WINDHAM ASSEMBLY OF GOD PASTOR SHUTS OUT FELLOW BELIEVER

February 5, 2011

 

J. Grant Swank, Jr.

I phoned the Windham, Maine Assembly of God. The secretary answered.

“My wife and I are looking to expand our Christian fellowship. Does your church provide home fellowships?”

The friendly answer was that they had at least two groups meeting close-by. With that, she put me on hold to get further data.

The next voice I heard was this:  “This is Senior Pastor Brian.” I responded with an exceptionally cordial voice for I have known this man for twenty years. We attended a number of inter-church pastoral prayer meetings over time. So I was not a new person to Brian.

Brian’s response however was cold and aloof. He did not match my cordial entre with a link-up as I had expected. Instead Brian informed me crisply that the church’s home gatherings were open only to those within his congregation. Only to those within his congregation?

“They are designed for our own people alone,” he said pointedly. In other words, he left no doubt as to what the policy was regarding those who attended weeknight house meetings.

With that, I was stunned. I did not know what to answer for he had taken me off-guard. I thought I would receive a welcome, be informed of a home address or two, and then graced with a “God bless you” farewell.  Not so.

Brian underlined that his home groups were closed shop. Only the congregation’s tested were allowed through the small gathering doors.

I got off the phone, looked at my wife and informed her that I was stumped. Then I spilled out the detail. She could not believe what had just happened. I phoned my two daughters. They too were bewildered—and angry. One of those daughters graduated from Windham Christian Academy, the school sponsored by the Assembly of God. So Brian not only knew me, he knew my family. Yet I was treated as a total stranger.

I sat down at my desk and wrote him a letter. I asked him how he could deliver such a cold shoulder to a pastor he had known for twenty years. We had shared prayer with one another. Now I was simply phoning his office to inquire as how to my wife and I could meet with other believers in small groups. What could be more friendly?

However, in his response to me, he scored once again on the shutting out of anyone not attending his church. He stated that that was quite logical. Further, he wondered why any minister would want to meet with those of another congregation.

A flag went up on that one. Was Brian paranoid in concluding that the clergyman he had known for two decades was out to sabotage his flock’s allegiance to him? It appeared so. In other words, Brian was revealing his own insecurities. Not healthy for a senior pastor. Yet it was there.

I sent a message to a key layperson in his church, detailing what had happened. I concluded that another within his congregation should be aware of what had taken place. It was not enough for it to be one-on-one. The senior pastor’s actions needed to be related to someone within the church.

With that, the layperson contacted Brian.

The upshot of all this is that in a time when the world is becoming increasingly hostile to Christians, believers must bond with one another as never before. This is not the age in which to erect fences to keep out biblical believers. It is a time to reach out, care, and welcome those of like faith.

Sadly, it does not appear as if the Windham, Maine Assembly of God is doing that, at least, not according to its senior pastor Brian Galbraith.

OFFER PRAYERS FOR THE PRESIDENT

October 28, 2010

J. Grant Swank, Jr.

“The effectual, fervent prayer of the righteous avails much.” That’s the biblical promise.

Therefore, biblical believers are privileged to pray for anything, anywhere to the awesome Creator God. Further, they are admonished in Scripture to pray for those in authority over them.

All the more then that believers intercede on behalf of Marxist Muslim Barack Hussein Obama. He needs salvation through Jesus Christ.

Obama says at an altar call at the Trinity United Church of Christ (Congregational) in Chicago he went forward to encounter Christ.

I have always been suspicious of that telling for the UCC does not have altar calls. Further, the Christ of Scripture is in no way the deity Obama follows for Obama’s value system does not match up with the Christ ethic as set forth in the Bible.

By our fruits we are known, the Scriptures advise. Obama’s life tree does not yield the biblical fruit.

One hardly needs the gift of discernment to conclude that.

Consequently, Obama is in need of a genuine encounter with the Savior Christ in order to have the scales drop from his spiritual eyes, seeing as Christ sees, believing and then living a lifestyle as set forth in the Bible.

Believing Christians therefore need to bring Obama and his family regularly to the Lord in earnest prayer. Obama needs Christ and the nation needs a truly Christian President.

I have often thought that if real believers spent as much time praying for Obama as they do dialoguing about his hypocrisy, divine power could settle upon the White House with more gusto.

I believe that left-of-left Obama is quite pleased in seating himself in the Oval Office as chief enemy to the country. Being a Muslim, particularly taught under the hate-filled cultic preaching of Jeremiah Wright, Obama would delight in nothing more than the implosion of America.

Therefore, Christians must make as prime priority the lifting up of our executive branch and its head to heaven’s throne for God’s intervention.

Without God, the United States confronts a bleak future. With God, the United States will survive this demonic intrusion as it has others in the past.

Christian friend, pray daily for the biblical conversion of Marxist Muslim Barack Hussein Obama and his family.

JESUS CAME TO SAVE

October 28, 2010
J. Grant Swank, Jr.

THE WAY TO HEAVEN

The most important question known to man is: “How can I find the way to heaven?”

Therefore, the answer given to that question is most important.

The Bible, that is the Word of God in contrast to the mere word of man, provides us with the concrete answer of hope and challenge:

(1) COME TO JESUS.

“For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost” (Matthew l8:ll).

“For the Son of man is not come to destroy man’s lives, but to save them” (Luke 9:56).

“I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture” (John 10:9).

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

“For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:16-17).

“And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21).

“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

“. . .we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved “ (Acts 15:11).

“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).

(2) CONFESS YOUR SINS TO JESUS.

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).

“He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).

(3) CAST YOUR SOUL UPON HIS MERCY.

“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he
saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Titus 3:5).

“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (Peter 1:3).

(4) COMFORT YOURSELF WITH THE REALITY OF SALVATION AND
HOPE OF HEAVEN.

“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:1).

“. . .to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Romans 8:6).

“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry Abba, Father” (Romans 8:14-15).

“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” (Romans 8:16).

“If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:3l-32). 

 

‘HOLIDAY’ OR ‘CHRISTMAS FAIR’?

October 27, 2010

J. Grant Swank, Jr.

Windham Hill United Church of Christ (Congregational), Windham, Maine, as well as Our Lady of Perpetual Help Roman Catholic Church, Windham, Maine, both advertise on their posters invitations to their HOLIDAY FAIRS.

Then I note that the Windham Historic Society states on its posters an invitation to the TRADITIONAL CHRISTMAS FAIR. Note the word “Christmas.”

How interesting that a Protestant and a Roman Catholic Church both speak of their fairs as mere secular “Holiday” events while the historic society refers to its occasion by the religious term “Christmas.”

To me it is disgusting that churches bow to the secularization of America. Keep “Christmas” Christmas. No need to place “holiday” where “Christmas” should be.

Shame on the Congregational and Catholic churches in our Maine village.

But such are the currents of the times. It is sad.

Further, I have for years wondered why all churches don’t display on their properties the manger scene. Churches often complain that the village parks protest these crèche displays. Why then do not the church lawns boast of Jesus in the manger? The property is there. The opportunity is obvious. But the yards are bare while the complaints wind up for another season.

This is the time when every believer needs to mail Christmas cards that picture religious symbols and depictions. It is the time when Christmas pageants need to be plentiful. And Christmas celebrations of every sort should flow like the rivers.

Merry Christmas. A blessed Christmas to all. Yes!

WORSHIP WARS

October 21, 2010

J. Grant Swank, Jr.

Those wanting the ‘contemporary’ worship set up their stage and chairs and equipment in the gym. Then after the worship, all that had to be taken down for the gym to return to a gym.

Those into traditional worship met in the strikingly magnificent sanctuary. There they sang from hymnals, prayed extemporaneously and listened to the sermon from the pulpit.

Others met earlier on Sunday morning to conduct a high-church liturgical hour replete with printed prayers and communion served at every gathering.

All this took place on one church-related college campus in New England.

I wondered how many of the students simply stayed in their beds on Sunday mornings rather than get caught in the tussle. I asked that question and found out that most of the college students stayed put under covers.

So what did all that disagreement accomplish concerning worship styles? Not much but further division.

Now those wanting the gym meeting space have imploded due to too much labor in setting up and taking down. Have they joined in at the college church sanctuary? Some. Not that many.

And what about the liturgical small group of a couple dozen? They continue to carry on.

The overall picture is very sad. 

This business of worship tangles in hurting the witness of the biblical testimony. Yet it is taking place far and wide.

I found St. James Presbyterian Church in Truro, Nova Scotia, where they have created the blended worship. It is genuinely worshipful rather than some contrived agenda to please a segment of laypersons.

One actually does not exactly know what is going to take place on a Sunday morning. I understand that mainly the pastor and minister of music craft the order of worship week by week.

When my wife and I leave our US home for our Nova Scotia home, we walk into the St. James sanctuary prepared to be fed in our souls. We have never been disappointed.

On a Sunday the service may begin with a group of women walking forward, taking their places at sanctuary front, and then singing for us the opening anthem. Following that, the youth, gathered in the sanctuary front corner, proceed to play their guitars, violins, drums and keyboard with another musical special.

So follows the worship—singing from the hymnals as well as singing from the overhead projector, praying, hearing Scripture read from the reading lectern, a duet, and then the pastor’s message.

The minister of music plays the keyboard, grand piano and organ at various times in the service. However, we worshipers never know when. It all appears spontaneous.

I have left the services feeling as if I have been to church, that the Spirit has enriched my soul and that the worship leaders have been divinely guided in the days preceding the Lord’s Day.

In other words, I have come upon a church where creative worship is set before believers. It is masterful.

AUTUMN’S BOUQUET

October 20, 2010

 

 J. Grant Swank, Jr.

 Autumn has shown its gorgeous face once again in Maine.

With the showing comes praise to the God of autumn’s painting. God proves Himself over and over again in so many different fashions to the believer.

The Bible is replete with God’s promises of faithfulness in love. How could we grace children ever doubt Him?

Then we turn our eyes to the change of seasons to realize once again God’s promise keeping. He told Noah that following the flood the seasons would reveal themselves one by one year after year. So it has been. So it will be.

Therefore, as I drove through Maine’s southern parts today my soul was filled with gratitude to this Savior God. His colors were to right and left, sometimes dense. Then I thought that if the dull heart cannot see such artwork due to the bent on serving self, God must rejoice in His own handiwork.

How many woodlands are not seen at all by any mortal from one year to the next? Yet God takes in every leaf. He sees every glen. God spies out His palette. He dips His brushes in reds and yellows and greens. Someday I will ask God what He thought each autumn when surveying his worldwide spread.

In the meantime, I drink in the beauty. I drive slowly up the country roads. I peer into those fields, noting birds flitting about. They are carefree. I presume they too are giving thanks in their own unique communication links to Creator God.

As for my yard surrounding our Lake Sebago cottage, I could sit there to scan every inch of autumn all around me. I take a book or magazine with me to the picnic table, thinking I am going to read fully, deeply, and finally get through that novel.

But I find my eyes mesmerized by the same trees that have held my attention for season after season. I tell my head to tuck into the book; but my heart stays with the leaves, some fallen, some still clinging to the limbs.

This year must have outdone the last several, I whisper to my soul. But then again I know that I say that every autumn. And next autumn I no doubt will sing the same refrain.

As the world is swirling about with issues and more issues—mostly negative and foreboding—I bank on the God of autumn. He saved my soul. He continues to save my soul each day. He will save my soul through death’s door into the eternal season.

So why should I fret? With that, I won’t. The autumn bouquet surrounds me with comfort. I am reassured that my trust is secure.

MY CHRISTMAS ANGEL

October 7, 2010

 

J. Grant Swank, Jr.

IT WAS THE MOST DEPRESSING CHRISTMAS OF MY LIFE.

My wife and I had been married for nine years. Since our second year together, she had been ill. Now she was facing brain surgery.

Her illness forced me to leave my Midwest pastorate. We moved to my in-laws’ home in New England. Medical tests followed. Then the day of surgery.

It was Christmas, but it did not seem like Christmas to me. Traditional lights were glistening everywhere, and churches were abuzz with excitement, but I felt a coldness in my heart akin to the freezing rains that hit me as I trudged uphill to the hospital.

A world-respected physician, James L. Poppen of New England Baptist Hospital in Boston, believed the operation would relieve my wife’s constant head pain.

He would place a shunt in her head, connecting the brain to the heart for the release of pressure under her skull.

I spent many hours in the hospital’s chapel. I basked in the quietness there as I sought God’s peace for my troubled soul.

Our only daughter was in Connecticut with her Grandparents while my wife and I endured that somber holiday. I could hardly believe this usually cheerful season of the year could turn so dismal.

The hospital is located atop a city hill. To get there one must climb a narrow street often treacherous with December’s ice. I drove up that tiny passage each day to be near my wife.

Our Christmas Day would be spent in an old section of the hospital, with its barren walls and eerie alcoves.

I had no place to stay at night and could not afford a hotel. An older, unmarried friend of ours lived in a suburb nearby. Knowing that Priscilla, my wife, would be undergoing surgery and that I would be stranded in a strange city, Marian offered her home as a refuge for me during this difficult time.

During the day, Marian worked as secretary to the Dean of Students at a college in the area. After arriving home in the evenings, she would wait up for me like a mother hen. Upon my return from a draining day of being with my wife at the hospital, Marian would share her genuine laughter and a cup of hot tea. I needed both.

One night as I left the hospital, I discovered one of my tires was flat. My car was parked on the top of the lonely hill. My feet and hands were freezing in the awful winds.

After changing the tire, I was in no mood for celebrating any holiday, let alone the most meaningful one of the year. I was anxious to ditch it all and get on with a new year, praying that it would be a lot better than the one we had just staggered through.

When I arrived at Marian’s home, I discovered that she was in a festive mood. The tiny apartment was lighted throughout. Simple refreshments were waiting on the small table, and her heart was merry.

I thanked God for the pullout couch that was awaiting me in the den. And I was particularly grateful for this warm abode where I could dry out my dampened spirit.

“Marian, you need some practical additions to this place,” I said one evening while taking stock of her living quarters. I noticed that there were a number of items missing from her kitchen tools, baskets, racks for this and that.

“Oh, I know,” and I could have bought them a long time ago, but I guess I never got around to it,” she replied.

I knew Marian gave a lot of her money to college students in need. One by one she would invite them over to feed them, listen to them, and pray with them.

Over the years she became so popular with the students that they set aside a special day one year and named it after her. They made her the guest of honor in that day’s chapel service, presenting her with a gift from the whole student body.

Considering the typical needs of college students, I could figure out why Marian was missing one convenient device after another. So when returning one night from the hospital, I decided the Lord was nudging me to pack a collection of household gadgets into a large plastic clothes carrier.

I must have looked strange walking into that apartment building with this array of items. Nevertheless, I had more of a Christmas feeling as I climbed the several flights of stairs to her door on the top floor.

I knocked. She opened the door, and I rushed in with my assortment of gifts. One by one I lifted them into the air for her to see.

She smiled as she handled each present with delight. I darted into one space after another, suggesting just where she could use each present. Soon the kitchen and living room were adorned with new objects that spelled my thanksgiving at Christmastime.

My wife’s surgery was over. There was a long recuperation period to go through. It would be well into January before she could be released from the hospital for a return trip to Connecticut.

Yet in the midst of it all, I felt that the awful loneliness of the city was beginning to ebb for both of us. We were being buoyed with new hope for the future.

“But why did you buy all these things?” Marian asked. “You cannot afford these.”

She was right, of course. But I could not afford to have done otherwise. I knew that without her hospitality to me at Christmas, I would not have made it.

“Marian, it’s the least I can do for you. You have been so kind to me that I just felt I had to do something to say thanks. So this is it.”

She broke into laughter and walked toward the teapot again, ready to pour me a cup. I saw tears in her eyes as she moved into the kitchen. I knew she understood my feelings better than I could express them in words. After all, I was one of those young persons she had helped through the years.

As I sipped the steaming tea, I looked at her, framed against the Christmas lights shining from the living room window. The glow was unmistakable. It was then that I knew it to be true that in the midst of my confusion and heartache, God had sent me an angel at Christmastime.

No Christmas can ever be too bleak for Him. His messengers are still at work, no matter how dark the times.

CHRISTMAS MARY, BABY AND THE SWORD

October 7, 2010

  
 
J. Grant Swank, Jr.
 
As I sat in that courtroom–cold, impersonal, austere space–I looked straight ahead at my adopted teen son with his feet in chains. He was dressed in that dreaded orange outfit. His otherwise handsome face was grimaced, especially as he shot shamed glances at his mother and me when entering through the side door. Guards were on either side of him.

He would end up in a federal prison for several years.

However, his mother and I both knew that Jay was on a course of self-destruction. He had run away from home several times, was unruly when he was in that surly mood, and regarded no other final authority than his own. Not good for making it through this life.

Nevertheless, as my striking multi-racial boy stood straight before the judge, I could not help but see–not that grown teen–but a little baby only two and a half months old. That was his age when we adopted him, gave him my name and hugged him to our hearts.

I saw in front of me, not a man before the law, but a little babe, a tiny tot, cuddly and warm, smelling of fresh powder and looking endearingly into my face. He was wrapped in that first blue blanket we bought him. He was smiling, cooing. How we delighted in showing him off to everyone we met!

Then I recalled visiting him in the state youth center after one of his earlier escapades. My wife and I dreaded that crudely put-together waiting room. We had to sign in, behave ourselves as if we were under some sort of investigation, treated somewhat humanly. If this was the “cordiality” we were accorded, what was it that the youth were enduring?

As Jay would come into the room to visit with us each Sunday afternoon, I saw there, not so much my misbehaving son, but a squirming baby boy in my arms, held tightly to my heart. Then I saw him as a toddler, then off to the waiting bus on his first day at school, then a pre-teen all dressed up for some event.

During one visit, a mother from the northern part of our state introduced herself to us. I could tell that she was distraught. She too was waiting to see her troubled teen son. Then it was that her boy came through the door, dragging his chained feet behind him.

In an instant that anguished mother jumped to her feet to embrace her own. Many tears flowed from the two of them. Not much in the way of words; but much in the language of the soul.

It was then that I could feel in her the wretched piercing of that sword, just as it had pierced my heart on too many occasions. There was a mother seeing, not so much her sixteen-year-old son, but her six-day-old newborn, her six week old baby, her six month old growing child.

It was when my son was in prison that I wrote him a letter in which I related to him that when a child goes wayward, the parents are cut through and through with the memories of childhood.

I then attempted to get him to understand the slippery, twisting sword that cuts right through every one of life’s muscles.

So it was that once again this Christmas I thought of still another parent. Her name was Mary. She had in her womb the Son of all sons–Jesus. In the jubilation of that pregnancy, however, there was a sword promised her. Luke tells of it in his account. It was a dagger that would cut close to her very
nerve.

Mary. Mary! How you ever lived through all of that utter brokenness I will never fathom. It simply is beyond my imagination. When I compare the pain that my wife and I have endured, how then did you ever stand up beneath all that needless anguish inflicted upon your holy Offspring, Jesus?

He too wore the chains. He too was scoffed and derided, led before authorities for harsh scowls and snickers. He then was laced between heaven and earth for a crime that He never committed–but for crimes that WE have done. Yet through it all, you stayed there beneath His bleeding frame–patiently praying, wrestling with the shame.

Surely, as you looked from Calvary into the face of your grown Son, you too held in your arms the precious Bethlehem Baby. Cuddling Him. Kissing His cheeks. Spreading your kind fingers across His brow. Wanting to rub out those fears and injustices.

Yet when He was but a tiny One, as you held Him in your arms beneath night’s Star, you knew in your heart of hearts that someday you would hold Him in your arms when He lay limp from the cross. Pieta. How could it be?

At this Christmas, I give praise to God for Mary, a parent who endured the sword, who stayed true to Her Son because of that sword and now receives the just honor given her.

May every parent who likewise endures the sword find such courage as came from Mary. Thank you God for providing the strength to endure to the very end, for her and for us.

NAZARENE PUBLISHING HOUSE HARDY WEATHERS DUMPS SWANK’S BOOK

October 1, 2010
   

J. Grant Swank, Jr.

Church of the Nazarene headquarters’ Beacon Hill Press (Nazarene Publishing House)  President Hardy Weathers moved in with its own devilment. I, an author of several books published by this Press, had written “One Christmas I Met An Angel.” With my ousting from my Maine pastorate, Beacon Hill Press tossed my 2000 remaining copies of that book into their Kansas City MO dumpster.

Friends phoned Beacon Hill Press that autumn for copies of that book to give as Christmas gifts. They were told it was not available. When I anonymously phoned for copies, I was told the same. As I investigated further, I learned of the atrocity seen through by Beacon Hill Press authorities. That is the extent that the denomination hatred spread against me. The masty political network between worldwide headquarters and the district was tight.

All the while, the demons crawled our church walls. Then I knew what the missionaries were talking about. They said they were attacked by devils on the mission field.

Sometimes it was a witchdoctor. Other times it was the invisible spirits. But devils they were. And those agents were after blood.

SINNERS was sprayed in letters 10-feet high across our American Church of the Nazarene parking lot. That’s what welcomed me when returning home from visiting a parishioner in the city hospital. SINNERS. That one word was meant for my parsonage family. We evidently were tagged as the “sinners.”

Another day my wife and I drove back from shopping. As we walked to the front door of the parsonage, we saw the bottles. An array of liquor bottles lined up in front of the door jam. We don’t drink. They weren’t our leftover liquor bottles.

Somebody or some persons had lined them up where we had to pass in order to get into the house.

The phone rang. I looked at the dresser’s lighted digital clock. It was 3:30 in the morning. I lifted the receiver. “You’re going to die.” Click. You’re going to die? It was a female voice.

I looked out my church study window. I saw the custodian — a woman — running from the church to the fellowship hall. I thought nothing of it. She was simply in a hurry. Another day I walked by the same window. There she was again — running from the side door of the church toward the fellowship hall entrance. Running. She was simply in a hurry, I reasoned again.

I learned that Linda was not in a hurry when going from the church to the hall. She was running from me.

I noticed that when I was in the church, she was working in a directly opposite part of the building than I was. And when possible, she left the church for the hall. You see, she informed others that I was filled with the devil; therefore, she could not be near me. Not even my shadow.

Linda would come to worship. She sat with her husband. During the entire service, they glowered at me. As soon as the service was over, they left immediately, rushing for the door. She let others know that I was filled with the devil.

Another night, the phone rang. I looked at the digital clock. It was 2:30 in the morning. I lifted the receiver. Heavy breathing. More heavy breathing. Click.

We drove up northward to Wiscasset for the day, visiting another pastor and his wife. Upon our return, I noted black wires strewn across the parking lot between the parsonage and church. Hanging wires. Sure enough. When I lifted the phone inside the house, no connection. Someone or some ones had cut the phone wires. We had no way to communicate by phone to the outside.

One Sunday I had preached the gospel sermon, then pronounced the benediction. While walking down the sanctuary’s side aisle to shake hands with worshipers at the church’s front door, I saw Fran and his wife, Barbara. But what I noted in particular was that Fran was holding a tape recorder. Recorder? It was not customary for parishioners to bring tape recorders to worship.

I learned that Fran was recording my sermons in hopes of finding something demonic. He then could take the “evidence” to the district superintendent. How long he had hidden the recorder in his place in the pew I did not know.

I noted that after services, Jim clustered with a group of men around their cars parked alongside the church building. The men were part of the growing antagonists. Could one of them have sketched SINNERS on the parking lot hardtop? Could one of them have placed the liquor bottles at my front door? Could one of their wives called to my phone in the middle of the night? Could one or more of them have cut through the phone wires?

Of course, we had the phone company repairman put wires back in place. We had service. Then still another night, mid-morning actually, the phone rang. “You’re going to die.” Click. Not too original, I thought.

One day my wife and I were visiting an ill parishioner. When leaving her apartment, Jean, a neighbor who also went to our church, ran into her yard. I turned quickly in her direction, listened up and heard all sorts of nasty words. They were directed at us as we walked toward our car. She kept screaming. Then finally she walked back into her apartment, disappearing. But of course she and husband appeared once again Sundays in church.

Jeff had been quite the Bible student. I appreciated his intelligence. So it was with surprise when I got in the mail a caustic letter from his professing Christian father informing me that I was not of God. The father attended a companion congregation in our denomination. I had always thought him to be a friend. He had glowing remarks to make regarding the various seminars I conducted. He had been one of the most enthusiastic loyalists to those special gatherings.

With his father showing his real colors, Jeff and wife sent me their own caustic letter. Dominoes fall down together when pushed in the same direction.

Jim kept corralling the grumbling cluster after services — sometimes downstairs in the hallways, sometimes outside by their automobiles, other times in the back lot behind the church. Mike began joining the cluster. That was especially disappointing. I had thought more of Mike than giving into those making dissension.

The mid-morning phone calls kept dittoing themselves. Staccato staccato staccato. Like sharp sounds in the night season. Finally we had them traced. Sure enough, it was who we thought it was. Not good. We had the police visit her, warning her to discontinue the harassment.

Bob turned on us. But not until his wife discovered him in liaisons with other women. Interestingly enough, when his wife found out what was going on at work, in parking lots, on business trips, she bonded with him against us, the parsonage family who had worked alongside her throughout her investigative journey.

Dysfunction can magnetize dysfunction on occasion.

A businessman taught the young adult Sunday school class for years. They liked his humor and informal manner. It was not until the devilment began that I learned he had been undercutting my sermons.

When I preached on keeping the Lord’s Day holy, he gave compromising suggestions in his class. When I taught tithing, he told his class that that was not really all that significant. When I pressed for holy behavior from believers, he sided in with those who could cut ethical corners. And so he kept diluting of the biblical lifestyle. For many, he was the pastor of the church.

In other words, I was pretty much the old-timer, not with it, out of synch, and in need of some updating on doctrine and practical Christian living. His teaching agenda by default crept outside his class into the rest of the congregation. The conclusion: the parishioners knew God. I did not. If I did not know God, I was of the devil.

I recalled that other pastors had only stayed a year, no more than two in that particular pastorate. I had now been there 7 years and counting. Had I been the fool or what?

All the while, we were dealing with an adopted teen son out of control: drugs, sex, runaway, then criminal acts that sentenced him to several years in federal prisons. He had finished off his relationships at the Christian school, the public school and left me with homeschooling him. But that obviously was not the cure to his yen for trouble.

Life was a bit stressed out throughout those several years. Finally, the ones who concluded I was of the devil logged their nonsense complaints with the Church of the Nazarene Maine district superintendent, Clarence Hildreth. This is the man who in 1991 was told by another pastor that I had said concerning the superintendent, “We’ve got to get rid of him.” I had never said that. That was a lie manufactured by another minister. But the superintendent believed the lie, never finding out the truth by asking me about that statement.

From the lie-moment onward, the superintendent sought how to get rid of me. When he received the bogus complaints from parishioners, he filed them as ammunition. He left the district for another position out of state.

But the pastor who followed him in the superintendency, Roland Dunlop, kept the files hot. Further, the new man on the job had disagreed with me about a matter. A young couple from my church asked to use his church facility for their wedding and reception because our small-town building was not large enough. That city pastor told them they would have to pay $400 rental. He then told me I had to support him in that figure.

I disagreed, telling him it was not realistic. The couple had little money. They could not afford that. Further, in our denomination it is customary to share facilities without charge. Now this?

That man never let me forget the fact that I would not bow down to his dictate.

When he came into the superintendency, he followed through with my ousting. He and his district board showed up unannounced on a Sunday evening, interrupted me conducting a prayer meeting, to announce that I had 30 days to vacate the parsonage, lose my salary and health coverage and leave that pastorate.

The cluster had got its way. The devil had climbed the walls and outside the walls.

My wife and I were left housing in an old trailer, substitute teaching without health coverage and paying over $500 a month for temporary health insurance. Our furniture was stored in friends’ houses, garages, basements, attics and backyard sheds.

Time passed — several years, in fact.

Since that devilment, Jim was found dead in his camper bed one summer morning. Mike collapsed, died. Barbara died. Many in the “men’s cluster” pulled out of faith altogether, their children having lost hope in anything Christian. They’re now listed as “non-churched.”

Sunday mornings that church building is still begging for bodies — years after the devil set up shop to undercut God’s work.

Through all of those attacks, my teen daughter agonized, especially when seeing adults turn against God and her parents. I felt so sorry for her. She was born into the pastorate. She never asked to be a minister’s child. One by one, she was betrayed by those whom she once loved and thought they loved us. One by one, she saw the vacant sanctuary slots.

She cried and cried.

What was going on? Why were some of her close teen friends no longer close?

How could adults hold church office, testify publicly in services, and act like they did?

What was the men’s cluster all about?

Why did Jean scream at her parents?

Why did Linda say her father was filled with the devil?

Why had the district superintendent held a lie as fact for all those years without investigating what was real?

Why had a pastor charged $400 for rental, then pressed her father to agree to such madness?

Why?

What was church all about if this was what it ended up to be? Who were real Christians anyhow?

As my wife and I went off to the trailer in the woods — what I came to call “God’s Tin Can” — my daughter went off to college. It was good that she did. It gave her another place to be. But she wisely went for counseling in order to deal with the betrayals.

I kept praying for her, that she would keep the faith. Above all, we could not lose faith in God. After all, He had not brought on the betrayals. The demons had set up hell’s shop in our church, as they have done so in many churches these days.

They did the same with Jesus’ ministry, even inside the Temple.

Of course, through it all, God proves Himself, sometimes immediately and sometimes over time.

At this point in our lives, we have a beautiful cottage in Maine and a lovely country home in Nova Scotia. We have our health, especially our health of soul. We have a son who’s served his time, now a Christian is married and the father of two precious children. We have our daughter, happily married and teaching in a Christian school. She kept the faith, more wise than prior.

In other words, it’s been a series of miracles over time.

—–

Email: joseph_swank@yahoo.com

CHRIST IS WITH YOU

October 1, 2010

J. Grant Swank, Jr.

“I pray for them. . .” John l7:9

Salvation was procured by Christ for every repentant believer.

After Christ left this planet, He ascended to the right hand of the Father’s heavenly throne. There Christ intercedes for His grace children.

The highest mission Christ was set upon while earth-bound was to see His salvation venture through to completion. “It is finished!”

In follow through to that gain, Christ proceeded to intercede for the saved ones. He continues to intercede. Therefore, it appears from the Word that Christ’s chief purpose has been to save and intercede for the saved.

Prior to His crucifixion and ascension, Christ interceded in Gethsemane for His own. “I pray for them. . .”

Though it is not given much attention in preaching and teaching, study and exposition, it is evident that Christ’s reason for being is to redeem and pray for the redeemed. The redemption aspect is given due attention; but the intercession dimension is not. Nevertheless, to the cross bearer it is most imperative and likewise encouraging. It is our comfort. In other words, we know then that we are not alone in the Calvary mountain climb. We have our Intercessor yoked to us in the trek.

Therefore, no matter what occurs on the cross way, nothing can defeat the cross bearer for Intercessor Resurrected One has already preceded the event with intercession, sees through the struggle with intercession, and will activate climaxing victory by way of intercession. The reason? Intercessor has trounced all enemies by defying grave, death and hell. That trinity then cannot subdue Second Person of Holy Trinity. That in itself is a spiritual, eternal given.

Then no wonder the Word speaks of God laughing at His foes. No wonder the same Word refers to the ransomed mortals not fearing what any enemies can threaten. It is all because of the commission duo–crucifixion price paid and resurrection presence come upon. This duo is personalized within one figure–Christ Jesus. This Christ Jesus is none other than the cross bearer’s Intercessor Victor.

“I pray for them. . .”

Amazing! God prays for us! God Christ intercedes for us–twenty-four hours every day–without stop. God Christ does not sleep, nap nor slumber. He is ever attentive to His own. That is divinity fact. It is reality above all realities. Therefore, cross carrier can count on it, though all hell’s fury may attack. The attack is but temporary bogus.

“I pray for them. . .

Imagine! We are being interceded for when sleeping, shopping, driving, bathing, waiting for a doctor’s appointment, going into surgery, studying for an exam, walking into a job interview, burying a loved one, facing the final hour. We are being interceded for by the very One who loved us enough to climb upon the tree in our stead.

Surely we can carry any cross when we know that God Himself is praying for us. How could we ever lose when God Himself is interceding on our behalf?


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