Tag: Maryann Rose

LA Story – The Story of Us

We started to live together, as a ‘normal’ worldly couple would do if they had a chance and no one to stop them from doing it. We began our relationship like this but because of my spiritual background and the tremendous love and respect I felt for her, I decided that if my love was real, I couldn’t let her finish as the bad weed of the scripture, burning  in the eternal fire . . . (Matthew 13:36-43).” This is part of an email that we recently received as a response to the official International Churches of Christ website at www.icoc.org. It was written by a brother who fell away from the Lord and his church, but who is asking how he could come back and be restored. It makes my day when good news such as this comes across my desk, and it frequently does. Of the people who leave the church, about 10% eventually come back. But why do so many brothers and sisters who embraced God and accepted his grace, get drawn back into the world by Satan? I believe that a large part of the reason is that they stop being thankful for all that God has given them. 

Our theme scripture cited above says, “. . . let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably. . . .” I believe that we need to discover the power of thankfulness as God’s people. As I prepared to lead a devotional for a group of men, I looked at many verses in the Bible that talk about giving thanks and being thankful. I learned that being thankful is much, much more than just a nice
thing to do. It is a channel through which God works to overcome the power of Satan in our lives.

LA Story – Forgiven

Forgiven. The word is like magic. This account in Luke 7 describes an incident that transformed the reputation of “a woman who had lived a sinful life” into Mary, the sister of Lazarus and friend of Jesus (John 11:2). Modern-day accounts of this miracle story are still played out in God’s Kingdom today. I am reminded of Ken and Jessica (the names and exact details have been changed for obvious reasons). They were disciples, married for 15 years with three beautiful children. To the observer, they had a beautiful marriage, a beautiful family, and a beautiful life. But things were very different behind closed doors. He was harsh and demanding. She was rebellious and distant. There had been problems from the beginning, but they were not open with other
disciples who could have helped. He increasingly drew his happiness from his work. She was emotionally starving, and Satan was quickly on the scene with just the person to fill her emotional needs. Soon she was in a full-blown affair. For months Jessica was able to keep it a secret, but the inevitable day came when Ken found out. Jessica did the unthinkable; she left
Ken and her three children to be with her illicit lover. Gloria searched for Jessica, went after her, and was finally able to convince her to come home.

LA Story – I Know What You Did Last Summer

Are the International Churches of Christ a youth movement? I hope so. We are trying to be. An often heard comment of older visitors to our church services is, “Everyone seems so young!”  Some of them mean that in a negative way, but I take it positively. The death knell of a religious movement is the loss of its young people. In so many denominations, their dying churches are mostly populated with members older than 40. Now, there is nothing wrong with being over 40 – I am 59. But, shouldn’t there be more young people than older people in God’s church? The young provide so much of the energy, enthusiasm and idealism that the healthy church body needs. For several years in the Kingdom of God, we neglected our young people. But we have repented. 

Things are changing powerfully and rapidly. The first change was to energize our children’s ministries, “Kingdom Kids,” with top-notch curriculums and teaching materials. This project, headed by Kingdom Teacher Gordon Ferguson, took hundreds of hours, several hundreds of thousands of dollars and two years to complete. Now we have children’s ministries that are second to none. The second change was to restore a major evangelistic focus to the many college and university campuses. World Sector Leaders Marty and Chris Fuqua have been given
the charge of coordinating the building of great campus ministries all over the world. The third change came last year when Kip McKean called all of the churches to launch an unprecedented effort to make disciples of our own children, and to reach out to teens in our communities. Strong teen ministries are essential for strong churches.

LA Story – Deep Impact

Someone has said that no amount of success can make up for failure at home. All disciples dream that their children will grow up to love God and serve him with all of their hearts – that they have DEEP IMPACT. The promise of God contained in Proverbs 22:6 brings us great comfort. Yet a vitally important condition precedes that promise: “Train a child in the way he should go.” Experience shows us that this is much easier said than done. A quick scan of God’s powerful leaders of the Old Testament looks like a who’s who of parental failure. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Aaron, Gideon, Eli, Samuel, David, Solomon, Hezekiah and Josiah all had at least one child who was not faithful to God. What is the problem?

Training, or lack of it, is the problem. Anyone successful in a sport understands training. It requires commitment. It requires discipline. It requires focus. It requires time. All the great men mentioned above made major contributions to God’s Kingdom, but somehow did not pour enough of themselves into the family. Too often today we are caught in a struggle between family and ministry. We can fail to realize that family is not supposed to be in competition with ministry. Rather, it should be the most important part of ministry. God emphasized the importance
of bringing up our children to be faithful disciples when he made it a condition for being an elder in his church. Paul, writing about elders in 1 Timothy 3:5, says, “If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?” It is all too common in raising children, just as it is in marriage, to think that merely being a disciple will assure success. Not true. All of God’s promises have conditions …

LA Story – Braveheart

Freedom fighters capture our attention and spark our imagination. Braveheart, the theme for this issue of LA Story, was the title of an Academy-Award-winning movie about a 13th century Scottish rebel warrior who fought to overthrow a tyrant English king. Jesus Christ is the ultimate freedom fighter. He issued his declaration of independence at the beginning of his ministry in Luke 4. Freedom fighters come and go, but Jesus, through his Holy Spirit, has been leading the fight for freedom against Satan for 2,000 years. Through the centuries many have fought
valiantly and died under the spiritual banner of Lord Jesus. We, his modern-day disciples, have also answered his call to battle (Matthew 28:18-20). Because the present chapter of this fight is only a few years old, starting in Boston in June 1979, our honor role of men and women who have died in battle as heroes is still small. Today, I want to add a name to that distinctive list, the name of Bob Ricker. 

Bob Ricker was a bravehearted, freedom fighter from the day I first met him in Boston in the early part of the 1980’s. He was a college student with a single-minded purpose: make disciples. He really believed that the whole world could be evangelized in just one generation. He wanted to do his part and he did. For instance, Bob met a young nurse, Carol Best, and invited her to church. She came and brought her boy friend, John McGuirk. Both Carol and John became disciples, married, and became missionaries in Paris and Brussels. John converted his sister, Sue. Sue married Steve Shoff, and they went into the full-time ministry. At UCLA, Sue met and converted Candice Figueras. Candice now leads the women of the church in Istanbul, Turkey.

Against All Odds

What chance would thirty “would-be disciples,” who first met together in Boston in 1979, have to turn the world upside down? About the same chance that the teenage shepherd boy David had to kill a nine foot Goliath and rout his army of thousands. But David won, against all odds, and God is using the small Boston beginning in just as amazing a way. This issue of L.A. Story is a report of the tremendous growth in God’s kingdom.

A Passage to India

Doubting Thomas grew in his faith and became Daring Thomas, and the first century church flourished. Nineteen centuries later the Daring Thomases are back, and the church is flourishing. The last time Gloria and I were in India was October 12, 1986, for the first service of the church in Bombay. The team of 12 from Boston were tough and seasoned. Their level of sacrifice is modern-day legend: the one-suitcase challenge. Each member and each child took with him only what would fit into one suitcase; everything else was either sold or given away.