Rick Writes:

Who You Gonna Call?

Many years ago, during the holidays, I found myself stranded in a dark Wal-mart parking lot.  My car would not start so I decided to call the Triple A response team, but all to no avail.  Julie my wife wasn’t feeling well that night and had taken some Nyquil to get some rest and hopefully feel better in the morning.  Let me tell you, that stuff really works.


Rick Writes:

The Value of a Good Question

I still remember the question.  I remember where I was, and what we were doing when he asked it.   Struggling with a relationship where I barely knew the young lady, a friend of mine asked, “Are you thinking about marrying her?”  “Marry her?”  Of course not.  I hardly knew her, but when he asked that question, it was as if part of the struggle was lifted.  Someone had taken me and the issue seriously.  I still remember the question. I still remember the event.


Rick Writes:

Singular Focus from a Box of Candy

Years ago, when our children were young, we planned a small trip, and before we jumped in the car, I made an executive decision and planned an activity that I thought might get the kids involved memorizing Scripture, if only for a few miles.   After printing some verses on 3×5 index cards and filling a box with candy and a roll of quarters, it was time to move on down the road and let the games begin. Recite a verse and pick a Hershey bar or a quarter from the box.  Then, once you had recited the verse, you earned the bonus question, which if answered correctly, meant another trip to the loaded box. The bonus question? What does the verse mean?

That’s when the unexpected happened.  Our daughter, who must have been around the age of 12, was quick to answer the bonus question, and it didn’t matter what the verse was, her answer was always the same. Whatever the verse, the meaning was the same:  Love God and Serve other People.


September’s Letter

In Acts chapter 11, the Word of God tells us that after Stephen’s death, persecution against believers in Christ was unleashed. They scattered and some went to Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, where they preached the gospel of the Lord Jesus. Many in Antioch believed in Christ because of the preaching of those courageous believers. News of these things came to the church in Jerusalem and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When Barnabas arrived in Antioch, he immediately saw the grace of God reflected in many saved souls and exhorted all to continue preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. Barnabas went to find Paul in Tarsus and brought him to Antioch. Barnabas and Paul spent a year in Antioch, teaching the Word of God to many people and it was at Antioch that the believers were first called Christians.


Dear First Baptist Church

Recently, my wife shared this illustration that shows us the importance of sticking together.

Flying in a flock is the key to survival for birds living on the plains, and the best display is the annual migration of the American snow goose. A million and a half birds stop to roost in Mound City, Missouri, and the bald eagles know it. They gather to feast on this delicacy before winter comes, but geese are as big as the eagles and hard for them to catch. 

When geese sense danger, the entire flock takes flight forming what looks to the eagle like a great noisy wall. The confused eagles are not able to penetrate that united wall and harm them. But the eagles are hungry and patiently wait for another chance. 

When the weather turns colder, the geese separate into smaller groups along the shore and marshes. The eagles take advantage of the divided groups by diving over them. The geese scatter in flight and in the chaos injure their flock mates, breaking wings and leaving them vulnerable to the enemy.

I think, in some ways, this story describes the current situation of our church.

The church is the group of people who have believed in Christ for salvation and who come together to worship God and to celebrate biblical ordinances.




*The Inevitable Cycles of Life*

Transitions are an inevitable part of life. Beth and I have been reminded
of that truth just this Christmas. All of our children and grandchildren
gathered together with us in Holyoke. We enjoyed a tremendous time of
fellowship, joy, reminiscing and eating. Our family experienced a wonderful
season of family!
Beth and I used to play the role of parents. Now we play the role of
grandparents. After two of our children and their crew departed for their
homes the Saturday after Christmas, we were picking up and putting away
things we had used. As I placed the folding chairs in the closet, I saw
myself as I used to view my father. One of the first things he would do
after the tribe began to depart was to place the folding chairs back into
the closet. This reminded me that I was once a child, then an adult, a
parent, and now a grandparent.
Life is filled with such cycles: election cycles, weather cycles, ministry
cycles, cycles of revival and renewal followed by times of ministry
“sameness.” God has favorably blessed the Penfolds with thirty-five
wonderful years of ministry in four churches. Everything has not always
been peachy-keen, but the Lord enriched our lives through co-laborers and
through a multitude of changed lives. We are always especially grateful for
the ministry of the gospel that produces essential change in the lives of
new believers.

*Our Next Season*

As you know, new seasons of ministry stand before both the church and the
Penfolds. Sometime soon, the church will call its next pastor and Beth and
I will step away. We pray fervently for the church and the search
committee. Our prayer is that God will bring the next pastor who will take
the church to more significant ministry and greater influence for the Lord
Jesus Christ than currently exist. We ask that this body of believers will
continue to grow and mature in a manner that can only be attributed to
God’s mighty hand. We want all of this to be a “God thing.”
At the same time, the Lord continues to open doors for Fresh Start
Ministries. For example, a few weeks ago, I received a call from an eighty
year old pastor in Georgia. He just completed reading Re:VISION. He called
to ask about the possibilities of a boot camp for pastors in his
denomination in Georgia. This call came out of the blue. Gary McIntosh and
I already have a boot camp scheduled for Virginia in April. I do not know
how our transition will work, but we continue to follow the Lord’s leading
and will wait on Him for His direction and provision.


When Beth and I moved to Holyoke, we planned to be here for the transition
from Pastor Gary Jones to the next pastor. In a sense, that’s exactly what
happened. However, we thought the transition would last for twelve to
eighteen months. That timeline has stretched just a bit! (I’m not good at
counting!). We are now in our ninth year. Who’d thought? We have been
blessed to be here.
Friendships, building challenges and relocation, marked our time here.
We’ve seen lives changes, families reunited, families split, young people
making great choices and young people making poor choices. As in any
ministry, we’ve experienced extreme joy and extreme pain and all points in
between. I would love to say that we wouldn’t change a thing. That’s not
true. As in any ministry, we experience regrets. And we, likewise, rejoice
in the multitude of blessings showered on us from heaven. Through the good
and the difficult, we continue to grow in the likeness of Christ.
May the Lord give us great and fruitful days together as each one prepares
for the next season; in the church, with Fresh Start and with each
individual member of this church body. I will close with the Apostle Paul’s
words to the church at Ephesus. “So now, brethren, I commend you to God and
to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an
inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

Your brother in The Faith,

“So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace,
which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those
who are sanctified.

Acts 20:32

A Living Hope

A Living Hope

The resurrection of Jesus Christ fundamentally changes everything about
life, both the present and the future. Here are a few areas impacted by the

· The ultimate defeat of death and Hades (1 Corinthians 15:55).
· The promised destruction of Satan and his hordes (Revelation 20:10).
· Christ’s presentation of gifts to people (Ephesians 4:11)
· The promised resurrection of all people from the dead, both believers and
the lost (Daniel 12:2).
· Power for living for today (2 Peter 1:2-8).

For Christ-followers another tremendous benefit is hope: “God . . . has
begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ
from the dead.” The Greek term elpis is defined by Bauer, Arndt and
Gingrich as “hope, expectation, or prospect.” Our hope in Jesus Christ
gives us a certain expectation of the future as well as a life of victory
in the present.
Consider the life of R. F, a dear friend. R. F. married a preacher. Life in
her household proved difficult at best. She and her husband adopted seven
special needs children. Her “pastor” husband, an alcoholic, abused the
girls in the family. After his death from cirrhosis of the liver, one of
her daughters absolutely rebelled. R. came to the end of her rope, a point
of hopelessness. In this moment of desperation, this pastor’s wife finally
met Jesus. At last she found the deep, satisfying relationship with Christ
that filled the void in her life that only He could fill. The resurrection
of Jesus Christ changed the course of her life. Christ’s resurrection shook
the realm of her dead soul and brought new life and joy she never before
experienced. For the first time in her life, R. experienced “hope,” a sense
of security and certainty about her life and future.
Many others in this life pursue that which can never satisfy nor give a
sense of hope. Their lives reflect the false hope described in the
following account.
While serving the Lord in Las Animas, Colorado a number of years ago, we
had a Saturday work day to spruce up the church. As I picked up some trash
on the north side of the building, I noticed a peculiar sight. I came
across a Freedent gum wrapper. The curious thing about the gum wrapper was
a dead sweat bee that tenaciously clung to it. The bee evidently felt that
the sugar-like substance on the wrapper was worth getting. The bee
apparently died trying to get sustenance out of a sugar free gum wrapper!

Individuals often reflect the wayward bee. People do their very best to get
satisfaction from worldly pursuits that are as lifeless and as empty as a
sugar free gum wrapper. However, as we pursue the Lord Jesus Christ with
passion, we will live in the power of our “living Hope through the
resurrection from the dead!”
Perhaps your life resembles the hopelessness of R. F. You have never had a
life-altering encounter with Jesus Christ. If you have not trusted Christ,
please place your faith in Him alone as your Savior and Sin-bearer. He
alone can forgive your sin and impart life and hope to you.
Believers are not immune to the pursuit of those things that cannot
satisfy; fame, wealth or the pursuit of “happiness” to name a few. We cling
to the Freedent gum wrappers of life. These things are attractive as they
invite us to pursue them. However, only the pursuit of our resurrected
Savior and His purposes for us will produce a life that satisfies. Your
prescription: build your life around the living hope found only in Christ.

Because of Him Whom the grave could not hold!


Flat Tire


Thanksgiving: An Acceptable Sacrifice to God

Thanksgiving—a wonderful concept that finds its roots, not with the
pilgrims, but in the Scriptures. Thanksgiving is a natural consequence of
our relationship with God! Included below are several passages that give
reasons we should be thankful. Ponder the truths of these passages and
respond appropriately.

Psalm 50 teaches us that we cannot truly offer the LORD anything that He
already possesses. The cattle of the field, the birds of the mountains, and
the goats of the fold all belong to the Lord. We can offer Him nothing of
material value. It’s His already. However the Psalmist instructs us to
offer to God thanksgiving and to pay our vows. God will not manufacture a
grateful heart or an obedient spirit. Those attributes must come from us.

*”Hear, O My people, and I will speak, O Israel, and I will testify against
you; I am God, your God! I will not rebuke you for your sacrifices or your
burnt offerings, Which are continually before Me. I will not take a bull
from your house, nor goats out of your folds. For every beast of the forest
is Mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the
mountains, and the wild beasts of the field are Mine. “If I were hungry, I
would not tell you; for the world is Mine, and all its fullness. Will I eat
the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats? Offer to God thanksgiving,
and pay your vows to the Most High. Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I
will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.”*

*PSALM 50:7-15*

Note that thanksgiving glorifies the Lord!

Hebrews 13:15-16 offers the same refrain.
*“Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God,
that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not
forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well
pleased.” *
God is pleased by grateful hearts. When we gripe and complain about the
weather, about life’s pitfalls, about circumstances beyond our control, we
are not thankful. In reality we are telling God that we’re not satisfied
with our lot in life. I don’t know about you, but my attitude is not always
one of thanksgiving, but one of carping and complaining.

*With such sacrifices God is not well pleased! *The Lord reminds us how
much He dislikes complaining in 1 Corinthians 10:10. In this passage he
places complaining in the same category as lust, sexual immorality, and
tempting God. He instructs us, *“. . . nor complain, as some of them also
complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer.”* Wow! How often I must
disappoint the Lord!

One year when Christmas day came on a Sunday, a farmer decided to go to
church. It was not his custom to attend church services, but since
Christmas fell on Sunday, he felt it would be OK to attend. The text for
that particular Sunday was Isaiah 1:3,

*“The ox knows its owner and the donkey its master’s crib; But Israel does
not know, My people do not consider.” *After the service the farmer
returned home. At feeding time he went to the barn and was standing among
his cows. As he fed them, one began to lick his hand–a practical
demonstration of the message he had just heard. Strong as he was, the
farmer began to weep. He thought, “God did much more for me and yet I never
thanked Him. My cow is far more grateful than I am. What do I ever give her
other than feed and water?”

Here are some practical times to give thanks!

–Coaching: Pause in the middle of a tense moment . . . and give thanks for
your players.
–Teaching: Pause in the midst of a particularly trying time with a student
and thank God for that student whom the Lord has brought into your life.
–Harvesting: Pause periodically during the long days behind the wheel and
thank God for the harvest.
–When you have a breakdown: Thank God for the equipment (it certainly
beats harvesting by hand)!
–Difficult neighbor: Thank God for allowing you to live next to him and
lift a prayer for his salvation.
–Unwanted intrusions into your life: Thank God for these trials as they
are designed to draw you near to
–Times of trial and tears: Thank God for His sustaining presence in your
–A difficult class: Through these times God develops your character.

*Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures
forever. Psalm 136:1*

How about you? Do you express your gratitude to the Lord, or is your life
characterized by complaints and grumbling.

Your brother in the everlasting harvest,

In the World, but not of the World

The Christian life is full of tensions and the need to reconcile seemingly
contrary truths. There are many theological tensions—things we cannot
grasp, yet key doctrines we must accept by faith! These would include, for
example, an understanding of the Trinity or the relationship between the
sovereignty of God and human free will. There are other tensions that
relate to our Christian living. One such tension is the concept of being
“in the world, but not being of the world.” The Lord commands us to*
“Therefore, Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not
touch what is unclean, and I will receive you”* (2 Corinthians 6:17). On
the other hand, He gives the instruction in 1 Corinthians 5:9-11 to live
among sinners, but not with sinning brothers!

*I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral
people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of
this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then
you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to
keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or
covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an
extortioner—not even to eat with such a person. *
This tension is further described in Jesus High Priestly Prayer found in
John 17. Verses 6-19 in particular, describe the struggle we all face.
Jesus said, *“I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me
out of the world”* (6). He continued,* “They are not of the world, just as
I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As
You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world”* (15-18)
(emphasis added). The Lord emphasized the following truths:

– Believers are not of the world

Believers are to be set apart from the world, though they are in the

Believers are sent into the world to proclaim the Gospel.

As with any tension, different groups handle the tension in different ways.
Here is a sampling of how some groups handle the tensions of being in the
world, but not of the world.

– The Amish dress and manner of life isolates them from others,
including other Christians.

Monastics. Some withdraw to monasteries in order to maintain separation
and isolation from the world.

In evangelical circles there are those who will not have any fellowship
with unbelievers. Some will not fellowship with any believer who
fellowships with unbelievers. Others will go so far as to shun any believer
who fellowships with any other believer who has fellowshipped with an
unbeliever! These are called the “three degrees of separation!” You will
not find them anywhere in the Word of God!

Many homeschooler parents do not wish their children to have contact
with any worldly influence, so they homeschool. Often these parents are
uncomfortable with church ministries designed to reach unchurched or
“pagan” kids.

Churches often exclude those who do not meet certain unwritten, but very
specific, criteria. Some examples might include hair length, tattoos, body
piercing, clothing styles, gothic dress, etc.

Beth made a profound comment after my aunt’s memorial service a couple of
weeks ago. We saw relatives and friends whose lives had been deeply damaged
by the “church.” She said, “You know, the church is its own worst enemy.”
The church had required things that Christ does not require and, in many
cases, omitted the fundamental truth of the Gospel!

Note the description in the following paragraph of how the early church
dealt with this tension. This is a beautiful picture of a blending of the
purposes of separation with the purpose of the proclamation of the Gospel!

*The distinction between Christians and other people lies not in country or
language or customs. Christians do not dwell in special houses or districts
of cities, nor do they use a peculiar dialect, nor do they have any
extraor-dinary customs. Their teaching has not been discovered by the
intellect or thought of clever men, nor do they advocate any human
doctrine. Wherever they live they follow local customs, eating food that
local people eat, living in ordinary houses, and wearing clothes
indistinguishable from those of their neighbors. It is in their atti-tudes
that they are distinctive. They live in the lands where they were born, but
see themselves not as owners of that land, but as sojourners; they are
strangers on this earth. To them, every foreign land is like their
fatherland, and every fatherland like a foreign land. They behave as
perfect and upright citizens, according to the laws of the state they
inhabit; but they see themselves as citizens of another state, the kingdom
of God. ~Epistle to Diognetus ~ Second Century A.D. Quoted by Ed Hayes in,
The Church, p. 210-11*

The question I would like to ask is straight forward: What keeps us
separate from unbelievers? An unwritten rule, fear, prejudice, pride,
arrogance, ignorance, a poor testimony or blind spots? What will it take
for us to more fully engage our community for Christ? Let us not be our own
worst enemy, but let us be partners with Christ in fulfilling the Great

Your brother in the harvest,