Friday, December 21, 2007

Christmas Update

My son, Paul, arrived home this week. He has been in Baghdad, Iraq for the past 15 months as a soldier in the US Army and this Sunday after service we are having a church luncheon to celebrate Paul’s safe return. Please come!

Don’t forget Candlelight service on Christmas Eve at 6:00 pm. This is my favorite time of the year. The short service will include Scripture reading, Christmas Carol singing and I’ll share a special Christmas message. This is our way of keeping Jesus as the reason for the season.

Isaiah 9:6-7
For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor,
Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

Merry Christmas,
Pastor Bob Engelhardt

The Sovereignty of God

I just finished updating and editing a book entitled ‘The Sovereignty of God’ by Arthur W. Pink, originally published in 1918. The book is a convincing presentation of the Calvinist doctrine of divine election and predestination and was written by a man who, although he did not have much public acclaim in his lifetime, has since his death in 1952 become a main source of inspiration to students of expository preaching and reformed theology. The Sovereignty of God is being published by Bridge-Logos and will be out in January.

In thinking of Christmas I was reminded of Arthur Pink’s salvation experience and life. Born in Nottingham, England in 1886, the oldest of three children to devout Christian parents, Arthur entered life at the height of the Industrial Revolution, one year before Queen Victoria celebrated her fiftieth year on the throne of the United Kingdom. This latter Victorian era was a period of significant social, economic, scientific and technological progress for England and Christian faith and morality were the predominant, though in retrospect, too comfortable, cultural influences. As a result, many counter-Christian trends and alternative influences in intellectual and spiritual thought can be either originally traced back to, or gained powerful momentum during the Victorian era.

In this physically prosperous but intellectually discontent environment, all three of the Pink children, in spite of the outstanding character, dedication and example of their parents, apparently walked away from their Christian upbringing. Arthur ended up, at a young age, embracing Theosophy, which is described as a cult that “holds that all religions are attempts by the "Spiritual Hierarchy" to help humanity in evolving to greater perfection, and that each religion therefore has a portion of the truth.” It was an influential movement of that era, headed in England by Annie Blessant who, like Arthur, also embraced Theosophy in retaliation against her own Christian background.

Arthur apparently rose through the ranks of the cult quickly, becoming a speaker at meetings and was considered something of a rising star. Interestingly, one of the attractive aspects of Theosophy to him was their involvement in Spiritism, the experience of occult paranormal phenomena, which in turn, ostensibly validated their core beliefs. In fact, the main appeal of the cult was through séances, the appeal of secret knowledge and the power of magical healing and clairvoyance. Fortunately, his foray into Theosophy ended abruptly in 1908, when he was just 22 years old.

Through Arthur’s tuning away from Christianity, his parents prayers and unwavering commitment to their faith, never faltered. Upon returning home from a Theosophy meeting one evening, on his way to his bedroom, Arthur was given the scripture by his father: “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs14:12). Arthur could not shake the conviction of this scripture and after three days of wrestling with God emerged from his room gloriously converted. Oddly, by his own admission, he had previously had no inner longing or sense of emptiness that had brought him to this point of surrender, but rather it was a sudden event. In fact, he seems to have remained through his life convinced that what many Spiritists experience is not trickery but demons impersonating the departed.

His life changed dramatically from that point, publicly leaving Theosophy and embracing Jesus Christ as his Lord. He studied the Word of God with a voracious hunger and immediately felt the call to the ministry. Pink biographer, Iain H. Murray, describes best Arthur’s life of study after his conversion: “For two years after this spiritual crisis Pink continued in his daily work but in his bedroom it was now his Bible that was ever open. Ten chapters of Scripture were read daily, plus one particular portion to which he would give particular study, ‘ten minutes or more’, through seven days. In addition, he would take one special verse each day for meditation, carrying it with him on a slip of paper to which he would turn in spare moments, ‘asking God to open to me its spiritual meaning and to write it on my heart’. Recommending the practice to others, he was to say, ‘The writer memorized the whole epistle of Ephesians on the street-car, a verse at a time.’ On days when he was free of business he could spend up to ten hours in his new delight with the Bible.”

Arthur’s ambitious pursuit of God and insatiable study of scripture brought him across the Atlantic to a very brief stint as a student at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and on to his first pastorate in Silverton, Colorado by August, 1910. This lasted two years and over the ensuing years he pastored churches in such diverse places as California, Kentucky and South Carolina and ministered as an itinerant Bible teacher. In 1916 he married Vera E. Russell, who was from Kentucky. From 1925 to 1928 he served in Australia, including as pastor of two congregations from 1926 to1928, when he returned to England and to the United States the following year.

In 1922 he started a monthly magazine entitled ‘Studies in Scriptures’ concerned solely with the exposition of Scripture, which circulated among English-speaking Christians worldwide. This is wheremost of his works first appeared though only to a relatively small circulation list of around 1,000. His writings pointed the readership back to an understanding of the gospel that had rarely been heard since the days of C. H. Spurgeon. At the time his magazine seemed as inconsequential as its author, but subsequently Arthur Pink's writings became a major element in the recovery of expository preaching and biblical living. In 1934 Pink returned to England, and within a few years turned his Christian service to writing books and pamphlets.

Pink was virtually unknown and certainly unappreciated in his day. His own independent Bible study convinced him that much of modern evangelism was defective. When Puritan and Reformed books were generally disregarded by the Church was a whole, he preached the majority of their principles with untiring zeal. The progressive spiritual decline of his own nation (Britain) was to him the inevitable consequence of the prevalence of a "gospel" that could neither wound (with conviction of sin) nor heal (via regeneration).

Familiar with the whole range of revelation, Mr. Pink was rarely sidetracked from the great themes of Scripture: grace, justification, and sanctification. Our generation owes him a great debt for the enduring light he has shed, by God's grace, on the Truth of the Holy Bible.
A. W. Pink died in Stornoway, Scotland on July 15, 1952.

After Pink's death, his works were republished by the Banner of Truth Trust and reached a much wider audience as a result. As Iain Murray observes of Pink,"the widespread circulation of his writings after his death made him one of the most influential evangelical authors in the second half of the twentieth century." His writing sparked a revival of expository preaching and focused readers' hearts on biblical living.

-Iain H. Murray, The Life of Arthur W. Pink, 2004edition-The Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, andEcclesiastical Literature by Rev. John McClintock andJames Strong. -Wikipedia

I encourage anyone praying for a loved to find the Lord this Christmas to take courage from A.W. Pink’s father and keep praying! God is able to save even the most lost soul and make him/her a hero of the faith. Do not give up; take heart; know the He is an awesome and mighty God and no person or circumstance can hold back His mighty hand.

Look for "The Sovereignty of God' by A.W. Pink and revised by 'yours truly' to be available next month.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Over $1Million of Faith-Work Served!

I'm excited to announce that we have just passed over the one million dollar mark in value of food distributed through the Family Table CAP program in the past four years. Thank you, Jesus! This really marks an important point in time for this outreach. There are so many people involved in a success like this so I want to acknowledge some of the key players in this miracle of God.

First of all, without the precious Holy Spirit we would never have been in position to see this as an opportunity from Heaven. Thank you Holy Spirit.

Dr. Larry Keefauver, who in his apostolic anointing and wisdom, recommended that we start this kind of program and connected us with Harvest Time International in Orlando. Thanks Dr. Larry.

Pastor John Murphy of Harvest Time International, Orlando, FL, who freely opened his ministry to us, trained our start-up team, provided our very first truckload of food and helped us many times since. Thanks Pastor John.

The CMCC family of believers who responded with an initial offering to finance the start-up of the CAP program. You guys are the best! Without your sacrifice, CMCC could not have grown from a veritable house-church in 1991 to a major ministry epicenter, smack in the middle of town, feeding the poor, teaching children, preaching the Gospel and blazing the light of God’s love. Thank you all.

Our original CAP start-up team; Nick and Kathy Malaxos and Mike and Chris Tuch, who all took a week off from work to drive to Orlando with me for training at Harvest Time International. This group of committed Christian neighbor-lovers set up the original store and tended the program for the first full year of operation. Without Nick, Kathy, Mike and Chris there would be no CAP today. Much gratitude to these faithful friends of Jesus.

Mr. Terry Henderson, who, when he saw our functioning CAP program, provided funding and leather furniture donations to sell, to get us to the next level. Thank you for everything Terry and Ruth. You are well loved!

Randy and Letty Johnson and Tracy Larokko, who diligently worked the phones for months and months, at first with no results, to break through and create the vital business connections necessary to receive the food to stock our shelves. Thank you, I really appreciate all your hard work.

Our food suppliers. Thanks to the many stores, wholesalers and manufacturers who have entrusted product to care for needy people in our region. Hannaford, Price Chopper, C&S, K-Mart, Wal-Mart, LaBella Pasta, Mountainside Creamery, Kraft, and A&P come to mind as well as many other fine organizations who have kindly befriended us.

Thanks to the dozens and dozens of workers from our church and the greater community who have given so many hours of labor and contributed in so many ways. If I begin naming names, I will surely offend some hard working saint by forgetting to acknowledge you, so please forgive me if I do not. The Lord knows those who are His (2 Timothy 2:19).

Local businesses like Hubbell Brothers, the Cheese Barrel and many others, who have been consistent supporters of the CAP program through goods, services and financial donations. Thank you all so much.

Stephanie Seminara, whose excellent leadership and incredible hard work brought the program from mom and pop status to the current region-wide resource. Proverbs 19:17 “He who has pity on the poor lends tothe LORD, And He will pay back what he has given.” Thanks Stephanie!

Finally, thanks to the more than 600 families, totaling over 1500 individuals who are currently members of the Family Table Community Assistance Program. It is an honor to serve you.

The Family Table CAP is, in my mind, the perfect expression of James 2:14-20: What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled, "but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe--and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?

The Family Table: Over one million dollars of faith-work served!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Traditions of Christmas

The power of a tradition is that it memorializes something considered important or sacred and is a way that ancestors communicate with their descendants. For example, old European and earlier American society gave us many of our most wonderful Christmas traditions. These are the familiar images of baby Jesus in a manger, the three wise men, Mary and Joseph, shepherds, and angels. They also include Christmas trees, church services, traditional carols, giving gifts, good will, the story of Scrooge and even the playful metaphor of Santa Claus. These are all traditions our ancestors initiated and handed down so that future generations might know of their love for their world’s most valuable treasure: Jesus Christ.

Although modernity has largely moved away from the religious heart and soul of the holiday, Christmas traditions were specifically designed to stir goodwill and love among people because the one celebrated is an expression of good will and love from God. What a great idea, to rejoice at God’s gift to the world by transforming an entire home, village, town or city with colorful lights, garland and the sounds of heartwarming songs in a common expression of Christmas joy. It is sad to me that our society has moved so far away from the original meaning of these holiday traditions as it has from many other aspects of our Christian heritage.

The good news is God is never far away, regardless of how far people have drifted. The great hope for our generation is, as always, in the tireless, timeless work of bringing the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ back into the center of human life. Our ancestors knew this and memorialized it in our Christmas traditions. Therefore this year as we begin to turn our hearts towards Christmas, I encourage the faithful to keep Christmas as Christmas; a day when we remember and celebrate God’s gift of His own Son, Jesus Christ, to the world. In the words of the immortal Linus, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”
Photo above courtesy Dean Malaxos.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Always Mardi Gras and Never Lent

Our culture reminds me of Mardi Gras, where spectators line up along the street each night, intoxicated by drink and the spirit of the celebration while watching a parade go by.

Mardi Gras parades include floats, marching bands, costumes, glitter, lights and strings of beads being tossed from the floats. Each float is a gaudy, brilliantly illuminated artistic creation, presenting some theme or other and usually manned by celebrities or exotically costumed characters in masks, face and body paint or skimpy outfits. Catching the beads is part of the fun for the onlookers. The whole concept of Mardi Gras apparently originated as a period of time set aside for people to get their fill of sinful pleasure before the annual start of Lent.

I see American culture very much the same way. Like at Mardi Gras, the music of our culture is always loud and always playing in our ears, reinforcing the spirit of the party. The entire generation seems intoxicated with alcohol, drugs, consumerism, entertainment, politics, and sexual energy. Each TV show, web site, movie, video game, news or media spectacle is another float going by and actors, politicians, athletes, news people and talk show hosts in their various costumes, pass by their audience each night offering a glimpse into a caricature of life that entertains, titillates, outrages, shocks, informs and sells. The spectator hoard catches the beads every time they buy a new flat screen TV, iPod, hybrid car or hamburger.

This perpetual Mardi Gras parade and its variety and diversity of floats all really serve the same purpose and the ultimate effect is the same. That is, to hold the attention of the crowd and give each spectator a feeling of meaning without having done anything to deserve it. It is the ultimate shallow gratification. I watch a TV show like a float going by. I am entertained, I feel satisfied, I have a sense of visceral stimulation, but I have done nothing. I have accomplished nothing, changed nothing, built nothing and stood for nothing. I have only attended a parade. I am a well-behaved drunk. I sometimes feel slightly guilty but I am an addict; I cannot resist.

The Bible says: "But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?" James 2:20

On another float in the same parade, American culture has created a generation of Christian Mardi Gras spectators, expecting to be entertained by their preachers and threatening to change the channel. These people attend church like watching TV and think that merely being a spectator makes God happy. Many feel the same visceral stimulation at church as a good episode of CSI and leave the service just as unrepentant, unchanged and spiritually ignorant.

But at least Mardi Gras has Lent; a period of self denial before Easter. Our modern culture has no such self-correcting mechanism. The Bible says: "Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. "For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? "For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works." Matt 16:24-27

It is clear that believers are required by God to put feet to their faith. At some point we must decide to voluntarily turn from the cultural Mardi Gras parade and embrace a spirit of Lent as a vital aspect of each of our lives. C. S. Lewis wrote about a curse on the fictional land of Narnia that caused it to be "always winter but never Christmas." We live in a seemingly opposite but equally off-balance land—a land where it is "always Mardi Gras and never Lent."

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

My Latest Books

I am in the middle of revising and editing a bookfor the series Pure Gold Classics (PGC), publishedby Bridge-Logos publishers. The book by Arthur W. Pink is titled The Sovereignty of God and was originally written in 1918. This is the second book in the PGC series I have had the privilege to work on, the first being Power, Passion and Prayer by 19th century revivalist Charles Finney, which I wrote in 2004.

You can purchase a copy of Power Passion and Prayer from our church office or from

I also recently compiled and self-published a small book called 'African Impressions' containing photos and comments from my trip to Africa in March 2007.

The book is free to download on a pdf file from the homepage of our church web site:

Brain Sludge

Humor columnist Dave Barry writes about a term called "Brain Sludge" coined by scientists to describe the vast collection of odd things the brain chooses to remember, instead of useful information. For example, if you take any group of one hundred average Americans, and sing to them, "Come and listen to a story 'bout a man named Jed." At least ninety-seven of them will immediately sing: "A poor mountaineer, barely kept his family fed." Barry quips, "They will sing this even if they are at a funeral... they can't help it."

Another way of looking at this phenomenon is like old-fashioned flypaper. All kinds of disjointed information sticks to the brain like flies on those sticky, hanging glue strips. In fact, many people are proud to amass the most mental flies—little useless facts people boast of knowing—because this supposedly shows how 'smart' they are. The bad news is that an undisciplined mind full of mainly useless facts deceives people into believing themselves intellectually strong when in fact they are merely the haphazard owners of a vast collection of mental flies or, again, what Dave Barry calls, Brain Sludge.

Jesus said that a tree is known by its fruit (Luke 6:43). Good trees produce good fruit and bad trees produce bad fruit. Therefore, you can know if your amassed knowledge is comprised of either Brain Sludge or useful knowledge by what your life is producing. Here's a good test for self-diagnosis: Is your life producing faith, contentment, peace, healthy relationships, prosperity, productivity, purpose, success, joy and love? Is your mind alive to good things? Is your closest friend your spouse? Do you love God and His church? Do you love your neighbor? Really?

If not, the good news is that the brain's flypaper like adhesive quality works on useful information as well as Brain Sludge, but it takes a little work. Romans 12:2 says, "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." Renewing the mind is a mandate to the child of God.

To renew the mind, the flypaper must be hung in the appropriate room where it will catch the right thoughts. If someone consistently exposes themselves to healthy, success-producing knowledge, eventually their brain will begin catching small strands of healthy thoughts and words. The healthy thoughts and words deepen over time with repetition and bond together with other healthy knowledge creating a network of healthy thinking. And here is a major tip: Healthy thinking results in healthy actions.

How to move mental fly paper into a healthy room:

1. Study the Bible. The Bible is the perfect fountain of knowledge and wisdom and the healthiest thinking comes from its words. The Bible says:

Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 2 Tim 2:15

How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. Psalms 119:9

But you must continue in the... Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Tim 3:14-17

2. Meditate on or ponder good thoughts. Again, healthy thinking results in healthy actions. The Bible says:

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy--meditate on these things. Philippians 4:8

3. Keep the right company. Avoid spending too much time with negative, gloomy, dirty-minded, overly sarcastic, untruthful, foul-mouthed and crooked people, at least as much as possible. Also, as John Kelly teaches, there are three kinds of people; those who hate you, those who tolerate you, and those who celebrate you. Try to spend most of your time with those who celebrate you and the least amount of time with those who hate you.

Go out of your way to befriend people who will make you feel good, noble, intelligent, compassionate and holy. Here is a tip: if good people seem to avoid you, check a mirror. The Bible says:

Do not be deceived: "Evil company corrupts good habits." 1 Corinthians15:33

4. Cultivate your mind-life like a garden. You wouldn’t let destructive animals or insects into your vegetable garden and neither should you allow every ungodly voice in the world into your mind and heart.The Bible says:

Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life. Proverbs 4:23

"Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God... the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience. From Luke 8:11-15

5. Speak and pray faith-filled words and prayers. The Bible says:

Have faith in God. "For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be removed and be cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. "Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. Mark 11:22-24

6. When you recognize your own toxic thinking and attitudes, repent. The Bible says:

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

In conclusion: Implementing these six simple principles will revolutionize one's life. Imagine being able to recite the Scripture as readily as we recite our cultural Brain Sludge. I can hear it now...Someone sings, "Come and listen to a story 'bout a man named Jed." And ninety-seven people retort,

"As a door turns on its hinges, So does the lazy man on his bed." (Proverbs 26:14)

At Catskill Mountain Christian Center we are committed to creating opportunities for people to grow in God’s grace. To reposition your mental fly-paper or to cleanse your mental sludge, I encourage you to participate in any of the dozens of activities held here each month including:

-Sunday and Wednesday Services
-Bible Studies
-Home Groups
-Christian Life School of Theology, Beacon University
-Prayer services
-Christian Worker Home Bible Study Series
-Family Church
-Men’s and women’s meetings
-Sunday school classes for the whole family
-Youth Group
-Senior Citizen’s Fellowship & Dinner
-Pastoral counseling

Catskill Mountain Christian Center
629 Main Street
Margaretville, NY 12455
e mail:
web site:
Sunday Service: 10:00 am

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Integrating Faith and Education

Catskill Mountain Christian Academy (CMCA) is currently in our thirteenth year of high powered, high quality, academically excellent, intellectually stimulating and spiritually uplifting Christian education. Our pre-K through 12th grade students continue to score well above the national average across-the-board on standardized testing including the all-important SATs.

CMCA does not position itself as a competitor to public education but really only exists to serve parents who have committed their lives and resources to raising their children without a spiritually divided mind. Christian parents who are willing to sacrifice for their kids to possess a Christian worldview, will receive at CMCA, an unapologetic integration of faith and education, something that, by definition, public schools cannot do.

Like myself, many parents feel like it is important for our children to hear the same moral and spiritual message in school as they do at home. At CMCA, we teach that God is one God; whether at church, school, home or workplace and that His presence and teachings should inform and saturate every aspect of our lives.

Separation of church and state is a concept for the government to dispute, not parents. Parents are admonished by God to "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart fromit" (Prov 22:6).

And also from Deuteronomy 6: "And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. "You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up (...or pretty much all the time!).

In short, public education, by law, looks at all religions as equal; CMCA unapologetically teaches that God exclusively expresses His will to the human race through the Gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Holy Bible. And that is why we joyfully open our doors each day to honor God by educating our CMCA children academically and 'in the Light'.

Louvre Painting at CMCC

In 2006 an amazing painting by Lawson was donated to CMCC, and it hangs behind the pulpit in our Chapel.It is approximately ten feet long and depicts the scene from Luke 7: 36-50 where the sinful woman washes Jesus' feet with her tears, wipes them with her hair and anoints them with fragrant oil.

The painting is a study of an original painted in 1737 by artist Pierre Sableyras on display in the Louvre Museum in Paris. You have to see it to believe it!

Thoughts on Aron Ralston

The Discovery Channel broadcasted a show highlighting the experience of Aron Ralston, the young hiker who severed his own arm to get free from a fallen bolder after being trapped in a Utah canyon for five days. Tom Brokaw conducted an interview with Ralston and did a magnificent job. The story relates to our walk with the Lord in very poignant ways:

Off on his own. As he tells it, Ralston did not tell anyone of his whereabouts when he went hiking. He was drawn to the danger and excitement. We likewise stray into many dangerous places which God's Word instructs us to avoid for the sake of fun, danger and excitement. These are places the Bible calls sin. We go alone because we don't want anyone to know.

Trapped by a fallen boulder. Sin leads to bondage. What starts as seemingly harmless fun can take a nasty turn and trap us in a deep dark prison. Dysfunction is the common thread of our generation because of the myriad social and relational bondagescreated by the sex, drugs and rebellion so pervasive in our generation.

In a deep canyon that no one could locate. Sin leads to isolation. Eventually people bury or cover up their bondage so deep that there is no way to even know they are trapped. People are generally terrified of being ‘outed’ in their bondage because they either are ashamed of being there in the first place or they fear rejection or do not trust the healing community to have an answer for them.

Realization that actions were dumb. Ralston happened to be carrying a video camera and recorded several messages chronicling his experience. "I don't know what it is about me that's brought me to this...Go out looking for adventure and I can feel alive...and don't tell someone where I'm going, it's just dumb." Repentance, or turning, begins withmentally saying, "uncle" to God's truth. The Bible teaches, 'Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up'.

Realization that the bondage can kill you. Another video quote finds Ralston saying, "If I had a way to end it I probably would...its miserable, its cold. I can’t keep the wind off of me, it's cold...I'm doing what I can, but this sucks. It's really bad. One of the worst ways to go. Knowing it's going to happen." He was realizing that the bondage could kill him. The destruction of your life is going to be the unalterable result of this prison. You are a dead man walking. There is a coldness of spirit when one is trapped in some bondage of sin that brings a creeping impending death. This can create the catharsis that brings a sense of desperation, pushing one to consider possibilities formerly outside of one's consciousness. Jesus said that in order to find your life, you must lose it.

Reaching out for a love touch. In another video clip he says, "So again love to everyone. Bring love and peace and happiness and beautiful lives into the world in my honor. Thank you. Love you." After 9/11 I was astonished at the stories that reported people calling on their cell phones from the WTC and hijacked airplanes to say 'I love you' to their loved ones. It is amazing that the human spirit, faced with separation from this life, reaches out for a love touch. It is almost like a universal need to proclaim participation in the only real pure thing in life: love! The Bible says, "God is love."

Doing what it takes to survive. On the fifth day Ralston finally came to terms with what he had to do to survive; cut his arm off. He explained in excruciating detail the process of breaking the bones first and then with the small blade of his knife working through the rest of his arm. The brutality and sheer will displayed an unwillingness to stay trapped in the present situation and do whatever necessary to be set free. It is so reminiscent of Jesus’ words, "If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched-- (Mark 9:43) Ralston's experience is a harrowing demonstration of Jesus’ metaphorical instruction. When a person becomes this desperate in the canyon of their bondage, they are ready to be liberated. The Bible says that we find God when we seek Him with all our heart.

The power of a second chance. Once he was free of his arm, Ralston said he felt reborn. "[It] was the happiest moment in my life...there will never be a more powerful experience for me. I...just spent all this time trapped here. And then having the opportunity I...thought I was going to die...and to have gotten to that point I...where I engraved my own epitaph...gravestone, in a sense that it...was absolutely the greatest feeling to be...given the chance to get out of here. And looking down in canyon, I knew I had a...hell of a trip left. But at least...I was not going to die right here. And the power of that was astonishing." The power of a second chance, of being born again is incredibly powerful. The metaphor is simply compelling to me! His words describe exactly the feelings of a person liberated by the power of God. Who the Son sets free is free indeed! You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free!

Carrying forward the essentials. Ralston left most of his equipment when beginning his hike out of that place. Many people want to bring elements of their former lives on their trek in Christ but the child of God travels light. Paul wrote: Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Phil 3:13-14). Our journey in Christ is arduous and treacherous and we, in our varying degrees of amputation, must not try to carry more than the essentials.

And now for the hard part. After severing his own arm, Aron Ralston had to then hike out of the canyon, repel down a cliff and cross a long distance before someone found him. Our journey in Christ requires courage, perseverance, steadfastness and great desire for salvation. Christianity is not for the faint of heart!

Combating Phantom Pains. Aron suffered phantom pain in his arm for a long time afterwards. Likewise, we must always remember that Jesus laid the ax to the root of sin on the cross so the only real bondage of sin that remains today is phantom pain. The devil still uses his influence to persuade us that we are still tightly and inseparably bound to that sin. It is his full time job to draw us back into bondage. He comes but to kill steal and destroy but Jesus came that we might have life and have it more abundantly!