Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Angels Are Watching!

Dear Readers,

I’m glad you stopped by. My blog today is the fact that our lives with Christ can be so exciting that even “The Angels Are Watching” us!

There’s a fascination with angels, and rightly so. But the angels that some people revere, especially in books and movies, may be more feel-good stories designed to make us do just that, “feel good”, but may not be based on hard evidence?

Peter wrote about angels. You and I weren’t there during the time of Jesus and the time of Acts for actual angel sightings, so it may be difficult for us to comprehend it.

The writer in Acts 12:5-7 describes how an angel, while Peter was in prison, awakened Peter, made the chains fall off his wrists, and led Peter out of prison. So Peter was directly helped by an angel (see picture), which may have been the reason he wrote more about angels later.

Peter talks in I Peter 1 about God’s “great mercy” by which we are “born again” because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, and that he “raised Jesus Christ from the dead”.

He goes on to talk about how “we now live with great expectation” and “we have a priceless inheritance”.

But wait, he goes on to talk about fact that we should “be truly glad”, and that there’s “wonderful joy ahead”, and that we “rejoice with inexpressible joy” due to the great “reward” in “the salvation of your souls”.

But Peter’s not done yet! He then talks about the “Good News” “announced to you by those who preached in the power of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven“.

Then here it is! Peter wrote in I Peter 1:12, “IT IS ALL SO WONDERFUL THAT EVEN THE ANGELS ARE EAGERLY WATCHING THESE THINGS HAPPEN.” (NLT)

So there you have it. When you or I feel down we can realize that angels are eagerly watching us in anticipation of what will happen next in our lives!

See you next time,
Arlen

Sunday, October 2, 2016

"Oh Happy Day!" The Jotta A Effect



Dear Readers,

I’m glad you stopped by. My blog today is about what I learned from a little boy in Brazil. I’m calling it ‘“Oh Happy Day” The Jotta A Effect’.

My wife is always well ahead of me when it comes to web content and web videos gone viral. I ask her and she usually says the following, “I already saw that a couple weeks ago”…or "a couple months ago”.

Typically she doesn’t directly point out to me specific videos or web content unless she deems them very special and worthy of mention.

One such occasion occurred this week when she shared a 2011 video with a young 11 year old boy on a Brazilian kid’s talent show. I was somewhat blasé at first, but then I started watching intently, I saw what she meant about how awesome she thought his performance was, and by the end of it tears were rolling down my cheeks.

Why would the performance of an 11 year old boy bring tears to my eyes? It is what I might call “The Jotta A Effect” It was his sheer enthusiasm about the topic of his song “O Happy Day” that did me in.

I then started listening to the rest of his songs, all of which have gone viral, many of them in Portuguese, the official Brazilian language. I even cried at those when I saw his passion…and his wonderful voice.

If you have not already done so I urge you to now watch his videos and see if they have the same effect on you.


So what do you think? I immediately think of my lack of passion and lame attempts to express my love for God.

I recently have been “church hopping”, I guess what I’m doing, perhaps subconsciously, is looking for that elusive church experience where the people, the pastor, and myself can experience and express the same passion, perhaps Holy Spirit joy, as Jotta A, and can say definitively, “O Happy Day!”

See you next time,
Arlen

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Go Browns! Go Church!

Dear Readers,

I’m glad you stopped by. My blog today is about what I learned from a Cleveland Browns preseason football game against the Green Bay Packers.

The Browns played their first preseason game of 2016 last Friday night at Lambeau Field versus the Packers. It was what I expected. There were some exciting moments, and some letdowns.

I had the same feelings often during the Cavaliers NBA championship run. With a win came excitement, and with a loss came disappointment. After a win I listened to each postgame interview, and got every tidbit of info from sports radio shows the next day. After a loss, however, I avoided all postgame interviews, and turned the radio off the next day.

Browns coach Hue Jackson was like the Cavs in stating that he is more concerned about the process in how the team got to a win or a loss than he was the win or loss itself. He makes it clear that he wants to win. But he uses the loss as a learning tool to find out what the team can do better.

I was so excited when Robert Griffin III (RG III) threw the first pass down the sideline to the newly transformed quarterback to wideout Terrelle Pryor from Ohio State. But then reality set in a few plays later when RG III threw an interception. Same old Browns…they get you excited then they let you down!

Then I started looking more at the process. I started looking at glimpses of improvement over past years. I jumped with excitement when 6’7” rookie Carl Nassib from Penn State tracked down a much smaller, quicker runner from behind. Rookie Emmanuel Ogbah from Oklahoma State played like a beast. Jamie Meder from little Ashland University, located in the city where I work, broke through to drop the runner for a safety.

Late in the game rookie QB Cody Kessler threw an outside fade route to Hollywood Higgins for a touchdown. He and his teammates jumped for joy! But a few plays later Cody ran back out of the end zone for a safety. He was clearly upset at the bonehead play, but his teammates and coaches came and patted Cody on the helmet and said an encouraging word to the heartbroken QB.

What I like most about games like this was the process of finding out what makes guys tick. It is emphasized time and time again by the coaching staff that they are evaluating the strengths and weaknesses that each player has. They try to accentuate the strengths and minimize the areas of weakness.

What would it be like if in the church we truly thought of ourselves as teammates on a quest to win a championship? We would jump for joy with each other’s successes, and give pats on the back to encourage us when we make bonehead plays.

And what if our pastors and leaders got to know each part of what makes us tick, if they tried to accentuate the positive parts of our personalities to reach people for Christ, and to minimize the parts of us that are not so positive, and if they used us in the most effective way possible?

I would very much welcome such an approach. It follows many themes of the Bible. One is in Paul’s first letter to Timothy: “Instead, train yourself to be godly. Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.” 1Timothy 4:7-8

Go Browns! Go Church!

See you next time,
Arlen

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Have You Ever Thought About “The Book of Life”?



Dear Readers,

I’m glad you stopped by. My blog today is about the “Book of Life”.

I was listening to Revelation in the Bible this morning and a phrase the “Book of Life” impacted me like it hadn’t before. I had heard and read the phrase a number of times in the past, but this time was different.

I researched how many times the phrase is used in the Bible and found five. The first is Psalm 69:28 when King David in his exhaustion from being hunted down by his persecutors cried out to God,
“Erase their names from the Book of Life;”

In Philippians 4:3 Paul talked about
“Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are written in the Book of Life.”

In the first case King David wanted his persecutors to be erased from consideration to be included in the Book of Life. In the second case Paul acknowledged some of his trusted partners that were shoe-ins to be included in the Book of Life.

Revelation gives us more insight into the elusive meaning of the Book of Life.

In Revelation 3:5 the Apostle John on the Island of Patmos wrote to the most faithful followers of Jesus in Sardis the following revelation God gave to him:
“All who are victorious will be clothed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before my Father and his angels that they are mine.” There is that word “erase” again, only in a positive context with the word “never”.

Revelation 17:8 talks about the “beast” (antichrist) coming up out of the bottomless pit after everyone thought he was dead, and those persons
“whose names were not written in the Book of Life” were amazed at the antichrist’s seeming resurrection. People whose names were not in the Book of Life were duped into following a failed leader whose eternal destruction was very soon coming.

But Revelation 20:10-15 has the most clear-cut description of the seriousness of whether a person’s name is included, or not, in the Book of Life. It is a little lengthy, but well worth reading:
“Then the devil, who had deceived them, was thrown into the fiery lake of burning sulfur, joining the beast and the false prophet. There they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. And I saw a great white throne and the one sitting on it. The earth and sky fled from his presence, but they found no place to hide. I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne. And the books were opened, including the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books. The sea gave up its dead, and death and the grave gave up their dead. And all were judged according to their deeds. Then death and the grave were thrown into the lake of fire. This lake of fire is the second death. And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire.”

So the Bible is very clear that having one’s name in the Book of Life, or not, is a very serious matter…a matter of eternal life, or eternal destruction.

See you next time,
Arlen

Monday, May 30, 2016

Dee Yoder, Hero


Dear Readers,

I’m glad you stopped by. My blog today is about heroes.

I recently watched all the Hunger Games movies. Katniss Everdeen, the hero of the movie, was the inspiration and “savior” against soft spoken but brutal President Snow who ruled from the opulent Capitol. He ruled, terrorized, and killed all the downtrodden, poor lower working classes in outlying land sectors.

Katniss was sometimes misunderstood by the oppressed masses. They fluctuated from skeptical to adoring, and everywhere in between. They thought at times she was a puppet of the Capitol, and other times she was the one, with the sound of the Mockingjay and the three finger salute, to inspire them to beat the odds to bring down President Snow.

The story has parallels to people in my own life, only they are real. One is my wife Dee. She is very caring and compassionate. But she is also very direct and not afraid to take on a challenge, especially when the challenge is from people who are using accusations to get their own way, or propel their own agenda.

Some people would try to convince others that Dee’s directness is mean-spirited and unchristian-like. I know otherwise. When it comes to rallying around an underdog Dee will be there, and I would want no one other than Dee to come to their/my defense, and I know if many of you would get to know her well would learn that she will always be fair and compassionate, but also very firm against what she thinks is wrong. I think this is very Biblical and Christian-like.

“For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” II Timothy 1:7.

and…

“Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free.” Psalm 146:5-7

Katniss Everdeen was a make-believe movie hero that was fun to watch…but Dee is a real-life hero who we can really emulate.

See you next time,
Arlen

Monday, March 21, 2016

Where's Keith Green When You Need Him?



Dear Readers,

I’m glad you stopped by. Today I’m going to talk about a subject that I’ve been thinking about for some time. I talk about it fairly frequently with close family and friends.

It’s about Keith Green, a Christian songwriter, singer, and pianist popular back in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s before he died in a plane crash in 1982.

Keith became a born again Christian in about 1975. He and Melody, his songwriter wife, soon began taking in people who needed help into their small home in the suburbs of Los Angeles in the San Fernando Valley.

More and more people landed on their doorstep, including recovering drug addicts and prostitutes, bikers, homeless people, and many single pregnant girls needing shelter and safety. My brother in Miami University of Ohio, and a myriad of other college students all over America began subscribing to the Last Days Newsletter. (Wikipedia)

In 1977 the effort grew so much that Keith and Melody started Last Days Ministries and they moved to a 140 acre plot in Texas.

What was it about Keith Green that people were drawn to him? I think it was because he had a singular focus on winning people to Jesus, because he personally experienced the life-changing message of the Messiah.

I have not heard that Last Days Ministries had large fundraising campaigns, tithe challenges, and big name speakers to bring income and popularity to the ministry. It seemed that people were drawn to Keith and a group of persons that just deeply cared about their fellow man, and did not want anyone to go to hell.

I put a link above to a YouTube video that shows only a bit of Keith’s passion to reach others for Christ.

I long for a person like Keith Green to come into my life. A person with no agenda except to reach lost souls for Jesus. And just perhaps…that person will rub off on me.

“Asleep In the Light” by Keith Green

Do you see?
Do you see?
All the people sinking down?
Don't you care?
Don't you care?
Are you gonna let them drown?

How can you be so numb?!
Not to care if they come
You close your eyes,
And pretend the job is done

See you next time,
Arlen

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Man With Paranoid Schizophrenia Shifts My Focus to View of Horizon


Dear Readers,

To give a little background I would label myself a fairly focused person. When I’m like that I tend not to look at any other thing, but usually walk with my head down, looking at my object of focus.

I am only slightly aware of my surroundings, perhaps only enough to stay out of a head-on collision. But I ignore persons coming my way, and have to force myself to acknowledge them.

The same holds true when I’m driving a car. You might say you’re glad I’m focused on the road. The problem is that I’m probably not as focused on the road as you might think.

What happens with a person that is focused like me? I was made aware of that one sunny afternoon about twenty years ago while driving down the hill of Claremont Avenue in Ashland, Ohio.


I work in community mental health and at that time I was with a man who has the disabling condition of paranoid schizophrenia. He was a wonderful young man who at times had bizarre behavior, but also was very observant and thoughtful.

I was my usual self thinking of my next task. The passenger in my car roused me out of my reverie when he encouraged me to look at the picturesque sunny horizon and the large blue water tower in the distance located atop a factory building.

The point is I had been driving that same way almost daily for about five or six years, and never once noticed the horizon view.

Here I was, an educated man, and people think of me as a sensitive and observant person. But it took a high school only educated person who was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia to urge me to shift my focus to finally observe the beauty of a horizon.

As a result of my then passenger’s observance, I more often, but not always, look at the horizon while driving down Claremont Avenue.


"I was there when he established the heavens, when he drew the horizon..." Proverbs 8:27

See you next time,
Arlen

Sunday, August 16, 2015

True Heroes!

Dear Readers,

There has been some talk about heroes, or role models recently. Charles Barkley had the famous line a number of years back that is listed in the picture below. He emphatically stated, “I’m not a role model”, or in essence a hero. He then said, "Just because I dunk a basketball doesn't mean I should raise your kids."
Also, there was a recent news article that went viral where one soldier declared that Bruce (Caitlyn) Jenner, a past great Olympic champion in the decathlon, was a “hero” at the Espys for coming out as a female.
Lebron James is doing a great amount of philanthropy work in his hometown of Akron, giving large amounts of money for education. He is a hero in many eyes. I, myself, watch like a hawk about anything “Lebron James” and the Cleveland Cavaliers. I’m a long-suffering Cleveland sports fan, who like so many others, are waiting for the first Cleveland sports title since the 1964 Browns.
There are many other people that many consider their heroes and they look to as role models to emulate. They are sports stars, movie actors, singing sensations, etc.

But, the Bible has a different take on who we, or our children, should consider heroes. David proclaimed in Psalm 16:3 (NLT): “The godly people in the land are my true heroes! I take pleasure in them!”

See you next time,
Arlen

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Spirit of Jesus



Dear Readers,

Don’t you wish you had easy answers to difficult questions? I know sometimes I face challenges that seem overwhelming and I don’t know how I’m going to resolve them.

I think I pray hard enough (or do I?) but the answers seem very elusive.

I’ve read many verses about the leading of the Holy Spirit and how He will lead me “into all truth”. But then I get into the quandary of defining truth, and for a concrete thinker like me the answers can seem endless what truth looks like.

I read a couple Bible verses recently that caught my attention. It made me wonder if I was making things too difficult. The verses were located in Acts 16:6-8 (NLT). They go like this: “Next Paul and Silas traveled through the area of Phrygia and Galatia, because the Holy Spirit had prevented them from preaching the word in the province of Asia at that time. Then coming to the borders of Mysia, they headed north for the province of Bithynia,but again the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to go there. So instead, they went on through Mysia to the seaport of Troas.

Pay attention to verse 7 where it talks about the “Spirit of Jesus” that did not allow them to a specific place.

What would it take for you and I to be so in tune to God, His Son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, to have such specific direction given to us…and for us to discern it?

I pray and long for a day when I am so in tune with God’s will that I can directly tap into it to deal with difficult questions and challenges. How about you?

See you next time,

Arlen

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Will Cleveland Winning a Championship Bring Happiness?



Dear Readers,

The last couple weeks the Cleveland Cavaliers have been playing in the NBA championship finals. Much has been made of the fact that Cleveland has not had a sports championship for 51 years. The Cleveland Browns won the NFL championship in 1964, three years before the beginning of the Super Bowl era.

All will be right in the northern Ohio world if Lebron and his cohorts bring home the coveted Larry O’Brien Trophy…or will it?

I will be one of the most excited fans around if the Cavs bring home the trophy. My excitement will almost border on euphoria. But I question if it will bring me true happiness.

I give as an example Ohio State Buckeyes winning the NCAA championship. It was very much fun to see the underdog pull out the last two games over much higher touted opponents. But how do I feel about that now?

I doubt that the championship itself brought anyone closer to the Lord. And what do you think about the high paid athletes in pro sports? Do winning championships make them think about how meaningless their millions really are?

I will be a happy camper when a Cleveland sports team brings home the gold. But my highest amount of happiness will be when my family and friends give their hearts to the Lord!

"Happy are those who hear the joyful call to worship, for they will walk in the light of your presence, Lord." Psalm 89:15

See you next time,

Arlen

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Is It OK to Mourn?


Dear Readers, 

Tonight I went on a rant with my wife. I was not angry and my rant was not focused on her. I think I was a little bit melancholy. You see, I sometimes get into a state of questioning and in a sense “mourning”. During these times I usually think about the past, the present, and the future. I’m a sentimentalist at heart, although some people might disagree. And I have a degree of mourning about things. 

Sometimes I mourn when I wonder about the past. I wonder why I was born into my particular family and heritage. I wonder why I was raised in my Amish-Mennonite community. I wonder about the circumstances I encountered in my childhood, most of them good, but not necessarily extraordinary. My childhood church is now a huge church with large outreach in Holmes County, Ohio, and I wonder why it waited until I left to grow and thrive. I even wonder why my school sports teams waited until I left to become perennial state powerhouses that I can only experience from a distance. 

Sometimes I mourn when I wonder about the present. I wonder what my purpose is at this point in time. I wonder about my impact as a husband and a dad. I wonder about my vocation and what impact I’m having as a job developer in a community mental health center. I wonder about my tiny church and what impact we are having in the Mansfield, Ohio area. I wonder about Ohio, American, and world events and the impact they will have on the future. I wonder what it would take for government leaders and citizens to only worry about pleasing God and not worry about pleasing their respective political parties. I wonder what it takes to be a productive and discerning citizen. 
 
Lastly, sometimes I mourn when I wonder about the future. I wonder if I will have an enduring legacy that will be looked upon with respect and draw people toward God. I wonder about my wife and where her writing will take her, and what lasting impact it will have. I wonder about my son, and what it will take for him to reach his great potential. I wonder what it will take for family members and friends both nearby and far away, to change, and to perhaps wonder along with me what wonderful things God has in store for us. I wonder where my church can go, and what it can become in our community. Can it grow both spiritually and in numbers that I can experience it first hand, instead of later after I have moved on. I wonder if our government leaders can follow God’s leading rather than their political party. Also, I wonder if the worst of all people like ISIS individuals can have an awakening. 

I think it can be good to mourn about things, but perhaps to not go on a rant or to be melancholy about it. 
See you next time, 
Arlen

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Night That Donny Yoder of Hiland High School Was “In A Zone”

Dear Readers,  

Donny Yoder was in a zone that night. Hiland High School was playing at Riverview High School back in 1971. Donny had a night to remember.

It was a cold, snowy night outside, but inside that Riverview gym Donny was hot. Donny was not a ball hog by any means, but he was draining long range jumpers one after another. (Note: This was long before Ohio high school basketball had the 3-pointer.) He had over 40 points, a school record at that time. Everyone marveled at the feat. He simply said, “I was in a zone.”

What does being “in a zone” mean. Donny was a steady double figure scorer, but why did he never score that many points before that night, and why not after that night?

Why do people sometimes get “in a zone”? My wife is a writer and she states that sometimes she gets to the point where words and ideas just flow from her mind to the page. She in a sense is in a writing “zone”.

Inventors try unsuccessfully hundreds of times to develop a product. Then one day they hit on something that’s successful. They become almost obsessed until they perfect their product, hoping that it will change the lives of people. You might say they are in an inventor’s “zone”.

We can come up with many other examples of people, like musicians, professionals, computer geeks, etc. who get “in a zone” until they produce wonderful music, business deals, and technological advances.

Jesus, in Acts 1:8 talked about people getting in a “zone”, if you will. It was a spiritual “zone” that would enable His followers to spread the news about His saving power around the world.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere…” Acts 1:8 (NLT)

 

I'm not sure if Donny is still in the Hiland High School record books. I hope he is, because I got to see someone in person that cold, snowy night that was "in a zone"!

See you next time,
Arlen

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Power for Witnessing

Note: If you want to copy the Roman Road please go to my pinterest post at the following: 
http://www.pinterest.com/pin/375346950167867896/

 Dear Readers,

My last two blog posts were about power, one about false power, the last about “True Power” that identified three men who are now either gone, or in the last stages of their lives that brought to bear true power.

One major way that power is manifested today is the power when the Holy Spirit comes on us…and Jesus specifically stated that the power is for witnessing for him. See Acts 1:8:

He replied “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people everywhere about me—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8

So I want to help us to become more confident in witnessing. One tool is the Roman Road which is pictured above. My wife used this tool just yesterday to lead another lady to the Lord. 


The picture I got off the internet, but I developed the accompanying Steps and Actions. I hope and pray that you it meaningful. Perhaps you can copy and paste it, print it, and carry it with you to help you when you get the chance to use the power for witnessing.

See you next time,
Arlen

Saturday, October 11, 2014

True Power



Dear Readers,
 
My last blog post identified three men who claim to be the long awaited Messiah, and the false power they possess.

Tonight I watched a video about another three men who worked together to proclaim one man as the true Messiah and they changed the world with the true power of God.


I was brought to tears when watching a Bill Gaither documentary which highlighted Cliff Barrows’ life as the song leader for the Billy Graham Crusades. I attended the Billy Graham Crusade in 1993 in Columbus, Ohio, and was involved as a counselor at Cleveland Municipal Stadium in 1994. Mr. Barrows was getting older then, but he still showed vibrancy leading the songs.

Twenty years later in the 2014 documentary Mr. Barrows was full of the joy of the Lord. But at 83 years old he has a cane to walk and is obviously going blind, which I confirmed via the internet. He lamented the loss in 2013 of his long-time cohort, the famed bass soloist George Beverly Shea. They both had worked alongside Rev. Graham since the late 1940’s.


Lastly there is Billy Graham, the famed evangelist, who is in failing health at the age of 87. He was a dynamic speaker who never lost his zeal for proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He teamed with Barrows and Shea to form a trio of what I would expect is the longest running evangelistic team ever to not break up in over 60 years. They developed a bond of friendship that could never be broken. A funny moment was when the three together sang “This Little Light of Mine”. Rev. Graham acted as the fall guy who could not sing a lick. He was the “no” guy when the other two sang “Won’t let Satan put it out”.

I marveled at the humble Mr. Barrows now with so many physical ailments, and then see videos when he was younger and leading stadiums of up to 100,000 people in glorious praise to God. I looked at the Billy Graham Crusade itineraries in cities all over the world and marveled that three men could have such an impact with literally millions coming to Christ.

These are three men that have true power that comes from the Holy Spirit of God.

See you next time,
Arlen