For our community of Orland, CA, this has been a month of both tragedy and hope. On April 10, 2014, a fiery head-on crash of a semi-truck and a charter bus filled with students occurred just about 100 yards north of our church property, which is located next to Interstate 5. There were students filled with hope as they journeyed to investigate their possible future enrollment in a North State University. The lives of so many, filled with hope for the future, suddenly were filled with heartache, sorrow and many questions.
The multiple sirens wailed as the first responders sped to the scene of the accident, guided by the column of thick, black smoke rising against the horizon. As the minutes and hours passed, the full extent of this horrific event began to unfold. Innocent teens looking forward to further education as well as productive lives, were among the ten fatal victims. We "Orlandites" were confronted with the fact that this was not happening back East nor in some Midwestern town. It was happening in our own community! Orland, California is barely visible on the map of United States, but now it was the focus of national news! How would the community, local government agencies and churches respond? A local town hall meeting later revealed the competency and speed of the first responders which included our volunteer firemen. The community response was so tremendous that the Red Cross asked that the public stop bringing food, water and blankets to help the victims.
Last Friday many in our community remembered another tragic, historical event which resulted in the death of an innocent and blameless person. Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, gave up His life voluntarily on the cross. Sorrow and hopelessness also filled the hearts of His followers on that first "Good Friday". However, their sorrow and despair was changed into hope three days later as the word spread that Jesus was alive, and then they celebrated His resurrection!
In light of the tragedies of life which bring sorrow and despair, we who believe in Jesus Christ also often fail to come up with answers to life's questions of why. When we can't answer them and don't understand them, then we like Mary and Martha in the Gospel of John chapter 11, can also go to Jesus. When we do so, no doubt we will also hear the same message of hope that they received from Him: "Trust Me, for I am the Resurrection and the Life! He that believes in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live!"
Several events of the recent Thanksgiving season, along with some comments in a recent newsletter of a fellow minister, drew me to the Apostle Peter's second letter. Several times in his letter he exhorted his readers to remember. Memory for many is a "mixed bag" of some good times, but also contains experiences we would rather forget.
Returning our focus to Peter's letter, it appears that he was stirring up their memories with words of warning previously declared by the prophets of old and spoken of by his contemporary apostles, to better prepare them to avoid to pitfalls lethargy and deception.
However, the comments in the above-mentioned newsletter caused this writer to recall and focus on several personal experiences of powerful movings of the Holy Spirit over the past decades. The effect being twofold; first, as a reminder that God the Holy Spirit is still desiring to transform lives through the miraculous, and secondly it awakened a cry and spiritual hunger that too often dozes in the comfort and blessing of daily living. Thanks be to Jesus who is always faithful, even when we are not. (2 Timothy 2:13)
We wonder are there others who perhaps remember powerful times when the Spirit moved in our midst, but somehow these experiences have faded into just memories of how things used to be. If we cry out to our faithful God, He will begin to stir our hearts, not just to remember the piles of stones of past experiences and ask "what do these stones mean?" (Joshua 4:6, 7) , but crying out to our faithful God to move again by the power of His Spirit and transform our churches, our cities and our nation so that we also can set up our own piles of stones. Stones as memorials to contemporary exploits of our Mighty God! May those who come after us ask: "what do these stones mean"!
There is something deep within me desiring to declare the words of Elisha as he struck the waters of the Jordan River with Elijah's mantle: "Where is the Lord God of Elijah?"! Are there others who will join in the cry?
We are truly amazed at the marvelous work the Lord has done through the GYE ministry with the Christian Worker Bible Study Series. During these past decades ten if not hundreds of thousands of people around the world, who are hungry and thirsty for the word of God, are using this tool. (Many are able to study in their own language!)
Recently we received a note from a missionary to Portugal and Angola. He said, and I quote: “Thanks for all you have done for Portugal, San Tomí and Angola! We have about 5,000 students studying in Angola PTL!” He went on further to relate that they have plans for new buildings in order to expand their educational program for leadership training!