The woods are lovely,
Dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
From “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.”
These final lines from the poem by Frost have inspired me for decades. As I read it, I also hear Paul saying, “Forgetting those things that are behind, I press on to the prize of the high calling of Christ Jesus.” Frost hints to us that distractions capture us easily and seem to have built-in beauty that proves so irresistible that only a stronger and higher mission can overcome them.
Along the way, the strength of the “lovely woods” frequently wins. All the great spiritual movements of the centuries caved in eventually to the draw of distractions. Usually, the distractions were of their own construction. Decades ago, I told the founder of a great movement that their original goal had been to speed workers along on the great river of God to bless the world, but as they bought and built their bases, they had to tap the energy of the river so much to run the organization that little was left flowing to meet their original vision. My statement was not well received, and I understand that. “The woods are lovely.”
Great revivals of the past began with the energy of the Holy Spirit when all eyes were focused outward toward winning and blessing the world as they responded to the word of Jesus to “Go.” At some subtle and unnoticed point, the focus changed. Now, the eyes began to turn inward and the word “preserve” crossed enough lips that more eyes focused on what was possessed than the original vision and the call.
Further, the possessions and the desire for preservation elevated a new bureaucracy that arrived surfing on a sea of power. Power might indeed be the loveliest of all woods. Power and possessions and preservation then give rise for the need for protection. Walls arise along with paranoia, so gun ports and cannon placements are installed. Defense does not satisfy, so armies must be trained to attack all who are different, otherwise we cannot justify our own existence. Finally, the “Go” has gone and been replaced by “Defend and Defeat.”
In the 1970s a great book by a man named Townsend stated that large corporations, especially automobile companies, would never have succeeded had they used in their beginnings the methods that they now use as large corporations. Similarly, would the great “name-brand” churches have succeeded had they acted at their founding as they do today? Not likely. Indeed, their decline alarms those who pay attention.
So, what is the answer? Jesus seems to give the answer to the Church at Ephesus as recorded in Revelations 2. Simply put, “Return to your first love.” I wish the record were complete enough to know how the Ephesus church actually responded to this message. All we have remaining from the Ephesus church is a great and inspired letter written to them by Paul.
Two elements of hope always remain for us, one biblical and one historical. The first? Jesus said, “I will build my church.” Second? When great movements bog down, God seems to be able to start new and vigorous ones to continue His goal.
— Gayle Erwin
Can’t get our radio program, “The Jesus Style”? I have good news for you if you have internet access. Each week, as the program is aired, Saturday at 7 a.m. Pacific time, you will be able to download the message from our Web site, http://servant.org/, and listen at your leisure, or share if you wish. It comes as what they call a “podcast” and you can subscribe to automatically download whenever you bring up iTunes on your computer. iTunes is available free to download from our Web site. All of our podcasts are available free. You can also hear streaming audio from www.csnradio.com during the Saturday 7 a.m. Pacific time broadcast.
In addition to the radio program, you can also subscribe to our podcast called “A Story a Day.” Here, the stories from Gayle’s books as well as stories you haven’t heard yet will be sent to you.
We have a third podcast which is a weekly one called “One-String Guitar.” That podcast will also download automatically when you open iTunes on your computer. This is the most current podcast as I share thoughts and events and updates that we hope will interest you. Recent listeners have heard a first – me singing. It keeps hackers and viruses away.
Interested in watching a segment of the “God’s Nature” series? You can watch it by going to http://theschoolmaster.org/. There, thanks to Renee Settles, you can see and hear all four hours on the Nature of Jesus, two hours on the Nature of the Father and two hours on The Holy Spirit. Our gratitude to Renee.
“My name is Erika Kirkham and I am a home-schooling mother of 3 in North Alabama. My dad recently passed away (September 23rd) of pancreatic and liver cancer and upon my leaving his house after his death, my step-mom gave me my dad’s all-time favorite book, The Jesus Style. It is quite worn and has a coffee cup stain on it but it is now my favorite book as well. I have read it twice and have ordered a copy for a dear friend of mine who is struggling with the person of Jesus as do many of us. (I couldn’t bear to part with my dad’s copy!)
“Currently, I am reading it yet again with my younger children, ages 8 and 9. I am ‘simplifying’ it as I read as you have a rather extensive vocabulary! Never before have I seen them so enthralled with the person of Jesus. We are breaking it down into small, bite-sized daily readings and going over it until I’m sure that they “get it.” I have seen in them a transformation already and we are still only in the first chapter! I have emphasized the fact that Jesus, being God, didn’t act as though He deserved anything even though He deserved EVERYTHING! In this self-centered culture that we live in, kids are so into themselves, as are most of us adults. Unfortunately, our kids are doing what we as parents are modeling to them and it can be very humbling to say the least! I was wondering, have you ever thought of re-writing this book for children or have you already and I’m just not aware of it? I just really feel that a book like this, along with a curriculum of sorts, would be so beneficial to our little ones! It makes Jesus so ‘real’ and approachable.”
We are working on this with Erika! Pray for us.
Podcast subscribers already know about Mary Ann, but now, for our readers, here is one of her columns. If you want to read others, go to http://maryanncrum.com/.
It’s not easy to visibly rattle a couple of ultra-cool teenage boys or a steady husband whose typical demeanor is one step up from comatose, but I discovered I have the power to thoroughly terrorize my family. With nary a word, I alone can send my husband and sons scurrying to the remotest corners of the house to seek refuge.
Where do my secret powers come from? From deep within. From that secret place in the soul of women from which the overwhelming need for ORDER and ORGANIZATION periodically erupt like the unpredictable molten fury of Mt. Pinatubo. No man can stand before the raging fire of a hormonally charged woman on a mission to remove clutter from her house. I’m told it’s a look in the eye – a fierce determination, a fiery passion, a ferocious drive to clean the uncleanable, straighten the unstraightenable, organize the disorganized, to right domestic wrongs.
It hit me last weekend and I nearly scared my family half to death.
As I swooped into the den where my two sons were sitting at computers, I began sorting and filing and dusting and pitching and bagging and hauling away. My oldest son looked at me and said, “Mom – you REALLY scare me when you get like this.” “Stop... stop,” they pleaded, but I would not be stopped. “Do it later,” they begged, but I knew I was racing against my mysterious internal clock – the organizing fire in my belly has a definite but unpredictable time limit and there was much to be conquered before my clock stopped ticking.
They raced to gather up school reports, stray sneakers, dirty socks, and CDs before they fell before the relentless fury of my cleaning rage. Out went old catalogs and useless junk mail. To the basement went boxes of computer games. To the thrift store went clothes that had not seen the light of day in years. I was on a roll and it was truly a wonder to behold.
Of course, this volcanic eruption of cleaning mayhem eventually ran its course and sputtered to a halt. My family peeked out to survey what had survived my onslaught. They found order where chaos had once prevailed; they found delightfully barren desktops and countertops; they found me in the recliner, exhausted but satisfied. Oh, the bliss of a tidy, clutter-free home.
I have a single friend whose new condo is so sparsely decorated it looks like a page out of “Prison Beautiful.” She says she doesn’t want to have to fool with dusting or eventually moving lots of doo-dads, pictures and furniture. Bare bones is the phrase that comes to mind. I wouldn’t necessarily choose to decorate my home in such a spartan manner, but I do like to visit this friend’s house. There’s nothing out of place because there’s nothing to get out of place. It gives one a sense that at least this little piece of the universe is orderly.
I have decades of doo-dads to dust and maintain, with more stuff arriving on the scene all the time. Just getting my mail each day yields a fresh pile of paper to be organized and dealt with. So when I get the “eye of the tiger” and go on a clutter-bashing binge, I guess my family fears that I’m capable of throwing most anything out – the TV, major appliances, the clothes off their backs.
How thankful I am that when God “cleans house” in my life, there’s infinite, perfect wisdom in His ways. God doesn’t impulsively decide to create havoc and straighten up everything about my life in one day. He doesn’t swoop in with a maniacal glint in His eye and start loading huge chunks of my life into garbage bags to take to the recycling center.
On the contrary, if I let Him, He helps me get rid of the garbage in my life with great gentleness and love.
“Hey, Mary Ann – think you need to bring that anger out of the closet and take it to the dump,” He’ll calmly say. “And while you’re at it, let’s get rid of that unforgiveness – it’s old and rotten.” Or He might pull out some of my “good” activities to look at. “These are okay, but I think it’s time to replace them with something new,” He says.
It’s all loving and orderly and controlled. No need to run for cover. No need to fear.
Is God relentless? Yes – relentlessly loving. He knows that His cleaning will make me more like Jesus and He and I agree – being like Jesus is by far the best way to be.
“‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the Lord, ‘though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool.’” – Isaiah1:18.
Would you mind if I put one of your DVD shows on my Web site? I recently purchased all of them for our public access TV, which will begin airing at 6:00 am. It’s early, but that was the best that I could get. Anyway, your shows are great and I have recently started a small Web site and would love to put one of your shows on each month. I have high hopes that it will grow.
Doug Munday here from the Union Gospel Mission in Spokane. We are using the “Nature of Jesus” here at the mission and I will be looking for some intermediate Bible studies. I have taken over the position of Chaplain, and I absolutely am overjoyed at being able to lead worship in the mornings and teach the Word every day. Imagine that – a pastor who loves to teach the Word. Go Figure. My pastor asked me to speak on becoming more like Jesus and I will be using your material as an outline.
I went to hear you and meet you on Sept. 20th. It was such a joy to see in person what I had only heard on the radio and read in your books. You make Jesus and Christianity come across as something you (we) definitely don’t want to miss out on! I personally wandered for 40 years in the high desert of Apple Valley before a divorce made me realize that I don't want to live another day without a Savior. Your radio ministry was and is so important to me and I look forward to hearing you in person again soon. Regardless of the brain surgeon career that was waiting for you, you are doing what you were put on this earth by God to do. I have no doubt you will keep doing it too. Thanks also for signing my copy of The Jesus Style.
Just finished reading your latest newsletter “from cover to cover” and I wanted to thank you for sharing the story of Jerry with us. Besides being an extraordinary encouragement for you and the work you do, it was a wonderful encouragement to me to make sharing the Lord as natural as breathing. It also reminded me to hang in there with the prayers for my loved ones. I love it when your stories make me laugh, but I love it more when they make me cry!
On Sunday, there was a young woman in the audience. She was raised in the LDS faith but she renounced that belief and turned to Christ a year or two ago. It hasn’t always been easy on her, in fact when she entered college she elected to live away from home because she didn’t feel comfortable going to LDS services with her family. This was something her mom had requested she do as long as she lived with her.
As I am sure you know, the Mormon church places a lot of importance on works. When you singled her out and told her how often God had good thoughts for her (using a conservative calculation of seven times a second) her smile grew larger with each passing number 7, 14, 21, 28, 35, 42, 49, 56, 63. By the time you hit 63 her smile was wider than I ever remember seeing it.
Through you God greatly touched her heart. As you walked away you may have noticed that she was dabbing away a few tears. I believe this may have been one of the most important messages she has ever heard. Now she truly knows that God loves her not because of what she does but because she is His child.
Thank you for coming to our small Church in Rockwall, Texas (I am listening to the CD of Sunday’s sermon as I write this). The Lord used you mightily in the lives of those who heard the Word of the Lord on Saturday and Sunday. It was amazing to see how the Lord drew the people who needed to come in spite of the weather situation. It is almost a week later now and many of God’s people are still talking about how the Lord spoke to them and blessed them over the weekend. Many are reading The Jesus Style and comment how they cannot put it down because the Lord is speaking to them so greatly and that the book is so easy to read and funny as well!
Several months ago you mailed me some books and included a video (#26) called “Freedom and Bondage.” I would like permission to show that to our “Responsible Living Unit” (a.k.a. “God Pod”) at Pierce County Jail, Tacoma Washington. This is a group of 31 men in a program unit that is dedicated to teaching the principles of Jesus Christ. (Permission granted)
Pierce County Jail
Bob Mathieu, a long-time friend of mine with a fabulously successful ministry in the Anacostia section of Washington, D.C., was honoring local leaders during Black History Month. On February 11, 2007, he had nine police officers in his service. One of the teens asked, “What has Pastor Bob done?”
The truth of the following quote has not been established, but I like the thought.
A University professor challenged his students with this question. “Did God create everything that exists?”
A student bravely replied, “Yes, He did!”
“God created everything?” The professor asked.
“Yes, sir, He certainly did,” the student replied.
The professor answered, “If God created everything; then God created evil. And, since evil exists, and according to the principal that our works define who we are, then we can assume God is evil.”
The student became quiet and did not respond to the professor’s hypothetical definition. The professor, quite pleased with himself, boasted to the students that he had proven once more that the Christian faith was a myth.
Another student raised his hand and said, “May I ask you a question, professor?”
“Of course,” replied the professor.
The student stood up and asked, “Professor, does cold exist?”
“What kind of question is this? Of course it exists. Have you never been cold?”
The other students snickered at the young
man’s question. The young
man replied, “In fact, sir, cold does not exist. According to the
laws of physics, what we consider cold is in reality the absence of heat.
or object is susceptible to study when it has or transmits energy, and
heat is what makes a body or matter have or transmit energy. Absolute zero
F) is the total absence of heat; and all matter
becomes inert and incapable of reaction at that temperature. Cold does not exist. We have created this word to describe how we feel if we have no heat.”
The student continued, “Professor, does darkness exist?”
The professor responded, “Of course, it does.”
The student replied, “Once again you are wrong, sir; darkness does not exist either. Darkness is in reality the absence of light. Light we can study, but not darkness. In fact, we can use Newton’s prism to break white light into many colors and study the various wavelengths of each color. You cannot measure darkness. A simple ray of light can break into a world of darkness and illuminate it. How can you know how dark a certain space is? You measure the amount of light present. Isn’t this correct? Darkness is a term used by man to describe what happens when there is no light present.”
Finally the young man asked the professor, “Sir, does evil exist?”
Now uncertain, the professor responded, “Of course, as I have already said. We see it everyday. It is in the daily examples of man’s inhumanity to man. It is in the multitude of crime and violence everywhere in the world. These manifestations are nothing else but evil.”
To this the student replied, “Evil does not exist, sir, or at least it does not exist unto itself. Evil is simply the absence of God. It is just like darkness and cold, a word that man has created to describe the absence of God. God did not create evil. Evil is the result of what happens when man does not have God’s love present in his heart. It’s like the cold that comes when there is no heat, or the darkness that comes when there is no light.”
The professor sat down.
If you wish to order all eight of Gayle’s
books at once, which includes his newest, Not Many Mighty, your special price
is $60, postage included.
Blessings to you.
— Gayle Erwin
Servant Quarters, Vol. 27, #1
Available by request by e-mail or by post.
PO Box 219
Cathedral City, CA 92235
Web site: http://servant.org