Modern Methodists, The Ignorants, and Jesus Christ

The Methodist church is the second largest Protestant church in America. John Wesley is credited as the founder of the Methodist movement of the 1700s that birthed the Methodist church. I was married in a Methodist church, but I’m not a Methodist. I am, however, a follower of Jesus Christ. Just call me a “Jesus person.” I’m good with that.

You may have heard that the Methodist church is coming apart over the matter of homosexuality and other sexually deviant sins. Half the church believes that Jesus is okay with the LGBT lifestyle. They welcome “gays” to come as you are and be “gay” Methodist christians. The other half thinks that LGBT folk should come as they are, then repent of their sin and be Methodist Christians. The difference is significant.

I have blogged about homosexuality before (HERE). That essay upset several readers. They wrote and told me about it. They told me they were no longer going to read my blog. I told them that I was sorry to see them go, and I wished them well.

The main point of that essay was that homosexual activists were targeting children to indoctrinate them into the LGBT lifestyle; that the activists are sexual predators. It is an obviously evil pursuit and objective. It it will lead many children into a life of heartache and regret. Misery loves company.

I’m old enough to remember when homosexuals just wanted people to “stay out of their bedrooms.” To let them be. And they wanted “equal rights.” I took that to mean they wanted the same basic human rights that those who are not homosexual have. That is something I can agree with.

But the homosexual agenda has moved far beyond those reasonable demands. Now they want complete access to children (and very young children at that) through the government schools. They want to teach them that homosexuality is a legitimate and good path in life. And, by the way, so are all kinds of other self-destructive sexual choices.

This is a social and cultural tragedy that will, in due time, if unchecked, be sufficient to bring an end to Western Civilization. There is historical evidence that societal acceptance of sexual perversions has accompanied the downfall of other ( perhaps all) developed empires in history.

LGBT-doctrinal infiltration of government schools is bad enough but homosexual supremacists have moved on to advance their demands upon Christianity and traditional, orthodox beliefs. They achieved great success through the 2015 Obergafeld supreme court decision to legally redefine marriage and family from what God designed marriage and family to be. That was a direct attack on the Christian sexual ethic.

And now the activists have moved into the Christian church itself. They want Christian churches to radically alter their traditional theological beliefs to embrace and promote the LGBT agenda. More accurately, they want Christian churches to totally jettison the gospel of Jesus Christ. And a great many churches are doing just that.

Why would Christian churches go along with this agenda?

There are three basic answers to that question, and they are well worth understanding. First, they are afraid. Second, they are confused (or just plain ignorant) about what Christianity teaches. Third, they don’t believe that the gospel of Jesus Christ has the power to change lives.

The ignorance and confusion revolve around the matter of “love.” The christian Ignorants assert that Jesus loved and accepted everyone, regardless of their sin. They point to the woman caught in adultery in John, Chapter 8. You will recall that the religious leaders wanted to stone her. Jesus said, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” In so saying, Jesus pointed out the hypocrisy of the religious leaders. No one threw a stone. They walked away.

The Ignorants will say, “See, Jesus did not condemn the sinning woman and he told her so. He loved and accepted her instead of condemning her. That’s what the Christian church should do with homosexuals and other sinners.”

This is where I feel compelled to clarify some very fundamental understandings about Jesus and that story. First, Jesus did not condemn the woman because she, like all humans, was already condemned. As sinners, all of humanity is condemned. We were condemned by our sins before Jesus came, and we are condemned by our sins after he came.

John 3:17 is often used by the Ignorants: “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world;…” That is absolutely true, but the reason he didn’t come into the world to condemn it is because, as I’ve already noted, the world was already condemned. Which brings me to the critically important second part of that John 3:17 verse: “but that the world through him might be saved.” And that brings me now to a proper understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the essence of the whole Christian faith…

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, did not come into the world to approve, or excuse, or accept sinners as they are. He came to deliver those who would believe upon Him; to free them from the guilt, the bondage, and the corruption of their sins here on earth, and to save them from the punishment they would otherwise so richly deserve in eternity.

To that woman caught in adultery, who Jesus saved from being stoned, his parting words were: “…go, and sin no more.”

I’ve heard Christians say that the main difference between themselves and non-Christians is that those who come to Christ are forgiven of their sins and the non-Christians are not. While that is true, it’s a terrible distinction. It comes across as arrogant. I don’t like it at all. You’ll never hear me say that.

The much better distinction is that Christians acknowledge their sin, they hate their sin, and they do battle against their natural sinful inclinations. We who are followers of Jesus, do this battle through the conviction and power of the Holy Spirit working in us.

To hate your sin, to turn away from sin, to fight against sin in one’s life is known as repentance. It is not a one-time event. It is an ongoing, daily, struggle.

Is there room in the Christian church for people who love their sin, who flaunt their sin, who promote their sin, who present their sin a something good and admirable? Should the Christian church affirm sin? Should the Christian church be utilized as a tool to advance the homosexual agenda?

Well, of course not. It wouldn’t be an authentic Christian church if it did that.

In my next essay I will provide some visual examples and a brief discussion of how I think Jesus would respond to a LGBT-affirming church were he to physically come to earth and walk among us, as he once did.

Joseph Elbert Miller (1958-2019)

Joe is the guy with the crossed canoe paddles. To his right is Jervis “Jay” Janney.

Way back in 2005 I blogged about my year of school at The Gassroots Project in Vermont, and I mentioned my friend, Joe Miller (you can read it HERE). Then, in 2008 I wrote an essay specifically about Joe (Click HERE to read it). In that essay I told about some of our exploits, including radical downhill skateboarding and running Rocky-Balboa-style through the streets of Burlington Vermont the morning after we saw the first Rocky movie. I also blogged about our canoe trip down the Lamoille River, in which we capsized in whitewater, and how Joe thought I “was a goner” when he saw me go under the churning water (Click HERE to read that essay).

Joe and I kept in touch with each other for a few years after that wonderful school year, but family life and the all-consuming work of making a living, not to mention distance, soon led to decades of no contact. I often wondered about Joe. I often prayed for him. In recent years, using Facebook and internet searches, I tried to find him.

Finding a man named Joe Miller is really easy. Finding Joe Miller, my dear friend, proved to be impossible. Every so often over the past few years I would try again. Last night I finally found him on the internet. More precisely, I found His Obituary.

Joe evidently died of brain cancer on May 6th of last year. He died 42 years after I last saw him in Vermont, and decades since we had last communicated. Nevertheless, this discovery has been an emotional blow. So much so that I’m surprised at myself. I’ve been in a sad fog all day.

The obituary lacks a photo. It lacks details. It lacks humanity. But the humanity comes through in the many comments that people have left there. Thank God for those comments. I could see that Joe was still Joe, and he was still in the faith. I will see him again when I reach the end of my heavenstretch (which seems so much closer than it did before I found the obituary).

Joe and I became friends early in the 1976-77 school year. I think it was near the end of the first week. The friendship started when we were both in the school’s wood shop. He was making a canoe paddle. I don’t recall what I was working on. I remember clearly what he said that started a school-year-long conversation: “Mike tells me that you’ve been talking to him about the Lord.”

I don’t recall talking to Mike about the Lord, but something was said and it led to a very special friendship between Joe and me. I often think of it as something akin to the David and Jonathan friendship in the Old Testament. 1 Samuel, chapter 18 it says: “the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.”

Many kids raised in God-fearing homes go to a secular college and part ways with the Christian faith. But the total opposite happened to me. I went to college, became friends with Joe Miller, and my Christian faith grew deeper and stronger. The Providential orchestration in this, and God’s amazing grace, are not lost on me.

Joe and I were opposites in many ways. I tend to be a quiet observer (introverted), while he was more of a warm, outgoing conversation engager (extroverted). He was remarkably handsome. I wasn’t. He was a good athlete. I’ve never been particularly athletic.

Joe’s athletic ability was evidenced one memorable time when a bunch of students and teachers had a softball game on the common. When Joe was at bat, the outfielders backed up quite a bit. But when he connected with the ball it went way over their heads. That was sweet.

Our common ground was our shared Christian faith and our love of doing things that were physically challenging. Though I wasn’t an athlete, I was fit and strong. So, push-up cards, skateboarding, and running, as well as whitewater canoeing (that one memorable trip down the river), were some shared experiences that made our friendship more special.

The only picture I have of Joe is the one at the top of this page. It’s from our yearbook. It’s not a clear picture. I wish I had a better one. But 1977 was the old days. No cell phones. No digital cameras. There were film cameras, of course, but I don’t think either of us had one of those. Too bad.

I do, however, have something special from that time period in my life that very much reminds me of Joe. It’s a Rocky poster. It so happened that I left school two weeks before graduation (Explained HERE). I never graduated. The poster was a parting gift from several of my friends. I tell the story in THIS ESSAY.

“Yo, Adrian”

I think Joe bought the poster. Or it might have been a girl named Cindy. I don’t remember exactly, and it doesn’t matter. What matters is that Joe wrote on the back of it, along with several other friends from that school year. Here is what Joe wrote…

If you have trouble reading it, here is what it says:

To Herrick,

A friend of mine which I have grown to love & respect within the span of less than a year. I wish you and Mar all the best & I hope you dominate in every ping pong game you ever play.

Eternal love through Christ Jesus,

Joe

Shortly after our year in Vermont Joe wrote to tell me that his girlfriend had dumped him for a pre-med student. Joe was distraught. I remember him writing that the guy probably never owned a pair of blue jeans in his life.

But Joe found another girl, got married, and had a couple kids. Unfortunately, it looks like there was a divorce later on, and he remarried. That was sad news for me to find out.

The last time I spoke with Joe on the phone, he and his wife had a baby. Joe asked about me and Marlene having kids. I told him I really didn’t think I wanted any. That brought an immediate and excited reply: “You have to have kids, Herrick! Who is going to take care of you when you get old?”

Such a thought had never entered my mind. But since then I’ve related it to several young people, including my kids. I realize now that children taking care of their parents in old age is part of God’s plan for families.

Well, I’ve blathered on here at length (and I feel better for having done so), but I have one more thing to share with you. It is what Jervis “Jay” Janney wrote on the back of the Rocky poster. Jay is the guy standing next to Joe in the photo up at the top of this essay. Jay was a classy guy. His sister is a famous actress named Allison Janney. Here’s what he wrote…

“Consistently consistent”…. It’s an observation and a compliment that I really appreciated!

A Big Kimball Baby Surprise!

Jimmy & Bekah’s baby came a couple weeks earlier than expected. That was no big surprise. But the child was a boy, not a girl. That was definitely a big surprise.

There had been a sonogram. The professional sonogram person told them it was a girl. They had a gender reveal party some months back. Her name was to be Annaliese.

And then, after 24 hours in the hospital, Marlene and I got the call. His name was Easton Jay.

“What? It’s a boy? Are you kidding?”

Boy or girl, we are ever thankful to God for such a blessing. Everyone is doing fine. They come home later today. I will head over to their house in a few minutes to get the wood stove fired up so the place is warmed up nicely.

The picture above shows my oldest son, Chaz, in the foreground, holding his new nephew. James is in the background, holding Chaz’s daughter.

My maternal grandfather, Percy O. Philbrick, was born in Easton, Maine, in 1896. Back in 2008 I wrote about his father’s farm in Easton HERE. James & Bekah didn’t know that when they chose the name of this boy. They just liked the name. As for the middle name of Jay, that does have a family connection. Marlene’s father’s first name was Jay.

Having a new grandson makes me happy, and it makes me sad. The sadness comes when I think of my first grandson, now 7 years old. He lived near us for several months after he was born. He was in our home nearly every day. I assumed that I would be able to develop a close relationship with him as he grew up. But divorce and distance put an end to that. Now Marlene and I see him for a day or two a couple times a year. It’s not the same. It is a difficult situation. Such a situation is not unusual these days, but it’s powerfully sad nonetheless.

This new grandson will live only 6 miles away. He will grow up with lots of local extended family (on both sides), and community connections. He will be rooted in this place, knowing Marlene and I as his grandparents. We will have an opportunity to bless this child with our time and our wisdom. We will have an opportunity to make a difference in this life; a difference that can only be made with proximity and frequent family interactions.

I feel like a rich man knowing that I have such an opportunity.

By Grace Alone He Kept The Wall

A view in Kelloggsville Cemetery. Rev. Niles’s grave is in the distance, in front of the pine trees.

Kelloggsville Cemetery is a short distance from my home. It is named after Judge Charles Kellogg, but he is not buried there. The Judge and his family all left Kelloggsville and headed for Michigan. Some of them found great success making breakfast cereals in Battle Creek.

Kellogsville is not what it once was. Long before my time, the town had a doctor, library, mercantile, blacksmith, and so forth. An old, white, clapboard church building remains, but it is a crumbling shell.

At some point in time past, Kelloggsville merged with the township of Niles, which is named after Reverend Robert Niles who, unlike the Judge, stayed here, raised a family, and was buried in the northwest corner of the cemetery. It is the original cemetery area, a small spot that is off by itself. Here is a photo of the Rev’s headstone that I took a couple months ago…

The stone is slate and the lettering is hand-carved. It is mossy and difficult to read. I had an especially difficult time trying to make out the writing at the very bottom of the stone. I spent a lot of time on my stomach trying to put the obscured words together.

Actually, I returned a couple days after that photo was taken and rubbed some new-fallen snow into the letters to better read them. That worked pretty well. Then, later on, it occurred to me that I should do a Google search. Amazingly, I found this photo…

Wow. Somebody put some effort into cleaning the stone for that picture! And This Web Page even had all the words that are on the stone.

Sacred

to the memory of

Rev. Robert Niles

who died 24th Jan.

1816.

Aged 58 years, 9

months, and

28 days.

He professed Religion, and entered the

ministry in the 22 year of his age.

From twenty-two to fifty-eight,

he preached the gospel of God’s Grace;

thro’ various means his fellows fall

by Grace alone he kept the wall

Another view of the old section of the cemetery. Rev. Niles’s stone is on the right.

Robert Niles was born in 1757 in Connecticut. The French and Indian War was taking place in America at that time. When Robert was 18 years old, the first shots of the Revolutionary War were fired at Lexington and Concord, in Massachusetts, as British troops marched out of Boston to seize the local militia’s guns and powder. According to This Web Page, Robert Niles served in the Revolutionary War under Col. Killian Van Rensselaer

In 1790 all the land in this part of NY State was given to Revolutionary War veterans (Details Here). This countryside was part of the unsettled western frontier of America at that time. Robert Niles came here around 1804 and was a Baptist minister.

Rev. Niles lived through some turbulent times and participated in significant historical events. It was at 22 years of age, with the war still in full swing, that he “professed Religion and entered the ministry.”

Reading the words on his headstone, now more than 200 years after they were incised into the rock, I wondered at that phrase: “thro’ various means his fellows fall, by Grace alone he kept the wall.”

I Google searched the entire phrase, and parts of it. I found no record of it being in literature or on other gravestones. What does it mean that he “kept the wall?”

My theory about the phrase is that it hearkens back to a time when soldiers protected walled fortresses by taking a position on the top of the wall. When attacked, the soldier’s job was to “keep the wall” from being breached by the enemy. To stand his ground. To protect himself. To go on the offense when necessary. In short, to be faithful to his calling.

Other soldiers might not be as strong, as well equipped, or as faithful to their calling. They would be wounded or even killed. Through various means, they would fall out of the battle.

That phrase says a lot about the Christian life.

Please note that it says “by Grace alone” he kept the wall. Grace is undeserved favor. When capitalized, Grace refers to God; to his gracious blessings. Thus, those headstone words give glory not to Robert Niles for keeping the wall, but to God for helping Robert Niles to keep the wall, as others around him were falling.

Make no mistake about it, when someone becomes a Christian, they are enlisting in a war. It is not a physical war. It is a serious, and sometimes ferocious spiritual war.

The picture above shows the southwest corner of Kelloggsville Cemetery. I have purchased 8 lots somewhere in that view. I only need one, of course, but there is Marlene and the rest of my family to consider. The plots were on sale a couple years ago. 🙂

The neat thing about that final resting place is that one day, when my children stand at my grave, they will be able to look across the harvested corn field you see in the distance. They will see the house that Marlene and I built, and the home we made there. Their memories of the place, and of us as a family in it, will flow. And the memories will be precious to them.

I like the thought of that.

The Best Christmas Gifts of 2019

Me and Granddaughter #1 on Christmas eve.

Now that our children are grown, it is our family custom to have dinner and open presents on Christmas eve. This year Marlene and I had our three sons, with their wives, granddaughter #1 (pictured above), and my sister for the festive occasion. Ten in all. It was quite a crowd in our little house, and it looks like it will be even more crowded next year. I really need to get the house addition that I started a couple years back finished!

This year’s gathering was especially nice for a few reasons. First, we used my Grandmother Kimball’s apple china for the first time…

The china, the silverware, the ruby red water goblets. They are all family heirlooms that I remember so fondly from my youth. We will use this china from now on for special family dinners, and my hope is that my grandchildren will also grow up with fond memories around these items.

The nice thing about these family meals is that everyone brings food. Marlene is no longer the only cook, as was the case for so many years when the kids were young. That is something of a gift in itself!

Another reason this Christmas event was so special is that I received some Darn Tough socks…

Last year for Christmas I gave a pair of Darn Tough socks to everyone in my family, including myself. I had heard how amazing the socks were and decided to give them a try. Their lifetime guarantee is a powerful attraction. But the tight weave, antimicrobial, wicking, Merino wool-blend are all benefits that appealed to me.

Those socks turned out to be everything I had hoped they would be. They are so superior to the cheap tube socks I’ve worn for years. I routinely wear them for several days in a row before surrendering them to the washing machine. Even in the summer, the wool-blend socks were comfortable.

My son Robert appreciated his Darn Tough socks so much that he told me that if I picked his name in our “secret Santa” family lottery, all he wanted was another pair of Darn Tough socks. By the way, he also wears those socks for several days in a row. It turns out that is typical for those who love their Darn Tough socks.

Well, I picked Robert’s name out of the hat and he got another pair of socks. And it turned out that two of my kids gave me a pair of Darn Tough socks (pictured on my happy feet above).

As far as I’m concerned, you really can’t go wrong with Darn Tough socks for a gift. Check out THIS YOUTUBE VIDEO for some insights into this great American company and their truly amazing socks.

Speaking of socks for a gift, have you seen this?…

For my gift giving this year, I made a Whizbang Splinter Removal Kit for each of my kids. Here’s photo of one that I posted to an online woodworking group…

Yes, I’m ever practical when I comes to gifts.

The highlight of the evening was this surprise gift that was given to Marlene and I…

That is from my middle son, Robert, and his wife. It will be their first child.

But that is not the only Kimball grandchild that Marlene and I are expecting in 2020. My youngest son, James, and his wife are expecting their first child next month. It will be another granddaughter.

So, yes, it will be even more crowded for Christmas eve dinner here next December. But that is certainly no problem. We can handle it. We can happily and thankfully handle all the new Kimball grand-babies that come our way.

And that makes me think I should make a graph of my own…

Teaching Boys How To Start Fires With Gasoline

The above picture has been making the rounds on Facebook this holiday season. It’s a clever absurdity that upsets some people and makes some others laugh. I was in the latter category. It might be a man-thing.

The fact is, I have found gasoline to be an excellent bonfire starter, and my three sons were exposed to the truth of this from an early age. I showed them by example and precept how to safely ignite a big fire… on numerous occasions.

A little gasoline spread onto a dry pile of fuel (never on anything that might have even a hint of ember or spark), a trailing “ground fuse” of the marvelous fluid, some 20 to 30 feet away, a quick match onto the fuse and …. WHA-WHOOOOOM!

It’s a wonder. It’s a delight. And it’s a real crown pleaser if you’re also having some friends over.

It’s my opinion that teaching children how to safely do something like that was part of my responsibility as a father. Do they teach starting fires with gasoline in the government schools? Of course not. What do they teach children of real-world, practical value in government schools?

Well to be fair, I do recall learning some valuable real-world skills when I went to the government school. Mr. Derenberger taught me how to drive in driver’s ed class, and Miss Pelak taught me to type in typing class. There was also one year of shop class in 7th grade.

As I recall, the girls had Home Economics class back in my day. They learned sewing and cooking. Does any public school still have Home Economics classes?

I dare say that little exceptions like those don’t really change my general premise, which is that government-directed education is found wanting in educating children in real-world skills. Then, to make matters worse, many modern fathers have really dropped the ball with their sons.

This dearth of manly training is evidenced in the popularity of books and web sites that endeavor to teach manly skills—The Art of Manliness, for example. That site’s list of 100 Skills Every Man Should Know is downright interesting.

Unfortunately, I can’t say that I know all those skills. For example, I don’t know how to ride a horse, whistle with my fingers, or ride a motorcycle. 😦

Oh, and this man doesn’t dance, thank you.

Conspicuously absent from that Art of Manliness list is how to start a bonfire with gasoline. I did a whole site search and also could not find it. But I did find How To Siphon Gas. Siphoning gas is definitely a good skill to know, but I’m sure there must be a better way than to suck on the end of the hose until you get gasoline in your mouth, then spit it out. I’ve actually done that. Once. I was 18 years old and read how to do it in Mother Earth News magazine. It was not an experience I would want to repeat (I threw up and almost passed out).

Fortunately, we have YouTube these days. It’s a wonderful resource for how-to information. Not better than a teaching father (or other responsible adult), but perhaps the next best thing. And, surely a great resource for the teaching parent.

If YouTube was around when my kids were still young, and they were being homeschooled, I think I would assign YouTube videos to them to watch. Then we would all go and do what we learned. Like, for example, we would try siphoning gas with two hoses and a vacuum cleaner like THIS VIDEO SHOWS. What a great idea. I wonder if the same thing could be accomplished by physically blowing into one hose? Well, we would find out! And I’m sure there are other useful siphoning tricks to be learned on YouTube (without sucking gasoline into your mouth).

This subject, and my interest in it, comes from my long-held conviction that I didn’t want my sons to grow up to be helpless modern men, unable to do for themselves and their family the things that men have, for centuries done for themselves and their families. Teaching with that objective in mind can be a lot of fun, and powerfully satisfying when you see the fruits of your efforts.

Teaching a boy (or a girl, but I did not have any girls to teach) how to safely start a bonfire with gasoline is something akin to teaching a boy how to safely use a gun, or a knife, or an axe, or any number of dangerous things. That’s why I taught my first son how to shoot when he was six years old. And the other two likewise. If you teach your children how to safely and responsibly do dangerous things, instead of “protecting” them from dangerous things, they will be safer. That is my belief.

Two of my sons are avid hunters. This is my middle son, Robert, with this year’s buck.

Christmas 2019

As predicted by the prophets, with stunning detail, some 700 years earlier, the future King was born.

He would grow to maturity, emerge from obscurity, and launch a revolution. Then, innocent of any crime, he would humbly submit to being publicly and shamefully murdered. It was the perfect plan, but it was not the end of the story.

The grave could not hold him. He yet lives. He reigns. His kingdom is without end. And the revolution continues—one repentant and joyfully surrendered life at a time.

Here’s wishing you all a thoughtful and Merry Christmas!