On being focused

church-in-louisianna-by-rick-galvan-on-flickrI just recently made changes to this website…again. I thought I’d use my own personal domain and site to promote my side business, so I could augment the income I was getting from the ministry. Well, the ministry business is definitely picking up, so the window cleaning has to go. And this is a good thing.

Likewise, this site should be a place where I can talk about life on my own terms, instead of doing it as the local director of an evangelistic ministry to children. After all, what I say on the ministry’s website represents the goals and obligations of the ministry, and I have people to answer to. What I say here is what I have to say as a Christian man living in a world that is continually diminishing the importance of God in its own eyes. And what I say here may offend people. And when I say people, I mean the people of God. After all, the Bible does not tell us to criticize and accuse the world of wrongdoing. It tells us that we are to bring the Good News that God is not holding their sins against them (2 Corinthians 5:19). Actually, the Bible explicitly tells us that we are to judge those within the church (1 Corinthians 5:12), holding one another accountable.

If you are an ordinary believer who is confused or disappointed in how the world is going and you wonder what you can do about it, I can tell you from my own experience that the answer can usually be found by looking at yourself. After all, we have been given the command to GO share the Gospel that changes people’s lives, and the power to DO that. If that isn’t happening, it may be that we are simply not going and doing. And we often fail to do those things because we are not focused on obeying God. And when we are unfocused, things are blurry and hard to distinguish.

When I was first saved, I was very focused on obeying God. I put away the evil things I had been doing, like stealing for my boss and flirting my brains out with the woman who managed a restaurant I served. I began to pray for the people I was mad at. And I shared the salvation message  with sinners. After I lost my job because I wouldn’t steal for them any more, I started a small business and started doing prison ministry with my wife. We brought homeless people to our house, fed them, and shared our faith. I went house to house with a friend, asking people if they knew Jesus. Even though I had a wife and child and two businesses (we’d opened a Christian book store), we were very focused on obeying God and seeking first the kingdom of God.

But something happened over time. We started serving in the church instead of going out. Our focus was on inside ministries, like teaching Sunday school and in children’s church, going to Bible studies and small group meetings. It filled our evenings and weekends and we forgot the command of Jesus to go out and preach the Gospel.

As my business grew and prospered I still tithed, but I did not increase my giving to support evangelistic ministries that went out. We weren’t ministry partners with any missionaries. Our focus was on making a living, but obedience to God was more on the edges. Yes, I ran my business in a way that honored God. But the focus was on making enough money  to pay for a standard of living that was getting more expensive.

I got involved in local politics as a way to bring a Christian influence on my community, but it was an indirect way, on the edges. I was still being obedient in a blurry, off-center way. I was doing it my way instead of just doing what I was told.

It is interesting that no one ever tried to correct me. It wasn’t until I was finished with being a political candidate that my wife and I read John Piper’s “Don’t Waste Your Life,” and we began to wonder what God wanted us to do with our lives. We sold our house and most of our possessions and moved into a small apartment and took some time to focus on what God wanted.

It turns out He wanted us to do like He told the Ephesian church in Revelation: “You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.” Revelation 2:4-5. We needed to regain our focus, which we had lost over time.

In 2012 we discovered Child Evangelism Fellowship, a ministry that gave us the exciting opportunity to evangelize children, the most open-minded and neglected people group in the world! And not only that, because their methods could be taught, we could train others to be more than converts; they could be disciples, bearing much fruit!  “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” John 15:8.

Today it is our vocation to raise up disciples who bear fruit, serving in Good News Clubs that teach children the meaning of the Gospel, and how to apply it to their lives. In the past 2 years, we have added over 110 new volunteers who serve our God by reaching the children for Jesus!

It is unfortunate that I meet so many believers who are too busy to obey God. They would rather while away their lives fishing or playing golf or watching football on television. They go to church, but they do not serve. They complain about the state of the world while not lifting a finger to change it. If this sounds like you, it is not too late to change. If you are still drawing breath, there is still time for you to refocus, return to your first love, and do the first works.

Posted in Brooding, The Blog | Leave a comment

Bigger Than Orlando

flowersfororlando

I was driving home from a Lutheran church yesterday when I finally turned on the radio and let in the outside world. That’s when I heard about the Orlando massacre, and got the first inkling that it was probably Islamic terrorism. Since then, I have watched the reactions of many friends and acquaintances on social media, as well as how various politicians and talking heads have weighed in on this horrible tragedy.

It seems like almost every argument and point of view has been covered as some people look to fix blame or position themselves in the best light. And there have been many expressions of sorrow and grief and anger that are all easy to understand. So I have been in no hurry to rush to make a statement, or be a part of any particular camp. It’s not because I am heartless or do not care, but I do have what seems to be an unusual perspective. I hope you will take time to consider it.

Every day in America between 6,000 and 7,000 people die of various causes. Around the world, it’s over 150,000 deaths per day. Although many of them are untimely or tragic, they all have one thing in common: they are inevitable. And from there, the go to spend eternity in the presence of their Savior, or they go to Hell. And very little is said about this, the ultimate tragedy.

Perhaps you do not believe this is the case. Keep in mind that you do not make the rules. We were created by a holy God, and He ultimately calls the shots. Bring your lawyer if you wish, but remember that he will just be another defendant on Judgment Day.

Because I do believe this, and so do many of you who are reading, that puts a weight of responsibility on us to share the Good News, that God so loved the world that He gave His Son, to pay the price for all of our sins, so that whosoever believes on Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. In fact, we have been commanded to share that message. And I don’t need to bring out empirical proof to all of you for you to know that most of us live lives of gross disobedience to the Great Commission.

Over the next several months I expect to see a lot of changed profile photos expressing solidarity with the victims of the Orlando massacre by many believers in Christ. Keep in mind that showing your sadness is appropriate, but it is not a substitute for sharing the Gospel with the lost world.

It is interesting to note that the shooter was born in the US and went to school here. I have to wonder if he had heard the Gospel while he was growing up. Was he or his family befriended by Christians who shared the Gospel with them? Every sinner, no matter how vile you believe that person to be, started life as a child.

That is the lens through which I see this terrible event. In a nation where we have the right to share the Gospel, most of us don’t. And even those of us who do, focus on reaching people AFTER they have grown up. The average church spends 3% of its budget on ministering to children, and most of them do not evangelize the children they have.

This terrible event will not be changing my profile picture or how I live my life. I am back at work today, planning on reaching hundreds of children this summer with the Gospel. Many of them will make first time professions of faith, and begin a life of living by faith in Jesus. I am blessed to have many volunteers who give of their time to obey God and do what He has told us to do. But there are many thousands more to reach in this area, and we don’t need sympathy. We need your help.

Visit us online at CEFCH.ORG to give your time, talent, or treasure. Thank you.

Posted in Brooding, The Blog | 1 Comment

The Sober Business of Pruning

pruning2

If you frequent this site, you are aware that I have taken to gardening. Last year, when I first moved to Homosassa, I got it into my head that I could grow some of what we eat, and I immediately went to YouTube for gardening videos. They led to some experiments, which mostly failed, and I also thought I’d try my hand at tomatoes. After all, everyone likes tomatoes, and if i can’t grow anything else, perhaps I can trade tomatoes for other vegetables.

I began with four different kinds of heirloom tomato seeds. I thought I’d try them because I noticed they were more expensive in the store than regular tomatoes, and I heard them getting rave reviews from organic vegetable purists. So, I planted what I thought was 48 seeds in egg cartons, and it turnout out I planted 50.

Fast-forward to today, and I now have rows of tomato plants and I am beginning to eat some of them! I have German Green tomatoes, which have to be gently squeezed to test for ripeness since the color gives no clue, Colossal Yellows, Cherokee Chocolates and Cherokee Chocolate Cherries. I have about 25 of the original plants, and they are 3 to 5 ft tall. They make quite an impression on my visitors, and I am tempted to be proud of them.

To be sure, I am aware I am a neophyte gardener, and I know I have done a fairly sloppy job of it. I have tried to fill the gaps where I am not much of a farmer by praying for these plants and asking the Lord’s blessing on them. He gets the credit for all I survey. But while I was praying for my plants, I also asked him what all this means to me, and what is He wanting me to learn from the experience. After all, this is highly irregular activity for me. I do NOT like working in the yard, but I have felt drawn to do this.

While watching a video about pruning tomato plants, I remembered what Jesus said in John 15:2, “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” Well, that is what I wanted: more fruit. I am not just growing leafy plants to be ornamentals. I want tomatoes!

So, I started looking carefully for any signs of fruit. The cherry tomatoes came up first, but all my other plants were giving me blossoms, but no fruit. I also noticed I was getting my first attack of leaf miners, these tiny insects that make tunnels in your leaves. It looks like yellow tracks all over the leaves. Those had to go. In general, plants with too many leaves got shorn. Almost every day I was trimming away unnecessary foliage. It seemed to pay off. After awhile I started seeing tomatoes budding from where the blossoms were.

A couple of days  ago, I believe I got a word from the Lord in my garden. He said, “You are pruning, but you are not taking away.” I looked at one of my well trimmed plants, and noticed one long branch that had born nothing. It was sucking up water and nutrients and there was no fruit. I cut it off from the main stalk and examined it. It was part of that plant from the beginning, yet it had never produced. I looked around and found a couple of others. And a few more. I was sad that I had to cut them back so far. It seemed like such a shame. Then I realized that we were not really talking about tomato plants.

“I am the vine; you are the branches.” This took on an entirely different meaning. I realized that I need to be pruned. There are things that need to be cut off, so that I may bear more fruit. He said MORE fruit.  He wants me to grow, and in order for that to happen, there are things that have to go.

And that is why I am no longer involved in politics. It was a great, fruitless branch in my life. It was leafy and looked healthy, but there was no fruit on it. It attracted parasites and disease. I got invited to a local candidate event yesterday and had to say NO, and WHY. It was not advancing the Kingdom of God, so it had to go. It’s all about the fruit.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you,” Matthew 6:33.

Posted in Brooding, The Blog | Leave a comment

Origin of the Establishment Clause

Awakening

I have recently downloaded a copy of Joseph Tracy’s 1840 history, “The Great Awakening.” It’s a free download from Google Books, and it’s a pretty rough copy. It is quite apparent that it was copied by a machine, but with that consideration it is still quite readable and enlightening.

Within the first few pages it was revealed that the Great Awakening, a Christian Revival that took place in the existing churches in both England and the English colonies, had caused a major paradigm shift in the general population. That is because they were the spiritual descendents of a church culture that practiced baptismal regeneration at infancy. In other words, they believed that conversion took place during infant baptism, and that it was presumed that church members were “saved” unless they were excommunicated due to gross immorality or heresy.

In Europe, where this error had centuries to become entrenched, many laws were passed that required that a person had to be a member of a church in good standing in order to be a fully vested citizen. Therefore, if a Bishop or a priest was to deny a man the sacrament of communion because that man was a known reprobate, he could sue for damages since he was baptized in the church, and had the right to its sacraments, and whatever civil rights that would be lost otherwise.

In England, a man appointed to any civil or military office must “qualify,” by receiving the Lord’s Supper in the established church ; and many received it to ” qualify ” themselves for office, who neglected it all the rest of their lives. The clergyman who withheld the Lord’s Supper from one requesting it, inflicted a civil injury, and was liable to prosecution ; and, if prosecuted, must show to the court that he had good grounds for his decision, or suffer the consequences. When John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, left Georgia to return to England, a prosecution was pending against him for debarring a young lady from the Lord’s Supper. Under such laws, the Lord’s table must be open to all who have been baptized, who have learned the creed and catechism, and have not committed any crime which a civil court would judge ” scandalous.”  Joseph Tracy, “The Great Awakening,” 1841. Andover-Harvard Theological Library, p. 2

Under such a linkage between church and state, the state was able to keep the church from doing its job of making true disciples of Jesus Christ. As the Apostle Paul eloquently stated, “Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life,” 2 Corinthians 3:6. The letter of the civil law disabled the ministry because it became the way that people obtained, in their minds, eternal life.

Just as Martin Luther’s assertion that regeneration is by faith alone altered much of Christendom, the reemergence of personal faith as the acceptable emblem of Christianity drained the letter of the law of its power. When men like George Whitefield, Gilbert Tennant and Jonathan Edwards began preaching and publishing sermons that espoused the new birth, a spiritual rebirth that brought with it the evidence of a changed life, opposition arose from the leaders of the state churches in the colonies and in England. Their legitimacy was being challenged, just as the King would be later on.

The Church of England was the official state church for some of the colonies during the time of British rule. Virginia. New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Maryland were all Church of England, while New Hampshire and Connecticut were officially Congregational and Massachusetts was Protestant under a system that allowed each community to have its own official church. The Catholic Church did not qualify. Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Rhode Island had no state church.

As we have laid a foundation for what the state of mind may have been when the First Amendment of the US Constitution was ratified, let us examine it closely:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

In those first ten words, in which we find the establishment clause, it is important to notice that it does not say, “Congress shall make no law respecting THE establishment of religion.” If that were the wording, it could be thought that this means Congress cannot establish a church. No such thing was on anyone’s mind at that time. There were plenty of churches for people to choose from. A new “National Church” being formed would be hard pressed to draw members without force, and that was unthinkable in such a revolutionary climate. The establishment clause says, “Congress shall make no law respecting AN establishment of religion,” and that makes all the difference.

The colonies had laws respecting AN establishment of religion everywhere ONE church got preferential treatment over the others. Nine of the thirteen colonies had laws respecting AN establishment of religion in some form, and those knots were not entirely untied until 1834.

That letter from Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptists that some people like to quote when they want to invoke the “separation of church and state,” pertains specifically to the Connecticut state laws that respected AN establishment of religion over other establishments of religion. The Congregational Church had the power to tax the citizens, including those who did not support the Congregational Church, and the Baptists were right to be sore about it. That was the “Wall of Separation” Jefferson spoke of in his letter. The state of Connecticut gave ONE church the power to tax. That letter was written in 1802, and it was 1818 before that was changed.

Today, this idea has been turned on its head to the degree that laws are routinely made that prohibit the free exercise of religion on the basis that the government must not be neutral to religion, but be opposed to it in order not to perceived as ESTABLISHING a religion. When it is ruled that a teacher cannot have a Bible on her desk, because it appears that the government is establishing a religion, it is actually taking a position against religion itself, and not a particular establishment.

But let us look at the text again: “Congress shall make no law respecting an ESTABLISHMENT of religion.” That word, establishment, means something when you refer to it as one of many, as in an establishment of fine dining, an establishment of recreation, an establishment of legal services, or an establishment of religion. It refers to a specific organization, not an idea or a concept. A Bible on a teacher’s desk is not a religious establishment any more than a dictionary on the same teacher’s desk is an educational establishment.

When a law is made that says you cannot have a Bible on your desk, it is actually making a law respecting an IDEA of religion. It is the ideas in that book, the Bible, as opposed to any other book, like a dictionary, that are being hidden behind that “Wall of Separation.” Is that what Jefferson was talking about? Absolutely not. He was opposed to an ESTABLISHMENT of religion having the governmental authority to tax.

Another word we need to look at is RESPECTING. “Congress shall make no law RESPECTING an establishment of religion.” According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, RESPECTING is defined this way: about or relating to (something) : with respect to (something).

In our American culture today, the word, RESPECTING, has a very limited meaning. Most people would probably  see it only as an extension of RESPECT, which is defined as:

a feeling of admiring someone or something that is good, valuable, important, etc.

a feeling or understanding that someone or something is important, serious, etc., and should be treated in an appropriate way

a particular way of thinking about or looking at something.

This could lead to a very antagonistic view of religion. After all, if “Congress is to make no law admiring or understanding that an establishment of religion is important,” that would make it sound like religion was bad or dangerous, and not worthy of being protected at all.

So, in reality, the First Amendment says, in today’s language, “Congress shall make no law in regard to one particular religious organization, or prohibiting anyone from practicing their religion; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

It seems obvious that the popular misinterpretation of the establishment clause is either caused by a basic misunderstanding of the English language, or deliberate deception by people with governmental authority and power. After all, being able to make laws in regard to how people practice their faith and share their ideas is a tremendous power. It cripples the church, and keeps it from doing its scriptural duty to make disciples of Jesus Christ. As stated earlier, the letter kills.

If Christians are to continue to be a free people, it is imperative that we have another Great Awakening. But this time it must reach far outside of our church buildings. We have the power to convert others, taking those who were once our enemies and making them our friends. Historically, this has been done under all forms of government: kings, emperors, and dictators brutal and benign. The only difference is the price that must be paid.

Today you have an opportunity to change the world of tomorrow with relatively little risk. I am talking about evangelizing children. They are very impressionable, which is why everyone tries to reach them with their products, ideologies, habits and entertainment. But what they really need is to know that God loves them, and that He has a plan for their lives, if only they will believe. It is not enough to throw money at them in the form of food, clothes, shelter, education, and healthcare. To paraphrase Jesus, what does it profit a child to gain all the world’s goods and lose his soul?

I urge you to get involved in reaching children with the Gospel. Today’s overworked, harried parents yield their children to others who offer to help. Let’s not fail them. Let’s give the best thing we can, eternal life through Jesus Christ.

Child Evangelism Fellowship is the world’s largest children’s ministry, reaching millions of children with the Gospel in 192 countries. And they are probably working in your community. Seek them out and do what you can to change the future for the children where you live. You don’t have long. In a few more years, they will be harder to reach and less likely to listen. Act NOW. Find a chapter in your area. And if you are my neighbor, learn more about us here, and then pray and ask the Lord what you should do.

 

Posted in The Blog, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Down on the Farm

marshplantationFor those of you who are keeping up with our saga, the bottle garden was too much to deal with. I decided to focus a little more by growing heirloom tomatoes, so I planted 50 seeds in egg crates. So far, 28 have survived, and are looking good. From the bottle garden debacle, there was one survivor that has surprised us. We have some sort of mutant lettuce that grows on a stalk. It’s delicious, and I have to admit that I like picking off all the lettuce leaves and then seeing more leaves  growing on the stalk a couple days later. butterlettuceWe also got a couple of pepper plants and a blackberry bush from Wal-Mart, and some onion sets and a squash plant to boot. They all got a good rain today, and seem to be doing well. We still need to plant the blackberry bush and the squash, but they’re alive and well in their pots for now.

Posted in The Blog, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Reorienting my Internet life

Now that our ministry is an official chapter, complete with it’s own web site, Facebook page, and Twitter account, it is time to thin the herd. I can only keep up with so much Internet activity. So, since we have an official site for Child Evangelism of Citrus-Hernando, our personal ministry site has become redundant. In fact, I already moved all the posts from DonandCindi.com to CEFCH.ORG. I didn’t want to just delete the old site, with all its content relevant to the people who direct this chapter, but I will not be posting the same sort of things at the chapter site that I did at our own site. CEFCH.ORG will be carrying things about the chapter and its volunteers, and opportunities for more volunteers. Eventually, DonandCindi.com will just be redirected to the new site.

For those of you who enjoyed my commentary on DonandCindi.com, take heart! Both of you will be able to find me here, at DonaldMarsh.com, the original flagship of anything I want to write about, whether it’s about the perils of my tomato plants, or society in general. By the way, I’ve lost about 15 out of 50 plants that sprouted in the house. I have been re-potting them and transitioning them outside, and it has not all gone well.

Since most of my time will be spent growing the chapter, you will find me a pretty active on the Twitter account and Facebook. Please follow me there, and share my brooadcasts!

Posted in The Blog, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Garden Update

For the half dozen of you who are keeping up with this breathtaking subject, I thought I’d let you know how the winter garden project is going. I started with a modest attempt at growing lettuce and spinach in a bottle garden. The Spinach are going nowhere, but I do have some new tomato action going! Check it out!

Posted in The Blog, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Receiving guests is a pleasure

neonleon

Peacetime veterans enjoying the good life.

From time to time we get visitors from “back home,” in the Gainesville area. It is good to get caught up, but we also like showing off our new community, even when we don’t really know anything. Cindi and I had driven past a restaurant on the way to the docks where people pull in off the river for grub. It was called Neon Leon’s, and it’s named after the bass player with Lynyrd Skynyrd, Leon Wilkeson. It’s owned by a relative of Leon’s. That is where we decided to go to dinner with our friends, Clifford and Susan Whitman.

It’s not fair to call this a review, so let’s just call it an impression. We ate outside on a day perfect for doing so. It was cool and breezy, and it wasn’t crowded. We met nice people at the next table, and that made it even more pleasant. The food was also good. We didn’t exactly put Leon’s to the test, but nothing disappointed us. I got the Jambalaya, Susan got the Mighty Rad Creole, Clifford got the bacon-wrapped shrimp, and Cindi got the hot wings. She liked the wings so much, and they were priced so reasonably ($7.99 for 10 and $12.99 for 20), that I was assured that I will be sent out for them some night.

tazhotdogs

Humble appearance but quite a nice place, with picnic tables and pavilion

Later, for dessert, we stopped at Taz Dogs N’ Scoops for the free ice cream they were giving away to veterans because it was Veterans’ Day. Clifford and Cindi and I were all able to display our VA ID cards, so it was a big score for our party. And the ice cream was great! We will be back again as paying customers soon!

Posted in About the area, The Blog | Leave a comment

Catching up with the Marshes

fallfest9

Neighbors listening to the live music, talking, and waiting on dinner.

It’s almost November and we are really enjoying this part of Florida. The people are very friendly, the skies are beautiful, gas is cheaper than in Gainesville, and we are having a real adventure! But best of all, we have really found a church that strikes all the best chords with us. We really fit in here, and we get the challenge we need to press into what God has called us to do.

A good example is the fall festival that people in our church put on for the community. We worked with another church (even another denomination!) to promote and supply the needs of the 300 people who came to John and Terri Erler’s small farm to eat, relax, play games, worship, hear the Gospel, and get to know one’s neighbors. About 120 children were among the visitors, many of whom were unchurched.

fallfest7

Sack racers and bean bag throwers abounded!

Cindi and I have been very busy serving with the local Good News Clubs and promoting the ministry among the churches that do not yet participate, but we are very hopeful by what we are seeing so far. God is moving in the hearts of people to reach the next generation, and we just need to bring them together. Fortunately, they are much more willing to do that than anything I have seen before.

On the home front, my bottle garden has been producing some lettuce plants, but the spinach has been a bust. I just ordered some heirloom tomato seeds to start indoors this winter so I will have plenty of tomatoes and plants to share with our church family. Someone just gave me a bunch of pots, so our container garden will have more places to grow.

We are having a yard sale this weekend at our house to help with our ministry expenses, as well as be able to give to others. If you expect to receive, you can never stop giving!

There are elections on Tuesday, and I hate to admit it, but I still have a lot of homework to do in this area. The only local candidate I really like right now is a guy running for one of the seats on the mosquito control board.

I will let you know how my plants are doing as they keep growing. Later!

Posted in About the area, The Blog | Leave a comment

Citrus County Infomercial

I have lived here almost 7 weeks, and I am still learning new things about this area. This video was uploaded to YouTube 2 years ago, but I believe it is up to date enough to give most of us a snapshot of Citrus County. If anyone has a difference of opinion, who has also lived here a long  time, please post a comment!

Posted in video | Leave a comment