On that day, the “swabs” (what they are called until the end of the summer) had their phones confiscated and we were only able to communicate with him through handwritten letters --- the old fashioned way! Trina and I wrote every day, and we were blessed to receive two lengthy letters from him. As of this past Friday, August 16, Carey successfully completed “Swab summer” and on Monday the 18th will be officially received along with his class into the core of cadets at USCGA. And so begins what is known as 4th class year, with classes beginning in about a week after a lot of administrative in-processing.
Summer 2019 was an exciting and busy camp schedule. It began in June with the summer camp for The Potter’s School, the Christian online school for whom I teach Bible Survey class to eighty students. To read more about this particular camp, go to our June update. The busier camp schedule began after my return from the Philippines (read our summary report on the Philippines trip here). Less than two days after returning from the Philippines, I had to push through some of the jet lag and adjustment to a 12-hour time difference as I had to depart to drive to Pennsylvania to begin seven days at the Peniel Holiness Camp. This was my first time to Peniel, and I preached nine times, sharing the preaching responsibilities with Dr. Chris Lohrstorfer of Wesley Biblical Seminary, whom I learned a great deal from. Part of what impacted me most about my time at Peniel was the incredible history of this camp, nearing 125 years of existence. One of my favorite things at the older holiness camps is to look at all the old posters for the campmeetings of years past. Peniel has these posted on the walls of the main worship tabernacle. I was awed (and Dr. Chris and I were almost giddy) to view these old posters and see how some of the greatest preachers of the holiness movement had preached at this camp. We saw some extremely significant responses to Jesus in this camp, and I was humbled to stand in the long line of those who have been privileged to share the Word at this storied camp.
After preaching my final service at Peniel on Thursday night (the camp would continue through that following Sunday), I drove a couple of hours to the Cleveland, OH airport to pick up Trina as she had flown there from home to meet me. After our joyful reunion (it had been the better part of three weeks since we had been together except for the two short nights at home after the Philippines), we made our way toward Camp Sychar in Mt. Vernon, OH, arriving a little after midnight. Those who know us at Camp Sychar know that it has become a real home for us over the past nine years especially. My first time to speak at Sychar was in 1993 (hard to believe even now how they so accepted that 26 year old evangelist), and was there two other times in the 90’s during our first term in evangelism. In 2011, I was asked back again and have either attended or served as one of the workers every year except two since then. It truly has become like home --- one of our family’s four favorite places on earth. But it’s really the people more than the place. I was privileged this year to serve, for the second time, as the 9:30 AM Bible teacher. I have become very fond of this opportunity to share from the Word in a teaching setting, yet very informal manner. It was clear to me this year that it would be good to share the material from 1 Corinthians 12 on the gifts of the Spirit and the body of Christ. The response was overwhelming. We pre-printed and bound 125 copies of the notes for the study, and they were all gone with still a few days left in the camp.
After our ten days at Sychar, Trina and I were able to be home for three days before heading up to Minnesota to the camp for the Prairie Lakes District Church of the Nazarene, a gathering of Nazarene churches from Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota. What an amazing place and event this was over the course of the four days! And did I mention that I really like having Trina with me on these events? We were so very warmly greeted by the people, and by an old friend, district pastor (superintendent) Steve Hoffman and his wife, Jeanna. What amazing and humble servants of God they are! I was moved time and time again by Steve’s spiritual leadership and example in the camp. And the response of the people to the truth was extremely significant. There seemed to be a very special and powerful moving of the Holy Spirit in these services --- a time when His presence and touch on us all was extremely evident. One of the highlights was on Friday evening and the opportunity to speak through a Spanish interpreter to a joint service with English and Hispanic congregations. We were also blessed to have some time with our dear brother, Sam Burch, as he is in Minnesota for this part of the year. What a refreshing and encouraging time we had together. Trina and I found ourselves so refreshed by this time and counted it as such a gift to have been at this camp with these people.
We arrived home from Minnesota with some time now to begin to prepare for our fall travel schedule and the beginning of my TPS classes next week, followed by a class with Trevecca Nazarene University beginning the week after that. God is good. Though we are physically weary from the summer, our hearts are refreshed by the truth of His Word and the presence of Jesus among His people. We would not rather be anywhere else!
Running together in Christ,
I have always heard about the Philippines. My friend and ministry partner, Mark Strickland, has often spoken of his fondness for the Philippines as his favorite country in SE Asia. I had never imagined myself as traveling to SE Asia to teach or preach. But the providence of God had been at work in ways I could not have imagined. A couple of years ago, Trina had read that an old friend of mine, Dr. David Ackerman, had become the education coordinator for the Philippines and Micronesia for the Church of the Nazarene. David and I (as well as Mark Strickland) had attended Nazarene Theological Seminary in Kansas City at the exact same time between 1989 and 1992. David and Rhonda had come from Idaho while Trina and I had come from Illinois. I had come to know him through several classes we had taken together, always amazed with his level of intellect. We became even more acquainted and the friendship developed more as David and Rhonda began attending the same small Nazarene church that Trina and I were attending in Independence, MO.
I have a deep love for them. I am grateful for all the prayer and support of people for this trip. Thank you for running together with me and the Christians in the Philippines for this time.
Running together in Christ,
There are no words to describe the blessing it was for Trina and me to be at TPS summer camp June 2-8. Approximately 120 students plus some families and staff gathered for this annual event at Miracle Mountain Ranch in NW Pennsylvania. TPS --- The Potter’s School --- is the outstanding online school through which I have been privileged to teach online classes with high school students for the past six years. Little could we have imagined six years ago the seeds of relationship that would form over that time. Over this period, it has been our joy to not only teach and share the Word, but also to walk with students and families. As Paul writes to the Thessalonians, “So affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us (2:8).” It was an honor this year to be asked to be the speaker for the evening chapel services at the camp as well as speaking for the morning devotions for parents and staff, along with delivering the commencement address on Friday evening to our graduating seniors. Jesus spoke faithfully and powerfully through His Word during this week, answering many prayers, and the response to Him was amazing. But in addition to these powerful times in the Word, the camp also provided the special opportunity to just be in person with students, families, fellow teachers and staff. One of the challenges of online education is that we do not get to see one another face to face. While we may become well acquainted with one another’s voices in our live classes (and the students become well acquainted with all my corny jokes!), it is quite a different thing to know a person face to face. I related to what Paul said later in that letter to the Thessalonians, when he stated, “But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavored more eagerly to see your face with great desire (2:17).” Some of the most joyful moments were when a student would walk up to us and introduce himself or herself, saying, “I am _________.” But even beyond the initial introductions and placing familiar names with faces, it was a joy to just be together, share and talk together, and to pray together. While many of the students and families expressed their gratitude for us being there, it was actually Trina and I who came away from this camp perhaps more encouraged than anyone there. The spiritual environment of this camp was incredibly powerful, and the Spirit of Jesus was so evident. God showed His faithfulness yet again, answering so many prayers. He reminded me powerfully again that He works through His Word, and that He brings the harvest in His time. Trina and I would echo what one of the students emailed to me after the camp. “Normally, I come home from camp exhausted, and the camp let-down hits hard. This year I came home and felt revived and energized (especially spiritually).” To that, we say, “Amen,” and we are forever grateful to have been a part of this special event.
We are excited for the opportunity for John Juneman and Mark Strickland to travel to the Philippines during the first two weeks of July to work with pastors in various training settings during that time. John and Mark will split up to work in different locations, including colleges, outlying districts, pastors’ meetings, and preaching in revivals and local churches. All of the training in the colleges and districts will contribute to helping pastors complete their requirements for ordination. We feel strongly that this trip has been orchestrated by God and brings together many connections from the past and the present. It is a homecoming of sorts for Mark as he spent a year of study in the Philippines during seminary, and has a deep love for this area. It is also a reunion with our seminary classmate, Dr. David Ackerman, who is the education coordinator for the Church of the Nazarene in the Philippines and who is planning this time for us. Some details are still being finalized, and so a final estimate for a cost for the trip is not yet available. More details will be coming. But if you would like to contribute toward this mission, please feel free to use our donation page. And thank you for your prayer as we seek and trust Jesus for this to be a life-shaping time as we come alongside of these pastors and support the training happening in the Philippines. For more information on the work of the Church of the Nazarene in the Philippines, go to http://asiapacificnazarene.org/fields/philippine-micronesia-field/
Sometime in 2011, Trina and I sensed God’s clear leading for an additional focus and priority for our ministry over the next several years. Chaili had traveled extensively with us in the earlier years of her life, being in 43 states in her first three years of life. But we began to feel God's call for Carey to be involved. So, in February of 2012, Carey went on his first trip with me to a revival in Issaquah, WA. Over the next seven-plus years, Carey has traveled with me on dozens of trips by plane or by car to locations across the United States, plus Canada and Africa. It has been one of those decisions that you look back on and say, “I am so thankful.” God has used it as a life-shaping period in his life and in mine. I am forever grateful for these memories and this bond, and for the young man God is shaping him to be. Just a couple of weeks ago, we took our final ministry trip together for this particular time in our lives. Fittingly, it was to Fallon, Nevada, the place Carey has been to the most. I am deeply thankful for this group of people and for all they mean to us in Christ. It was a wonderful time as usual as we gathered for nightly services to preach the Word, and it was a deeply special moment as the church gathered around Carey to pray for him in his final time there for the foreseeable future.
Our family continues to be blessed and thankful for all God’s goodness and provision. Chaili continues to thrive in her ministry of being a nurse and caring for mothers and newborn babies. We have a busy summer ahead with camps and travel. In addition to all of this and our regular teaching online with The Potter’s School, I am beginning a new position teaching as adjunct faculty in the School of Graduate and Continuing Studies at Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville. I have much to do in preparation for the course on Ethics beginning May 21. Mark Strickland and I are also making preparations to travel to the Philippines in July, where we will be preaching and assisting in teaching and pastoral training for ten days. Please see the separate article for more details on this.
In summary, God plans to do more today, tomorrow, and in the weeks and months ahead than we can ever dream of accomplishing. We are in complete dependence upon Jesus to live through us the message that we preach. Your care and prayer mean more to us than we can express as we continue,
Running together in Christ,
I write from my desk in Tennessee on a cool, sunny day in January. It has been a blessing to be here at home throughout this winter after a busy and fruitful fall schedule with repeat visits to some of our most beloved churches, which feel like “second home.” To be honest, being home is not necessarily the first or desired status when you are an evangelist as livelihood and the normal work ministry depends on being “out” somewhere.
Our weekly online Bible classes through The Potter’s School have grown to an enrollment of 80 students this year in 19 countries around the world. Far more important than the level of participation has been the fruitfulness of this. The testimonies of students and parents from week to week witness to the work of Jesus Christ and the power of His Word in their lives. It has been greatly encouraging to see and hear as these young people are getting into the Word in their own lives, and I believe it will yield lifelong fruit. This is part of the main work I give myself to in these days at home (continuing to do classes when we are at a church somewhere) as I study the material and create the PowerPoint presentations for classes, not to mention the five weekly 90-minute class sessions themselves as well as grading work. In addition to all this, I remain in extensive correspondence and communication with as many people as possible for the sake of encouragement and future planning. Not the least blessing of these days is being able to continue in the study of John 17. This month I will be concluding that study and moving on to the next “chapter” in life with a study in 2 Timothy chapter 2. I have been deeply impacted by John 17 and am excited for what is ahead with 2 Timothy.
As we continue to look ahead, the spring revival schedule with begin soon, starting with our trip to Clearwater, FL in February. We prayerfully hope to produce a new book on John 17 for this summer. There are also some new teaching opportunities that may be on the horizon and which I can share more about as they become more firm. We are also prayerfully looking at the possibility of Mark Strickland and I traveling to SE Asia for two weeks of pastoral training and teaching this summer. Discussions are currently taking place with leaders there. We would appreciate your prayer for all of these opportunities and whatever the Lord may have in mind.
Most of all, I would appreciate your prayer for us, as we do for you, that we would know Jesus more deeply and fully in these days. And as we watch the calendar in these upcoming months and listen for news of where God will direct Carey, it is good to know that Jesus “is before all things, and in Him all things consist (Colossians 1:17).” He is our provision, our peace, and our “glue” in this transition and in every other. All praise to Him, and we pray that you will know the same of Him in these days and in all of your transitions.
It has been a rich and varied three months of ministry to begin 2018 while also continuing week-by-week in our growing online teaching. It was a unique blessing and opportunity to travel to Fallon, NV and to be there for three weeks filling in for Pastor Paul from mid-January through early February. He and Tammy were able to travel to spend an extended time with their daughter and her family --- a rare time away from Fallon for them! Of course, there really is no “filling in” for Pastor Paul. The work in Fallon is a ministry to the community, and Jesus works through Paul there in a very unique way. In addition to the preaching and church work, there is the food ministry (and all involved with that) along with the two thrift stores operated by the church. The people of the church did a beautiful job of just filling in and conducting all of these ministries, while I was just there to preach the Word and teach, and to be a support and encouragement to them. Of course, it is not surprising that I was the one who came away encouraged. While it was difficult to be away from my family for three weeks (in addition to being very sick when I arrived in Fallon), it was a sweet time to be with these dear people for an extended time and to experience the Lord Jesus together. I was so glad that Carey was able to join me for the final week of this time there in Fallon.
The fall season has been such a full time of travel, teaching, and ministry that it was necessary to wait until now to catch a breath and to give an update. This was the fullest season of travel that we have had, and that comes with many blessings as well as challenges. In all of it, we rejoice in the goodness of the Lord Jesus Christ and His infinite kindness to us as a family. These have been some of the greatest days of shaping and growth in Him that we have ever known. We knew before the season began that it would be a stretching time. Even now, I look back on the months of September, October, and November, not sure quite how God sustained us, and He did. I feel like the Apostle Paul must have felt at the end of his one of his long missionary journeys, as he would have given such thanks and praise to God as he reported to his home church all that had taken place. This report is not anywhere near so dramatic, but I am thankful to be able share and give a little glimpse of what God did among us in these months.
We all know that attendance is not always the measure of a healthy church. But I have been staggered the last two visits, and especially this one in October, with the number of people coming not only on Sunday AM, but the number of those who come out to the evening services. There was a growing sense of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in these services, and people were just responding. These meetings had the sense of true revival, of that “heaven on earth” kind of sense. Carey and I experienced much the same thing at Brookside Church in November. We sometimes do not know what to expect when we go into a new church. But we know Pastor Ryan so well, and we know his heart for the Lord Jesus. It is a privilege to just come and be a part of what God is already doing. Furthermore, we keenly sensed the Holy Spirit through the worship as it was led by our friend, Mike Griffin. This was another one of those weeks where the sense of Jesus’ presence and His touch on the service grew throughout the week. We have not often experienced the kind of presence that we felt at Brookside. It was evident that everyone sensed Him, and we saw it in the responses. It was the kind of week of revival services that you pray for --- the kind of time that you feel can be a help for the church going forward.
Chaili graduated nursing school in May and has begun her career working at one of the Nashville hospitals, and is loving her work. Carey is nearly halfway through his junior year of high school and continuing to sense a refining of God's direction beyond high school into the military. We only have these eighteen months left with him before he possibly leaves home to head into that. Trina continues to work full time while also caring for our family and more things than I could name, and I could not do any of what we do without her.
Southern Georgia is a completely different world from the Chicago area I grew up in. From city streets to country roads. From suburbs to farm fields. From pizza and pasta to delicious fried food. From hurriedness to warm southern hospitality. One of the things I love to see is when a pastor is so uniquely shaped by God to minister in a particular area. Pastor Scott and Cile Messer were born and raised in this far southwestern corner of Georgia and now pastor the Donalsonville Church of the Nazarene, where I was invited to be for revival services April 9-12. I was deeply moved by the sweet welcome that I received from this church --- especially toward someone who obviously had a very different accent (though Trina and I have lived in Tennessee for most of our married lives)!
I was further blessed just to fellowship with Pastor Scott and have some time with him. I loved to hear about his heart and vision for their community. I was especially blessed to see the way he is when he is out among people: truly a pastor to the entire town, loving every person, always having a minute for any person that passed by. It reminded me again of that simple admonition I received as a ministerial student so many years ago: preach the Word and love the people. I want to do that more as we continue,
Running together in Christ,
Sometime last year, I was blessed to get a message from our friend, Dan Taylor. Dan had been the pastor at the Trinity Church of the Nazarene in Decatur, IL, where we had been privileged to go for revival services on a few occasions. About a year ago, Pastor Dan and Teresa had moved to Royalton, IL to become the pastor of the Church of the Nazarene there. Royalton is a very small community in far southern Illinois in an area that had once boomed with coal mining, but which has since suffered from the economic challenges common to so many of our small communities across America. I could not think of a better pastor and wife to minister to and within an area of need. It was obvious from our visit that they are well loved by the people, and we also were warmly greeted. Carey and I were able to drive up from Tennessee and arrive on Saturday evening to begin services on Sunday morning and continue through Wednesday evening. During these days and services, we heard some powerful music sung by a local young man before each message. Jesus once again showed His faithfulness and ability to do what I cannot by supplying His strength and anointing on His Word for every service. Though the spiritual battle was felt, I could see and sense His Word prevailing in the same way that Luke describes in the book of Acts. We were encouraged to see those who responded to the truth of the Word during these times and thank God for the Word being sown and watered in this church. I heard the term “great revival” more than once from people.
It is hard to believe that this was the sixth consecutive year for Carey to travel with me to Issaquah, WA. I look at those old photos and see a 10-year-old little boy beside me who was about half my height, and now I stand beside a young man who is nearly the same height as me and is not only my son, but my friend, support, accountability, and travel partner on trips like this. What a privilege to share these experiences together. I have honestly lost count of the number of times I have been to Mountain Creek Christian Fellowship, but I know it is more than 10 and as many as 15. Just these past few weeks in our online Bible Survey class, we have been looking at the missionary journeys of the Apostle Paul and how he went back to the same churches repeatedly, being at the Galatian churches no less than four times, for example. One point we try to make in class is the focus on relationship and disciples that was in Paul’s heart.
We have certainly experienced those ongoing relationships in places like MCCF. We received our normal warm reception at the church from the very first service of this weekend revival and it was so good to see the people again after a year since we had last visited. Under Pastor Vanessa Chitwood’s leadership, the church is now meeting in a more permanent location --- a beautiful church facility they are renting in a beautiful location outside of the city. I felt that the services had a special touch of Jesus’ presence upon them. There was a sweetness in the times of worship, and the still quiet voice of the Holy Spirit speaking deeply through the Word as we shared. It seemed to be time of significant impact with many people testifying to that.
It has been a while since I posted a trip update, but I was compelled to give a little summary of our life-changing time in Elizabeth City, NC. This was the first time we have been to an Evangelical Methodist Church, and our connection came through their pastor, Dr. Bill Ury. While I had heard of him for many years, Bill and I became acquainted a couple of years ago while working together at Camp Sychar Holiness Campmeeting in Mt. Vernon, OH. The Lord Jesus developed an instant bond between us that has continued over the course of these two years in mutual support and encouragement. We were thrilled to get to come to ECEMC to present the Word, but, in honesty, even more for the time of relationship with Bill and his wonderful wife, Diane.
Most or all would have had no idea that my throat had been sore for the entire previous week and I was a bit concerned about how it would hold up for the revival services. But Jesus sustained and provided in an amazing and powerful way. By the final service on the final night, we had the largest attendance and the overflow of His presence was clear enough for all to see. The response was like nothing we had seen the entire week, with people coming to the altar to pray. There was a most definite sense of revival in this body, for which we were so grateful.
I am thankful for men of God who love Jesus in such a way that their lives are just a manifestation of Him. I am deeply grateful for not only the effect of this on my life, but also for the effect on my son and family. God’s blessings continue to surprise and overwhelm in ways we could never imagine, as we continue,
Running together in Christ,
Partly because I am cold-blooded (no comments from my family, please), I love to get warm. Anything will do: blankets, hot water, wool clothing, or especially a fire. I was thinking about this as I huddled around the fire in Paul and Tammy Slaton’s yard in Fallon, NV on this visit. We had gathered there for a Sunday night service outside in the yard, and had food and fellowship together, including smores around the fire.
toward those who are being drawn into the fellowship. This is indeed happening in a special way in the church in Fallon, but I have come to believe it is not to be unique. This is how the body of Christ is to operate. People are inviting others to church, while other people are being continually drawn to check out what is happening in this church because of their ministry to the community through the food pantry and such. I go to Fallon twice per year, and the last time was in April. Yet, I did not know at least 25% (conservative estimate) of the people present on Sunday morning. People keep coming, and seeds continue to be sown and watered. The stories of what God is doing is almost unbelievable at times, but real. But the people in the church would tell you it is not some plan or program --- it is just Jesus. It is just the way He works and it is His normal. This happens to be a lot of what I preached about from Jude this time, and the response was better than ever. What an encouragement that was, and Jesus really worked in my life as well through the Word in these times together. Of course, I also got to preach again on Thursday morning at the food pantry to a group of people that consider that their church. Nearly 400 families were served that day at the food pantry, and it was a joy to take up my regular post of helping people load food into their vehicles outside.
I have heard about Richmond Southside Church of the Nazarene for many years from my dear friend Dave Kochheiser and his family, who are a part of this congregation. I have always been amazed and impressed to hear about the creative and intentional ways that this church reaches out to their community. When we first walked into the church on Friday evening to begin this weekend AWAKE revival, we were immediately struck by this intentionality in everything about the church and its warm and appealing environment. We were so warmly greeted and embraced by Pastor Wynne Lankford, the entire church staff, who were so helpful, and the congregation. What a joy to get to know these brothers and sisters in Christ and to be a part of this weekend that they had so thoroughly prepared for. Pastor Wynne had me make 6 different videos of 2-3 minutes in length that were shown in the services the previous Sunday and then sent out to the congregation each day of the week leading up to the weekend. These helped prepare us all with a prayer focus for the weekend, and I am thankful to Steve Pennington at Trevecca Community Church who edited and prepared these excellent videos for me. It seems that the videos also helped create some connection with the congregation even before I came.
There were a couple of even more special blessings to me personally. First of all, it was an opportunity to spend some special time with the Kochheisers and share in some fellowship together. Most all, it was a rare opportunity for me to have my sweet daughter, Chaili, with me on a trip. Carey gets to come with me fairly often, but Chaili is not often able to during the school year because of her schedule. Being a senior nursing major this year, we were so
Have you ever had one of those experiences that caused you to realize that time continues to pass by (in other words, “I’m old”)? Nearly 22 years ago, I was at the church of my friend, Pastor Dave Phillips, for some revival services in Apple Valley, CA. Dave and Chris have three children, the youngest of whom is Wes, who was around 9 years old at that time. What a blessing it was to receive an e-mail several months ago from a pastor named Wes Phillips. I was amazed when I learned of the connection. Wes has been the pastor at the Church of the Nazarene in Bowling Green, MO for two years after being a pastor to families at another church in Missouri.
I praise the Lord for the positive sense of what He is doing in the life of this body of believers, and how He seemed to work through these services to add to that and take us further. I am excited to hear what will happen in this community in days ahead. I am further grateful for these new relationships. Time indeed does move on, but what a blessing to know Jesus and be exactly where He has placed us for such a time as this. Excited more than ever as we continue . . .
Running together in Christ,
If this was not enough, that same presence and power of the Holy Spirit overflowed into the two morning services and the evening service in a nearly unimaginable way. There were remarkable spiritual decisions and response in both of those morning services with God supernaturally at work among us. The evening service continued in this and was a demonstration of the love and grace of Jesus Christ as I have maybe never seen before as we worshiped and shared the Word one more time. Dr. Larry Dennis, District Superintendent of the Florida District, was present to make a special presentation to Sam Burch in an incredibly moving demonstration of God’s love. We heard testimonies of what Jesus had done over the weekend, and got to pray for people as well as being prayed for in those closing moments. The word “overflow” seems to best express what we experienced of God in these times together.
I was struck in these services on Saturday and Sunday by the hunger for the Word that I saw and sensed in people. There seemed to be such true anticipation in minds and hearts, including the several children that were present in the services. I was reminded again of the simplicity, though not always easy, of what God calls us to do: preaching the Word and loving people in a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. This holds true in every size church in every culture and in every time.
One final thing along this same line . . . . On our way up to Sandstone, Chaili and I were privileged to stop in Eden Prairie (Minneapolis area) to see a dear friend. Dr. Norman Bloom used to be a District Superintendent of the Church of the Nazarene in Minnesota, but after that went to work at Olivet Nazarene University.
The last time Trina and I were at Sebring Holiness Campmeeting, our daughter, Chaili, was 2 years old. Those were wonderful times as a family, staying in that small room and experiencing campmeeting services and life together. Our family has always had a love for campmeeting. It was a special blessing to us, then to get to go back to Sebring Camp this summer with a 20-year-old Chaili and a 14-year-old Carey. Trina and Chaili had to go back about half-way through the camp because of Chaili’s summer work schedule, but Carey and I were both there for the duration of the 10-day long camp. Carey got to participate in the youth program, staying in the youth dorm and working in the kitchen in addition to all the services and special activities (late night bowling, anyone?). One of the highlights of the camp was meeting and working with Cory and Jess Clark.
I was privileged this year to be the morning Bible teacher as well as one of the main tabernacle evangelists at Sebring. I shared the “Rescued from Normal” (1 Corinthians 11 on the Lord’s Supper) material in the 9:30 morning Bible study, as well as then preaching once per day from 2 Timothy in either the 10:30 morning service or the 7:00 evening service. You can listen to some of the messages from 2 Timothy here. This was more work than I have done before in a campmeeting of this length, but I truly enjoyed getting to share the Word and was encouraged to see some of the response. The teens, in particular, were so responsive each and every one of the evening services (they had their own morning services with Cory speaking). It was great to be close to them and speak right to them as they would sit right down in the front. I was also encourage by so many of the adults who attended these services, including many who would drive in from somewhere just for the evening services, in addition to those where staying in cottages on the grounds.
One of the highlights from my week was when one of my online students and his family drove two hours from Western Pennsylvania to have dinner with me and came to the evening service. What a true joy to get to know them in person and to just encourage one another in Christ. That is what it is all about! Another highlight of the week was the concluding service of the camp. It seemed clear to me that Jesus broke through and upon us in a very powerful way in this service, from the very first moment. The altar was lined with people praying at the conclusion of the service, with many tears during and after, and it seemed like eternity was affected in these moments. I praise God for this powerful answer to prayer.
Perhaps what I was reminded of and renewed in most at Sebring was the sweetness of the fellowship that there is in Jesus Christ. We had wonderful times of fellowship with so many, from our times after service at night with our friends on the kitchen crew, to the times just sitting and talking with people and my fellow workers at the camp, to the times with my family, to the times of worship in the services. I was reminded again that campmeeting is such a special time because it is experiencing Jesus in life together for 10 days. I was moved again in my heart to make these things --- the things that really matter --- the priorities of life. I pray to simply seek to know Jesus and grow in relationship with Him and with one another in Him. That is what lasts past a 10-day camp and into eternity. I am continuing to seek Him with you as we are,
Running together in Christ,
It was a brand new kind of opportunity when my friend Casey Reece wrote asking if I would be available to speak at a baccalaureate service. Providence Church in Mattoon, IL is one of those places where we have had a longstanding relationship and where Casey has been the pastor until recently. I have been privileged to share at the church on a few different occasions. But the church was now taking on a new mission by heading up the baccalaureate service for their local high school graduation there in Mattoon. For many years, they said, this service had been not much more than a presentation of some sacred music and possibly a few inspirational words. The church offered to take charge of planning for and organizing the service on the condition that they would be given freedom to make it truly a Christian service. After preaching at the church on Sunday, I then came to Mattoon High School for this baccalaureate service on Monday evening. Approximately 60 of the graduating seniors, along with their friends and family, attended this optional event. Each received a Bible and a copy of our LifeMessage 365 devotional. When it was time to speak, and according to the instructions I had been given to just preach the Word, I shared boldly from John chapter 15 on just abiding in Jesus and He in us. I preached as if it were to any congregation. Toward the end of the message, I shared my personal testimony about how Jesus reached me when I was 17 years old. Afterward, the principle of the school shared that “you really had them with you.” I did not get to speak to many of the students afterward, but it is one of those times again where we absolutely trust in the Word of God and the seeds that were sown and watered in their hearts by the Holy Spirit. I praise God for this opportunity and am continually amazed at what He does and the doors that He opens.
Running together in Christ,
Evangelist, Teacher, Writer,
Husband, and Father