Delmarva Trip, Pt. 2

Before leaving Trap Pond, I decided to call my oldest friend, Scott. I have known Scott since I was 15, longer than I have known anyone else on this earth besides my family. I met him at a Pentecostal church, and my earliest memory of him is when he was cracking jokes at a potluck-type gathering on a Sunday night. I looked up his cell number in my phone and tapped the button to make the call. He answered right away, but I was in the boonies and had bad reception. He said I sounded like I was calling from the other side of a stargate. He and I loved the movie and show about Stargate-SG1 years ago and he’s still a big nerd about it.

I got back to civilization and called him. He was just getting off work. I told him I wanted to stop by and chat for a bit, and not to clean up on my account. I drove to his house and let myself in.

I used to worry that Scott was a bit of a packrat. He was always toting old junk around with him whenever he’d move – stuff that no human being has any real need for. But he always seemed to have some scheme of selling the junk on ebay or restoring the old car he’d totaled at age 16 and has been with him ever since, now that he’s 50. But now I saw that he had acquired even more shelves and they were all packed out with stuff. There was a little path through the living room leading to a couch. As I made my way to the couch I said, “You might be a hoarder.” I have never known a single guy to have so much STUFF. I wondered to myself whether any of it really brought him any joy.

He went to shake my hand but I gave him a big hug. Then we talked for a few hours, just catching up and discussing our families and recent happenings and the Word of God. He surprised me when he informed me that he had gotten rid of his television and internet. Of the two of us, he was always more into television. But he said the cost wasn’t worth the payoff. All said and done, we had a good time in the Lord, though I felt concern for him. He remarked that I was the first company he’d had to his house since the last time I was there – which must’ve been five years ago at least. Since I’d left his mother had died, and most of his family is dysfunctional. I suggested that maybe it was time to visit me in North Carolina, or even to move somewhere else. I felt a little trapped in his living room and wondered if he felt the same way. I prayed with him before I left, and then hugged him again.

I left his place around 7 and then drove to Salisbury, MD, where I was supposed to stay at Jerm’s that night. He had all his kids and their significant others there. I had rebound a bible for his daughter and presented it to her on my arrival. She seemed pleased with the work. I chatted with Jerm and his wife until 11:30 or so, then I went to sleep in a room they had prepared for me.

Next morning, Jerm treated me to breakfast at Denny’s. I had country-fried steak and scrambled eggs, hash browns, extra bacon, and black coffee. We got back to his house around 8:30. They were planning a trip to Assateague Island for a beach day. The island has a lot of wild horses living on it. They walk up to you on the beach and on the roads lining the island. I live very close to the beach anyway, so I wasn’t really enthralled with the idea of leaving the air conditioning and sweating my balls off in the hot sun, but I went to spend time with Jerm because that’s what I was there for. I hadn’t brought flip flops so I was wearing my Vans skate shoes over the hot sand, which ended up giving me blisters on top of the blisters I got the first day by walking around Trap Pond.

I felt a little guilty that I didn’t eat any of his wife’s food while I was there. I was fasting on the first night, when I visited Scott. The second day I planned a big meal with some other friends that night so I skipped lunch after eating that big Denny’s breakfast. On the third morning I was fasting again and only drank some black coffee at Jerm’s house. His wife is the type that likes to feed you and goes to a lot of effort to make nice homecooked food. I tried explaining to her that I’m trying to get control of my body again and cut weight, but I felt like I disappointed her nevertheless. She’s really a very cute and sweet lady and you can tell she really loves the Lord.

At about 2:30, I started thinking about the primary task I’d come to Delmarva for: to deliver two bibles to the pastor and pastor’s wife – John and Alice – whose church I’d been a part of for over 15 years. I took my leave of Jerm and his family and walked over the sand to my car, which was boiling hot in the midday sun. I was sweaty all over and sandy besides. I wondered how I would shower before getting to their house at 4, which was the time we’d agreed on. I turned the car on and got the A/C blasting, and then I remembered that there is truck stop in Laurel. I thought they might have showers there. While I brushing as much sand off myself as I could with an old t-shirt, I called them to confirm.

“Do you guys have showers?” I asked.

“What’s that?” the girl said.

“Do you have showers for truckers?” I asked again.

“Do we have what?” she said. Clearly not many folks call asking to bathe.

“SHOW-ERS,” I said. “Like a bath that you stand up in and water falls down upon you.”

“Oh, showers,” she said. “Yes, we have them. They’re eight dollars, or free with a truck fuel-up.” I thanked her and said I’d be there in about 45 minutes.


Delmarva Trip, Part 1

So last Wednesday, the 8th of August, I had to go to Raleigh for a bit of training and job interview. The training was finished around 2:30, and from the parking lot I looked at and booked a room in Newport News, VA. I was heading north because for about a week all I had been doing was working on two Thompson Chain-Reference Bibles that were sent to me by our former pastors in Delaware. One was nearly 30 years old and believe it or not it was in much better shape than the newer one, which was filled with notes by the pastor’s wife. The big companies don’t bind Bibles with any integrity these days, or American’s aren’t willing to part with the money it would cost to buy a quality Bible. Anyway I did the work pro bono because I sought occasion to speak to them face-to-face.

The hotel in Newport News was a very nice Holiday Inn, if I now remember correctly. When I arrived, I went to the hotel restaurant and bar and ordered a ½ pound cheeseburger with onions and fries, and an appetizer of chicken tenders. The food was stellar. I also ordered a local Virginia craft brew – I want to say it was something called Black Walnut IPA: it was really wondrous with the fresh beef burger. I sipped it for a few minutes and then ordered another. I didn’t finish the fries, but I did order a shot of Woodford Reserve bourbon. I nursed it for several minutes, observing that hotel bars are always populated by middle-aged men in wrinkled shirts. Then I went back to my room and flipped through the television channels. There was nothing on – there never is – but I think I landed on a M*A*S*H rerun and kept it there because it’s a good show. But I turned it off and fell asleep around 8:30; I was tired because I woke up at 3:15 that morning to get through Raleigh traffic in time for the training.

I was up about 1-3 A.M., just generally praying and seeking the Lord, but I went back to sleep and didn’t awake until after nine. I decided to shave and get a bath. I never take baths at home, because the tub doesn’t really fit my rather massive outer shell. I could hear housekeeping out in the hallway, and occasionally some voices as my room was near the elevators. I used my fingernails and a washcloth to exfoliate the begeezus outta myself in the tub, and I just sort of sat there listening to an old sermon by Walter Beuttler – one of my spiritual fathers in Christ though he died a year before I was born. Once I was pruney, I drained the tub and turned the shower on to rinse off, then I packed my stuff and went to check out around 10:30.

It was a beautiful day to be in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. There were big white cumulus clouds ambling their way across the blue sky, yet the sun never stopped shining. I used Google to set a course for the Eastern Shore of Virginia and set out without feeling like I was in any rush. It was a Thursday at 11 o’clock, so the traffic through Virginia Beach was minimal.

After all these years of life I still love to drive, I love being on the road. It gives me a sense of discovery and zest that I rarely feel when I’m stuck in one place. I wish I could be somewhere different every morning…just keep following an endless, winding highway through mountains, plains and deserts until I reach the gates of Zion, the New Jerusalem.

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel is as it has always been: wondrous. Except the idiots who’d never been on the bridge before ignored the signs that read “Maintain Speed” and they slowed down in the tunnel and created just the sort of conditions which can get a person killed. I drove like a madman, about nine miles over the speed limit, until I reached Salisbury, Maryland. Then I decided I’d go for a walk around Trap Pond State Park near Laurel, Delaware. Sikki and I lived in Laurel for four years, and I used to go to Trap Pond nearly every weekend and run around the Loblolly Trail: 4.5 miles. They’d renamed the trail the “Bob Trail,” which didn’t sound as majestic to my ears, but the trail was the same.

Towards the end of the trail, I was getting blisters because I hadn’t brought shoes appropriate to the task of walking nearly five miles over stone and root and puddle, and though there was an occasional biting green fly, the trail was mostly deserted and peaceful.

Romans 8:22-23

Back in June I started working for a local trucking company, as a dispatcher. Most work days were 7:30-5. Basically I was learning to bid on government loads, which were mostly hazmat flatbed loads and – because they were government operations – the most lucrative for the company. After winning the bid, the load would be assigned to one of the company trucks to haul. Though I was hired as a dispatcher, the owner of the place was aware that I still have my class-A CDL license and he suggested that I get my hazmat endorsement and renew my DOT medical card. The day I did so fell nearly four weeks after my start date. I was tidying up my work station and preparing to leave when one of the three other dispatchers informed me that I was supposed to drive four loads into the State Port that evening.

“Are you joking?” I said.

“No,” he answered.

“But how can that be?” I said. “I haven’t done any training with any of your drivers. I’ve never done flatbed loads and don’t know how to even confirm whether the load is secure. I don’t have personal protective equipment.” I turned to a different dispatcher: “Miss Ginny, are they joking with me? Razzing the new guy?”

“No,” she said.

“What time would I even get done?” I asked.

“About 2 or 3 in the morning,” said one of them.

“No,” I said. “I’m not doing that. I haven’t been trained, I don’t have the equipment, the boss hasn’t said anything to me about it, and then there’s the law.”

“What do you mean?” said one.

“It’s against the federal hours-of-service laws for me to be driving past 14 hours of work,” I said. “My day started at 7:30. Even if I agreed to do run these loads I’d have to be done and back here by 9:30.”

A few minutes later the owner called my line. “I don’t understand what’s going on here,” he blustered. “I thought you understood you were running freight tonight.”

“No I didn’t understand that,” I answered, “because neither you nor anyone else told me that until five minutes ago.”

He was very flustered and got angry when I tried to explain the law to him. All I said was that if I got in an accident or got pulled over, the fines and consequences would fall on me – the driver – and not to him. Finally he said, “I’ll give you a thousand dollars to run these loads tonight.”

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I can’t do that. I’d be happy to do so with notice in the future. But I can’t knowingly break the law even if you offer me ten thousand dollars.” At that, he hung up. I asked one of the other dispatchers to have him call me after he calmed down, so we could have a conversation and communicate clearly about my role at the company. Then I left.

I called Sikki and explained what happened, and said I wasn’t sure whether I had a job now. She just said, “The Lord knows.” The owner of the business never returned my calls or email.

I spent about two weeks feeling sort of shocked and depressed. I didn’t get much done at home, not even with looking for jobs online. Every time I’d muster up the energy to scope out the job scene, this sort of weariness would wash over me as I realized there just wasn’t much out there that would be a good fit for me. After two weeks went by, I started applying for more jobs in earnest – even for jobs I knew I’d hate. I made sure I was qualified for everything I applied for, and I even had years of experience with most of them.

Nothing. Not a single phone call. Just computer generated rejection emails, every morning. I felt like I was wasting my time. Then one Saturday, I was taking a break from working on a Bible rebind in the garage when I checked and found an outside sales rep job for the Wilmington area. It had been posted an hour ago. I applied immediately. About three hours went by and I received an email I knew was from a human, requesting a phone interview. At 9 A.M. Monday morning, the call came and the guy’s first words were, “So, you were a Pepsi guy?” I told him I worked for Pepsi for ten years. He said, “I worked there for 20. So I know you aren’t a guy who f**ks around.” He said he knew I would hussle and be accountable.

Long story short, he asked me to come to Raleigh and meet with him and some of the other team members, and offered me the job right there. It comes with a company vehicle, phone, tablet, laptop, and 100% health insurance. Report from home. But the thing that kicked me was that it was the Pepsi connection that opened the door. There is no way he had time to consider any other candidates.

So God is faithful. Sikki’s words were true, “The Lord knows.” Getting let go from the other job (or quitting – I’m still not sure how I would classify that madness) felt like a real blow, but if I had bent to Mammon at the moment of testing it would have never ended. It was one of those times when I really knew I was suffering because I’d done the right thing — because of integrity. With that knowledge, I didn’t get flooded with anxiety and go crazy with worry. I just sought my Father’s will. I am a son of God. Sons do not have to beg and plead when they are seeking the kingdom: His government in their lives. Begging is for orphans, and I am not an orphan.

The Spirit of the Age is Patricide

America is polarized between two dominant camps. The liberals see America as evil, and they are especially frothy-mouthed and tearing their eyes out over the election of Donald Trump. They are champions of “identity politics,” they want to see America radically changed, and more and more their vision is a socialist America where the state exerts supreme authority over the citizens.

I used to consider myself a conservative. I was raised by Republicans and around Republicans. In the minds of the liberal media, liberal academia, and even among most conservatives the Republican party remains tied to (what is supposed to be) a Christian worldview. Indeed, 81% of evangelical Christians voted for Trump.

As I have grown in understanding of God’s Word (and hopefully appropriation and application of it in my life) I have come to see that most Christians are not very thoughtful. These folks – some of whom I know to be genuine in their faith in Christ – will defend police even when they are brutalizing ER nurses and shooting unarmed citizens. They will not see the evidence that the War on Drugs has failed. They insist on receiving their Social Security checks even though Social Security is a failed socialist program. They do not, by and large, exert much effort in outcry to defend the unborn or prevent divorce or pay off debts, but they will crow hysterically about gays or missiles targeting Israel. They don’t seem very consistent. If the colonists of America had the attitude of conservatives today, there would have never been an American Revolution.

But both of these factions have elevated the role of the state to a level that would have shocked our Founders. It is interesting to me how apolitical Jesus and the apostles seem to have been, and where the emphasis of their doctrine lay. I ask myself, Do we American Christians have the same emphasis?

Once or twice among a few friends, I have asked this question: Was the rebellion of the colonists against the king justified? I mean from a Scriptural perspective, was it proper? No one has really answered me. I normally get a “Hmm” in response. They don’t seem to know or care.

I am glad to have been born in America, and I still think America is the freest nation on earth although no one alive today has experienced the freedom our founders fought for and enjoyed. Yet I don’t see myself as superior to a believer living in China or Iraq or on a native reservation. I’m torn whenever July 4th rolls around, because I stopped pledging allegiance to our flag and the republic for which it stands when I became a Christian. My citizenship is in heaven, and I am subject to my King. But I honestly don’t know if this is true of most of my fellow believers. I grew up hearing the words sung in church, “I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free,” and even at a young age the strange brew of an “American Gospel” struck me as missing its aim concerning the truth.

Wherever there is much surplus, excess, materialism, consumerism, lack of hospitality, and injustice – as in America – it fosters an environment that produces lackluster, lukewarm believers. The heirs of the American blessing – of which I am a part – have simply stuffed themselves. They have never suffered, or sacrificed, or even been inconvenienced to bring freedom to others, and they don’t seem willing to do so now.

Christ rebuked the Laodiceans: “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked— I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.”

And elsewhere: “Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it.” (Ezekiel 16:49-50). The explosion of sexual sin and confusion we see in America, and the tepid, dispassionate faith of the Church, are directly related to an atmosphere of wealth and prosperity and abject apathy.

Sometimes I wonder what benefit patriotism (or is it nationalism?) has in the midst of a people whom the Scriptures call “sons of God.” We know we are Americans. But do we know we are sons of God?

Talking with my wife recently, I expressed the wish that I might travel the world someday. Not necessarily to see any sights, but to visit with the churches and observe whether they are as lacking in godly order and passion as the churches in my country. Regardless, I am seeking greater dependence upon the Lord. As a son of God, called before the foundation of the world, I do not want to be a self-made man. I don’t think I have “American values,” though with all my heart I wish for God’s kingdom to come to my nation. But today I’m experiencing the loneliness of feeling “out of place” in the world, and even in the church. Who could even utter these things out loud without being thrown off a cliff?

“By faith he dwelt in the promised land as a stranger in a foreign country. He lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” – from Hebrews 11

It is a Terrifying Thing to Fall into the Hands of the Living God

For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

I know this passage from Hebrews 10 has mostly to do with apostasy, of turning away from Christ and returning to Egypt. But I find it compelling in the sense that no one simply “goes back to the world.” An expanding series of thoughts, false beliefs, detrimental actions and neglectful inactions leads one step-by-step away from Christ. In fact, the writer of Hebrews expresses this thought in chapters 3 and 6 as well, with this passage being the third admonition, emphasizing the need for believers to stimulate one another toward good works and greater devotion in order to keep themselves in the Way. The first step in the Hebrews’ encounter at Sinai — and even while they were still slaves in Egypt — was an awesome, terrifying display of raw power and holiness.

This morning while reading I was struck – once again – by the fact that I feel I am missing the experience of these sentiments in my life. I don’t think I really understand the fear of the Lord, and therefore I don’t think I understand much of anything. I’m not speaking of mental assent or acknowledgement of the truth – I think I could explain it quite well biblically, from a doctrinal standpoint. But I mean that the fear of the Lord isn’t always an active deterrent to sin in those areas where I “willfully” sin. When I overeat, I typically do so without thought of God. If I waste time, I often do so without consideration of Jesus’ lordship. Throughout my life, this is a problem.

I’m not really interested in getting to all the particulars of why I have this problem. Perhaps it is because there is so little instruction in “the fear of the Lord” in church, or maybe I never had a role model who demonstrated it for me. I just want to be delivered from my ignorance. And so I prayed this morning.

Bow Your heavens, O LORD, and come down; Touch the mountains, that they may smoke. – Psalm 144:5

Give Me This Hill Country

This past week something has occurred every day around four in the morning which compels me to get out of bed, and on this day, #15,492, it was an upset stomach. Yesterday it was a child with an ear infection. And so on for the past week. Perhaps I should just prepare on getting up at four for a while as it seems the Lord desires my attention and I might save Him the trouble of coming up with new ideas for getting me out of bed. After I was awakened, I spent time with Him, and then from 5-9 I took my children to the bus stop and read the entire book of Joshua.

The words of Caleb in chapter 14 were personally significant as I read. He details his strength and past faithfulness in following the Lord and the promise of Moses to him, and then he says, “Now then, give me this hill country about which the LORD spoke on that day, for you heard on that day that Anakim were there, with great fortified cities; perhaps the LORD will be with me, and I will drive them out as the LORD has spoken.” My eyes were fixed on the words: Give me this hill country. I prayed: Give me this hill country…give me this hill country…give me this hill country…

In a flash I thought of the people — unrelated and independent of each other, except by the bond of the Spirit — who spoke prophetically of my future and my calling in God in the days of my youth: Jack Buskey, Joanne Picataggi, Wade Taylor and Dennis DeGrasse, and in more recent times Bobby Norton and Scott Stimson. I thought of the first thing God ever showed and quickened to me in His Word when I began seeking Him for myself in earnest: the past, present and future implications of the story of Eli, Hannah and Samuel and what it meant concerning my service to the Body of Christ. Give me this hill country.

Give me this hill country. Let everything God has promised and declared over my life come to fruition, in spite of the giants. And may the Lord find in me a willing and obedient heart that trusts that what He began in me, He is also able to finish.

A Fruitful Season, Pt 2

It has been seven months since this prophecy was given, and I previously recorded my cursory recollection and the significance of these words here, but I just received the audio and wanted to transcribe it verbatim for remembrance. These words were spoken to me by a total stranger.

I see you standing before a large tree with many leaves, with the branches hanging down low. And I see you coming to this tree, and I see the tree has had the buds, and it’s had everything that would look like “this is the year.” And then I see you going through a year saying I’m not sure why the fruit never did come then. And then I see you going back again and looking at it again and expecting, because everything looked right. The tree looked healthy, the tree looked like it was ready to produce, but still there was no fruit, the fruit that you were looking for.

And the Lord is just saying to you that this is the time that you will begin to produce the fruit that you’ve been waiting for, that you’ve been looking for. And where you’ve known seasons of disappointment, it’s not because of anything that you’ve done wrong, it’s not because of anything that’s happened to you or anything anybody else did to you. It’s just because of the season, the timing of the Lord.

But now’s the time where you will produce that which is in your heart. God’s put some big dreams inside of you and He’s just written them in you. He wrote them in you from an early – from your early teens, or even pre-teens – where God began to put some dreams inside you. And now He’s started to bring those to life in you. They’re not impossible. They’re not too difficult.

You’ve had the structure in place for it to happen. You’ve had a healthy tree. But now’s the time for the fruit to begin to come forth, and the branches that have hung down will begin to stand up straight. So new life is flowing to you. And you’re going to look around you and you’re gonna see that He really has made all things new. Some people say, “I don’t know how that suddenly happened,” but you will know that He’s been preparing it all along, and now’s the time for it to come forth. This is your season. A fruitful season. A fruitful season. A fruitful season. Hallelujah. Thank you Lord.

A Stranger’s Prayer

It is Day 15,163 and I am stopping in for a short visit to record something that happened after church this morning. There was a guest speaker from another local church, but I didn’t get to hear his message because today was my day to speak to the young teen group; Sikki and I are scheduled to be with the teens once a month. But after the service, I was hunting down my little children and the visiting preacher called me over and said he wanted to pray for me.

I found his prayer noteworthy because it wasn’t your usual run-of-the-mill generic stuff. It seemed like his prayer for me matched so many of my own prayers on a day-to-day basis that it seemed to have prophetic, affirming tone. He prayed for increased effectiveness in my service to the Body of Christ, for ideas and imagination to take ministry outside of the four walls of that church to reach young people specifically, and for protection from temptation and despair. He called me a “choice tool,” which when I write it here makes me chortle because I am a smart aleck, but I also appreciated the prayer and spontaneity of the thing.

I haven’t written much here in the past few months because I’ve been very busy and haven’t felt like writing. My health continues to improve. Last time I went to the pulmonologist she told me I could probably come off Xolair injections if I lost 30 pounds, which as it turns out is about what I gained in the past year. So I’m not sure how losing weight will help me breathe better, but at the same time I’ve always wanted to lose weight.

On March 1 (Ash Wednesday) I started an Alternate-Day Fasting approach, which I am documenting on another one of my old blogs here. I’d heard about intermittent fasting from a number of sources in the past couple of years, but I decided that since I’ve been dealing with tendinitis in my right heel I’d give the fasting a go for a couple weeks and re-evaluate after that. Even if I haven’t lost weight yet, I do feel better.

Last week I took steps to go back to college. After talking with a vocational rehabilitation counselor from the disability insurance company, I found out they might pay for some of my tuition if I can prove that my degree major will lead to a good job. I’ve got the time, I love to study, and I have always wanted to finish my bachelor’s degree. So why not try? I’d like to get into the Communication Studies program at Appalachian State University if I get accepted. I figure Communication Studies is somewhat in line with what the preacher prayed this morning.

John 15:2

It is Day 15,047 and I awoke early with an upset stomach. My stomach has been troubled for the past couple of days for some reason, with not like constant sickness but a churning. I intended to take a jog this morning but because I felt weak I ended up just walking for a couple miles. As I went I listened to an old sermon by John Wright Follette, and somewhere he said, “I’m a realist. But I’m spiritual.” He talked about the need for honesty in our relationship with God and that we can’t know the truth apart from knowing Christ, because Jesus said “I AM the truth.” Jesus wasn’t like other teachers in religious traditions who offer some little slice or perspective on the truth: He IS the truth. So to pursue the truth is to pursue Jesus Christ. I too do my best to be a “spiritual realist” and be honest, not judging myself or this world or its situations as they should be, but as they are.

There has been some strife in my family and a couple of other relationships because of my conclusions about Donald Trump. One spirit in particular has been very insistent that Trump’s ascension is directly tied to God’s will for the Church – he has kind of an “Onward Christian Soldiers” mentality that is bound up in the leadership of Trump over our nation. This fellow has drawn his sword against my positions and me personally without telling me how I have gone astray from the truth, even after my repeated requests. I am reminded of Jesus’ words after He was struck by the high priest’s servant: “If I have spoken wrongly, testify of the wrong; but if rightly, why do you strike Me?” Job told his friends, “Teach me, and I will be silent; And show me how I have erred.”

I think what a lot of folks who’ve heard me don’t understand is that my foremost concern is not about politics at all, but about the state or condition of the Church. In Follette’s sermon, which was probably recorded in the early 1960s, he mentioned that the Body of Christ had a sickness, like mumps. He was referring to the outwardly emotional expressive displays that were going on in Pentecostal churches and meetings in his day, and even also to people’s reading of the Word, things which appeared very spiritual and “powerful” but did not lead to an enduring awareness or knowledge of Christ. I witnessed and even participated in some of these when I was a child. Perhaps they are a necessary step in our growth in Christ, but if they don’t lead to deeper understanding or fuller outworking in daily life they are inherently worthless. I think that’s what Follette was getting at – that the majority of Christian experience was wrapped up in “externals.”

That got me thinking about how the Church today is different than the Church of forty or fifty years ago. Many of those “swing on the chandelier” holy-roller antics have disappeared from the Church, replaced by mostly passive observation on the part of the congregants. Most congregations have a concert atmosphere, and the “show” is conducted by professionals who have polished their message to be seeker-friendly and inclusive, where no outward expression is required whatsoever. I wonder what Brother Follette would say about the things we see today.

Those dynamics – the forsaking of pursuing truth in real relationship to Christ, the dismissal of God’s Word as a standard, and our watering down the expectations of a real life of faith – directly relates to our thinking, behavior and speech in the world of politics and every other sphere in which we move. Last Sunday I mentioned to my local church that when we don’t listen to God or remember His Word we are in danger of misinterpreting the events of life: we rejoice when we should be weeping and weep when we should rejoice. In this past year, the world of politics is the latest place where this could be plainly observed, just another fruitless branch on a tree that needs pruning. It has been disheartening to watch, but only the revelation of God can bring change. That’s what I’m seeking in my life, in my family, for my church, for the nation and for the world.