Sad News

I am very sad to report that my best friend and faithful companion, Tobie, went to be with the Lord on Saturday morning last. He had been quite ill for a while, and just couldn’t recover this time. Judy and I are grateful to the Lord for letting us have 8 years with the best dog ever created. He was the perfect fit for us as we navigated through starting a church when we were too old to do so, burying my mom, and nursing Judy’s mom through her bout with cancer. Tobie remained calm and positive through it all. He never wavered. For the religionists out there who would claim that dogs don’t go to heaven, all I can say is you either don’t know the Lord or you didn’t know Tobie. Either way, I feel sorry for you. I will attempt to share some of the things he taught me in the days ahead.
vlsTobie and Mama

Tobie and Judy

Out of the Abundance of the Heart

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Building People of Substance for Works of Power

Hey, me and tobie, you must be born again!

I was watching a famous TV commentator the other day as he opined on what ails our nation. He had some good ideas about personal responsibility, but he ended with this statement: “We each have the ability to change ourselves.” That statement bothered me. First, there was a tinge of pride in it, the implication that we could all benefit by being like him, who had done such a grand job of self-improvement. Second, though I can see the benefit of reading and working to improve my knowledge or my habits, my own experience has been that any fundamental change has to come from somewhere else. How many times did I swear I would never drink again? How many “last cigarettes” did I smoke? And then there was my temper: How many resolutions to hold my tongue? And every single time, I wanted to be sincere… I needed to be sincere. The sad truth is that nothing worked until I completely gave up. I was simply not strong enough or good enough to stay the course. Then I came to Christ and something fundamental changed on the inside of me. I was born again.

Therein lies the problem with self-improvement: It just puts the proverbial lipstick on a pig. The pig is still a pig. No matter how many bad habits I try to reform, I am still the wrong kind of person. I cannot change my fundamental nature. Only God can do that. That is the meaning of being born again – I am a new kind of creature with a new nature. The new creature in Christ is not perfect in performance from the first day, but he now has a genuine desire to be right and do right. The surprise for me was that even after I was born again, I still couldn’t change myself! I had to learn to depend on the One who now dwelt within me. As with any newborn, I had to grow up, grow stronger, and grow wiser from the inside out. Now, more than 30 years later, I am still discovering who I am because of the new birth. As I see myself more clearly, I can then cooperate with the Spirit of God in changing my outsides to reflect my new insides. The process is ongoing. I seek Him, I feed on His Word, and He changes me.

Scripture Reading: Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. (Ephesians 4:23-24 NLT)

Somebody Said: Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you an automobile. Billy Sunday

Jesus didn’t just die to forgive your bad deeds. He was raised again to provide you with a new identity. You were born again, born of the Spirit. Now you will spend the rest of your life learning who this new person is, living a life that reflects the new nature, not struggling to overcome the old. You can’t change yourself; you have to find yourself, and then put on yourself and act like yourself.

vls
http://www.fcftucson.org

Out of the Abundance of the Heart

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Building People of Substance for Works of Power

Thank God for Jesus, me and tobie!

Years ago there was a lady in our church whose husband was unsaved. We all agreed that if he would only become a Christian he would be a real asset. He was intelligent and well thought of in the community. What an impact he could have! Then he started coming to church. He nodded his head to being born again. He faithfully sat in the second row. He never smiled, He never served. If he impacted anyone other than to complain, I was unaware of it. In short, we were wrong about his value as a Christian because we based our predictions on his natural, human characteristics. The truth is, none of us has anything that God “needs” or that constitutes us as being more or less valuable to the Lord or His church. We don’t do God any favors by serving Him, no matter how much we would like to think so. We need Him, He doesn’t need us.

The truth is, no one is grateful for being found until he is painfully aware of being lost. One of the real shocks to me when I entered the ministry was the lack of passion and commitment on the part of so many church folks. They liked to sing. They enjoyed inspirational preaching. Most would even give money if they were moved emotionally. But it was just too much to ask to commit to regular service. It took us several years to finally realize that the one who is unaware of the hopelessness of his condition is not particularly grateful for being freed from it. The reality is that we were all equally and hopelessly lost. No matter our talent, our career, or our social position, we were each one individually guilty of the murder of the Son of God. We were each equally in need of His gracious “Father forgive them.” Those who grasp that serve passionately out of a grateful heart. Those who don’t are either lukewarm or they serve for counterfeit motives.

Scripture Reading: Impressive, isn’t it? She was forgiven many, many sins, and so she is very, very grateful. If the forgiveness is minimal, the gratitude is minimal." (Luke 7:47 MSG)

Somebody Said: Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. Melody Beattie

Passion, faithfulness, and grace toward others all spring from gratitude to God for His gift in Christ. Jesus came to rescue you, and you needed it!

vls
http://www.fcftucson.org

Out of the Abundance of the Heart

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Building People of Substance for Works of Power

Let"s do something, me and tobie!

I arrived in Mexico City tired and with a very sore back, but as always I was happy to get there. Our old friend Pastor Roberto Milian met me at the airport with his son-in-law to drive us. Don Roberto was thin. He has been battling diabetes and some sort of infection. Nonetheless, he insisted on carrying my bags. I get concerned for him, as he will be 69 in March; a pretty ripe old age for a man from his culture and era. At the house he began to tell me about the work he and our other IEM students have been doing. There are now 4 FCF churches in the barrios of Mexico City. There is one in Puebla, 2 in Guerrero, and 2 more in Sonora. As we talked I heard some odd noises from upstairs. He told me his son-in-law had been unemployed for a good while, so Don Roberto offered to help him start a business. They are now employing 2 other men. They take scrap metal, melt it with blow torches in a big kettle, then skim off the usable metal. They pour the molten material in a mold, then buff it and thread it to make elbow joints for gas stove burners. I asked Don Roberto why he went to such trouble to help these young men get started. His reply: “A man has to do something,”

That statement hit me in my heart. Faced with a lack of employment, do something. Faced with a city bound in all manner of evil, do something. Even if you are elderly, diabetic, and living in one of the world’s less attractive barrios, a man has to do something. The world around us is filled with all manner of pain, lack, and injustice. I have trouble not being overwhelmed and discouraged. It looks bleak. My temptation is to curl up in the corner, lick my wounds, and hope for the end. Worse yet, many choose to simply pretend everything is OK. They put on their blinders and go about their business. For me, as a Christian, I simply cannot ignore the signs of the times and the condition of mankind. I have to do something. If all I can do is share the love of God with someone on the bus, or give to help the hungry, or work in my church to help in the vision, or pray for a ministry that is touching lives, I must do something. A man has to do something!

Scripture Reading: She did what she could when she could–she pre-anointed my body for burial. (Mark 14:8 MSG)

Somebody Said: Your big opportunity may be right where you are now. Napoleon Hill

There are so many things to do that I sometimes don’t know where to begin. I think it best to just keep doing what we can to impart this precious message to those God puts in front of us. Then they can pass it on to others. That will keep us busy, and it seems to be working. I appreciate everyone who helps us in doing it. May God open your eyes to see the opportunities in front of you. A man has to do something!

vls
www.fcftucson.org

Don’t forget to check out the FMTI classes available on line at www.fcftucson.org. They are life-changing.

Out of the Abundance of the Heart

Friday, January 7, 2011

Building People of Substance for Works of Power

Here’s some stuff I want to be sure know, me and tobie.

A few weeks ago I heard a news story about a diplomat who died after emergency surgery. According to the physicians who attended him, his last words to them on the way to the operating table were, “"You’ve got to stop this war in Afghanistan.” (I’m sure they would if they could.) Now given his line of work, I suppose those were noble words. Nevertheless, it set me to thinking: What do I want you to know if it’s possible I will never see you again? If you are part of my family or circle of intimate friends, I suppose you should know that I love you. For all the rest of the world, what can I say that is of any importance? Well, here’s the stuff I want to be sure you know:

1. Jesus came to rescue you and you needed it. He didn’t come to spoil your fun or condemn you for your wrongdoing. You were hopelessly lost. He found you and provided an answer for your mess, whatever that may be. John 3:16-19 / .Eph 2:12

2. You must be born again. You can’t just turn over a new leaf and try to do better. You have to be replaced. John 3:1-8 / Romans 10:9-10 / 2 Cor 5:17

3. Water baptism is not optional. It doesn’t save us, but it is the required first step in a life of discipleship, and our place of public identification with Him. Matt 28:18-20 / 1 Peter 3:21 / Romans 6:3-4

4. You need the Word. You cannot live the Christian life without the Word of God. Read it, say it, listen to it, crave it. There is no growth in God without it. Matthew 4:4 / 1 Peter 2:2 / 2 Tim 3:16-17.

5. You need the Holy Ghost. Without supernatural help, religious form may be your fate. Lack of power was a dilemma for us all. You need to be able to pray when you don’t even know what to pray for. Romans 8:26 / 1 Cor 14:2,4 / Acts 1:8.

6. It’s not just juice and crackers. The Lord’s Table is a holy ordinance to be observed with reverence and self-examination. It is a time to remember what Christ has done for you, what he provided in His covenant, and what He has promised at His coming. It speaks loudly of our participation in a Body unbroken. 1 Cor 11:23-29 / 5:7-8

7. You and I need each other. The Christian life is a team activity. We are His Body, and every part is part of Him. Please find a place of connection with a local church and hang on. Heb 1:24-25 / Acts 2:42

8. The world is waiting. Our spiritual life is never just about us. We strive to grow, to learn, to serve in the church, but ultimately we are here to reach others, not to be comfortably insulated and isolated. You are the salt of the earth. Don’t lose your savor. Matt 5:13 / Col 4:5 / 1 Peter 3:15 / Rev 22:20-21.

Scripture Reading: And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation." Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. (Acts 2:40-43 NKJV)

Somebody Said: Judge each day not by the harvest you reap but by the seeds you plant

There. Now if we never speak again, you have all you need to live a useful life. Be sure to tell someone else about it. They are looking for answers and they don’t even know the questions. This year I am going to expend energy making sure no one gets away without knowing this stuff. It’s going to be a grand year!

vls
http://www.fcftucson.org

Out of the Abundance of the Heart

Friday, December 31, 2010

Building People of Substance for Works of Power

Another year in the books, me and tobie.

Every year I take a few days to wait on God before the New Year. I need to be personally refreshed, and also see what the Lord wants to adjust in me or the ministry. This year I came back with a few things that might interest you. So, here’s my list for 2011:

1. I have to thank God for preserving us in 2010. It was an interesting year, but Goshen has been just a fine place to live. If you have come through it, you can be grateful.

2. The next year will see events rolling toward the Lord’s return at an ever-increasing pace. Israel is the barometer. The economic disaster that looms ahead will be put off briefly. There may even be a little rally. We should use this window to shore up our reserves and reach the unreached.

3. It is time to simplify and clarify our mission, and be sure to stick to the job God handed us. As a church, we will revisit our process: Repair – Prepare – Celebrate. We are commissioned to repair broken people, prepare willing people, and celebrate the goodness of God. We like to juggle the letters so the acronym is C.P.R.

4. I want to make sure I give every person God sends our way the opportunity to know the absolutely essential things. The question I asked myself was, “What stuff do I want you to know if this is our last conversation?” and “How do we get that information to everyone God gives us opportunity to touch?” Here’s my list of “The Stuff I Want You to Know Before You Go”: Jesus came to rescue you, and you needed it. / You must be born again. / Water baptism is not optional. / You need the Word in order to grow. / You need Holy Ghost power. / It’s not just juice and crackers, examine yourself and remember Him. / You and I need each other. / The world is waiting for us.

5. The disciple-making process requires information, motivation, and connection. We want to help people move past being informed to being connected. That caused me to think on the questions, “What is the difference in motivation and manipulation?” and “How can we move from education to facilitation?”

6. For me personally, I need to get more disciplined in writing. I plan to make these little blurbs come more regularly, and I have three book projects under construction.

Scripture Reading: "The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified." And they shall rebuild the old ruins, They shall raise up the former desolations, And they shall repair the ruined cities, The desolations of many generations. (Isaiah 61:1-4 NKJV)

Somebody Said: There are two ways of exerting one’s strength: one is pushing down, the other is pulling up. — Booker T. Washington

Whatever God has placed in front of you to do, do it with all your might. We are committed to helping prepare you to get it done. It’s gonna be a wonderful year for all who are privileged to take part in this last push for home. We’re gonna get out the leaven, get ready for heaven, we’re gonna have a party in 2011. Happy New Year!!!

vls
www.fcftucson.org

Check out our FMTI Bible classes online: simple, powerful, proven.

Out of the Abundance of the Heart

Friday, December 24, 2010

Building People of Substance for Works of Power

After considerable deliberation, I have given up on finding some incredibly profound thing to say about Christmas. It doesn’t get any more profound than the simple notion that a transcendent God took on the form of a man and came to redeem us from our self-induced destruction. In the process, though He was a King, He lived in the most humble of circumstances. We whom He came to help cursed and killed Him, yet He persevered in His determination to make a way for us to enter the very throne room of God, looking our vitriol in the eye and praying, “Father, forgive them.” With full consciousness of what He was doing, He bound Himself to live in a body for the rest of eternity so He could function as a Great High Priest who is touched with the very feelings of our infirmities. That’s profound.

Scripture Reading: Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could He die, and only by dying could He break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could He set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying. We also know that the Son did not come to help angels; He came to help the descendants of Abraham. Therefore, it was necessary for Him to be made in every respect like us, His brothers and sisters, so that He could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then He could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. Since He Himself has gone through suffering and testing, He is able to help us when we are being tested. (Hebrews 2:14-18 NLT)

Somebody Said The primary source of the appeal of Christianity was Jesus – His incarnation, His life, His crucifixion, and His resurrection. Kenneth Scott Latourette

MERRY CHRISTMAS, me and tobie !!!!!!!

Virgil And Judy Stokes
http://www.fcftucson.org

Out of the Abundance of the Heart

Friday, December 17, 2010

Building People of Substance for Works of Power

Time to get serious, me and tobie.

Looking out the window this morning I see heavy fog. I must be dreaming! This is Arizona. Fog requires moisture, and we are always short on that. After rubbing my eyes, I decided that the fog is real. Wow! One great thing about it is that it won’t last long. The sun will come up shortly and the mist will fade rapidly. It is Arizona, after all. I couldn’t help thinking of that verse in Hosea where he was talking to Ephraim and Judah about their proclamations of repentance when God corrected them for their idolatry. They made great promises when the pressure was on, but God was not impressed. He had seen their track record: “For your faithfulness is like a morning cloud, And like the early dew it goes away.” I wonder how often He says that same thing about me?

All of us have been there. We find ourselves in a tough time and we call upon the Lord. We purpose to change the way we do things: pray more, be sweeter, read our bible, lose some weight, or whatever. Then as time goes by, our resolve weakens as our pain decreases. Or maybe we are in a service where the Spirit of God speaks to us about some aspect of service or act of giving. We are convicted and compelled. Then we get in the car and leave our conviction fading at the altar, a dim glimmer in the rearview mirror. It’s not that we decide to be disobedient, or that we want to displease God, it’s just that the sun comes up and the heat burns away our faithfulness. It just sort of disappears. This Christmas and New Year, join me in taking a little stroll down memory lane. Review your year on your knees, looking in your memory banks for the vows and commitments you have let slip away. Ask the Lord to forgive you for your unfaithfulness. Ask Him to allow you to fulfill what He asked you to do. Every day until New Years Day make a fresh commitment and ask for His grace to get it done. Make it a habit. As the new year begins, join me as we celebrate the Lord’s Table and renew our commitments to Him and His callings, remembering His commitment to us in the bread and in the cup.

Scripture Reading: I praise God for what He has promised; Yes, I praise the LORD for what He has promised. I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me? I will fulfill my vows to You, O God, and will offer a sacrifice of thanks for Your help. For You have rescued me from death; You have kept my feet from slipping. So now I can walk in Your presence, O God, in Your life-giving light. (Psalms 56:10-13 NLT)

Somebody Said A person with half volition goes backwards and forwards, but makes no progress on even the smoothest of roads. –Thomas Carlyle

We will move forward together to become what God has always intended and do what He has always purposed. When the heat comes, the committed don’t evaporate. Commitment starts on our knees. Let’s go there now.

vls
http://www.fcftucson.org

People Get Ready

Just thinking about the state of the world and wondering what we can do to be ready for a global meltdown.  Our currency is in trouble.  Supply lines for food and energy are threatened.  We have foreign insurgents living in our cities in sleeper cells.  On a personal level, I try to keep a good supply of food and ammunition.  I am keeping the trimmings from my trees to dry for wood.  Maybe a sturdy bike and an emergency light source would be a good idea.

On a broader plane, if the Lord tarries, we are going to need each other to get along.  What can we look at as communities – churches, school districts, neighborhoods? How about some ideas on printing scrip as a basis for a mini-economy?  I’m thinking willing backyard farmers can divide up the responsibility – I’ll do lettuce, you do tomatoes.  (Someone has to do chiles) One of the biggies may be how to care for our elderly and infirm, and educate our kids.  Nursing homes, schools and, hospitals without federal aid are gonna be going away.  Can we organize to share care?

Just sayin”

Out of the Abundance of the Heart

Friday, December 3, 2010

Building People of Substance for Works of Power

Merry Christmas, me and tobie!

Someone sent me a YouTube link the other day of a video called

. It is just a simple song written after a shopping experience. I am an eternal enemy of schmaltzy goop for the sake of emotion, but this one really hit me. I know it is easy to rant about the commercialization of Christmas, but it seems particularly real this year. We are in a culture where Christ is well-nigh illegal, the economy is on the abyss, loony-tunes in Iran and Korea have nuclear weapons, and the world seems very grim, indeed. It just seems important to remember that the Grinch (or the ACLU) can’t steal Christmas. It’s too late! He already came. His body is already here. If there were never another crèche, not one single shiny tree, the world would still have the opportunity to see Him in you and me. If the line were forming to see Jesus, could they see Him at my house this year?

Just a few thoughts for those of us looking to pull back from the American dream as consumer gluttony back to the American vision as liberty, love, and opportunity in a God-fearing land:

1. Be a blessing to someone else: dollar for dollar. Matching funds for Jesus.

2. Buy 2-fers on sale for the local food bank: One for Him, one for me.

3. Teach your kids to give. Sit down with them and make a Christmas list for others before you look at theirs.

4. Attach a moral to each gift you give them: they need to learn the wisdom of God. Give gifts with stories attached.

5. Give something extra to a mission, at home or abroad. The world is in line to see Jesus.

Scripture Reading: All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it. (1 Corinthians 12:27 NLT)

Somebody Said Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas. Calvin Coolidge

I am convinced the world would line up to see Jesus if we could just reflect enough of Him to be visible. The gold of the Magi paid for a family of three to move to Egypt and thus protect the infant Messiah: What will your gifts finance this year?

vls
http://www.fcftucson.org

They’re Lame. We duck.

Another brilliant idea. With the government ready to shut down and the tax code on permanent pause, the Senate thought it was a good day to take over food production. More bureaucrats making more money controlling your diet. Mamabama and the San Francisco loons now have a foothold in your cupboard. Bye-bye beef.

A Wikikwiki

So we have a 22 y/o E2 who stole mega reams of secret stuff. He gave it all to a weasel-like aussie who has slowly, publicly, and with seeming impunity infused the content into the public domain. After only 6 months, our executive branch has expressed a limp-wristed, “Oh, stop it.” If they wanted it stopped, they could have and would have stopped it before the first document drop. There would have been outrage, criminal investigation, military and state- department head-lopping, diplomatic pressure on sanctuary regimes, and surely they could have hired a 17y/o hacker to crash the site.
The ugly truth is that our leaders are in full support of the embarrassment to the nation and the crippling of intelligence operations that will result. That is the outrage.