God And Guns

God And Guns

ON THE GLORY OF GOD AND GUNS

I do not have a phobia about weapons.  My earliest memory of a firearm was during a visit to my grandparents hillbilly home in Hodgesville, West Virigina.  A large muskrat was minding his own business walking next to a stream across the road, and my Uncle Gene came out with a rifle and summarily executed the hapless creature.  I thought it was the greatest thing I had ever seen in my 6 years of life experience.  This probably stirred within me some sort of instinctual need to kill wildlife.  Assassinating a bullfrog in New Mexico by covering him with giant black ants was particularly memorable, though no weapon was involved.  According to Dr. Phil, I should have grown up to be a serial killer, especially after test firing my first BB Gun on my younger brother from close range.  Of course I did not shoot him with a BB, but rather filled the weapon with grit and coarse sand then promptly blasted him in the face to test the accuracy of my marksmanship.  He retaliated with a baseball bat.  That is a battle of family lore.  But it was not until I was 13 that I scored my first major kill:  I was excitedly exploring the woods with the bow and arrow set I’d received for Christmas, when I spied an evil possum sitting up in a tree.  Yes, we all know that possum are by nature evil, and must be exterminated when opportunity arises.  My first arrow pierced his side, and with a snarl he scurried down the tree and into a hole in the tree trunk near the ground.  He was in full retreat, but when I bent down to observe his death throes, he had the audacity to bare his teeth in most menacing fashion.  For that impropriety I dispatched him with an arrow down the throat.  I must rescue my reputation and report that this did not provide me with the satisfaction I had anticipated.  I went home somewhat depressed, and cannot recall shooting anything since that time.  I imagine that the disturbance I felt had something to do with God not appreciating me slaughtering one of His creatures without cause or purpose.  At the least I could have hauled the possum home for Ma to toss into a stew…though more likely she would have tossed me out the back door as a stewed rabbit was as wild as it got around our Ohio home of my teenage years.

Fast forward 37 years, and I still find firearms a fascinating subject, particularly since they have vaulted to the top tier of American dinner table debate and conversation.  No debate however down here in Guatemala, from where I am currently writing this memo.  In Guatemala in fact, I am in love with guns, particularly the machine guns being carried by the policemen who have been guarding my wife and I and our team for the past 12 days.  Seems my friend recently had a pistol stuck in his face and was relieved of his passports and cash.  This was followed by death threats and kidnapping warnings.  Thus the guards, insisted upon by the local police commander, who piled into the back of our pick up en route to church the other evening, with the barrel of one machine gun pointing directly into my colleague’s thigh.  I politely noted this “irregularity” to the guard, and he obligingly pointed the weapon out the tail gate of the vehicle.  My friend thanked me for saving his right leg, and I then informed both guards that should there be an incident, they were morally obligated to save me first before any Guatemalans, as I was the “Gringo”, and naturally their commander would be far more upset about my death than he would for one of the locals.  They found this to be quite humorous, and it is always good to win over an underpaid, angry Central American policeman to your side by lightening his burden with laughter.  We had only one incident during the past week, and that was while driving a dirt, country road at night, when we came upon an overturned load blocking our forward progress.  When we stopped, another pickup with bright headlights immediately came up behind us – classic road set up for robbery of unsuspecting missionaries.  You never have seen a machine gun armed policeman jump out of the back of a truck so fast, pointing directly at the lights of the pickup behind us.  My buddy yelled, “shoot first and ask questions later….we’ll back you up as witnesses that you were defending us”!  Wow, I knew at the moment that I was definitely “not in Kansas anymore”.   Thankfully, our guard exercised wisdom and restraint, ascertaining who was in the vehicle first – – which is really good otherwise I would have had the death of a farmer, two kids, and a large pig on my conscience.

Back to the dinner table conversations raging across America.  I live in Alaska now, where gun ownership is a particularly passionate hobby and hunting is a means of provision for the majority.  Being previously a New Yorker for 25 years, and a Long Islander at that, most of the gun culture of my childhood was gradually chipped away, not by political opinion, but simply by lack of necessity.  We don’t kill animals on Long Island, unless we are being attacked by a rabid squirrel or raccoon, or we mow down one of the far too many deer in Suffolk county.  But in Alaska now, the debate rages around us.  It is clear that no one will ever be able to disarm Alaska.  It would be tantamount to a civil war.  The 2nd Amendment is safe and sound in our midst.  And I for one do fully appreciate that freedom to hunt, own a firearm, protect life and property, and resist tyranny.  Even though I presently own no weapons (please do not inform any of your potentially thieving distant cousins), I can appreciate the passion of my neighbors and church friends who do.

But I’ve said above that I find the current debate fascinating, and I explain this by highlighting my dilemma as a missionary and evangelist.  I am driven by a passion to see God’s grace invade the lives and families of the multitudes around the world who are lost, impoverished, and without hope in this broken world.  Confronted monthly by astounding poverty in multiple nations, looking into the eyes of hopeless multitudes, I am moved again and again and this passion of God instilled into my soul keeps me returning to these scenes of horror repeatedly, not only because I am called to this, but also because I know and carry a solution.  I try not to impose the weight of this particular calling on others, as I know all men are assigned to each their own sphere; yet I am at the same time required to convey God’s heart on the matter to thousands of men across North America so that many might feel the passion God feels and desires, that we who are so enlarged in our prosperity might find it within us to be moved on behalf of the needs of others.  And herein lies my dilemma, for as one who has labored 30 years to “see men moved” by the heart of God, I am suddenly seeing men moved with a passion beyond anything I’ve ever witnessed.

Men who have silently in churches for years now suddenly arise to declare that “they’ve had just about enough and they will die to defend their Constitutional right to bear arms”.  Men who are shy, the last ones into the sanctuary and the first one out, are newly emboldened in the “FaceBook Wars” to denounce, proclaim, and profess their allegiance to this most holiest of privileges, the 2nd Amendment, more sacred than life itself!

I am passionate for our Constitution, but astonished at this newly discovered fire in the bellies of men who have long sat cold under the preaching of the Word.  I am desperate to harness this newly discovered fire, channeling it into something eternal, into someone worth saving.  If we could take a tenth of the passion released in these past months by Christian men on behalf of 2nd Amendment issues, and channel that into the mission of the church of Jesus Christ, I believe we might just make some significant progress in reforming our wonderful United States of America.

Perhaps a sleeping giant has been awakened, and indeed we can truly hope that “all things will work together for good”.  Perhaps an awakened passion for something temporal might alert us to the ground we have lost on far more sacred issues, such as the sanctity of human life, moral purity, and personal integrity.  Perhaps men whom we have deemed immovable, have shown us that they are willing to stand up and be counted after all.

But if we are to be counted, let us be counted for those things that identify us most clearly with the one Who made quite clear by His own sacrifice that people are worth both living and dying for, and a man whose passions are reserved for only those things that concern his own life and well being is a man who has lost his compass and missed the greatest pleasures that this journey offers:  the pleasure of living in defense of the defenseless; for indeed, “he who would save his own life will lose it, but he who loses his life for Christ’s sake will find it”.

In closing, I tip my hat to all who strive to protect the purposes and privileges of the 2nd Amendment, and I for one will always be quick to defend my home and family with whatever weapon is at hand.  But in the meanwhile, I strive to keep sight of my greatest weapon, my most sure defense, and my unwavering security that can never be taken away:  a life lived in submission to and for the glory of our Almighty God and His Son Jesus Christ.

R.K. Brake
San Jose Del Golfo, Guatemala

40 Week Marriage Devotional

40 Week Marriage Devotional

WEEK #12 – KATHMANDU’S ROYAL KUMARI, THE LIVING GODDESS

Peeking out the airplane window at the summit of Everest while flying out of Nepal, my mind is filled with thoughts of Kathmandu’s Kumari.  I had seen flashes of her on television as she was carried through the streets of the city in her throne like carriage.  Later I learned that her feet never touch the ground outside of her palace, for the duration of her supposed incarnation.  Yes, incarnation, as it is tragically believed; for the majority of residents of the capital city hail her as the living embodiment of the Hindu goddess Teleju.  She is chosen as a young child following a rigorous selection process.  She must be unblemished, have jet black hair and eyes, long eyelashes like a cow, and the “soft voice of a duck”!  She is about 5 or 6 years of age at selection, and passes the most severe of tests and examinations, including the necessity of spending a night alone in a room filled with the severed heads of 100 sacrificed goats and cows, without showing any trace of fear.  Yikes!  Pity the poor girl, who once approved is then presented to the spirit for inhabitation.

And thus her reign begins, continuing until the time where she passes into puberty.  For those 10 years or so, her word is absolute.  Other carefully selected children are allowed to play with her in her palace, but only after understanding fully that whatever the Kumari commands is their sacred duty and obligation.  She may seize their toys, demand her own rules in games, and in general have whatever she wants.  Adults come to her for blessings, and her every expression is interpreted for good or evil.  If she laughs or cries, you are likely doomed in the near future.

If she shivers, get ready for a trip to prison!  If she is perfectly still, only then is your petition assured of success.

How tragic is the fate of this sad child.  Poisoned from the earliest age with thoughts of her own divinity;  spoiled hopelessly with the scepter of absolute authority, believing that it is her divine right to have her want and way in every situation of life; sending adults into a trembling panic if her disapproval is aroused.  Hmmm…..I’ve seen such a child a few places before:  in the aisles of grocery stores screaming for the treats to which they believe they are entitled;  holding their parents hostage in restaurants by running amok and daring them to risk public discipline; or incapable when playing with other kids of handling loss, disadvantage, or domination.  These have been, like the Kumari, deceived into believing that they are the center of the universe and the rightful focus of every adult’s admiration.

And herein lies the challenge for the married couple, for such children, unrestrained or untrained, will inevitably seek to conquer and divide their parents.  The brat unbridled leads to blame and embarrassment – – who is responsible for the emotional mayhem of this maniacal miniaturization of domestic authority?  Which of us failed to steer and direct their path?  Who pampered them in private, or placated them with privilege, while the other alone wielded the rod and thus became unwillingly the object of their infantile resentment?

No, dear parents to be, you dare not bring another Kumari upon an innocent and unsuspecting world.  A few points of advance agreement will work wondrously toward reigning in your blessing’s baser instincts.  Wisdom and knowledge, provided by the Scriptures, will save a world of frustration and conflict both in the home, and out in society.  Here are a few tips for vanquishing any Kumari who would attempt to turn your peaceful home into his or her own personal palace:

  1. Be honest with yourself, and agree with God that your kids have not been born perfect.  They have in fact inherited Adam’s nature, as have mom and dad, and will inevitably push the boundaries as far as possible if not restrained, trained, and programmed in their brain!
  2. Children can be lavished with love and blessings, yet still learn early the meaning of the word “NO”.  Many adults cannot manage both sides of the formula.  They either are too heavy handed, fearing to be overly gracious, or they are too pampering, fearing to damage their child through denial.  God’s wisdom balances both.
  3. Let your darling learn early on that they will never come between mom and dad.  The two of you together form an impenetrable wall of agreement.  Once they’ve faced this wall repeatedly and discovered that it has no cracks, they will ultimately tire of attempting to breach it.
  4. Teach them early the joy and empowerment of honoring and exalting others.  Let them see humility working in the home as their parents refuse entitlement, and use their earthly position and resource for the uplifting of people.  The sooner their little feet touch ground in a place of commonality and service among their own peers, the more whole they will become as adults.
  5. Never find your own fulfillment through the visibility of your child.  Many a mom or dad has sat basking in the limelight as their little one proceeded to hijack the public atmosphere of a church service or restaurant.  Find your identity in God – – not through the attention your child can command through unbridled commotion.

 

Little darlings indeed, but not goddesses or gods.  Glorious gifts from God, but not granted immunity to parade with impunity.  The greatest natural joys you can have in this life…..but be sure that others are not secretly denouncing your treasure as their torment.   And in so doing, your children will be jewels in your crown….and in the eyes of all around you.

Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Him with her sons, kneeling down and asking something from Him.  And He said to her, “What do you wish?”  She said to Him, “Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom.”…..; But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them.  Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to be great among you, let him be your servant……; Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve……     Matthew 20:20, 25, 27

The Life Of Betty Forsterling

Most of our friends have never heard of Betty.  I officiated for her burial service in June of 2013, 2 weeks after her 103rd birthday.  She was in her right mind, capable of quoting and writing hundreds of Scriptures from memory, and full of the joy of the Lord.

Betty was born at the height of the Azusa Street Revival, in 1910.  She married her husband Teddy in 1929, and stayed happily married for 73 years.

Teddy & Betty walked into our Glen Cove Church 25 years ago as an elderly couple looking for a spirit filled place of worship.  They were on fire for God, and they impacted our lives greatly in the early stages of our ministry.  I’ve never seen so many miracles occur in the life of a couple in their 80’s and then in their 90’s.  Teddy & Betty believed the Word of God.  They prayed in the Spirit. They refused to quit or complain.  They once were broadsided by another vehicle while coming out of Roy Rogers Restaurant with their burgers and fries.  I went to the hospital and found them side by side in the hospital room, full of injuries, black and blue, and looking like they had been run over by a truck…which they had!  They were laughing, praying, and informing any who would listen that they weren’t staying for long.  The doctors were astonished by their accelerated healing and rapid recovery.

Teddy was 90 years old and shoveling his 100 foot long driveway one Winter.  He had a massive heart attack. I stood with Betty while the doctors told her that her husband would not recover; his heart had been severely damaged, and it was time to let him go.  I offered prayer, but the question was raised:  “What quality of life will he have if he stays alive?”.  I asked Betty what she wanted, and she said with great confidence:  “I want Pop around for another 5 years at least!”.  We prayed, calling upon God for a miracle.  I walked the next day into the hospital corridor to hear someone shouting loudly.  I approached Teddy’s room, and entered to find him sitting up surrounded by the glory of the Lord, hands raised high, rejoicing loudly in a spiritual language he did not know.  The doctors brought the report of the impossible:  “There is NO evidence that your husband ever had a heart attack; this is not possible….we don’t understand it!  He has the heart of a younger man”. Teddy lived another 6 quality, joyful years, and I buried him 11 years ago at the ripe old age of 96.

Betty and Teddy walked in the grace of God like this all the days of their lives.  After Teddy passed, Betty insisted that her family members drive her to our church for Sunday services.  She was determined to sit under the Word of God.  She attended well into her mid 90’s, sometimes with a walker, but determined to receive and worship; always smiling, always with a good word, always full of the Holy Spirit.  Betty told me often, “Brother Kelly, once you’ve tasted of the Holy Ghost, nothing else will satisfy”.

January of 2013, Lenora and I were in Quito, Ecuador.  I had a startling dream about Betty:  She was young, in her 20’s, with a white dress and bare feet.  She told me, “Oh, Brother Kelly…I feel perfectly whole and I can run again!  And then with a laugh, she took off running across a field of green grass.  I awoke and told Lenora that “Betty must have passed away, or she is about to”.  I emailed Betty’s family about the dream, but received no response, and so put it aside.

But how awesome God is, to think and to know ahead of the smallest details in the life of a 103 year old woman.  I had no idea back in January that we would be in New York that June.  But God knew.  And He planned things perfectly.  A friend asked back in April that I officiate for his daughter’s Long Island wedding.  We agreed, flew to New York, and celebrated our 30th anniversary in Manhattan, along with preaching in various churches and visiting old friends.  Our last stop was to see Betty on Thursday morning, June 20th.  We got to the Senior Center where she was staying, only to be informed that she had passed away, peacefully, only 6 hours earlier.  Within minutes I received a call from her granddaughter, asking that we officiate for Betty’s funeral.  We were flying out Friday afternoon, and I knew I could not postpone our scheduled ministry in Washington State.  I told them, “If the Lord wants us there, He will have to make a way with the funeral home and cemetery for a service at 9:00 tomorrow morning.”  That was only 24 hours notice!  At 9:00, on Friday morning, June 21st, we celebrated the life of a woman who had lived with excellence for 103 years, walked in the resurrection life of Jesus Christ, and stayed true to God’s Word until the end.  She proved every promise and now she is reaping her reward.

The Psalmist said that “Precious in the eyes of the Lord, is the death of His saints”.  Maybe you are wondering today if God knows about your situation, your problems, your aches and pains?  Betty proved to me over a 25 year span that God is involved in every detail of our lives.  I remember driving once many years ago and hearing the Spirit’s voice: “turn around right now and go to the Forsterlings!”.  I drove immediately, walked in the door, and Betty cried out, “Oh Hallelujah Pastor!  I was just asking Jesus to send you to visit us…we are in need of encouragement and prayer!”

Dear friend, God loves you so much.  He cared enough about a 103 year old woman to have given me a dream months ago in South America, simply so that when the time came, and I was in a place unplanned, I would know in my heart that He intended me to be there.  I was “Betty’s Pastor”, even after moving to Alaska.  That meant something to Betty, it meant something to her family, and so it meant something to God.  He cares equally for each one of us.  He is a God who strategizes even to the tiniest details of our lives.  Why do we worry so much?  Don’t worry precious child of God…your Heavenly Father loves you so very much!

And Oh, what a glorious reminder of the realities of heaven!  Since Betty’s passing I have been riveted by the memory of that dream:  a new body, sheer and unbridled joy, childlike exhilaration, total freedom, no limitations….all of that and more awaits us!  Heaven is in your future, and God means for us to be encouraged by that fact.  Take a moment today and ponder eternity; it’s not a scary thought…in Jesus, it is your awesome destiny.  It is secure.  And even now, He is preparing that place for you!