Gayle Erwin's Newsletter

October, November, December 1995 Newsletter

The High And The Mighty

We always seem relieved when someone who believes as we do finally rises to a position of prominence or power. We sigh in relief, grateful that recognition has occurred for the character and intelligence that, of course, represents us all. When someone of prominence (Read that as "fame.") becomes a Christian, we quickly make use of that knowledge as proof that we must be on the right track, just look at who else is on our side.

Problems tumble down on us like child's blocks in these areas of fame and power. When the famous become Christians, their very fame then exposes them to the media. They are bombarded with questions beyond the scope of their knowledge of the Bible. Further, their lives are observed with an intensity that even maturer Christians might not be willing to allow. Consequently, some have abandoned their faith unable to live successfully in the heat of this new spotlight. Only a few of the famous have been kept from the spotlight long enough to be discipled.

The problem of the mighty in politics has much greater implications than mere fame because of the number of people involved. Look at this scenario:

  1. Politicians louse things up.

  2. Ethical or religious grass roots movement begins.

  3. Charismatic leader becomes spokesman for the movement.

  4. General anger toward government causes many to join the movement whether their hearts join or not.

  5. By deft use of the political system, the movement gains power beyond its actual numbers.

  6. Politicians begin to bow at the altar of the movement, not because their hearts are there but because the votes seem to be there.

  7. Charismatic leader of the movement feels the power and begins to corrupt in the following ways:

  8. a. Becoming bedfellows of those not truly with the movement.

    b. Becoming careful to maintain the power achieved.

    c. Feeling that the struggle is power rather than ethics.

  9. Being welcomed into the halls of the mighty, the leader learns that working in this new system requires one to compromise and learn to play by their rules.

  10. This seems logical since using the political rules enabled the movement to gain power.

  11. Fear creeps in that the movement might win the battle and lose the war since the embracing of the movement's demands might make a candidate unelectable.

  12. The worst horror is that the current power structure might remain because of the unelectability of the movement's candidate.

  13. Suddenly, a new and very electable candidate moves onto the scene who does not support your basic agenda.

  14. The problem has now become power, therefore the movement must remain in power even if it costs dearly.

  15. Other candidates bowed to the movement. Now it must bow to the new power person in order to keep in power. That is just the way it works.

  16. Compromise keeps the movement in the middle of the power halls though it now owes a political debt rather than having one owed to it.

  17. Other politicians observe that the movement was willing to join the "politics as usual" gang and that it became the tail, not the head.

  18. In future battles the movement is despised by the power centers and the backlash of anger at having been used by someone, who themselves corrupted, bodes poorly for the movement.

  19. People assume that "all" Christians are like that.

  20. Freedoms and privileges fall away quickly and Christians become the enemy.

  21. Persecution begins in intensity. Passions of the public are inflamed.

  22. Church attendance rapidly falls because of the persecution as those who saw church as a club are not willing to lose status any longer by affiliation.

  23. Those who love the Lord become stronger and more evangelistic.

  24. Christianity grows (typical of persecution) but church buildings are empty.

  25. The government begins to realize that the Church is now stronger than it has ever been.

  26. Persecution intensifies for fear of a revolution.

  27. Jesus returns.

  28. Justice finally arrives.

Luke 16:15 haunts me: "The things that are esteemed of men are an abomination in God's sight." In other words, what we value, He detests. This includes a lot of stuff. We value fame, we value riches, we value power, we value recognition, we value physical pleasure. These very things brought the verbal wrath of Jesus on the Pharisees: Everything they do is done for men to see. They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels of their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and have men call them "Rabbi" Matthew 23:5-7. Our new day does not vary much from the old. With all our technology and education, we have merely refined our corruption.

During my college days, a truck driver friend of mine told me that education never made anyone better. Education would not keep you from killing someone, it would only keep you from eating him after you have killed him.

Many political agendas are attractive, but they are never the agenda of The Church. The agenda of the Church is to bring people to Jesus. The agenda of politics is and always will be:
  1. Get in power.

  2. Stay in power.

  3. Increase your power.

So what does all this mean? Don't be fooled by the high and mighty. Neither politics, position nor fame provide our solution. Jesus didn't depend on them. Neither should we. Indeed, Jesus said, "Without me you can do nothing." How much is that?

Great Expectations

Only followers of Jesus face expectations of a righteous lifestyle. If the leader of a Buddhist, Hindu or Moslem group is caught in less than inspiring circumstances, it is little more than expected. No one, especially the press, bothers to give it a line of attention, unless, as in the case of the leader of the Moonies, it involves the breaking of US laws. Why are we held to such higher standards? It is simple. Because righteousness is what we are all about.

Unfortunately, people hold us to certain personally-oriented standards that often have little to do with actual righteousness. Often we are most embarrassed by a slip of our tongue or a failure to fit into local clothing standards. However, the righteousness that God invites us to has to do with how we are relating to and treating other people. I know of nothing that has come along to improve on the Golden Rule. No law or church policy exceeds Jesus ' call to love each other as he has loved us.

In each case, the subject matter is not the fulfilling of personal ritual, but the fulfillment of others-centered living. This is why actions in the world like adultery are so devastating among Christians. It represents violation of the strongest contract we have on this earth short of salvation itself. This is why honesty (in short supply in the world) is considered basic in following the Lord. Honesty has to do with how you treat people. Nothing that I have found in Scripture permits us to take advantage of another person. This is why greed is deadly to the Christian. The world worships it, but to the Christian, greed violates the very nature of Jesus who was a giver. This is why generosity is the natural product of the redeemed heart. We, who received so much, find stinginess unthinkable. Those who beg for money from Christians are not tapping into generosity, they are trying to overcome our natural resistance to fraud. That is why we forgive. When we pray, the commands of Jesus call us to the same kind of forgiveness He extended to us. Living with freedom and without torment calls us to forgiveness. Yes, the world expects more from us because, frankly, we have more. I am not complaining. I am grateful for His gifts.

Someone has to answer for all this, so: Servant Quarters is published five or six times a year by Gayle D. Erwin and offered free to anyone requesting it or ordering any of our teaching materials.

Servant Quarters
PO Box 219
Cathedral City, CA 92235
FAX 760-202-1139

Interesting Things

Upstate New York churns with surprises. At a recent pastors conference, Chuck Smith called me to the platform to thank me for teaching (I knew something was up when that happened.) and it was interrupted by the delivery of a "Gayle Erwin Doll." Cathy DeRider and Lynne Fox of Calvary Chapel of the Finger Lakes took my caricature, embroidered it onto a specially made doll which had suspenders made out of measuring tape. What a thing to do to a doll! At least it was slender. Maybe that is prophetic. This church where Bill Gallatin serves has also made a sweatshirt for me with the suspenders sewed in and another sweatshirt that says Calorie Chapel." Still sitting on a shelf in my office and staring at me is a doll made by Calvary Chapel of Boston (a little fatter) with suspenders, one hand in a pocket-another hand lifted as if to make a point and precious little hair sketched onto the head. Chocolate covered raisins accompanied it. More Symbols

Two churches (Camp Verde, AZ and Appleton, WI) have presented me with suspenders made of wide measuring tape. I proudly wear them to let you know that I have a ruler in my life, that I am a man under construction and that I work for an outstanding carpenter. The tape suspenders do stretch a bit which reminds me of the Grace of God.

Answered Prayer

My own attempts to put together a radio program lie as wreckage strewn along my way. I had a certain design I wanted, but lacked the time and skill to assemble it. To my great joy, Jon Courson and the folks at Applegate Christian Fellowship (Jereme Dittmer did the production) have taken tapes of my messages and produced the exact item I desired. They have already been airing them and receiving excellent response. So, start listening. Maybe it will be in your area soon. If you know of radio opportunities available, give us a call or a letter. These will be unique programs.

The Burger Delay

Applegate Christian Fellowship in Jacksonville, OR has a serious problem in the summer. Rather than the Winter schedule of three services inside their building, they meet for one service in their outdoor amphitheater which makes for a huge traffic problem. In order to provide additional fellowship for the people and slow down the exit traffic problem, they have a giant outdoor barbecue waiting for the people at the end of the service. About 1200 people stay and picnic each Sunday. Folks, Calorie Chapel is on the move.

An Official Manual

Calorie Chapel" now has its own cookbook. It has been put together by Calvary Chapel of Placerville, CA. Take it from me, it deserves the official" seal. It is unusually helpful and inviting. You can get the Calorie Chapel Cookbook for $6.50 from Calvary Chapel of Placerville, PO Box 1604, Placerville, CA 95667. Anointed Skills

Skill and creativity is breaking out all over. I love it! Now, for a superb worship and concert experience, send $13.00 to Harvest Christian Fellowship, 6115 Arlington Ave, Riverside, CA 92504 and ask for "Come Just As You Are." You will thank me for telling you.

Let your walls speak! From Calvary Chapel of Old Bridge comes a wonderful poster of Noah's Ark done by one of their artists. It draws your eyes and forces your smile. You will want it on the wall of your child's room. Send $5.00 to Calvary Chapel of Old Bridge, PO Box 569, Old Bridge, NJ 08857. Or phone them at 800-679-2262 to get a better deal. And...of course...the items from Servant Quarters make unique and living gifts that will edify for years.

More Calorie Chapel

Mike Rufener of Bend, Oregon makes sure that whenever he sees me, I am blessed by a jar of his special salsa. (Yes, I have weaknesses beyond chocolate covered raisins.) He could market the stuff and get rich, it is so good, but I guess you will just have to hear me talk about it. Raul Ries, great pastor though he is, makes an addictive salsa. He doesn't give me as much as I want, but he is forgiven.

More Precious than Gold

Karen Clarke of Farmington, NY teaches a group of girls in Sunday School. They pray for me each week and send me a letter with Scriptures once a month. That is most valuable. Sunday School classes in Carson, CA and Cotton wood, AZ do similar things. Different churches that have chosen to pray for me as a missionary also write me asking of current needs. Individuals often tell me that they pray for me every day. I am staggered by all of this. With friends like that, I am a rich man. Should God move on you to pray for me, always include prayer for wisdom and strength.

Dear Gayle,

I'm writing because I was given a copy of your May-July issue of Servant Quarters,titled Froth and Bubble." I believe you wonderfully articulated truth in love! Thank you! I had come to all the same conclusions, and others, based on my intimate connection to the Vineyard and to John's style of leadership.

I have a great concern that people are becoming experience addicts instead of allowing the Holy Spirit to fulfill His Biblical job description of conviction, producing repentance, which in turn produces disciples and evangelism. I actually recently taught a short series called, Humility, the Forgotten Sign and Wonder," as the angels told the shepherds their sign" would be a babe wrapped in old cloths.

I have found that my history with the Vineyard makes some people feel I have an axe to grind, limiting my ability to share objectively without being misunderstood. I've carefully searched my heart and am comfortable that I have fully forgiven all those who have hurt me and have also confessed to God and others my sins and sinful reactions.

But to speak truth without the appearance of unresolved hurt, I've found it helpful to let God use the words of others. That brings me to the point of my letter. I would appreciate 150 copies of your article to make available to our church to read and to use as a resource. It feels odd in many ways to have come from such a position" as Director of the Association of Vineyard Churches under Wimber to being the pastor of a tiny new church here in L.A. We spent the first two years planting out six churches from the initial crowd that showed up when we returned, and only in last October finally planted this church. But I feel it's the church I've been prepared all my life to pastor. Now I know it's not about how many, but what kind--a crowd, or authentic disciples. It's so wonderful to be free from the need to please anyone but the Lord!
I'M so grateful for you.

Kenn Gulliksen
Los Angeles, CA

Thank you for the Froth and Bubble article. If only the Body of Christ would read their Bibles in context and allow the Holy Spirit to teach them His truth. 1 Cor. 14:33 "For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace...."

When I was a young Christian, I fell into the "Word of Faith" movement due to my ignorance of God's Word, and possibly my laziness for not being a Berean. Thank God for his faithfulness for showing me the error of my ways.

Thank you for continuing to help equip us saints.

Gary Rifenburg
Stroh, IN

The latest Servant Quarters was beyond excellent--great words of encouragement in these days when so much froth and bubble is being found in the church. We would like to hand them out in the community. I would love to see that article published in "Charisma."

Rick Giardine
Olathe, KS

I returned home from the Midwest Pastors Conference thoroughly blessed. With this conference, I felt a bond with the other guys that led me to tears. The Spirit seemed to emphasize that these guys are not only friends and peers but genuine brothers in Christ, for whom I have the utmost respect, honor and fellowship.

Much of this feeling came about, I believe, as a result of the model which you, Chuck (Smith) and Damian (Kyle) demonstrated. To see the fellowship and love and interaction which was shared among you motivates me to cultivate the same (Example: Chuck's turning and looking your way while describing John's position as "His beloved." Chuck's joy in sharing this revelation with you was so evident...). And while our focus is no doubt to be on Jesus, I greatly appreciate the example you've provided.

I dropped by your table to purchase "The Spirit Style" sweatshirt to bless my wife. She was! Thank you. She loves it!

Rocky Jones
Louisville, KY

I am stationed with the U. S. Navy in Iceland. How much I enjoy and appreciate the Nature of Jesus video tapes. We have shared them with Christians and non-Christians alike and I have yet to hear of one complaint or objection to this awesome presentation.

It is quite obvious that this series is the product of many years of seeking God and searching His word. Many might say that what you present is incredibly simple, but I have found that it takes a lot of prayer to get beyond our complex plans and get to the simple things of God. So, for the word that God has given you, I just want to say thanks and that we will do our best to keep that word going.

Michael Selby
US Navy

(More from Michael in a future issue)

I love your newsletter. It is a joy to read, an encouragement to my heart and a wonderful reminder of you.

Char Binkley, WBCL
Fort Wayne, IN

You force me to look at Jesus or events in Scripture differently. The more I walk with Christ, the more sinful and crippled I see myself and the more I see my total dependence on Christ's redemption and healing. I came from a "dysfunctional" family, became involved in pornography when I was nine or ten, developed an addiction and got involved in the discipling Church of Christ movement looking for love. The world kicked me hard.... I had a very poor view of God: The Father as very harsh and severe and the Son as so loving. It was a shock when I found that when I see Jesus, I see the Father. My view of God has changed. Still, there are lots of weeds in my life that need to be uprooted and lots of seeds of righteousness that need to be cultivated.

A Friend
Tucson, AZ

You prayed for me at a CareNet Directors Conference in Virginia after I revealed to you my heartbreak of being a wife of youth, forsaken." It had happened many years ago and I had just found out about it due to the fact that a young man called on the phone and announced that he was my husband's son. His mother had been a close friend of mine in those years as well. I had not shared this "news flash" with anyone. My pain was too great, as was the deep humiliation. Your messages at the conference drippled with the love of the Holy Spirit.

The anger was rooted so deep in my heart that I had come to a place of the living dead. I knew if I allowed myself joy" I would also feel the pain again and I did not know if I could bear that. As you spoke on forgiveness, the Lord managed to get at my excuses and tug at my heart strings. I could now choose to go on in deadness and unforgiveness or I could trust Him, shed my death shroud and be resurrected.

But it would cost much and I had to be willing to say at all cost, Lord, I want what you want." That has been over two years ago and I want you to know, Gayle, that I am free at last! Now, I would like to bless you by praying for you....

A Friend.

A Skull vs. Stripes

A Summer, like any other summer. 1969. I grew accustomed to emergency calls. Pastors do. This one was intense.

The breathless caller informed me that the son of one of my parishioners had lost control of his motorbike on a gravel curve and had flown headfirst into a pole at fifty miles per hour. He was on his way to the hospital where his newly-informed parents were headed also. I arrived shortly before them and watched as the teenager was unloaded from the ambulance. Blood and mud covered his face which twitched in constant seizures. I feared for his life. By this point, the whole church was being alerted to pray.

Comfort has its limits in the absence of information. The family, once they saw him, returned to the waiting room and sank into a grieving stupor. After praying for them, I wandered back to the x-ray room and watched as they carefully held him rigidly and turned him for x-rays from different angles. The doctors were waiting for the results. My familiarity with the hospital and its small-town casualness gave me much freedom.

I knew where the x-ray viewing room was and quietly walked toward it about the time I knew the film would be ready. The door, slightly cracked, permitted all the view I needed. I heard them whistle in disbelief as they placed the film against the lighted viewing plates. Even from my view, it was plain as day. A split the width of my little finger ran the entire length of his skull from front to back. The doctors became aware of my presence and closed the door. I alerted the parents to what might be coming up.

The doctors took the film, placed it in an envelope and walked immediately out to the parents. We are not equipped to do anything for your son," they reported. We will place him in an ambulance and race him to a much larger hospital 100 miles away at the state capital. Hopefully, they can help. We are shorthanded on nurses. We must find one to accompany him." Finally, a nurse from surgery, an old family friend, volunteered to ride with him. The father also rode in the ambulance. The mother rode with me as we raced along to keep up with the speeding, flashing lights ahead. The talk was serious, the tears frequent, the anxiety high, the questions many, the prayer constant. Only in our hopes would he live. Then it happened.

How can you explain those moments when you just know something to be true though you have no evidence. I simply knew. I turned to the mother and said, "Your son is OK. He is going to be all right. I just know." She was afraid to hope that much.

Later, the nurse accompanying him could not tell the story without crying. She said that she always wanted to see a miracle but never thought she would be taking his pulse when it happened.

His life signs had been steadily deteriorating. She was afraid he would die before they arrived, but suddenly, his pulse and blood pressure stabilized and became normal. She could not explain it because nothing was actually being done for him. She merely was tracking his progress as they traveled.

By the arrival, he was conscious. The doctors checked him in, looked at his x-rays, took new ones, checked his bleeding, looked again and marveled. They said, "You are actually OK. You only have bleeding in the scalp. Except for the fact there is a half-inch gap in your skull, we would send you home. We need to watch you for a while. This is hard for us to believe, since we just sent home as a vegetable a man with just a small skull crack ."

It was so good, we were almost afraid to believe. When I visited him later in the hospital, his eyes, barely able to peek through his swollen face, sparkled. He said, "You know, I even feel smarter, now." A week later, he came home. It was still Summer, but we declared that the next Sunday would officially be declared Thanksgiving. Applause and praises greeted his entry that Sunday. This was not Turkey Day, this was Thanks giving!

By the way, his grades (miserable until then) greatly improved.

Dirty Pictures

Like many other rides to airports or next stops, my driver and old friend and I talked of many things, dissecting life and meaning. We rejoiced in each other's company after years of not seeing each other. The conversation shifted, as it often does, to an area of need and growth. I have a problem, a decision I need to make and maybe you can help me." Hardly a trip goes by without hearing those words. However, unshockable me was a bit unprepared for what I was about to hear.

"I have some pictures at my house that I'm thinking God might want me to get rid of," my friend blurted out.

"I have had them for a while but now I am becoming concerned about what would happen if some people saw them. I know it would damage how they see me and I might not be able to minister to them properly if they see them." Mixed emotions flooded my soul. Could my friend not see clearly what was being said? Was there any question, really, about the removal of the pictures? What could I now say? Before I could respond, my friend continued.

"I know this is a lust problem for me and I need to do something about it. I certainly don't get any satisfaction from them. What do you think I should do?" Squirming a bit, I struggled to stay cool and calm, hoping that simple logic might handle the situation. "Did God tell you to put these pictures up?" "No, but God didn't tell me to put up the pictures of my mom and dad, either."

"But God hasn't convicted you about the pictures of mom and dad." "True."

"But he is speaking to you about these other pictures." "Yes."

"There has to be more to this," I thought, so I pursued the question. Why would you put them up in the first place?" "Well, they do represent some power to me. They do symbolize challenges and successful conquest." "Wouldn't you rather let God reward you as a victor and conqueror than to look at and remember this?" I knew that my friend was single and the pressures of life could be unbearable at times, but I hoped the conviction would produce repentance.

Fortunately, the victory was won, and my friend went home and took her pictures down – the one with her and a former president as he signed a bill, the one with her and a Supreme Court Justice, the one with her and a famous performer. The lust to be seen with famous and powerful people had been conquered. She only wanted to be known because of her relationship with Jesus.

I'm not sure if you'll remember my name, but probably our best common denominator" apart from Jesus is Brent Rue, who was on my staff at the first Vineyard in L.A. when we sent him to Lancaster. He constantly spoke to me of his gratitude for all you imparted to him. I left the Vineyard in 1992 after growing up enough to discern my sin of looking to please John Wimber in order to obtain approval, the approval only God can give. For several years earlier I had been in significant tension as the "Movement" continued to move further and further from my heart and initial vision, which was Jesus Himself, love, discipleship, evangelism, etc., the things I'M sure you saw in Brent. Now, at the ripe old age of 50 (I'm a late bloomer – or slow learner), I'm back in West L.A. where God originally called us, and graciously called us to return.

A Friend.