our witness

quite peculiar

“The word “peculiar” is found in Titus 2:14. Christians are the peculiar people of God. We use the word sometimes when we speak of something odd or strange. But this is not its use here. The word is translated from the Greek word which is made up of two words, one which means ‘around’, as a circle, and the other which means ‘to be’. It can be charted by a dot within a circle. This will help us to understand the meaning of the combined words. As the circle is around the dot, so God is around each one of his saints. The circle monopolizes that dot, has the dot all to itself. So God has His own all to Himself.” _Kenneth Wuest, Golden Nuggets fro the Greek New Testament

Over the past couple of weeks we’ve talked about ‘amazing blessings’. We’ve talked about crisis and we’ve talked about process. Now, let’s talk about results! Eventually every process must begin to show results or it isn’t accomplishing its purpose.

By the spring of 1983 the results of our step in faith, the name tag we’d given our move to California, were already evident in several ways. But it was only the beginning.

God had miraculously moved Dick into a Christian Middle School. He was now free to admit he liked teaching J-High, even though his determination to never teach again was strong when we originally set out with plans to serve God. After a full school year back in the classroom his gift for teaching and the love of God were obvious in his student’s response. One mother told me, “Mr. Lebsock is the only authority our son acknowledges these days. Sometimes I think I’ll scream if I hear ‘Mr. Lebsock says…’ one more time.” Her laughter assured me she was really complimenting his ability and the positive impact he had on her son. We took her compliment to mean, “We’re truly pleased God brought you here.”

We were pleased, too. Our current situation had given us a chance to begin our ministry, which was the thing we both wanted to do.

“Ministry” is probably too big a word for what we were doing at that point. Besides daily sharing Christ in the classroom, we were leading a Bible study, sometimes for three or four couples. The thing is, Dick’s love of teaching and all those months of trusting in God’s Word for everything had prepared him well. Every Sunday we made the 25 mile drive to the small church where we felt God had sent us and shared what we knew. The new Christians there soaked up what Dick was teaching like sponges and began acting on the Word in faith, and seeing results. Some of the old-timers, who had been in the religious rank and file for years weren’t too sure we could be trusted. After all, we were fairly new at this business of Christianity. Somehow they seemed to feel that just because God was answering our prayers and our life was blessed abundantly there was no real reason to go over-board and trust Him with every little thing.

We made the 50 mile round trip to that small church for about a year and a half. During the winter we drove through what Valley folks call ‘Tule Fog’. I’ll clarify that for you by saying sometimes we made the trip unable to see the front of our car and Dick drove with the door open, watching the white stripe along the edge of the road. But throughout it all we went. And we taught. And we learned.

Mostly what we saw happening in that little county church became a lesson in how not to minister God’s love. The congregation was engulfed in strife, jealousy, envy, greed…all of those worldly things that kill churches and steal away trust and joy in the Lord.

One Sunday the pastor stood behind the pulpit and announced “God has directed me to leave my wife and children. I must follow those directions.”

Some of the new Christians in the congregation were nearly destroyed. Their faith had been in the man—not in the Lord—and when the man failed, their faith failed as well. For the old-timers his actions merely confirmed what they’d suspected all along, you can’t really expect too much from religion these days.

Toward the end of those months Dick wailed, “I feel like a medic. We’re the bearer of a huge box of bandages! All we’re doing is patching up peoples spiritual wounds.”

What we did must have been the right thing to do though. The church, as you might expect, died, but most of the bandaged babies lived on in Christ. And we’ve never forgotten the lessons.

Besides lessons in how not to minister the love of Christ, and how not to help a church survive, there were also lessons in personal growth during the spring and summer of 1984.

As an example, the Savings & Loan who carried the mortgage on our second California home developed a small computer problem. Nothing major mind you…we only received three foreclosure notices in 18 months. Our house payments were made promptly, so with each new notice, all we needed to do was produce a canceled check as proof. Once the S&L had a copy of the check, everything would be fine. Of course, we also had to figure out how to apply the “be anxious for nothing…cast all of your care on Jesus” principle in the face of absolute panic. Could it happen again? The payments had been made. There was no logical reason for fear. But…what if…..???

There was also our personal strife! We’d go along for days or weeks with everything running smoothly. No real problems. Then suddenly…BOOM! Our normally loving, Christ centered relationship would explode into a yelling match for NO logical reason. Sometimes hours, sometimes days, went by before we were enjoying the abundant life we’d been promised once more. In Dick’s defense, he refused to participate unless goaded into a fight, but strife robbed us of our joy all the same.

There was also the anxiety we were experiencing over our two younger boys. Both were a long way from giving their lives to Christ. One, still at university in Colorado, referred to our house as “the tabernacle” and refused to read our newsy letters filled with reports of God’s blessings in our life. The other, the youngest, on his own and in deep trouble somewhere in Texas yelled into the phone, Aw mom, your God’s not so great. He couldn’t even keep somebody from stealin’ my Bible. I’m livin’ with a witch and she can make the devil appear and dance in my bedroom anytime she wants to.”

But we knew, we know, God was with us during all those months even though our life was punctuated with anxiety, panic, and strife. As God’s Word has promised, we truly had nothing to fear. We were all within His circle of protection.

Shortly before Thanksgiving 1983 the San Joaquin Valley’s normally temperate weather was shattered by a violent wind and hail storm. The large walnut tree at the front of our house split in half! The half that fell – fell toward the house! As we surveyed the wreckage we realized God had done it again. Dick is enough of a physicist to calculate the angle and direction of the falling tree. Considering its weight and the velocity of its fall it should have taken out one entire corner of the living room. What it did was scratch the trim board at the roof line. That’s it! One tiny scratch on the paint! A mess in the yard. But better in the yard than in the living room. Thanks you Jesus!

Often people think we are peculiar. When we talk about God protecting us, healing us, providing for us, people think we are odd, strange, a little bit nuts! We’ve been called radical and intense. Preachers have told us we give too much credit to “spiritual” things, suggesting we be more realistic. No thanks!

We are protected! We are healed! He meets our every need and does more than we can ask or even imagine every single day.

Realistically, without His spiritual intervention a mess in the living room would be the least of our worries. Remember Dick’s toy boat?

I’ll take peculiar. How about you?