Thursday, November 6, 2014

Best Kept Secret in Oklahoma




Larry and Rick Simpson with Gary Laws (Center)
contact: lawsgaryla@aol.com

 In this day and age when so many of the Hollywood productions are not fit for family viewing, it is a pleasure to know that some studios are specializing in family friendly films.

Skeleton Creek Productions of Enid, Oklahoma is one of those film companies! Located in what would seem to be an unlikely location, SCP is far from the glitter of Hollywood but it is no less professional in it's cinematic offerings.

Hotel Room and/or Doctors Office
Larry and Rick Simpson are the Executive Producers and they  recently gave my wife and I a tour of the many movie sets that support the Western Movie genre' they specialize in. While most of the outdoor shots are filmed in Colorado, New Mexico and other southwestern locations, the indoor scenes are shot at the Oklahoma studios which include an old west Hotel, Saloon, Bunkhouse, General Store and much more.
 
If you are ever in Oklahoma, this stop in Enid is an absolute must see. Thank you, Larry and Rick, for keeping the western genre' alive and producing films that are suitable for the whole family!
 
Mercantile Entrance
Old Western Bank lobby
Mercantile Store
 
Movie Set Photos
 


 


Saloon




Hotel Lobby

Mercantile Store

Monday, October 6, 2014

Jericho Workshop Concludes


The Jericho Workshop was conducted in Vero Beach, Florida on October 1-5. Hosted by The Salvation Army of Vero Beach, the workshop covered a full range of Biblical studies that focused on Joshua and the people of Israel at the battle of Jericho.

Central to the weeks teaching was the importance of God's people following the plan, which was given by God, and the strict requirement of obedience to God's instruction.

 

The workshop series consisted of four evening meetings with great singing and special music preliminary to each meeting. Sunday morning worship was the 5th and final session.

I am grateful to Majors Sam and Veronica Van Denberg, Corps Officers (pastors) at The Salvation Army, Dave May, Bandmaster, Major Linda Yeck of Minneapolis for providing special music. The Vero Beach Salvation Army Band was on duty each evening.  They featured a special composition of "Joshua Fit' the Battle of Jericho', which was written especially for these special meetings by David May. I trust that God touched the hearts of all those attending and that they will have found the workshop worthwhile.

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Next 'Jericho Workshop'...Vero Beach, Florida






The next 'Jericho Workshop' will be held at The Salvation Army in Vero Beach, Florida, October 1-5, 2014. If you live in the area, and would like to attend, please contact Major Sam Van Denberg, Corps Officer in Vero Beach.




Friday, May 9, 2014

The Church and Change!

We live in a world that requires everything to be new! Perhaps the best example of this is found in the products we sell. Every year we have to have a new car design, however simple the change, in order to keep the consumer happy. Car sales would plummet were it not for these changes!

Another up to date example is in the field of technology. Computers, Smart Phones, Note Pads, iPads and on and on the list goes. In order for manufacturers to maintain market-share they must constantly be 'seen' as improving product reliability, serviceability and functionality. These changes may be substantive or superficial, but one thing is for sure...change is the order of the day!

I cannot help but what wonder if this 'market strategy mentality' is not also creeping (or leaping) into the Church. Can it be that worshipers are also requiring everything to be new? Are we constantly reworking our forms of worship so as to 'increase market-share'? In an effort to please people, are we actually subordinating the work of the Holy Spirit to our own designs and plans? Is it our thinking that we must be 'seen' as progressive in order to be relevant in today's world? Do we have such little confidence in the work of the Holy Spirit that we have replaced it with our own desires, thinking and motivations?

Some of the changes may be Spirit led and substantive, while many other changes may be superficial and counterproductive. In order to keep our 'consumers' happy it may well be that we are seeking change for no other purpose than to rid ourselves of the traditional and create the appearance of being up to date and forward thinking..

I would suggest that it is not as important to be 'seen' as relevant as it is to BE relevant! Being 'seen' has been the downfall of religion and religious people for all of Church history. Calling attention to ourselves will always lead to failure. Calling attention to Jesus and His work will always lead to eternal rewards. O, I know we say we ARE calling attention to Him when in reality we are doing little more than putting ourselves on display.

Having said all of this, I am not opposed to change at all. I am opposed to change that is motivated by self promotion, superficial displays and narcissistic behaviors! I am opposed to the proponents of change who arrogantly purport to have a better way, if not the only way!

The Church ought not to be following the marketing strategies of the Big Three automakers in Detroit...after all, they are going bankrupt! Change for changes sake WILL bring CHANGE....just not the change we need!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Is There Something You Can Do About This?

Al is my next door neighbor. He leaves his doors and windows open most days so as to conserve on energy I would guess. Often I hear Al singing at the top of his lungs to recordings. One day he invited me over to hear his form of Karaoke. He has all the equipment one could imagine. Al lost his wife two years ago and he shared with me that singing helps with the loneliness. He sits all day long, day after day, alone in his apartment. He told me that since his wife passed, "I am so lonely. I can hardly stand it." Sue and I are going to make it a point to visit with him as often as possible.

My heart goes out to all of those in similar situations. There are millions of people struggling with loneliness. Surely some of them are within 'shouting' distance of where you live. Are you looking for them with a heart inclined to lessen their suffering?

What to Do With a Friend Who Is Lonely

One reason people avoid helping a lonely friend is because they already feel stressed out and think that their friend will be a drag on their precious time. In fact, you're probably more likely to call a busy friend who doesn't have time for you than a lonely one that needs your support. So starting today, change this approach. Lonely people don't expect you to be there for them 24/7, but they do need some kindness.
 
Here are some ideas for including a lonely friend in your life, even when you're busy:

  • Invite them along to a regular get-together you might be having with another friend.

  • Ask them if they want to come with you to run an errand. You can chat and get to know each other as you both grocery shop or run the kids to their appointments.

  • Ask them over when you have a family dinner. Your family has to eat, and so does your friend. Combine the two.

  • Help them make a connection by introducing them to your other friends.

  • Feel like chilling out in front of the TV? Ask a friend over to join you.

  • Call to check in on them occasionally.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        God will bless you immeasurably!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

I Must Do Better

Walking through the streets of London's East End, my daughter Cathy and I were approached by two Christians handing out gospel tracts. Standing in front of the entrance to the Underground, these two street evangelists were eager to engage us in conversation and share their personal testimony. I mentioned to them that I was a Salvationist and, somewhat surprised, they commented, "We don't see you good folks out here much anymore"!

Well, I am not sure how much visibility The Salvation Army has on the streets of the East End these days. I know they are there in a big way, albeit in less visible ways. 

Of course, here in the States our ministries have changed with the times. Street ministries may not be as practical as they once were. People congregate in malls rather than the old 'downtown' areas that were once so effective for us to minister in. Management of today's Malls are not very encouraging as it regards our presence for evangelistic  purposes and The Salvation Army has had to find new ways to reach out with the Gospel....and it is!The same realities are true for the Church community as a whole.

The most effective way of sharing the Gospel remains the one on one personal testimony of God's people! As we go about our daily routine, God presents us with opportunities to minister to people individually as they cross our path. It may be in the workplace, school or some other situation within which we find ourselves but, rest assured, God will bring them to us. We must always be on the lookout and ready to respond, "in season and out"!

Well, I thanked this London group for their testimony and Gospel sharing and we went on into the Underground to catch our train. As we did I thought to myself , "We must continually seek to do better....I must do better!" The Christian Church must always be on the lookout for new, effective ways to share the love of God, even when old opportunities pass. May it be so!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Should Christians Have Social Ministries ?

Some Christians feel that they have no social responsibility toward the poor and otherwise oppressed people of the world. They maintain that God has only called them to a 'spiritual' ministry! This is what the Bible says:

Isaiah 58:6-14

“No, this is the kind of fasting I want:
Free those who are wrongly imprisoned;
lighten the burden of those who work for you.
Let the oppressed go free,
and remove the chains that bind people.
Share your food with the hungry,
and give shelter to the homeless.
Give clothes to those who need them,
and do not hide from relatives who need your help.

Then your salvation will come like the dawn,
and your wounds will quickly heal.
Your godliness will lead you forward,
and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind.
Then when you call, the Lord will answer.
‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.

“Remove the heavy yoke of oppression.
Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors!
Feed the hungry,
and help those in trouble.
Then your light will shine out from the darkness,
and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.
The Lord will guide you continually,
giving you water when you are dry
and restoring your strength.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like an ever-flowing spring.
Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities.
Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls
and a restorer of homes.

Keep the Sabbath day holy.
Don’t pursue your own interests on that day,
but enjoy the Sabbath
and speak of it with delight as the Lord’s holy day.
Honor the Sabbath in everything you do on that day,
and don’t follow your own desires or talk idly.
Then the Lord will be your delight.
I will give you great honor
and satisfy you with the inheritance I promised to your ancestor Jacob.
I, the Lord, have spoken! ” (NLT)

Monday, January 13, 2014

FYI

By His Stripes has surpassed 9500 views since first published online. Praise the Lord for this exposure!

There Must Be Something More!

Every seeker has a deep feeling that there must be something more to life, a great truth to be discovered. That was the case with Nicodemus, who came to Jesus Christ at night because he suspected this young teacher might be the Messiah promised to Israel by God.
Nicodemus learned that he must be born again, and he was. Together with his friend Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus lovingly cared for the body of the crucified Savior, placing it in Joseph's tomb. Nicodemus is a model of faith and courage for all Christians to follow.

Nicodemus' Accomplishments:

Nicodemus was a Pharisee and a leader of the Jewish people. He was also a member of the Sanhedrin, the high court in Israel.
He stood up for Jesus when the Pharisees were conspiring against him: Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, "Does our law condemn a man without first hearing him to find out what he has been doing?" (John 7:50-51, NIV)
He helped Joseph of Arimathea take Jesus' body down from the cross and lay it in a tomb, at great risk to his safety and reputation.
Nicodemus also donated 75 pounds of expensive myrrh and aloes to anoint Jesus' body after Jesus died.

Nicodemus' Strengths:

Nicodemus had a wise, inquiring mind. He was not satisfied with the legalism of the Pharisees.
He had great courage. He personally sought out Jesus to ask questions and get the truth directly from Jesus' mouth.
He also defied the Sanhedrin and Pharisees by treating Jesus' body with dignity and assuring that he received a proper burial.

Nicodemus' Weakness:

When he first sought out Jesus, Nicodemus went at night, so no one would see him. He was afraid of what might happen if he spoke to Jesus in broad daylight, where people might report him.

Life Lessons:

Nicodemus would not rest until he found the truth. He wanted badly to understand, and he sensed that Jesus had the answer. After he became a follower, his life was changed forever. He never hid his faith in Jesus again. Jesus is the source of all truth, the meaning of life. When we are born again, as Nicodemus was, we should never forget that we have forgiveness of our sins and eternal life because of Christ's sacrifice for us.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Laying Hold of Victory!



While preaching in Carthage, Missouri this summer, I spoke on Joshua Chapter 6. Highlighting the importance of the laity in the ministry of evangelism, it was pointed out that had Joshua answered God's instruction by going it alone, the walls of Jericho would not have fallen!

As we approach the ministry of evangelism in our churches, Christians must realize that for such outreach to be effective, THEY must play the critical role if victory is to be achieved!

Friday, December 20, 2013

A Christmas Thought From my Computer

A Christmas Thought

You cannot put money in a bank without a computer being used by you or the bank, you can't take money out without a computer being used by someone, you cannot get a bank statement without the use of a computer, the bank does not even know who you are or how much you have in your account without a computer.

You cannot make a purchase or return merchandise without a computer, .

You cannot have or use electricity in your home or at work without a computer or pump gas or buy food.

You cannot use a credit or debit card without a computer. You cannot even buy theater tickets without a computer. You cannot make a phone call, send an email, or otherwise communicate without a computer. We cannot even talk to one another without a computer, or so it seems.

Instead of gathering in each others presence, we congregate in chat rooms. Some even 'go' to church by way of the computer.

And yet we have the audacity to think that we are in control of our lives! We have blindly put our trust in these machines. We worship them, even brag about them. We believe in them!

My guess is that we will rue the day that we became so dependent upon computers ...computers that we seem to have such little control over! Computers that seem to have such absolute control over us.

Why is it that those who believe so completely in modern technology refuse to believe in the one Source of power that really can change their lives for the better? They tell you that they can't believe in anything they cannot 'see' or 'touch'!

However, can you 'see' the internet or 'touch' it even? Can you see the world wide web? You can use it...but can you 'see' it?

Well, put your trust where you will....

Gary Douglas Laws

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Christmas Devotional Part 2 from Atlanta, Georgia

Christmas Devotional Part 1 from Atlanta, Georgia

The Ancient Art of Buttonholing!

Since moving to Vero Beach, we have had many of our neighbors knock on our door and after introducing themselves, invited us to their church, letting us know we would be welcome. I thought to myself, "How wonderful"!

Of course, as a Salvationist, I have my own place of worship but, nonetheless, I was pleased that they cared enough about us and were so excited about their church, that they thought to invite my wife and I.

My wife and I visited Royale Palm Pointe to see the dolphins. While there, a senior couple we were passing said hello and we struck up a conversation. Soon they were telling us about all of the activities, during the Christmas season, at their church and they invited us to attend. How exciting it was to listen as they shared their faith and the ministry of their fellowship.

Maybe we all should go back to the old method of knocking on doors and 'buttonholing' strangers! I think many just might say "Yes, I'll come!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Pride Goes Before the Fall

The 'love of display' is a malady that can afflict people in all walks of life and in most occupations. Perhaps seen in the political world most dramatically, it is also very present in the Church among some clergy, musicians and laity alike.

"God forgive us and give us a new heart whose primary expression is one of humility! Give us the purpose to call attention only to you and your love!" GDL

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Where Is God In All of This?

"The LORD works out everything to its proper end—even the wicked for a day of disaster." (Proverbs 16:4)

     With all of the turmoil that exists in today's world, it is easy for even Christians to forget that we worship an all powerful, all knowing God who is faithful to look after His people. We may go through trying times, but this is all meant to strengthen us. We will be the better for it so long as we remain faithful!


      God will never fail to protect us and keep us under His wing!




Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Reality of Jesus Christ


         The summer ministry of 2013 took us to Joplin, Mo., Carthage, Mo., Maplewood, Minnesota
and Enid, Oklahoma.


Thinking of the old TV classics. Leave it to Beaver, Father Knows Best, I Remember Mama....etc. There are those in society today who would have us believe that such families never really existed in real life. We know better though, don't we? I grew up in a 'Father Knows Best' type family. It was wonderful. So have millions of others also.
Such families were very real. They are real today!

There are also those who would have us believe that Jesus Christ is only a myth and that He never really existed. They tell us that such things as abstinence or respect for life never really worked and they were part of a mythological lifestyle that did not exist. They would say that that living a righteous lifestyle is all poppycock.

Well, these folks are wrong about family life in days gone by and they are wrong about how they characterize our religious faith. The Bible teaches us to hold on to those things that are true. As for the world and their cynical view? They shall have their reward. GDL

Monday, March 25, 2013

Focus on the Pulpit! by Gary Laws


This morning it occurred to me that it is incumbent upon those who take to the pulpit to present the Word in simple fashion. Those who grace our pews each week come, not for a seminary education but for spiritual food presented in such a way as to be easily understood and digested.

The pulpit is not a place to regale our charges with complicated theological thinking designed to impress the hearer. Rather, it is a place to present the wonderful message of God‘s word, enabling those who sit under our ministry to understand, to grow and to feel the very presence of God in the teaching.

We must know that we have not been anointed to preach for the purpose of calling attention to ourselves. Even the most eloquent among us are to be seen as humble servants. We are wholly unworthy of such responsibility, regardless of how well versed we may be.

 Our simple task is:

1) To call attention to the One who died for all;
2) To lovingly instruct the sinner in matters concerning their spiritual depravity, with the goal of moving them to repentance;
3) To share the Good News… that one can move from the depraved state of the sinner to the justified state of the saint because of Christ‘s atonement on the cross..
4)  To impart, simply, the great themes and lessons of the Bible so that they might be grasped easily, and applied effectively, to ones life; and
5)  To demonstrate how everyone who claims the name ‘Christian’ can share in this wonderful ministry of saving the lost.

Of course, others may find even more to add to the foregoing. However, if we can, with simplicity and effectiveness, accomplish these things while, at the same time, keeping ourselves hidden from view, we then can  feel that we truly are becoming what God has called us to become!


“What simple faith Thy simple servant shares.
To free the lost from every earthly care.
To teach, implore, redeem and lift on high,
The sinner, saved by grace, the blood applied!”  

“Equip me Lord for service in your Name.
I know the sinners wait, I sense their pain.
How shall  they hear if I not preach and gain,
For heaven, one more soul to be redeemed.”

“Not seeking fame or glory for my own.
I’ll serve while kneeling humbly at Thy throne.
My only motive, unsaved souls to bring,
to Jesus, singing praises to their King! “

Gary D. Laws  Copyright  2013 All Rights Reserved  


Friday, March 8, 2013

The Christian’s Role in a Declining Culture by Gary Laws


Very few times in history has the personal ministry of God ‘s servants been needed more than today! These are not normal times! It would seem that the world around us is falling apart at the seams and that the influence of the devil is more prevalent than ever. Everywhere we look, we are confronted with the reality that we live in very troubled times.

The world is rejecting traditional Judeo/Christian values like never before. Principles that were once regarded as virtuous are now considered, by many, to be narrow minded and unrealistic. Humanity seems to be living more recklessly. The notion of a Higher Power is seen as naive. Humanity is becoming openly hostile toward people of faith. To publicly bear the name Christian, once a high and noble claim, is to risk holding one’s self up to ridicule, even shame in today’s world.

World Politics 

The politics of the world are changing as well. I am not referring to partisan politics, rather I am pointing out that radical factions in the world have developed philosophies that are bringing, or at least seem to be bringing, civilization to its knees.

Political terrorism, once confined to a few areas of our globe, has now become a worldwide problem. The conflicts we face seem to be absolutely senseless. The global community is facing a type of radicalism that it rarely has seen before and it is not difficult to conclude these are not normal times. This radicalism has claimed the lives of millions of people and there is no end in sight.

Church Conflict

Even the Christian Church seems to be in crisis. The absolutes we find in Scripture are being called into question. The divinity of Jesus; the requirements of salvation; the virgin birth; Christ’s atonement on the cross; even His very existence are being challenged within some factions of the Christian community.

Adultery, illicit and deviant sexual behavior, truthfulness, character and integrity are seen within the context of relative philosophy.

Behaviors, once thought to be in violation of God’s law, are now deemed acceptable under certain relative circumstances.

I believe the Gospel message is needed today more than at any other time in history! Yet, if the Gospel is to be heard then it must be brought by God’s people who are remaining faithful to its message.

World Conditions Predicted 

Our Scripture is taken from Jude 17-23:

“But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts. These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit. But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh. Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen” (KJV) 

For the purpose of this study, I would like to concentrate on these verses. They speak very directly to the condition of the world today. It refers to mockers in the last time, those last days before Christ’s coming.

Yet, there is a sense in which Christians should not be surprised as we look at the circumstances of our modern world. After all, the Bible has predicted that, as we get closer to the second coming of Christ, the condition of the world will deteriorate.

One of the concerns that I have, however, is that Christians will develop the attitude, “Oh well, there’s not much we can do about it anyway!” It is true that the things predicted in Scripture will come to pass. However, this should not be cause for Christians to abandon the mission they have been given. That mission is to reach the lost of this world for Jesus, the Christ! 

Even in the midst of evildoing and sin, there remains the need for the Gospel to be preached. Perhaps it would be better to suggest that especially‟ in the midst of evil and sin! The Gospel message must be raised above the clamor of the world so as to save them that would receive it. Only the power God can positively impact these conditions. These are not normal times!

God Will Use His People

Because of this, Christians must respond to the hearkening call of the Great Commission. If we believe that Jesus is coming again, and if we believe that He is the only means by which men might be saved, then we cannot shrink from our responsibility. If our desire is to be used of God, then our responsibility is to allow God to use us! We must avail ourselves of every opportunity to share God’s love with a dying world.

Courage in the Face of Opposition 

Additionally, we must be willing to do it in the face of significant opposition from those who are determined to silence God and His people. Of course, we know that God cannot be silenced. He will not be silenced! He will continue to use those who make themselves available under these most difficult circumstances.

I realize that one of the great unexplained mysteries of the Bible is why God chooses to use humble humanity at all. He could just ‘will’ peace on earth if He desired to. He could wipe out all adversaries with the stroke of His mighty hand. I don’t pretend to understand why God has chosen humanity as his instrument to communicate to the world. All I know is that He has.

This reality requires that we be faithful and courageous in the face of mounting difficulties. After all, the Bible says, “but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26, NIV)

How Did We Get Here? 

I would like to take a quick look at Jude 16 which says, “There are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts; and their mouth speaketh great swelling words, having men‘s persons in admiration because of advantage.” 

When men complain and seek their own interests, they do so to promote their own position in this world. They seek their own advantage and this is demonstrated by their behavior. In large measure, this behavior has led us to the current state of affairs in the world today!

As we examine history, we discover that world conflict arises when humanity is seeking its own advantage. Wars are fought to gain the upper hand over one or more groups of people. At times it is geographic expansionism that drives conflict so as to increase the power and influence of the aggressors. Men are at variance with each other for the purpose of financial gain. Often, radical ideologies drive discord among the people of the world. Wars have even been fought over religion, including those fighting in the name of Christianity.

Can There Be Any Hope For This World?

The question must be asked... Is there any hope for this dying world? The answer is clear in Scripture; our hope is in Jesus Christ! Our hope is in His goodness. Our hope is in the truth that good will eventually vanquish evil. If we truly expect to be used of God, then we must hold steadfastly to this truth. God conquers all adversaries, in His own time! 

I am reminded of the hymn, “My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus blood and righteousness.” (Edward Mote, 1797-1874) Our hope is in a God who will be victorious, regardless of the current state of world affairs.

Where Do We Begin?

So then, how should Christians be going about doing the will of God under these circumstances? You may be asking yourself, how can I stop terrorism or how can I change the hearts and minds of my fellow human beings? You can’t. But God, using you, can!

Are We Really at War?

First, we must acknowledge that we are in a battle. Each of us, as God’s representatives in this world, is called to a spiritual warfare that is every bit as real as human conflict. Now, I understand there is a tendency, within some segments of the Church, to eliminate or at least minimize the use of militaristic language in both word and song. I am not sympathetic to this movement. Christians must be fully aware that all wars in history pale in comparison to the spiritual war we are fighting against sin and the Evil One.

For many years we have sung the Christian hymn, “Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus going on before…” (Sabine Baring-Gould, 1834-1924) While this imagery may be distasteful to some, it does reflect biblical teaching. This spiritual conflict is a war and, like all wars, must be fought with great intensity, purpose and diligence.

We are ‘Soldiers Without Swords’

Once we realize there is a spiritual world crisis, it will become clear how important our responsibility really is. We are called to vanquish evil; not with the modern weaponry of this world, but with the love of God! We are ‘Soldiers Without Swords’ who are armed with the Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.

 We do not seek to destroy God’s creation, but to save it!

We Are Called to Change the Hearts of Men

Every day people are passing into eternity without the knowledge of Jesus Christ as their Savior. Some have not yet heard the message, while others have heard and rejected it. One thing is for certain, however; God has called us to bring the message of His love to this chaotic world. It is this message of love and compassion that will change the hearts of those who accept it. That is what God does! He changes the hearts of the penitent. He gives them new purpose and direction. He brings a new understanding of life’s value. When God changes hearts, a behavioral transformation takes place! That is how Christians, with the power of the Holy Spirit, will change the world around them.

No, these are not normal times! The circumstances of our day call for action on the part of all of God’s people. Christians believe that on the day of Christ’s second coming, the final victory will be achieved. While we do not know the exact hour or time; we can be sure that He will come! In the meantime, like the disciples when sent to Jerusalem, we must pray and work without ceasing.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

God, Health and Miracles


Are you, or someone you know, facing ill health? Often, this can bring most difficult times. None of us wants to endure the hardships brought on by illness. Yet, illness comes!

I would like to share with you one story. It is a personal one. It is a story that illustrates the conflicting feelings one has during times of great crisis. It is also a story of one beautiful lady who continues to face illness with great courage, faith and even cheerfulness  It reflects the many emotions one feels when required to face illness or even to face God. It is the story of my dear wife, Susan, who continues to face challenges of enormous proportions. It is a story of her great faith and determination. It may well be your story also!

It was just six years ago that Susan suffered her first stroke, while we were stationed in Chicago. She already had experienced two heart attacks. Little did we know, at the time, what was to be over the next few years.

The doctors explained that she had damage to both the left and right frontal lobes of the brain. Since that portion of the brain controls behavior and inhibitions, she would most likely experience behavioral changes. Gradually that proved true and we began a very unpleasant journey faced with daily challenges.

Eventually she was unable to fulfill her responsibilities and had to remain at home. At the time, our leaders were very understanding, however, it would not be long and she would require that I be at home with her 24/7.

Of course, this presented many problems for both of us as it pertained to our ministry. Eventually, some decisions had to be made. I discussed the matter with our Divisional Commander (Bishop) and he inquired for us as to the possibility of retiring early. Later he shared with us that, although we were just three and a half years from full retirement, early retirement would not be considered as we had only thirteen years of officer service. He suggested that I stay at home with my wife, for the time being, and give the matter some thought. No other options were brought up or discussed. Two months later we submitted our resignations to be effective in June.

This was a very emotional time for both of us. The Army was very generous to us, providing a separation grant that would get us through the transition back to 'civilian' life, however, there would be no monthly retirement income or health benefits and we would not be able to retain our rank.

The days which would follow would be the most difficult. We had to live on my Social Security income. Sue had to wait another two years before becoming eligible for hers. She was not eligible for Disability as she had not paid into the Social Security fund for several years (in the SA all income is paid to the husband so the wife is not on the SS 'radar' as having worked)

In January of 2010 she suffered a major stroke accompanied by deep depression and  the doctors did not think she would survive. She did, however, and after two months in the hospital she finally was able to come home. Sadly, there was more brain damage, this time to the left and right rear brain area.

Sue was unable to dress herself or bathe. She could not speak intelligibly and spent most of her days in bed. Often she would cry and muster up the words, "not getting better". She could not walk without assistance.

This would continue for another year. It was most difficult, mostly for her of course, but the children and grandchildren felt the effects also.

We were both devastated during these tough days. God seemed far away.

Little did we know that a miracle was on the way. 

In January of 2012 Sue began asking me to bring her into the living room where she sat quietly watching the television. Hours and hours of television. After about a month she began talking again, occasionally making two or three word comments about the TV shows. After some more time passed she would produce a laugh when something humorous was said. Soon she would begin walking better and eventually would be able to get up and walk on her own with me closely following. The steps were small and, at first amounted to a shuffle.

More words came. I got her a wheelchair and began taking her to visit the nearby children and grandchildren While visiting she sat quietly taking it all in and smiling every now and then when the grands would do or say something funny.

Her progress continued and today she walks slowly, but confidently. Eventually she began dressing herself and, when I get her in the 'tub', she has now begun to wash herself. Her use of words have increased and she engages in short 'banter' with those around. She laughs frequently. Her demeanor is childlike  but her mind is quick and she does not seem to have much memory loss, although some periods of life have been erased.

She is pleasant and tells me she is happy. She has come a long way.

Well, the point of writing all of this is to let my friends know that whatever health challenges you face, be patient. God is good and He is faithful. In His own time, God will accomplish great things for you.

Yes, our faith has been challenged! I have experienced some bitterness over it all, especially as it regards the loss of our ministry in The Salvation Army. I wish that things could have been different, but they are what they are!

I have come a long way also. I have seen, little by little, the faithfulness of a loving God who always cares for His own. During this time I have discovered that I, also, was in need of healing. Illness rarely effects just one individual.

Today, I rejoice in my wife and her progress. She is a 'different person' in many ways but she is still the wonderful girl I married over 46 years ago. I love her more deeply than ever. I am excited about future days and look forward to seeing even more progress in her health. From time to time I still shed a tear, but our loving Father draws close and assures us of His faithfulness.

A few years ago, I visited with Commissioner Andy Miller and his wife Joan at the nursing home
he lived in. They have long been special friends. Before leaving, he asked me to pray. During the course of that prayer I said, " I thank you, Lord for our faith and for our ministry. Who knows where any of us might be were it not for God and The Salvation Army." I repeat that portion of the prayer every day. God has taken us to wonderful places in ministry and always been with us when we have walked through the dark valley. He is with us today! He still performs miracles!

"All things work together for good, to those who love God and are called according to His purpose."

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Are You God's Foot Soldier?

 In a recent sermon, I preached on the subject of what I call, the Jericho Principles. According to scripture, Joshua, at the battle of Jericho, had a plan. That plan was given by God. God expected the plan to be carried out to the letter and it was the 'foot soldiers' that would accomplish it's implementation. With that being done successfully, God would deliver the victory! We need to realize that all Christians are God's foot soldiers. He has given us a plan and objective for our lives and for the the effective propagation of the Gospel message. It is essential that His plan for creation and it's salvation be carried out and, with that done, God will deliver the Victory. Do you see yourself as God's 'foot soldier'? I pray that you do.

Monday, September 10, 2012

GRACE

If in me a light does shine,
Tis' because the Lord is mine.
Saved and sanctified within,
Serve humbly, now for Him.

I cannot claim His bloodstained robe,
except by grace on me bestowed.
My life falls short of all I owe,
I've surely missed the mark.

Sin takes it's toll for I have seen,
in me dark shadows stand between,
my God, my Lord and all that's clean,
Save grace that's made me whole.

Tis' grace that comes to those who seek,
the freedom of new life 's mystique.
The knowledge of the truth, the One,
Discovered through the Son.

Amazing grace, so undeserved,
Yet Jesus life and death reserved.
For us new life He has secured,
With Him we'll dwell through time!

And now for you, the Lord awaits,
your sin and sins He will replace,
With grace that others have embraced,
Now yours forevermore.

The everlasting crown now yours,
protects, preserves, makes heaven yours.
Ensures your presence on the shores,
With Jesus their to dwell.

Gary Laws

Sunday, September 2, 2012

A New and Welomed Challenge

The Church experience is many things to many people. For Pastors it is, of course, unique. For the better part of the last 32 years, Church has not only been an experience, it has been a ecclesiastical responsibility. Through the week it involved sermon study and research along with much prayerful consideration. When other tasks would impose themselves there was the occasional 'Saturday Night Special'! Then there was planning the service, choosing the music and other elements of the the worship service.

When Sunday morning would arrive it meant picking people up who did not have transportation, greeting the faithful, always with an upbeat demeanor even when the spirit was down and the body was tired. Always feeling the need to 'perform' so as to make certain all were happy and had a meaningful time.

Since entering retirement and bidding farewell to those daily and weekly responsibilities, Church has taken on a new form and meaning. A new challe
nge, if you will. Now I am learning to be content sitting in the congregation, listening to the sermons of others and often critiquing them as the words are offered.

Mostly, it is now an experience within which I must learn, once again, how to worship! Now, you may think this sounds strange coming from a former cleric, yet it is a very real challenge.

Now I must prepare for the Sunday Worship experience in a much different way. I am free to concentrate the whole of my time on preparing MY heart and MY mind for this new role.

How nice it is to blend in. No more superiors to please. No more performance standards to meet, except as it regards the performance of my heart and mind. Only occasional sermons to prepare, as I have opportunity.

Now I have the time to concentrate the whole of my being on heart readiness and spirit submission to the One who has provided, and continues to provide, the needs of my soul! GDL

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A God We Can Have a Beer With???


At this stage of life, I have no interest in a 'touchy, feely' worship experience. I do have an interest in learning that which will draw me further into the presence of God. I am suspicious of those who rock back and forth, waving their hands in the air while projecting what appears to be a very emotional, if not painful, expression on their face.
It all seems very superficial to me. Almost as if it is a 'learned behavior' not unlike speaking in tongues!

Now, please don't misunderstand. I realize that everyone has there own way to approach our most holy God and I am not suggesting that these good folks are not being genuine....but I must confess that I do wonder!

Contemporary Worship seems to have evolved into a very casual, buddy, buddy sort of view toward Jesus, the Christ. The words of today's music seem to have more to do with an eros love experience than an agape love. Read the words and think about it. The music that we hear today is not unlike the great love songs of the 50's being sung to ones lover....that is 'eros' in nature. Agape love is quite different isn't it.

Now, I am not painting with a broad stroke here and I am not condemning what is meaningful to others. I simply mean to say that God is who He is. Creator of the universe, the all powerful, all knowing, omni present Jehovah and I am interested only in approaching His throne with the utmost humility, respect, admiration and adoration. I want to know Him and be known by Him. For me, this is a very serious pursuit that ought not to be given to superficiality or trivial notions of a God 'that we can all go out and have a beer with'!

He is the greatest of the great, the King of all Kingdoms, the most powerful and most loving force in the universe. When I think of approaching His awesomeness I cannot conceive of doing it in any other way... than in silence!



All hail the power of Jesus’ Name! Let angels prostrate fall;
Bring forth the royal diadem, and crown Him Lord of all.
Bring forth the royal diadem, and crown Him Lord of all.

Let highborn seraphs tune the lyre, and as they tune it, fall
Before His face Who tunes their choir, and crown Him Lord of all.
Before His face Who tunes their choir, and crown Him Lord of all.

Crown Him, ye morning stars of light, who fixed this floating ball;
Now hail the strength of Israel’s might, and crown Him Lord of all.
Now hail the strength of Israel’s might, and crown Him Lord of all.

Crown Him, ye martyrs of your God, who from His altar call;
Extol the Stem of Jesse’s Rod, and crown Him Lord of all.
Extol the Stem of Jesse’s Rod, and crown Him Lord of all.

Ye seed of Israel’s chosen race, ye ransomed from the fall,
Hail Him Who saves you by His grace, and crown Him Lord of all.
Hail Him Who saves you by His grace, and crown Him Lord of all.

Hail Him, ye heirs of David’s line, whom David Lord did call,
The God incarnate, Man divine, and crown Him Lord of all,
The God incarnate, Man divine, and crown Him Lord of all.

Sinners, whose love can ne’er forget the wormwood and the gall,
Go spread your trophies at His feet, and crown Him Lord of all.
Go spread your trophies at His feet, and crown Him Lord of all.

Let every tribe and every tongue before Him prostrate fall
And shout in universal song the crownèd Lord of all.
And shout in universal song the crownèd Lord of all.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

On the Wrong Track?

Throughout life's journey, we occasionally run into people who think of themselves as having arrived at a higher 'station' in life than those of us who live out simple, but meaningful, lives. They think they have been travelling on a more desirable and successful track than the rest of us. You know who they are. The ones who surround themselves with all the 'stuff' of life. When I have such an encounter, I chuckle as I realize... many of them have no idea they have been on the wrong track and got off at the wrong station!

Simple Servants!

I have come to learn that the most effective servants of God are those without academic degrees or great gifts of oratory. They are those simple servants who have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit, anointed of God and motivated solely by a love for the souls of mankind. Most often they are not in the pulpit, not on the TV, radio or internet. They are living and serving among those most in need of God's love and redemption, never calling attention to themselves but always pointing to the Christ who can save us. GDL

Today's Church

I am becoming of the opinion that much of the organized church has become irrelevant as it pursues superficial 'feel good' doctrines and practices. Real substance is lacking as is the courage to stick to sound biblical teaching. Today's church seems more responsive to the views of society than the spiritual needs of people.

Marriage

What does the Bible say about marriage being exclusively between a man and a woman?

Genesis 2:22-24
Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman, ' for she was taken out of man." For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be uni
ted to his wife, and they will become one flesh."

Matthew 19:4-6
"Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh' ? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."

Mark 10:6-9
"But at the beginning of creation God 'made them male and female.' 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.' So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."

Being a True Valentine!

Well, Valentines Day has past and you have provided your spouse or sweetheart a gift, dinner and a smile. How nice! Consider how wholly inadequate these things actually are in the context of a life long partnership. The true Valentine is given every day of the year. It recognizes who your loved one is and it helps them become all that they can be. The true Valentine is filled with love and appreciation twelve months a year. Value the one God has given you, even more than yourself, as you may not always have them near.

So, You are On the Fast Track?

Those who see themselves as on the 'fast track' to success are rarely content as there is always the next plateau not yet achieved. Learn to be content right where you are, as God may leave you there until you get your priorities in order! (GLaws)

Stop, Look and Listen!

So, you have been spending your life pleasing others! Your congregants, your not-so-superior superiors, your family and your friends...seeking approval and validation. What a shallow and superficial life you have been leading! Have you not discovered that being what others want you to be is not 'being' at all?

To be free from these motivations brings real life to those who have the courage to brea
k free from such narcissistic behaviors. Resolve, today, to sit quietly in the presence of God and pray through to the discovery of who you really are and who you should really be pleasing. It will slow you down and lift you up. It will free your imagination and help you see what is of real importance in life. It will empower you to do what God really wants you to do, notwithstanding the presence of others whom you thought were so important! 





Whatever track you are 'barreling' down, it may be wise to Stop, Look, and Listen! Cease the meaningless forced smiles, the gratuitous pats on the back (learned behaviors), the never ending pursuit of attention and Look for the 'Peace in Service' that can be yours. Mostly, Listen to God's Holy Spirit who will make you the genuine article! Believe me, others will take notice when you have accomplished this and they will see you in a new, more favorable light. (GLaws)

A Personal Inventory

I think we must stop and take something of a personal inventory on what our lives really look like, what we are doing with them and where we are really going. Many people live life as if there is no tomorrow. Of course there may not be! They are true 'reactionaries', reacting to the circumstances of the day rather than creating those circumstances.

I think this underscores the importance of getti
ng serious about life! We must get a hold of ourselves, get a plan, work that plan out over the long term, and realize that simply reacting to what is thrown your way is not good enough.

Do you know what God wants you to do? If so, then stop dillydallying and do it! All other intentions are a waste of precious time!

Ten Things I Want to Accomplish Today

Ten things I want to do with the rest of my life!

1. Wake up, each day, with a smile and something to look forward to.
2. Retire, each night, with a grateful heart.
3. Make someone else feel better about themselves.
4. Accomplish something that will improve the quality of our lives.
5. Discover new ways to communicate my faith.
6. Spend time in the presence of my Creator.
7. Contrib
ute to the welfare and security of another.
8. Spend significant time with family and friends.
9. Learn something new each day.
10. Get as close to God as I possibly can.

Blessings! GDL

They Shall See Me!

Well we have now prepared for this day. Putting on our finest clothes, cleaned pressed and ready to impress. The woman, hair done, every strand in place. Make up just perfect. Extra hairspray and eyebrow liner, just in case.

Men groomed and ready to parade. Many folks to see and be seen by. Been so busy, am at a loss to why. O, yes, now it comes to me, time for church, not English Tea!

How excit
ed we are, for the time has finally come; we'll be noticed, admired, even sought out. Strategically placed Bible in hand, with its not so worn pages and somehow I know that my spirit engages all those elements that will make me feel good. Now that all have seen me, my aura outstanding, I know I've succeeded at personal branding.

Then at home, upon my return, I shall reflect on how good it was for those who had the chance to see me once again!

" O, God, forgive me for my vanity and superficiality. Help me to understand the true nature of worship's grandeur. Help me also to see the wretch that I really am. Bless me today in spite of myself and help me to remember that it was you who gloriously rode into the Holy City and that it was not me the crowds were cheering!" GDL

An Unholy Emphasis

I believe that the over 50 generation has been cast aside and relegated to the trash heap as it regards the ministry of many churches today. There is an unholy emphasis being placed upon the 'cult of youth', while youthful, arrogant and self serving church leaders seek to build entertainment palaces and other monuments to their leadership. Church platforms are filled with 'performers' while the Mercy Seat has become a mere decoration in our sanctuary, if it is there at all!

The church must seek to serve all who enter through it's doors. Somehow it must regain a spirit of humility in it's service, and turn the focus back on Jesus, the Christ!

Make Someone Happy!

One of the great joys in my wife's life is being paid attention to. She lives life at a very basic level since her strokes, but O how she enjoys it when people engage her and acknowledge her presence in a way that makes her feel happy! She smiles and laughs, much like a youngster does, and you can sense that her spirits have been lifted.

Actually, I think that is true of most people isn't it? Make someone happy today and pay attention to them. You will make them happy, and when you hear them laugh, you will also be filled with great joy! GDL

How Much Time Do We Give to Prayer?

Do you know someone who is ill and experiencing great physical and/or emotional difficulty? I am distressed over the numbers of friends I have who are having such a rough way to go. I always take a moment most days to pray for them but I am wondering if this is enough. 

Perhaps I (we) need to be setting aside a significant block of time to pray for our friends and relatives....something more than
 a brief prayer of petition. Maybe an hour, maybe more. I know, it seems like a long time to block everything else in life out and focus on one thing for such an extended period of time.

But is this too long, really? I don't think so. Our family and friends need to be lifted up and lifted up regularly with a real commitment to extended prayer.

God is waiting to hear from us!

A Standard of Behavior!

If being a Christian only required asking for forgiveness to get to heaven, everyone would want to be a Christian. The problem people have with Christianity is that it, also, requires adherence to a standard of behavior which, in turn, requires a turning away from the desires of this world and the flesh!

Just Be There!

Just be there! I remember some years ago, my secretary, Glenda, took a personal interest in a man who, year round, slept in his car across from the Corps on a vacant lot. When the police towed his unregistered car away, he slept under a tree by night and sat on the curb outside my office by day. He did not ask for anything from us, only occasionally eating in our soup kitchen. One day Glenda took 
charge, talked frequently with him and finally convinced him to let her help by getting him an apartment to live in. After much back and forth the man finally agreed and, thanks to Glenda, moved in to his own small apartment. It was there that he would spend the last few months of his life. Off the streets, in relative comfort knowing that someone cared about him. There is much more to the story but let it suffice to say that the work, love and concern of this one Salvation Army lady brought a good deal of peace and comfort to a gentleman in his last days.

As you consider what you might do to help another, just be there...identify and then meet the need. God will bless you for it!

Looking for a Church?

So, you are young, have a family and are looking for a church. You want one with youth groups, men's club, ladies circle, exciting sermons and meaningful music. In other words, you are looking for a 'turn key' church.

But what of those churches which are small and not quite ready for prime time! Imagine how exciting it could be to be a part of 'building a church'! Your presence, and that of your 
family, will excite a small congregation and may well rejuvenate the saints. Your family will attract other families and adults. The church will be in a better position to grow. New life will present itself! All of this because you made a decision to worship where God can put you and your family to best use for the Kingdom.

There are many fine 'turn key' churches and there are many small churches that will benefit from your families decision to be part of the great work of building the church.

So, where does God really want you to worship and serve? Pray, asking God to place you, and your family, just where He wants you. Blessings!

"Just where he needs me, my Lord has placed me,
Just where he needs me, there would I be!
And since he found me, by love he's bound me
To serve him joyfully."

A Long, Difficult Journey!

We have all heard the saying, "God never closes one door without opening another". Of course, that can be true for many, however I am not sure this is an absolute. One thing to consider is that, often, doors close as a result of our own poor judgement and/or actions and it is not always God that is closing the door! Is it scriptural to expect God to always come to our rescue? I believe that when w
e experience hard times, we expect God to do all the work.

Additionally, consider that, sometimes, all doors HAVE been shut! I think that God allows this because 1) in such circumstances we become even more dependent on Him, and that, 2) God expects us to be active in whatever recovery we need and 3) the deeper the struggle the greater we appreciate what He provides.

Arriving at ones destination is often more gratifying and meaningful after a long, difficult trip... as opposed to a drive around the block! GDL

A New Beginning!

Every morning I wake up I say, 'thank you Lord for giving me another day'. Regardless of our circumstances, we can use the day to be productive in some way, help someone who needs us, pay special attention to our children, call someone and give them encouragement, get something on our 'to do list' done or maybe several things. The more we put of ourselves into the day, the better we feel when it c
omes to a close. We all would like to be a little richer, a little more organized, a little more engaged with life, however, we live best when we take what we do have and then do something with it... every day. Five years ago, the Lord gave me a new lease on life, Dr.'s who kept me alive and brought me back to some measure of health. Because of this, every day is a wonderful day for this poor man who has little of life's material things but much of God's blessing. Every day is a special day and a special opportunity. Sit down and plan how to make the best of it....then work your plan. This will always elevate your good feelings about yourself, about others, and about the gift of this new day!

Happy Fathers Day!

"Happy Fathers Day Dad!! If you look at all your children, we are all different and unique in our own ways. One thing we all have in common is our big hearts, and our need and want to make a better life for others. We all care so much for each other, our families, and even for complete strangers. You have done a great job raising us, and now we pass along this to our children, there is no greater gift for a father than to know that his children love and respect him, and desire to do the same for our own children! Thank You for all the sacrifices you have made, and thank you for raising us in a Godly home. Without my faith I shudder to think where I would be! I LOVE YOU!"

Going Home?

I remember Dwight Garrington speaking to us Cadets in 1978. He said, "Now that you are here, you can never go home." I never quite knew what he meant. Now that I am retired, and have returned to my childhood home in New York, I think I understand a bit more of what he was saying. Most of those once known are no longer here, so home has less to do with geography than it does experience. You see, 'Home' is a collection of experiences, life long experiences. As often as we bring them to memory, we are home! GDL

Simplicity!

I live a simple life brought about by a simple mind that understands faith in simple terms, faith in a simple Gospel that simply saves. I accept simple truths that are simply stated and I believe the world would be much better if it would return to simple times and simple practices. Jesus simply saves! The Bible is simply true! God loves me..... simply. I love Him!

For those who must live a more complicated existence...you are simply welcome to the paths you choose and decisions you make. But as for me and my house......! It is all so simple! GDL

A New Take on an Old Thought!

"While thousands upon thousands of God's creation are being aborted in the name of 'civil rights' and for no other reason than personal convenience, I'll fight; while institutions created by God HIMSELF are being ridiculed and perverted to satisfy the prurient inclinations of humankind, I'll fight; while world leaders continue to rob the poor of their dignity and self respect, I'll fight; and while the institutions of humankind continue to deny true freedom to all the people of the world, I'll fight; I'll fight.....I'll fight to the very end!"

Can't claim the 'intellectual rights' to the above but most of my FB friends will know where the inspiration came from.