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Personal journal entry, recorded April 25, 2014: “ I am sitting in the upper level of a Seven Eleven on 8th Avenue and 37th Street, drinking coffee and reading my Bible. A tired traffic cop is sitting at a table across the room, looking at an I-phone or some other mobile device and drinking a soda. Today, Friday, is my day off. Today another church which operates a food pantry picks up the grocery donations which I would normally pick up at 10 AM. This morning I felt the need to simply get out and do something away from the church. I started to take a subway train to Grand Central to pick up a MetroNorth train into Downstate New York for some time in the country, perhaps overlooking the Hudson River and maybe walking across it on the elevated walking trail at Poughkeepsie. But I had trouble with my metro card and would have missed the last reasonably-timed train out of Grand Central (I have to be back for a Bible study at 5 this evening.) It was ordained of God though. I reformatted my thinking and simply went for a walk. I walked to Wendy’s on 5th Avenue and 34th Street (across 5th Ave from the Empire State Building) and ate the first hamburger and fries I can remember eating in the past eight months. I walked to Bryant Park between 5th and 6th Avenue on 40th Street, near Grand Central Terminal. Now I sit in the upper level of Seven Eleven on 8th Avenue and 37th Street, drinking coffee and relaxing, soaking in the soothing and refreshing waters of God’s Word as I read in the Gospel of Luke.” [End of dated journal entry. Note: This past Friday, May 2, I actually did take the train up to Poughkeepsie where I walked the Walkway Over the Hudson, the longest footbridge in the world. I walked eight miles total that day. A friend reminds me as I've heard before, that we all need times like this, away in God’s creation, observing the things His hands have made. I actually stood on grass Friday for the first time in six weeks.]
Last Sunday, Pastor Bill preached, in my estimation, the best sermon I’ve heard him preach since I arrived in September. Preaching out of Matthew 9, he first made clear that every one of us struggles with the same disease – sin. He quoted Augustine, John Knox, John Wesley, and Charles Wesley, considered some of the great ones among Christian ministers, each telling how dismally he felt about himself and how he could find nothing good in his natural self, only corruption. Bill went on to accentuated the open sinfulness of Levi the tax collector and how shameless Levi was, being willing, as the worst brand of extortionist tax collectors of his day, to publically sit in the tax collection booth, showing to all his nation that HE was the one in charge of the gross extortion in the region of Capernaum. As the account goes, Christ had just pronounced a certain paralytic forgiven of his sins and had said to the Pharisees watching, “…But so that you will know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins, (then he said to the paralytic) Rise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” Now Levi the tax collector no-doubt knew of Jesus. He may have even seen this miracle. Christ had just healed what the public might have considered a minor sinner, and he had pronounced him forgiven. Now Jesus would deal with one whom the rabbis pronounced unsavable by virtue of his chosen profession. When Jesus stopped and called Levi at the tax collection booth, Levi heard and moved. He threw away his terrible and confining life, left all, and followed Christ. Furthermore, he became very public in following Him, throwing a great feast and inviting all the other tax collectors and sinners to come and see the one who had saved such a poor soul as he. Levi, who at one time threw off his Jewishness to serve Rome, would go on to write the Gospel most particularly directed to the mind of the Jew. God redeemed Levi the tax collector.
This past Tuesday we had no recorded music for the chapel service in which I preach regularly. We have no musicians here, so Pastor Bill normally has to opt for recorded accompaniment for our singing. This is true except for at least one old hymn, “Amazing Grace,” which a large proportion of our Tuesday crowd knows well enough to sing a capella. And so we did Tuesday. I linked my laptop (off of which I also preach my sermons) to a projector and cast the words of the hymn onto the front wall of the church. We sang all seven stanzas. Stanzas four through six are lesser-known than the other four, but they really ought to be sung more often.
The Lord has promised good to me, His Word my hope secures; He will my Shield and Portion be, As long as life endures.
Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail, And mortal life shall cease, I shall possess, within the veil, A life of joy and peace.
The earth shall soon dissolve like snow, The sun forbear to shine; But God, who called me here below, Will be forever mine.
I am still preaching through the book of Hebrews Tuesdays. This past time, the Lord had worked in my heart, bringing me to obedience in an area in which I had wrestled with Him. At the same time, I broke for a week from the expository chapter overviews I have been doing and used an approach I’ve heard Pastor Bill use often—demonstrating forcefully from multiple passages of Scripture how Christ has fulfilled an Old Testament type, in this case the tabernacle, of which we were reading in Hebrews 8 and the first half of 9. It seemed the Lord gave me unusual strength and openness of heart to preach His Word and boldness to apply it convincingly. Application does not always have to have its effect in action. Certainly, I want application to have its first effect in faith, and I have much reason, biblically, to believe with all my heart that the Lord is actually working in people when the Gospel is heralded as it ought to be heralded, for which very thing I prayed at the beginning of the service. The crowd heard me pray the prayer and then saw a demonstration of God answering it, and to Him be the glory.
The food pantry here at the mission goes along as normal. We stay busy picking up donated goods from the three Trader Joes supermarkets in Manhattan with sometimes as many as four or five trips per day, though commonly two or three. We are all looking forward to the coming of intern Galen Balinski in a couple of weeks to help for the summer. We have been shorthanded for the past few months or rather, according to Pastor Bill, for the eight months, even since before I arrived. God willing, with the coming of Galen and some other short-term help this summer, I will be devoting more time to working on writing a discipleship course outlined by Pastor Bill for new converts and young Christians. The Joneses, myself, and other interns of years gone by recognize the primacy we place on the missionary aspect of our work here—reaching out to the community with a food pantry, Bible studies and Sunday meals, preaching the Gospel and hoping to see the Lord add souls to His church as we do so. Our ministry is mostly missionary and less ecclesiastical, so to speak. We all recognize this. We are desirous though to foster the growth of believers who regularly attend our church meetings on Sunday afternoons. I personally hope to see young believers desire baptism and join the church visibly, and we hope this discipleship course will, once inaugurated, promote their discipleship in general.
Unsolicited, the Lord has opened an opportunity for me to return to school and work on an advanced degree in Old Testament. I was not looking for such an opportunity and at first chafed at the proposition (I am enjoying living and ministering in New York so greatly). But having spent time in prayer in January, and seeing evidently the leading of God, I have accepted an internship with a church in North Carolina whereby I will, God willing, minister in a part-time capacity starting this fall and also attend Piedmont International University in Winston-Salem. The internship was originally to be started this summer, but things did not work out on that timetable. It is evidently not time for me to leave Manhattan. I am discipling a recent convert and helping him understand his Bible (and truly it is amazing how the Spirit is teaching him all things). Some in my Tuesday chapel service are greatly enjoying the exposure to the brand of expositional preaching the Lord has granted me. Pastor Bill desperately wants to get the aforementioned discipleship class up and going. But foremost is the hand of God in the matter -- though we advertised for interns at six Bible colleges and seminaries for at least six weeks, we had not a single inquirer, the very thing I had asked God to do if He wanted me to stay in Manhattan for the summer. Not wanting to leave the mission in the lurch, and having allowance from the North Carolina church to stay here as long as I am needed, several weeks ago I committed to Pastor Bill to stay for the summer and then Galen agreed to return as well. I do look forward to returning to North Carolina in the fall though, and we have a commitment from a young man who is hoping to take my place here in New York at that time.
In some ways I expect an uphill climb for the next five years or so. The Christian life is a marathon, not a sprint. The Lord says through the apostle James that we are to count it all joy, not if, but when we fall into diverse trials, knowing that the trying of our faith works patience. But I take joy in my simple Christian life of knowing the Lord and doing my daily tasks. The Christian life is a deeper life than anything man could invent, and one characterization, in my mind, of the Christian life is merely the word “good.” It is a good life.
Thank God, He saved the life of one of our regular Sunday attendees last Sunday (April 27). A recent convert, this friend of ours was evidently nearer death than I realized when I drove him to the hospital before church. God has a reason for this man to stay with us for now; he is a dear friend of the mission, and we’d hate to lose him, though now we know Heaven and the abode of Christ is his eternal home.
May God bless our brothers and sisters in the deep South who have been affected by the series of storms which rolled through this past week. We prayed earnestly for your safety Tuesday during chapel (the first day I heard of the storm). We received a lot of rain in New York Wednesday as the storm pushed slowly into New England and Canada. In parts of our city, we still feel the affects of Superstorm Sandy, and this past Wednesday I saw our roof leaking in places I’d never seen it leak before. Our condolences go to those who have lost loved ones and property in the storm.
If you think about it, please pray for God’s salvation of my dear grandmother, my only surviving grandparent. Today is her ninety-second birthday, and she does not make a biblical profession of faith in God and in Christ. I have preached the Gospel to her many times, and yet I see that salvation will be a miracle of God if He will grant it. A miracle it will be!
May God bless the readers of this post.
Posted by: Christopher Love, NYGM Intern
Dr. Bill Jones
Dr. Bill Jones has helped in the establishment of two churches in otherparts of the country and served as Pastor for 14 years. The past few summers, Bill has...
Praying for you and your grandmother, Christopher. Great post. Keep your eyes on Jesus and walk by faith. The waves and winds cannot keep you from walking on the water if you have your eyes on the Lord. Thanks for getting out of the boat and trusting Him with your life.