crying. Excellence can evoke that response in a person.

Here's the good news: Worshipers can experience excellence during your worship service this Sunday.

As Ecclesiastes instructs us, "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might..." (9:10 ESV). God doesn't berate your preacher for not being John MacArthur; he should just strive to be the best preacher he can be. God never called your music ministry to compete with Hillsong Church. They should just work with what they've got to the best of their ability.

Reasonable people don't demand perfection but they have a right to expect excellence.

If it seems to a congregation that a preacher is just phoning in a sermon with a half-hearted slop job effort then the saints have been cheated.

If the church thinks the worship leader has just picked worships songs out of the hymnal that Sunday morning at random then they have been cheated.

If a Sunday School class or small group gets the impression that the teacher/leader just took a peek at the lesson a few minutes before the meeting then they have been cheated.

Do you best, whatever that is, and pray the Holy Spirit fall upon you and your efforts with Awakening Power.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Saturday, March 26, 2011

If a church is trying to sell herself like a product to a carnal world then she has prostituted her ministry and brought shame to the gospel of Christ.

I Hate "Slick" Christianity


I hate "slick" Christianity. That is, I hate it if I think a church is trying to be slick. It's hard to define but recognizable when seen. It's a gut feeling. When I see a website for a church that's trying to be slick it screams,
Look at us! Come to us! We're cool! We're relevant! We're happening! You won't have to be ashamed around your buddies to admit you come here! We're popular! Since we're cool then you'll be cool if you hang with us!
Sick. And slick.

When a church won't put on her website what denomination/affiliation she belongs to. Because she seems ashamed of them. Because they're not cool like she is.

When a pastor wears jeans with an un-tucked button-down shirt. And doesn't preach but talk. And the website says his sermons are "relevant" for your life. Affectation.

When a church tries to project an aura of being deliriously happy.

When the name of the church might as well become trademarked because it seems so commercialized, stylized and accessorized.

When the church and her leadership becomes a product to get you to buy week after week. And sell your friends on buying, too.

I actually heard of one church that passed out free beer to increase attendance! It worked. But Jesus wasn't smiling.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Unbelief Or Faith?

In his book, Faith Aflame, Victor Glenn gives us a marked contrast between unbelief and faith:
What problem did unbelief ever solve? What worthy cause has it ever espoused? What good purpose has it ever served? Unbelief has marshaled an army of followers, yet its altars are drenched in the blood of things that might have been.

On the other hand, faith is a builder of monuments, an ennobler of purposes, and a creator of heroic courage. Someone has well stated that our faith will get us to the end of our journey faster than our own footsteps.
This sentence haunts me:
Unbelief has marshaled an army of followers, yet its altars are drenched in the blood of things that might have been.
What a word picture! Sad, but true.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

William Harney: A Revival Scoffer Was Struck Blind

The Wesleyan evangelist, the late William J. Harney of Wilmore, Kentucky, told of a sobering event during one of his revivals. The Holy Spirit struck a person temporarily blind for mocking the awakening. Harney recounts from his 1915 book, Praying Clear Through:
It was a bitterly cold winter afternoon, deep snow covered the ground. The thermometer was hovering around 28 degrees below zero, the church was packed, a great revival was sweeping the town.

The people were so stirred and moved, so wrought upon by the Holy Spirit, that about three hundred came to one service held at three o'clock in the morning. Imagine folks leaving their warm beds and warm homes and trudging through a wintry night to that service, and some walkingin about two miles from the country.

There were from forty to fifty seekers at the altar nightly. Scores were being saved and many sanctified wholly. The afternoon service we spoke of in the first paragraph was a most wonderful service. The manifestation of God's Spirit was great. Some of the Christians were so flooded with glory that they became quite noisy and a Mr. John Matthews sitting far back in the church began scoffing. We said to him, "Please do not do that," but he made a face at us. There was a large crowd of young folks near him, and we realized he was influencing them and they might consent to scoff with him, so we called the whole congregation to prayer. We prayed: "Our Father who art in heaven, this is Thy work, Thou art giving it Thy sanction, Thy Spirit is upon this meeting in marvelous power, now, we pray Thee, show this young man his sin by destroying the optic nerve for a few hours."

This prayer was breathed in us by the Holy Spirit, and we felt we must utter aloud that which was breathed into our innermost being. Right after praying this prayer, we felt that God would have us dismiss the congregation, and John with the others went his way, and we went to our room. We had not been there long, however, until Dr. Daugherty, the oculist, came running to our room, crying: "Oh, Brother Harney, John is blind, he is screaming out there in the street, the doctor is working with him. They are going to mob you." Instantly the Holy Spirit gave us the assurance and confidence that He was at work. He was answering prayer and we could rely on Him, He would see us through, so we calmly and quietly answered, "Tell the mob to come, but be sure you tell them that the first one who puts his hand on the yard gate will not only be struck blind, but paralyzed from head to foot as well." Did that mob come after such a statement as that? Never, they were afraid. They knew the Almighty God was working with John and they knew that He would protect His son,

The doctors worked eight or nine hours before John could see anything. God heard and answered the prayer of His children, As a result of this, great power fell upon the service and upon the people. They came from every direction, some of the Christians prayed all night, some fasting two or three days at a time. There was a tremendous spirit of soul agony upon the saints. One could hear the voice of prayer in almost every home, and no man dared to mock or scoff at the work of the Holy Ghost. The God of the Hebrew children, of Daniel, of the saints of all ages, was with His people. He was answering by fire.

Oh! do pause to obey the Holy Spirit, to live in such close touch with Him that He can whisper His thought into your soul and then you will dare to step out and proclaim His messages. Will you not do this? May God have the glory!
Makes you think, doesn't it? How many today would have the faith to pray this out loud?

The Never-Married Pastor


A friend who works at CNN (and is a deacon in her large church) sent me an email today about an article in the New York Times that irked her. It centered, in part, around Mark Almlie, a 37-year-old pastor who felt churches wouldn't hire him because he was a single man, never married.

Here is the NY Times article, Unmarried Pastor, Seeking a Job, Sees Bias

Also, Almlie wrote a two-part article about his problem:

Are We Afraid of Single Pastors? (Part One)
Are We Afraid of Single Pastors? (Part Two)

Almlie writes frankly in part two:
When I press people on why they think single pastors are treated with suspicion, 99 percent of the time I get a list of fears rather than actual evidence:
“What if he’s gay?”
“What if he flirts with all the single women at church?”
“What if he tries to steal a married woman for himself?”
“There must be something wrong with him because he’s single.”
“Aren’t single pastors more likely to molest our children?”
Fear. That’s what binds these comments together. Especially the fear of human sexuality/desire. As if human desire is a monster that can only be tamed by marriage. This fear certainly doesn’t come from being bombarded by national sex scandals involving protestant single pastors! So where does it come from? It is the cockroach of prejudice creeping around in the dark corners of our mind. It’s an irrational assumption that singles lack self-control, while married people do not.
This story resonates with me. I am a 40-year-old never-married minister. And yes, one honest church directly told me that they turned down my résumé because I am single and they were looking for a husband/wife team. This is in contradiction with the Scriptures because Paul, himself single, never made marriage a qualification to be a pastor.

LET ME BE CLEAR: I very much want to be married; I've prayed often for a wife. I just haven't found her yet.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Confession of St. Patrick

1. I, Patrick, a sinner, a most simple countryman, the least of all the
faithful and most contemptible to many, had for father the deacon Calpurnius, son of the late Potitus, a priest, of the settlement [vicus] of Bannavem Taburniae; he had a small villa nearby where I was taken captive. I was at that time about sixteen years of age. I did not, indeed, know the true God; and I was taken into captivity in Ireland with many thousands of people, according to our deserts, for quite drawn away from God, we did not keep his precepts, nor were we obedient to our priests who used to remind us of our salvation. And the Lord brought down on us the fury of his being and scattered us among many nations, even to the ends of the earth, where I, in my smallness, am now to be found among foreigners.

2. And there the Lord opened my mind to an awareness of my unbelief, in order that, even so late, I might remember my transgressions and turn with all my heart to the Lord my God, who had regard for my insignificance and pitied my youth and ignorance. And he watched over me before I knew him, and before I learned sense or even distinguished between good and evil, and he protected me, and consoled me as a father would his son.

3. Therefore, indeed, I cannot keep silent, nor would it be proper, so
many favours and graces has the Lord deigned to bestow on me in the
land of my captivity. For after chastisement from God, and recognizing
him, our way to repay him is to exalt him and confess his wonders
before every nation under heaven.

4. For there is no other God, nor ever was before, nor shall be
hereafter, but God the Father, unbegotten and without beginning, in
whom all things began, whose are all things, as we have been taught;
and his son Jesus Christ, who manifestly always existed with the
Father, before the beginning of time in the spirit with the Father,
indescribably begotten before all things, and all things visible and
invisible were made by him. He was made man, conquered death and was
received into Heaven, to the Father who gave him all power over every
name in Heaven and on Earth and in Hell, so that every tongue should
confess that Jesus Christ is Lord and God, in whom we believe. And we
look to his imminent coming again, the judge of the living and the
dead, who will render to each according to his deeds. And he poured out
his Holy Spirit on us in abundance, the gift and pledge of immortality,
which makes the believers and the obedient into sons of God and
co-heirs of Christ who is revealed, and we worship one God in the
Trinity of holy name.

5. He himself said through the prophet: Call upon me in the day of'
trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.' And again: It
is right to reveal and publish abroad the works of God.'

6. I am imperfect in many things, nevertheless I want my brethren and
kinsfolk to know my nature so that they may be able to perceive my
soul's desire.

7. I am not ignorant of what is said of my Lord in the Psalm: You
destroy those who speak a lie.' And again: A lying mouth deals death to
the soul.' And likewise the Lord says in the Gospel: On the day of
judgment men shall render account for every idle word they utter.'

8. So it is that I should mightily fear, with terror and trembling,
this judgment on the day when no one shall be able to steal away or
hide, but each and all shall render account for even our smallest sins
before the judgment seat of Christ the Lord.
_________________________________________________________________

9. And therefore for some time I have thought of writing, but I have
hesitated until now, for truly, I feared to expose myself to the
criticism of men, because I have not studied like others, who have
assimilated both Law and the Holy Scriptures equally and have never
changed their idiom since their infancy, but instead were always
learning it increasingly, to perfection, while my idiom and language
have been translated into a foreign tongue. So it is easy to prove from
a sample of my writing, my ability in rhetoric and the extent of my
preparation and knowledge, for as it is said, wisdom shall be
recognized in speech, and in understanding, and in knowledge and in the
learning of truth.'

10. But why make excuses close to the truth, especially when now I am
presuming to try to grasp in my old age what I did not gain in my youth
because my sins prevented me from making what I had read my own? But
who will believe me, even though I should say it again? A young man,
almost a beardless boy, I was taken captive before I knew what I should
desire and what I should shun. So, consequently, today I feel ashamed
and I am mightily afraid to expose my ignorance, because, [not]
eloquent, with a small vocabulary, I am unable to explain as the spirit
is eager to do and as the soul and the mind indicate.

11. But had it been given to me as to others, in gratitude I should not
have kept silent, and if it should appear that I put myself before
others, with my ignorance and my slower speech, in truth, it is
written: The tongue of the stammerers shall speak rapidly and
distinctly.' How much harder must we try to attain it, we of whom it is
said: You are an epistle of Christ in greeting to the ends of the earth
. . . written on your hearts, not with ink but with the Spirit of the
living God.' And again, the Spirit witnessed that the rustic life was
created by the Most High.

12. I am, then, first of all, countryfied, an exile, evidently
unlearned, one who is not able to see into the future, but I know for
certain, that before I was humbled I was like a stone lying in deep
mire, and he that is mighty came and in his mercy raised me up and,
indeed, lifted me high up and placed me on top of the wall. And from
there I ought to shout out in gratitude to the Lord for his great
favours in this world and for ever, that the mind of man cannot
measure.

13. Therefore be amazed, you great and small who fear God, and you men
of God, eloquent speakers, listen and contemplate. Who was it summoned
me, a fool, from the midst of those who appear wise and learned in the
law and powerful in rhetoric and in all things? Me, truly wretched in
this world, he inspired before others that I could be--if I would--such
a one who, with fear and reverence, and faithfully, without complaint,
would come to the people to whom the love of Christ brought me and gave
me in my lifetime, if I should be worthy, to serve them truly and with
humility.

14. According, therefore, to the measure of one's faith in the Trinity,
one should proceed without holding back from danger to make known the
gift of God and everlasting consolation, to spread God's name
everywhere with confidence and without fear, in order to leave behind,
after my death, foundations for my brethren and sons whom I baptized in
the Lord in so many thousands.

15. And I was not worthy, nor was I such that the Lord should grant his
humble servant this, that after hardships and such great trials, after
captivity, after many years, he should give me so much favour in these
people, a thing which in the time of my youth I neither hoped for nor
imagined.
_________________________________________________________________

16. But after I reached Ireland I used to pasture the flock each day
and I used to pray many times a day. More and more did the love of God,
and my fear of him and faith increase, and my spirit was moved so that
in a day [I said] from one up to a hundred prayers, and in the night a
like number; besides I used to stay out in the forests and on the
mountain and I would wake up before daylight to pray in the snow, in
icy coldness, in rain, and I used to feel neither ill nor any
slothfulness, because, as I now see, the Spirit was burning in me at
that time.
_________________________________________________________________

17. And it was there of course that one night in my sleep I heard a
voice saying to me: You do well to fast: soon you will depart for your
home country.' And again, a very short time later, there was a voice
prophesying: Behold, your ship is ready.' And it was not close by, but,
as it happened, two hundred miles away, where I had never been nor knew
any person. And shortly thereafter I turned about and fled from the man
with whom I had been for six years, and I came, by the power of God who
directed my route to advantage (and I was afraid of nothing), until I
reached that ship.

18. And on the same day that I arrived, the ship was setting out from
the place, and I said that I had the wherewithal to sail with them; and
the steersman was displeased and replied in anger, sharply: By no means
attempt to go with us.' Hearing this I left them to go to the hut where
I was staying, and on the way I began to pray, and before the prayer
was finished I heard one of them shouting loudly after me: Come quickly
because the men are calling you.' And immediately I went back to them
and they started to say to me: Come, because we are admitting you out
of good faith; make friendship with us in any way you wish.' (And so,
on that day, I refused to suck the breasts of these men from fear of
God, but nevertheless I had hopes that they would come to faith in
Jesus Christ, because they were barbarians.) And for this I continued
with them, and forthwith we put to sea.

19. And after three days we reached land, and for twenty-eight days
journeyed through uninhabited country, and the food ran out and hunger
overtook them; and one day the steersman began saying: Why is it,
Christian? You say your God is great and all-powerful; then why can you
not pray for us? For we may perish of hunger; it is unlikely indeed
that we shall ever see another human being.' In fact, I said to them,
confidently: Be converted by faith with all your heart to my Lord God,
because nothing is impossible for him, so that today he will send food
for you on your road, until you be sated, because everywhere he
abounds.' And with God's help this came to pass; and behold, a herd of
swine appeared on the road before our eyes, and they slew many of them,
and remained there for two nights, and the men were full of their meat
and well restored, for many of them had fainted and would otherwise
have been left half dead by the wayside. And after this they gave the
utmost thanks to God, and I was esteemed in their eyes, and from that
day they had food abundantly. They discovered wild honey, besides, and
they offered a share to me, and one of them said: It is a sacrifice.'
Thanks be to God, I tasted none of it.

20. The very same night while I was sleeping Satan attacked me
violently, as I will remember as long as I shall be in this body; and
there fell on top of me as it were, a huge rock, and not one of my
members had any force. But from whence did it come to me, ignorant in
the spirit, to call upon Helias'? And meanwhile I saw the sun rising in
the sky, and while I was crying out Helias, Helias' with all my might,
lo, the brilliance of that sun fell upon me and immediately shook me
free of all the weight; and I believe that I was aided by Christ my
Lord, and that his Spirit then was crying out for me, and I hope that
it will be so in the day of my affliction, just as it says in the
Gospel: In that hour', the Lord declares, it is not you who speaks but
the Spirit of your Father speaking in you.'

21. And a second time, after many years, I was taken captive. On the
first night I accordingly remained with my captors, but I heard a
divine prophecy, saying to me: You shall be with them for two months.'
So it happened. On the sixtieth night the Lord delivered me from their
hands.

22. On the journey he provided us with food and fire and dry weather
every day, until on the tenth day we came upon people. As I mentioned
above, we had journeyed through an unpopulated country for twenty-eight
days, and in fact the night that we came upon people we had no food.
_________________________________________________________________

23. And after a few years I was again in Britain with my parents
[kinsfolk], and they welcomed me as a son, and asked me, in faith, that
after the great tribulations I had endured I should not go anywhere
else away from them. And, of course, there, in a vision of the night, I
saw a man whose name was Victoricus coming as if from Ireland with
innumerable letters, and he gave me one of them, and I read the
beginning of the letter: The Voice of the Irish'; and as I was reading
the beginning of the letter I seemed at that moment to hear the voice
of those who were beside the forest of Foclut which is near the western
sea, and they were crying as if with one voice: We beg you, holy youth,
that you shall come and shall walk again among us.' And I was stung
intensely in my heart so that I could read no more, and thus I awoke.
Thanks be to God, because after so many years the Lord bestowed on them
according to their cry.

24. And another night--God knows, I do not, whether within me or beside
me-- . . . most words + . . . + which I heard and could not understand,
except at the end of the speech it was represented thus: He who gave
his life for you, he it is who speaks within you.' And thus I awoke,
joyful.

25. And on a second occasion I saw Him praying within me, and I was as
it were, inside my own body , and I heard Him above me--that is, above
my inner self. He was praying powerfully with sighs. And in the course
of this I was astonished and wondering, and I pondered who it could be
who was praying within me. But at the end of the prayer it was revealed
to me that it was the Spirit. And so I awoke and remembered the
Apostle's words: Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we
know not how to pray as we ought. But the Spirit Himself intercedes for
us with sighs too deep for utterance.' And again: 'The Lord our
advocate intercedes for us.'

26. And then I was attacked by a goodly number of my elders, who
[brought up] my sins against my arduous episcopate. That day in
particular I was mightily upset, and might have fallen here and for
ever; but the Lord generously spared me, a convert, and an alien, for
his name's sake, and he came powerfully to my assistance in that state
of being trampled down. I pray God that it shall not be held against
them as a sin that I fell truly into disgrace and scandal.
_________________________________________________________________

27. They brought up against me after thirty years an occurrence I had
confessed before becoming a deacon. On account of the anxiety in my
sorrowful mind, I laid before my close friend what I had perpetrated on
a day--nay, rather in one hour--in my boyhood because I was not yet
proof against sin. God knows--I do not--whether I was fifteen years old
at the time, and I did not then believe in the living God, nor had I
believed, since my infancy; but I remained in death and unbelief until
I was severely rebuked, and in truth I was humbled every day by hunger
and nakedness.

28. On the other hand, I did not proceed to Ireland of my own accord
until I was almost giving up, but through this I was corrected by the
Lord, and he prepared me so that today I should be what was once far
from me, in order that I should have the care of--or rather, I should
be concerned for--the salvation of others, when at that time, still, I
was only concerned for myself.

29. Therefore, on that day when I was rebuked, as I have just
mentioned, I saw in a vision of the night a document before my face,
without honour, and meanwhile I heard a divine prophecy, saying to me:
We have seen with displeasure the face of the chosen one divested of
[his good] name.' And he did not say You have seen with displeasure',
but We have seen with displeasure' (as if He included Himself) . He
said then: He who touches you, touches the apple of my eye.'

30. For that reason, I give thanks to him who strengthened me in all
things, so that I should not be hindered in my setting out and also in
my work which I was taught by Christ my Lord; but more, from that state
of affairs I felt, within me, no little courage, and vindicated my
faith before God and man.

31. Hence, therefore, I say boldly that my conscience is clear now and
hereafter. God is my witness that I have not lied in these words to
you.

32. But rather, I am grieved for my very close friend, that because of
him we deserved to hear such a prophecy. The one to whom I entrusted my
soul! And I found out from a goodly number of brethren, before the case
was made in my defence (in which I did not take part, nor was I in
Britain, nor was it pleaded by me), that in my absence he would fight
in my behalf. Besides, he told me himself: See, the rank of bishop goes
to you'--of which I was not worthy. But how did it come to him, shortly
afterwards, to disgrace me publicly, in the presence of all, good and
bad, because previously, gladly and of his own free will, he pardoned
me, as did the Lord, who is greater than all?

33. I have said enough. But all the same, I ought not to conceal God's
gift which he lavished on us in the land of my captivity, for then I
sought him resolutely, and I found him there, and he preserved me from
all evils (as I believe) through the in-dwelling of his Spirit, which
works in me to this day. Again, boldly, but God knows, if this had been
made known to me by man, I might, perhaps, have kept silent for the
love of Christ.

34. Thus I give untiring thanks to God who kept me faithful in the day
of my temptation, so that today I may confidently offer my soul as a
living sacrifice for Christ my Lord; who am I, Lord? or, rather, what
is my calling? that you appeared to me in so great a divine quality, so
that today among the barbarians I might constantly exalt and magnify
your name in whatever place I should be, and not only in good fortune,
but even in affliction? So that whatever befalls me, be it good or bad,
I should accept it equally, and give thanks always to God who revealed
to me that I might trust in him, implicitly and forever, and who will
encourage me so that, ignorant, and in the last days, I may dare to
undertake so devout and so wonderful a work; so that I might imitate
one of those whom, once, long ago, the Lord already pre-ordained to be
heralds of his Gospel to witness to all peoples to the ends of the
earth. So are we seeing, and so it is fulfilled; behold, we are
witnesses because the Gospel has been preached as far as the places
beyond which no man lives.

35. But it is tedious to describe in detail all my labours one by one.
I will tell briefly how most holy God frequently delivered me, from
slavery, and from the twelve trials with which my soul was threatened,
from man traps as well, and from things I am not able to put into
words. I would not cause offence to readers, but I have God as witness
who knew all things even before they happened, that, though I was a
poor, ignorant waif, still he gave me abundant warnings through divine
prophecy.

36. Whence came to me this wisdom which was not my own, I who neither
knew the number of days nor had knowledge of God? Whence came the so
great and so healthful gift of knowing or rather loving God, though I
should lose homeland and family?

37. And many gifts were offered to me with weeping and tears, and I
offended them [the donors], and also went against the wishes of a good
number of my elders; but guided by God, I neither agreed with them nor
deferred to them, not by my own grace but by God who is victorious in
me and withstands them all, so that I might come to the Irish people to
preach the Gospel and endure insults from unbelievers; that I might
hear scandal of my travels, and endure many persecutions to the extent
of prison; and so that I might give up my free birthright for the
advantage of others, and if I should be worthy, I am ready [to give]
even my life without hesitation; and most willingly for His name. And I
choose to devote it to him even unto death, if God grant it to me.

38. I am greatly God's debtor, because he granted me so much grace,
that through me many people would be reborn in God, and soon a after
confirmed, and that clergy would be ordained everywhere for them, the
masses lately come to belief, whom the Lord drew from the ends of the
earth, just as he once promised through his prophets: To you shall the
nations come from the ends of the earth, and shall say, "Our fathers
have inherited naught but lies, worthless things in which there is no
profit."' And again: I have set you to be a light for the Gentiles that
you may bring salvation to the uttermost ends of the earth.'

39. And I wish to wait then for his promise which is never unfulfilled,
just as it is promised in the Gospel: Many shall come from east and
west and shall sit at table with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob.' Just as
we believe that believers will come from all the world,

40. So for that reason one should, in fact, fish well and diligently,
just as the Lord foretells and teaches, saying, Follow me, and I will
make you fishers of men,' and, again, through the prophets: "Behold, I
am sending forth many fishers and hunters," says the Lord,' et cetera.
So it behoved us to spread our nets, that a vast multitude and throng
might be caught for God, and so there might be clergy everywhere who
baptized and exhorted a needy and desirous people. Just as the Lord
says in the Gospel, admonishing and instructing: Go therefore and make
disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and
of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I
have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always to the end of time.'
And again he says: Go forth into the world and preach the Gospel to all
creation. He who believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he who
does not believe shall be condemned.' And again: This Gospel of the
Kingdom shall be preached throughout the whole world as a witness to
all nations; and then the end of the world shall come.' And likewise
the Lord foretells through the prophet: And it shall come to pass in
the last days (sayeth the Lord) that I will pour out my spirit upon all
flesh, and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, and your young men
shall see visions and your old men shall dream dreams; yea, and on my
menservants and my maidservants in those days I will pour out my Spirit
and they shall prophesy.' And in Hosea he says: Those who are not my
people I will call my people, and those not beloved I will call my
beloved, and in the very place where it was said to them, "You are not
my people," they will be called 'Sons of the living God."'
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41. So, how is it that in Ireland, where they never had any knowledge
of God but, always, until now, cherished idols and unclean things, they
are lately become a people of the Lord, and are called children of God;
the sons of the Irish [Scotti] and the daughters of the chieftains are
to be seen as monks and virgins of Christ.
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42. And there was, besides, a most beautiful, blessed, native-born
noble Irish [Scotta] woman of adult age whom I baptized; and a few days
later she had reason to come to us to intimate that she had received a
prophecy from a divine messenger [who] advised her that she should
become a virgin of Christ and she would draw nearer to God. Thanks be
to God, six days from then, opportunely and most eagerly, she took the
course that all virgins of God take, not with their fathers' consent
but enduring the persecutions and deceitful hindrances of their
parents. Notwithstanding that, their number increases, (we do not know
the number of them that are so reborn) besides the widows, and those
who practise self-denial. Those who are kept in slavery suffer the
most. They endure terrors and constant threats, but the Lord has given
grace to many of his handmaidens, for even though they are forbidden to
do so, still they resolutely follow his example.

43. So it is that even if I should wish to separate from them in order
to go to Britain, and most willingly was I prepared to go to my
homeland and kinsfolk--and not only there, but as far as Gaul to visit
the brethren there, so that I might see the faces of the holy ones of
my Lord, God knows how strongly I desired this--I am bound by the
Spirit, who witnessed to me that if I did so he would mark me out as
guilty, and I fear to waste the labour that I began, and not I, but
Christ the Lord, who commanded me to come to be with them for the rest
of my life, if the Lord shall will it and shield me from every evil, so
that I may not sin before him.

44. So I hope that I did as I ought, but I do not trust myself as long
as I am in this mortal body, for he is strong who strives daily to turn
me away from the faith and true holiness to which I aspire until the
end of my life for Christ my Lord, but the hostile flesh is always
dragging one down to death, that is, to unlawful attractions. And I
know in part why I did not lead a perfect life like other believers,
but I confess to my Lord and do not blush in his sight, because I am
not lying; from the time when I came to know him in my youth, the love
of God and fear of him increased in me, and right up until now, by
God's favour, I have kept the faith.

45. What is more, let anyone laugh and taunt if he so wishes. I am not
keeping silent, nor am I hiding the signs and wonders that were shown
to me by the Lord many years before they happened, [he] who knew
everything, even before the beginning of time.

46. Thus, I should give thanks unceasingly to God, who frequently
forgave my folly and my negligence, in more than one instance so as not
to be violently angry with me, who am placed as his helper, and I did
not easily assent to what had been revealed to me, as the Spirit was
urging; and the Lord took pity on me thousands upon thousands of times,
because he saw within me that I was prepared, but that I was ignorant
of what to do in view of my situation; because many were trying to
prevent this mission. They were talking among themselves behind my
back, and saying: Why is this fellow throwing himself into danger among
enemies who know not God?' Not from malice, but having no liking for
it; likewise, as I myself can testify, they perceived my rusticity. And
I was not quick to recognize the grace that was then in me; I now know
that I should have done so earlier.

47. Now I have put it frankly to my brethren and co-workers, who have
believed me because of what I have foretold and still foretell to
strengthen and reinforce your faith. I wish only that you, too, would
make greater and better efforts. This will be my pride, for a wise son
makes a proud father'.

48. You know, as God does, how I went about among you from my youth in
the faith of truth and in sincerity of heart. As well as to the heathen
among whom I live, I have shown them trust and always show them trust.
God knows I did not cheat any one of them, nor consider it, for the
sake of God and his Church, lest I arouse them and [bring about]
persecution for them and for all of us, and lest the Lord's name be
blasphemed because of me, for it is written: Woe to the men through
whom the name of the Lord is blasphemed.'

49. For even though I am ignorant in all things, nevertheless I
attempted to safeguard some and myself also. And I gave back again to
my Christian brethren and the virgins of Christ and the holy women the
small unasked for gifts that they used to give me or some of their
ornaments which they used to throw on the altar. And they would be
offended with me because I did this. But in the hope of eternity, I
safeguarded myself carefully in all things, so that they might not
cheat me of my office of service on any pretext of dishonesty, and so
that I should not in the smallest way provide any occasion for
defamation or disparagement on the part of unbelievers.

50. What is more, when I baptized so many thousands of people, did I
hope for even half a jot from any of them? [If so] Tell me, and I will
give it back to you. And when the Lord ordained clergy everywhere by my
humble means, and I freely conferred office on them, if I asked any of
them anywhere even for the price of one shoe, say so to my face and I
will give it back.

51. More, I spent for you so that they would receive me. And I went
about among you, and everywhere for your sake, in danger, and as far as
the outermost regions beyond which no one lived, and where no one had
ever penetrated before, to baptize or to ordain clergy or to confirm
people. Conscientiously and gladly I did all this work by God's gift
for your salvation.

52. From time to time I gave rewards to the kings, as well as making
payments to their sons who travel with me; notwithstanding which, they
seized me with my companions, and that day most avidly desired to kill
me. But my time had not yet come. They plundered everything they found
on us anyway, and fettered me in irons; and on the fourteenth day the
Lord freed me from their power, and whatever they had of ours was given
back to us for the sake of God on account of the indispensable friends
whom we had made before.

53. Also you know from experience how much I was paying to those who
were administering justice in all the regions, which I visited often. I
estimate truly that I distributed to them not less than the price of
fifteen men, in order that you should enjoy my company and I enjoy
yours, always, in God. I do not regret this nor do I regard it as
enough. I am paying out still and I shall pay out more. The Lord has
the power to grant me that I may soon spend my own self, for your
souls.

54. Behold, I call on God as my witness upon my soul that I am not
lying; nor would I write to you for it to be an occasion for flattery
or selfishness, nor hoping for honour from any one of you. Sufficient
is the honour which is not yet seen, but in which the heart has
confidence. He who made the promise is faithful; he never lies.

55. But I see that even here and now, I have been exalted beyond
measure by the Lord, and I was not worthy that he should grant me this,
while I know most certainly that poverty and failure suit me better
than wealth and delight (but Christ the Lord was poor for our sakes; I
certainly am wretched and unfortunate; even if I wanted wealth I have
no resources, nor is it my own estimation of myself, for daily I expect
to be murdered or betrayed or reduced to slavery if the occasion
arises. But I fear nothing, because of the promises of Heaven; for I
have cast myself into the hands of Almighty God, who reigns everywhere.
As the prophet says: Cast your burden on the Lord and he will sustain
you.'

56. Behold now I commend my soul to God who is most faithful and for
whom I perform my mission in obscurity, but he is no respecter of
persons and he chose me for this service that I might be one of the
least of his ministers.

57. For which reason I should make return for all that he returns me.
But what should I say, or what should I promise to my Lord, for I,
alone, can do nothing unless he himself vouchsafe it to me. But let him
search my heart and [my] nature, for I crave enough for it, even too
much, and I am ready for him to grant me that I drink of his chalice,
as he has granted to others who love him.

58. Therefore may it never befall me to be separated by my God from his
people whom he has won in this most remote land. I pray God that he
gives me perseverance, and that he will deign that I should be a
faithful witness for his sake right up to the time of my passing.

59. And if at any time I managed anything of good for the sake of my
God whom I love, I beg of him that he grant it to me to shed my blood
for his name with proselytes and captives, even should I be left
unburied, or even were my wretched body to be torn limb from limb by
dogs or savage beasts, or were it to be devoured by the birds of the
air, I think, most surely, were this to have happened to me, I had
saved both my soul and my body. For beyond any doubt on that day we
shall rise again in the brightness of the sun, that is, in the glory of
Christ Jesus our Redeemer, as children of the living God and co-heirs
of Christ, made in his image; for we shall reign through him and for
him and in him.

60. For the sun we see rises each day for us at [his] command, but it
will never reign, neither will its splendour last, but all who worship
it will come wretchedly to punishment. We, on the other hand, shall not
die, who believe in and worship the true sun, Christ, who will never
die, no more shall he die who has done Christ's will, but will abide
for ever just as Christ abides for ever, who reigns with God the Father
Almighty and with the Holy Spirit before the beginning of time and now
and for ever and ever. Amen.

61. Behold over and over again I would briefly set out the words of my
confession. I testify in truthfulness and gladness of heart before God
and his holy angels that I never had any reason, except the Gospel and
his promises, ever to have returned to that nation from which I had
previously escaped with difficulty.
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62. But I entreat those who believe in and fear God, whoever deigns to
examine or receive this document composed by the obviously unlearned
sinner Patrick in Ireland, that nobody shall ever ascribe to my
ignorance any trivial thing that I achieved or may have expounded that
was pleasing to God, but accept and truly believe that it would have
been the gift of God. And this is my confession before I die.