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2016 NEWSLETTER

Quarter One

Well, once again my tendency to procrastinate won, and this newsletter is being written in February. Last year was a notable exception, in that I actually wrote it in January. I just re-read the 2015 version, and several things struck me. One, even at my age (with my workaholic tendencies), my years are packed with activities. Two, in spite of my plans and expectations, God almost always intervenes and takes my life in unexpected directions. He did it in 2015 and he did it again in 2016. Three, life is flying by very fast. As I now explain it, life prior to age 40 is something like going uphill, seemingly rather slow. Then it starts picking up speed every year until you hit 60, and then you go into freefall mode.

As I explained last year at this time, I was changing my status with the Dallas/Fort Worth church, not wishing to be considered “part-time” staff any longer. With more and more of my good friends dying, almost all younger than me, I felt the urgency to have more freedom to write several books that I had on my heart to write. I told the DFW church leaders that I would still want to be involved at about the same level in teaching and preaching, but without feeling the responsibilities of being a “staff” person. Of course, they never made me feel any responsibilities beyond what I wanted to do anyway, but they understood it was my weirdness and years of being on staff that produced the feelings. Hence, they were fine with whatever I felt best. To a person, they have been a delight to work with since our move to Dallas just over two years ago.

In beginning to look back at the calendar of activities of 2016, I feel much like I often do before I preach. Someone will say to me, “I’m looking forward to what you have to say,” and I reply “Me too!” I often end up working things into lessons that were unplanned, and I hope that it is the Holy Spirit behind this and not just my spirit. (I suspect it is usually some of both!) I remember few details of what happened a year ago, so I get excited just anticipating looking back to see what God did in my life.

January began with that one trip I had agreed to prior to deciding to limit travel in favor of book writing. Theresa and I went to San Diego where I taught an all-day Small Group Leader’s Workshop on a Saturday and then spoke for one of the Regions on Sunday. Since we joined the movement of churches now known as the ICOC back in 1985 in San Diego, it was for us a homecoming of sorts, in spite of the many years that had elapsed since that early beginning. We spent some great time with Guillermo and Terry Adame and other leaders, and thoroughly enjoyed our time there. This church will always have a special place in our hearts, and the members who are still there from the early days have a most special lodging place in our hearts.

From there, we rented a car and drove back up to Orange County for a few days to visit special friends. Although we only spent two years living there prior to moving to Dallas, we built some of the best relationships we could have imagined, with those on and off the ministry staff. It was but a brief chapter in our ministry life, but such a special one. When we were last there in July of the previous year, it was after attending the memorial service for Jim Fulcher. Then Orange Country still seemed like home. It didn’t during our January trip, which indicated that I had made the emotional transition to Dallas and was once more a Texan at heart. This is not to say that the visit with our OC friends wasn’t just as precious as the last time, for it was, but we were at a different (and needed) place emotionally. Home always has to become where you hang your hat, so to speak.

During our visit of a few days, Kevin Mains, the Region Leader of the OC group, asked me to teach his staff which I did. That was destined to be one of the last times I spent with my special friend. Nine days ago from the time I am writing this newsletter (February 20, 2017), I was back in OC, this time attending his memorial service. Yet another of my close friends had died, leaving a void in my heart and in the hearts of his thousands of friends and family members. It was a bittersweet time, as is always the case when a child of God has gone home. The sharing was done by one of his closest friends, Bruce Williams, and by each of his close family members: wife, son, daughter, son-in-law and daughter-in-law. It was an amazing service, probably the best I have ever attended. As Kevin’s life was shared from so many different vantage points, I found myself wishing I could have been the one who died and about whom so many wonderful things were shared. He was indeed an amazing man, and I treasure the many times we spent together.

Anyway, back from the future (considering this is a 2016 newsletter) to the present task. Theresa and I celebrated our 51st wedding anniversary on January 30, 2016. Although we have taught for many marriage retreats and seminars, and have a great marriage, somehow I had never envisioned writing a book about marriage. There were already so many good ones available that I didn’t think I had anything unique to add to the present mix. However, I started thinking about a lesson we have been using and adding to for many years and realized that it was unique. We didn’t share it as a “How To” lesson, but simply as the story of what God had taught us through the years, from our pre-Christian days to the present. The creative writing juices started flowing. After all, this was the year that I had decided to focus on writing, and what better way to begin than by putting our love story in print!

The title came to mind at once: “Fairy Tales Do Come True.” I looked over the outline that we had been using and adding fresh insights to every time we taught it. Other insights then came into my mind in that “flash” known only to writers. Thus, I started writing and ended up with sixteen principles that have made our marriage great, told through the story of our lives. We asked Wyndham and Jeanie Shaw to write the Foreword for it, since they helped us in our marriage more than anyone else on earth ─ as they were used by God in their own unique way. An excerpt from Jeanie’s part, followed by an excerpt from Wyndham’s part, describe the writing style I sought and evidently found:

Just when you think you have read every imaginable kind of marriage book, a different (and wonderful) book on marriage appears. In the following pages, you will be invited into the Fergusons’ lives. You will go with them to visit their families and reminisce with their precious memories. You will observe their fights and learn what makes them tick. As you follow them into their family room, their kitchen, and (in an appropriate way) even their bedroom, they will share their “secrets” to a deep, happy and adventurous marriage and best friendship.

I love the storytelling format of the book, which leaves you feeling like good friends with the Fergusons—as though you just shared a meal and long chat by the fire on a snowy New England night! Gordon is a master at weaving the biblical, practical and vulnerable aspects of their message together in a way that makes all of us believe we can be transformed as well. They are not saying it is easy sledding, but it is eternally rewarding! Their story inspires a renewal of faith that God can take any marriage that has mustard-seed faith and move mountains into scenic vistas rather than a constant uphill climb.

In early February, I taught a lesson to the DFW ministry staff and spoke for the Northwest Region, led by our congregational evangelist, Todd Asaad and his wife, Patty. Todd is a unique church leader in a number of ways, and because of his uniqueness, I have become one of his biggest fans. Even though I wasn’t attending staff meetings any longer on a regular basis, Todd still occasionally asks me to get together with him for coffee or a meal, just to pick my brain. He is a learner, always looking for ways to help the church grow spiritually and numerically. We had such a coffee time late in the month and I made the observation that all of our members needed to feel that their voice could be heard as they expressed their opinions.

In the conversation, I shared that one way that might prove helpful was to use a survey tool to start the ball rolling. I mentioned that my “adopted daughter,” Kelly Flores from the Seattle church, had done something similar in her home church. (See two articles on this website, “Another Kind of Adoption” to understand better how Kelly became and remains my daughter ─ it’s quite a story!) She had become the Dean of a college in Seattle University, with her particular program offering Doctorates in Applied Leadership. One of the Seattle evangelists, Darren Overstreet, had shared with me just how helpful her survey work with them had been, a fact I shared with Todd. I had no idea whether this idea might appeal to Todd or not, but I mentioned it as a possible way to gain more input from our membership. To my surprise, by that night, he had talked to both Daren and Kelly, and had arranged for Kelly to come to Dallas, meet with the leaders and to develop a survey designed especially with our congregation in mind. She designed the survey, our members took it (with a very high level of participation) and she then returned later to teach the staff how to interpret it and best use its results.

I simply have to admire Todd’s desire to keep learning as a leader. I have a really short fuse concerning leaders who think they already know it all. When speaking to leaders, I have often stated that it would be wonderful if they knew even half of what they think they already know. Of course, we are blessed with many leaders who have learner’s hearts, and I’m sure my earlier days in the movement have sometimes caused me to be overly critical. I love our leaders and believe that we are all (nearly all) trying to keep growing in our leadership of God’s children. The large majority who had serious ego issues have either repented and changed, or have been removed from leadership by God. I will have other things to say about Todd’s uniqueness as we continue, and it must be said that our other main evangelists, Mark Mancini and Derik Vett, plus our elders, would have to be supportive of Todd or what we are doing wouldn’t be possible. Todd is a team leader and we have a great team of leaders serving alongside him.

I also note from my February calendar that a small group of teacher types met, as we do every couple of months. We simply call this group “Digging Deeper.” Within every congregation, we have some members who just love digging into the more complex biblical issues. In Dallas, we have a number so inclined, some who are former staff members and some who are not. The original purpose of the group was to just get together and study subjects that the average disciple would not be particularly interested in. For example, Ed Doss shared an in-depth study of the Book of Job, taking a unique approach to its interpretation, which most of us thought had enough merit for him to start putting his study into book form for possible future publication. Fred Haight shared a study taken mainly from a book about the three primary views of hell ─ what happens to the lost upon their death.

Wow ─ perhaps you think we are a heretical group! No, we just enjoy delving into complex subjects with no intention of teaching such subjects to the church as a whole. Our leaders receive copies of all of our discussion topics and understand our particular brand of weirdness. It is when teachers start throwing out controversial ideas to a broader audience that the trouble begins (and some have regrettably done this), but our DD group and our congregational leaders know that we take a strong stand against doing such.

Although what I am going to mention now fits into the latter part of the year, since it involves this group, I am going to describe it now. As I said before, Todd is always looking for ways to help the church grow, and to grow in many areas. He had heard of an approach to congregational teaching that had its origins in Boston and is now being used by other congregations. It involves having our Sunday morning assemblies begin with a period of Bible teaching, followed by a shorter worship service (and a shorter sermon as a part of limiting the time). Randy McKean in Virginia is using such a program and it was through him that Todd heard about the idea.

Of course, I worked with Randy many years in Boston, and he originated the idea of having all-day Saturday teaching days, which he called “Bible Jubilees.” He also allowed me the opportunity to teach very specific staff training programs in New England as well as in Europe. He and Kay are great Bible students and strongly believe that all church members should have a solid foundation of basic Bible knowledge. I wasn’t surprised that Todd was impressed with what Randy was doing, and I know he has been impressed by the numerical growth of the church Randy and Kay lead.

With this background in mind, Todd asked me in one of our occasional idea sharing meetings to develop a similar program for the DFW church. He suggested that I use the Digging Deeper group to help formulate the directions for the lessons but for me to use it as a tool for helping teach them about how to develop teaching curriculums. We started on that, choosing the overall topic of relationships, with six different types of relationships to be covered. The plan is to have six weeks of teaching Sundays, twice per year, allowing us to cover the six aspects of the topic in a three year period. Given some of our meeting place adjustments that are taking place now in Dallas, we decided to use Todd’s Region as a pilot program and begin there, which we did yesterday.

Using my DD group’s expertise (and they have varied types of training and careers), they helped me by not only helping shape the overall curriculum, but in developing a much better PowerPoint Presentation than I could have developed. Todd planned the Sunday assembly with fewer songs, a shorter lesson (done by Shane Engel, visiting from the San Diego church), which allowed me 50 minutes for the class teaching session (I only took 40, amazingly!). The whole service went well, people participated well in the teaching segment and were given a printed outline to take home at the end of the service. Others will teach in the next five weeks; I was just the pilot teacher for the pilot program! Our people love variety, and they seemed to really love this variation. I know I thoroughly enjoyed the whole day, and doubt if any first time attendee could have guessed that it was our first time to use this format. It was seamless. Thanks, Todd!

Late in March, I was anxious to start the book that I had in mind to write for several years, a book about Paul based on a course I had developed originally for the Asia-Pacific Leadership Academy. I had never developed a course that excited me as much as this one had, and from its inception I knew the material had to end up in a book. What happened as I started preparing to write the book was a very unexpected turn of events that led in some directions containing a number of ramifications. I write much better when away from my normal setting. Somehow I churned out the marriage book writing mostly at home in my office. Trying to write in my office is most often a fruitless attempt. Too many other things come to mind that move my focus in different directions, be it email, financial considerations (like paying bills) or the phone ringing.

Through the years, I have often gone to remote places (lakeside when possible) to write, totally immersed in the project at hand. I started looking on the internet for inexpensive places with lake views to rent. There are lakes aplenty in Texas, and rentals aplenty, but the inexpensive part is difficult to fit into the equation. Finally, I found an older couple who rented out their small guest house when family members or close friends weren’t visiting. The days I wanted to go were open, and the little house sat directly across the street from the lake, having a beautiful, inspiring view. I spent four days there, writing from early morning until late at night. Food and sleep were far down the list of my priorities. However, one priority was responsible for leading me into this unexpected direction I mentioned earlier. That priority is my early morning prayer walks.

The first morning at the lake, I started walking and praying in this small, remote neighborhood. Most of the houses were directly lakeside, and were basically vacation homes for the owners, who came only on weekends or for special occasions. What a wonderful setting for my purpose ─ beautiful scenery and little human population present! But that first morning, I walked by a very unusual house (16 sided, a hexadecagon) with a “For Sale By Owner” sign attached to the fence. The house was being totally repaired and remodeled by a man who made his living “flipping” houses. The type of house was highly unusual, sitting on a large lot across the street from the lake, but the price seemed to be even more unusual. In a word, it was “cheap,” definitely compared to houses that sat directly on the lake. I went in and met the man doing the remodeling and looked through the house, which was still in need of a lot of work. It was rather fascinating in a number of ways.

I made the mistake of sending my wife a couple of pictures of it taken with my phone. She thought I must have lost my mind, or at least a significant piece of it. Coming from a construction family, I know what the end product can look like no matter what the current state may be. I started thinking about how difficult it was to find a rental place in which to write, and that taking some funds from retirement savings (especially at the price involved) could be a good idea. Of course, “good” wouldn’t have been a word that popped into Theresa’s mind. Long story short(er), some months later, we ended up buying the house. I’m writing this while looking out the window at the lake. Theresa (who now loves the place more than I, and it’s good for her breathing issues) is praying and journaling across the room, looking out another window at her favorite view of the lake. Our family has enjoyed it (the grandsons especially) and I’ve never had a place to write that could match it. When our health or financial condition makes it necessary to sell in the future, it will not be a problem to sell. In the meantime, I write… (Thank you, Lord!)

Quarter Two

Gee, I thought this was going to be a short newsletter! Yes I know I tend to be long-winded, but God manages to pack a lot into my life and schedule, for which I am most thankful. I know my candle of life is burning down quickly at age 74, and I want to be used in the best ways possible. Writing “The Apostle Paul: Master Imitator of Christ” was much more of a challenge than I thought at first. After all, I already had copious notes from having taught the ministry course in both Manila and Kiev. When teaching the course for the first time, I assigned the students the task of searching out everything in the New Testament about Paul. That included Acts 8-28 and all 13 of Paul’s epistles. I asked them to look for every tidbit about Paul as a person; Paul and leadership; Paul and relationship building; and Paul and the evangelistic mission. Since I had asked them to do this lengthy assignment in advance of me teaching the seminar portion, I decided to do it myself (only fair, don’t you think?). In my study and in teaching the material for the first time, I realized that a fifth area had to be included: Paul and prayer. There was so much on this area that I had to break it down into three sections ─ what he prayed for, what he asked others to pray for and just general teaching about prayer. What a rich area that turned out to be!

This ended up being the longest of three books I wrote and had published in time for the Reach Conference in St. Louis scheduled around the July 4th holiday week. By now, I had written one book that I hadn’t planned in advance to write and another that I had planned to write. I had another idea for a book that I wanted to write at some point, but after having been so focused on writing for several months, attempting to write a third would have smacked of insanity ─ right? I called my publisher, Toney Mulhollan of IPI, and asked what the drop-dead date would be for submitting another book manuscript in time to have it edited, printed and ready for sale by July 4th. He thought about it awhile and gave me a date. As crazy as it seemed at the time (and perhaps even more now looking back), I told him I was going to try and make it happen.

That led to the craziest time of 2016, by a wide margin. Some years back, my dear friend Tom Jones wrote a book about his personal spiritual journey entitled “In Search of a City.” It is a great book that everyone should read. You will learn things about our movement that is nowhere else to be found in print. I decided when I read his book to write a similar one about my own spiritual journey (my search for God, which was actually his search for me). However, I didn’t have a time-table for writing it, until in late May when I entered the “Crazy Zone.” From that moment until I saw the book at the Reach Conference, barely more than a month had elapsed. I remember calling Toney on his work number an hour or so after midnight one night, intending to leave him a voice message. He answered the phone! I said, “What in the world are you doing in your office at 1:30 in the morning?” He replied, “Working on your book, whatta you think?” At the end of the conversation, he simply said, “You do realize that we are both insane, don’t you?” I answered in the affirmative and hung up. If we weren’t nut cases prior to this project, we were in that zone by then.

An interesting tidbit was when I suggested to Toney that we include a few photos in the marriage book, thinking to put them on a front page that could be referred to when I mentioned one of them in the book itself. The idea caught on with him, and he mixed them all through the book, calling or emailing to ask for additional ones during the writing and editing process. The book about Paul is a deeper book, and is nearly 300 pages of what I think is some really meaty and captivating reading, some of my very best writing. All of its pictures are word pictures only. But due to the nature of “My Three Lives,” Toney thought it should include a lot of pictures, so he kept asking for more and more. He worded the captions under almost all of them, and some of them are priceless. My favorite is a shot of me at age 4, dressed in a sharp, grownup looking suit and wearing a fedora. Toney’s caption: “Gordon, age 4. Destined for trouble at an early age!” If we are friends on Facebook, you can see many such shots included there, and you can find them on my regular Teaching website also (gordonferguson.org).

Toney has always urged me to spend much more time at his book table at conferences, to talk to prospective buyers of my books, sign books and to just promote more sales generally. I have usually been so busy doing other things that I rarely spend much time doing what he has asked. However, since I hadn’t written any new books for three years (although I had released a couple of new, updated editions of existing books), I spent most of my time at the book table. I didn’t teach any classes and attended far fewer than normal, but I did sell more books! The feedback I get regularly from those who have been seriously influenced by my books make me believe that what I do in writing is my most important contribution to the kingdom. For that reason, I am continuing my writing focus into 2017, although I will likely travel more to teach and preach outside Dallas this year. OGK (only God knows)!

Quarter Three

Whew ─ I’m tired of writing. Are you tired of reading? If so, stop and come back to it later. I’m going to keep going on my side right now. It’s a rainy day, ideal for writing, so I’ll keep going. I just had the thought that if I put all of my newsletters together since 2009 (my official teaching ministry days started in 2008), it would make a small book. I know not too many would be interesting in reading the past stuff, but after I’m dead, my grandkids and their offspring might. So, not a bad thought. I’ll probably collect it in some form for them. I would pay a lot of money for something like this from my preacher grandfather who died at age 33, long before I came on the scene, so I think my idea has family value.

On to quarter three we go. July began with the Reach Conference, which I have already discussed. My favorite part is seeing so many people whom I love so deeply. Unless you came by the book table, you may not have seen me. However, God worked it out for me to see certain people at certain places that I needed to see. It’s so good to have a God who is God of the minutiae as well as of the big events. Once back in Dallas, we closed on the lake cottage July 20 and spent the next month or so trying to get it finished and furnished. It took more time than anticipated, and slightly more money, but it kept me occupied and allowed me to slow down a bit from what had been a hectic schedule for an old guy.

Then something happened in July that was to shape the rest of the year, and maybe the rest of my life. In our US society, political issues were heating up considerably and moving in directions that I had never seen before. At the same time, racial issues were also heating up considerably and moving in directions that I had seen before, but not since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s when I was a young man. Racial issues had long been a special area of interest to me. Somehow, in a way that I still don’t understand fully, God pulled me into this area and I’m all in, to put it mildly. I have a blogsite where most of my writing on the subject ends up, although other comments are made on Facebook posts as well. Let me pull some material from my first blog post to help you understand where I am and something of how I got here.

After my immersion in writing during the first half of the year, I came up for air and realized that I didn’t have any other book idea burning in my heart, although I have the ideas for several in a folder on my computer. I felt like I was somehow in a vacuum, not knowing what God had in store for me next. I thought of the passage in Acts 13:36: “Now when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep…” This question hit me: “Are we done here, Lord?” Maybe my purpose has been fulfilled and it’s my time to die. After all, I did turn 74 on October 27th. I had no desire to sit in a rocking chair awaiting death, and the selfish life most people associate with retirement is repugnant to me.

As I was mulling over these things, praying about them, but still feeling like I was in a vacuum, five police officers were shot in Dallas. Some of our African American members were bold enough to state that we were not hesitant to talk about this tragedy, yet said nothing about the continuing killing of unarmed blacks by police officers. Our congregational evangelist, Todd Asaad, sent out an email blast to our membership and apologized for our oversight and seeming indifference, promising that we would seek to be more informed, more involved and more empathetic in the future. It was a very good letter.

Shortly after this, one of our region leaders, Mark Mancini, contacted me and asked if I would speak on the subject of racism and prejudice in his region. Not only does that region have a significant contingent of black brothers and sisters (including one black elder and one white elder, both married to black sisters), Mark’s and Connie’s son was about to graduate from the Police Academy in Los Angeles.

I agreed to preach the sermon, although I had never preached an entire lesson on this subject. I have mentioned it many times in sermons, plus addressed it in written articles, but hadn’t preached an entire lesson on it, surprisingly. Regarding those articles, you can read them on my website (gordonferguson.org). The articles are entitled “The Big Black Brother’s Club,” of which I was a part in Boston, and “Surprise, Surprise: Guess Who’s Been Coming to Dinner,” loosely based on the title of an old movie and including the results of my own DNA test.

The sermon in our Southwest Region lasted well over an hour. I could not introduce such a sensitive subject without trying to make myself as clear as possible. Honestly, not many white guys could say some of the things I say about the subject, but somehow I seem to resonate well with both blacks and whites (or so I have been told by those of both races). Being an old guy likely helps, and being raised during the Jim Crow era in Louisiana by non-racist parents exposed me to situations that were very unusual for a white kid growing up in that setting.

Evidently Mark had some good things to say about the lesson, for the other region leaders asked me to preach the same sermon in their regions. The audio lessons were posted on our website, and a black sister in St. Louis, Yolanda Suber, listened to the lesson and asked her church leaders to listen to it. The result was a last minute invitation to come there to deliver the lesson, after which we had a panel discussing the race issue very openly and honestly.

You can see the video version of both the sermon and the panel on this website, the Gateway City Church website or on Disciples Today. Jeff Mannel, then lead evangelist at the Gateway City church, told me shortly after the trip there that people from 52 nations had already watched all or part of my sermon – in less than three weeks. Obviously, the subject hit a very sensitive nerve.  I suggest you watch both.

However unexpected it may have been, God had his way of filling my vacuum. The issue of racism disturbs me greatly, but the prospect of speaking and writing about it excites me. My black friends have not felt totally safe sharing exactly how they feel about life in their world with those of other races. That feeling must end, and my blog is going to be dedicated to helping end it. As per usual, I am very direct and the subjects addressed cover a broad spectrum. You can find my new blog link on my website, using the title “Black Tax and White Benefits.” This is one subject I will travel in order to speak about. I spoke in Philadelphia two Sundays ago, and hope to be able to team up with a black brother to teach in yet other places. I am now on the Racial Diversity Group for our movement of churches. As I said, I’m all in.

Quarter Four

The last quarter of the year was much less eventful than the first three. My writing of the blog on racial issues has put me in touch with old friends and new. An old friend, Tony Chukes, was an Intern on the staff of the San Diego church when I first went there. He is a black brother who is very knowledgeable of all things black ─ or so it seems to me. He is on the racial diversity group of the Denver church, and our renewed friendship has been a delight to me. Tony and I share a number of things in common ─ we are strongly opinionated and express those opinions strongly! I’m happy to have him as one of my readers of my blog posts before they are published. He pulls no punches and has been of much help.

A new friend is Michael Burns, a teacher on the staff of the Minneapolis church. He too is one of my readers and advisers, and is a truly amazing guy. He asked me (and Tony) and others to read a manuscript of a book he has now written and will soon publish on the subject of race. I have never read anything like it. I ran out of superlatives trying to give him feedback about the book. If you are black, you are probably thinking, “But Gordon, you are a white man so I’m not so sure about your evaluation.” Fair enough, for although I am only 88% white, I was raised white. I understand the concern, even though I am learning a lot in a hurry about the subject.

Tony is perhaps a better person to commend the book. He and I have almost identical opinions of the book. Tony said that he could not have envisioned a book covering every aspect of race that he thought should be covered, and done with such an astonishing expertise. His feeling is that no matter what your race or your issues within that race, you will learn deeply without your emotions being aroused in a negative way. Tony said more, but if you knew Tony and his depth of feelings about the subject, you would understand that this upcoming book is simply beyond amazing and more needed right now in the church than most could possibly imagine. Its title: “Crossing the Line: Culture, Race and Kingdom.” I’ve written 15 books, and I’ve never been as excited about one of my own as I am about Michael’s. ‘Nuff said, I would think!

During the last phase of 2016, I continued to speak on occasion in Dallas, have friends from out of town visit (most of whom came to the lake with us), write and enjoy family. My son and his family (including three grandsons, one of whom started college, another started high school and another started middle school) live less than a mile from us. We all enjoyed watching the Dallas Cowboys play football. I’ve been won over to have them as my favorite NFC team, now that they have Dak and Zeke, two amazing rookie players who don’t seem to know that they are rookies. We all enjoyed watching my favorite overall team play, the New England World Champion Patriots! My three Ferguson grandsons have been Patriot fans for a long time, and my son, Bryan, is softening toward them (no longer a hater)!

In October, I made a quick trip to Boston to visit my old and dear friend, Wyndham Shaw. We served as elders together for many years in Boston, and he is truly the brother that I never had. Sadly, he has experienced the onset of a progressively degenerative disease that is affecting his body control in many ways. As a man of great faith, with a family having great faith, they are handling a very challenging situation well spiritually. Please pray for Wyndham. He is going on disability and will try to do only what his body will now allow. While I was there, staying with Valdur and Irene Koha as is my custom, we were able to attend a Patriots’ game ─ Valdur, Wyndham, Doug Arthur and me. As always, attending those games together is a male bonding session of the highest order! (Of course the Patriots won that one!)

As the year ended, it was like most years ─ a combination of good and bad (from our perspective) but all worked together by God for our good spiritually. I am grateful that God never tires of being a marvelous combination of surprising, totally unpredictable, scary, faithful and loving ─ and always in control of our lives, whether we realize it at the time or not. There has been much pain, but that part I will leave out of the newsletter and in the hands of God. I’m just thankful for another year of life, and for all of the blessings that he packed into it. And, I’m glad to be finished with this newsletter! If you managed to read it to the very end, I’m sure you are glad it’s finished as well! God bless you! I love you! Thanks for reading and thanks for being my friend!

Love,

Gordon, February 2017

FACEBOOK FEED

I just posted another article on my blogsite (blacktaxandwhitebenefits.com) entitled “Two Sources of Wisdom.” In my recent blog post, “Slavery and the Bible,” I had a few things to say about the inability of political solutions to effectively deal with the problems of society that are rooted in sin, and that includes the sin of racism. My reasoning was that while politics may well produce legislation, it cannot produce love (often quite the contrary). Hate cannot be outlawed, although acts of hate can. Nor can love be demanded by law. Further, since our most basic human emotional needs are all about love, respect and acceptance, politics will always come up short in providing what the human soul most desires.

In that recent article, I used some material written by Michael Burns, adopted and adapted from an email. As I prepared for a trip to the East Coast to teach about racial issues, I spent much time re-reading his book, “Crossing the Line: Culture, Race and Kingdom.” To be honest, my human nature would like to legislate the reading of this book by all disciples of all colors! Of course, that urge is not realistic and not particularly spiritual either. I think it does illustrate the fact that our very strong feelings to make something happen often go in the wrong direction and are not very effective in bringing about the desired results at the heart level. With Michael’s permission once again, I quote fairly extensively from his book in exploring the difference between God’s wisdom and human wisdom. Enjoy the read!
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1 week ago  ·  

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Several weeks ago, I had a very unusual experience. It started with me preaching what turned out to be an emotional sermon for me, and for the audience. After the service was over, I took a long drive in the countryside to talk with God about things stirred up in me by the sermon. I returned home to write for hours about the whole experience, which included a good deal of reminiscing about the early years of my life.

When finished, I felt that what I had written was just journaling between me and God and should be left at that. However, I later started feeling that perhaps I should view this fairly long piece of writing as an article to post on my teaching website (gordonferguson.org). It was in a sense a prequel to what I have written in the first section of “My Three Lives” and to our earliest married days described in “Fairy Tales Do Come True.” Both of these books are among my three most recent ones, having been written in 2016. They contain many details of a personal nature, as this article most certainly does.

I vacillated between keeping the article contents private and publishing it. After a couple of weeks passed, I sent the article to two of my fellow authors and close friends, asking their opinion. Tom Jones had this to say: “Very good piece that makes a vital point. Those who are fans of yours (a considerable number, including me) will especially enjoy more details from your life, and in the process, hear the heart of your message.” Steve Kinnard wrote (while on vacation): “I used my morning of leisure (no theme park today) to read your article. I really enjoyed it. I think you should publish it for a larger audience… People would be inspired by it. I was.”

Since I am tired of vacillating, and trust these brothers who know me well, I just posted the article. Its title is, “I Have Lost My Faith! (in Coincidences)”
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2 weeks ago  ·  

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My most recent blog article on my racial issues blogsite (blacktaxandwhitebenefits.com) was on the subject of slavery and the Bible. Interestingly, one of the members of our Diversity Committee in the ICOC churches is quite the expert on the subject. Richard Rodriguez, a brother in the South Florida Church of Christ, wrote both a thesis for his Master’s degree in History and a dissertation for his PhD on related aspects of American Slavery.

I asked him some time ago to write an article or series of articles about the main themes of his academic studies to use on one of my online sites. The end result was a seven-part series, which was too long for my blogsite, but fine for my teaching website (gordonferguson.org). I am posting a biographical sketch introduction to Richard himself and to his material on my blogsite, and will include it as an introduction to the series, which will be on my teaching website.

I have combined the longer series into one article, which is still longer than the normal article on that website, yet it contains some valuable material, complete with source documentation, for those who desire to dig deeply into a topic that has shaped so much of the American society in ways that we usually don’t realize.

His thesis dealt with the concept of the ideology of Divine retribution for slavery, something that many figures of history saw as a distinct possibility (including Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln). His dissertation delved into our national history of how the Bible was the cornerstone of the abolitionist argument against American slavery – in spite of the fact that the Bible was used also as support for same. Please go to my blogsite and read Richard’s biographical sketch, and then you can decide about reading the much more in-depth synopsis of his graduate research! Thank you, Richard, for your contributions to the world of academia and to our spiritual heritage!
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3 weeks ago  ·  

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I just posted a new article on my blogsite dealing with racial issues and diversity -- blacktaxandwhitebenefits.com (Blog 33). It is entitled "Slavery and the Bible." Since I started my blog, I have known that I needed to address the issue of slavery and the Bible. It is a fact that the Bible does not forbid any and all slavery, but rather regulated it among God’s followers in both Old Testament and New Testament settings. That fact is especially difficult to accept for those who have even a reasonably good understanding of how slavery was practiced in the United States for centuries. It was, with relatively few exceptions, applied in the harshest and most damaging ways imaginable. Further, the Bible was used to justify the institution, no matter how harsh these practices were. Just how are we moderns to view all of this? Please read the article for some very important answers. ... See MoreSee Less

1 month ago  ·  

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I just posted another article on my teaching website (gordonferguson.org). It is entitled "The Theological Basis For Discipling Relationships." The first paragraph of introduction I will drop in here, but suffice it to say, it addresses a much needed subject. I would perhaps put it at or near the top of all the articles I've ever written on the subject -- although it was written some years ago as a chapter in a book. Here is that introduction explaining the origin of the material:

Special Note: This material once comprised a chapter in my book entitled Discipling (1997). This longer book was condensed into a shorter version called The Power of Discipling -- now in its second (slightly longer) edition. A number of chapters from the original book were omitted in the shorter one. I added back two of these chapters in a condensed combination (about group discipling and family discipling) in the second edition of the shorter version. Another chapter omitted in the original is this one, now published in a standalone article. It is in some ways “deeper” than the material in other chapters of the book, being more theological in nature. Newer disciples may find it more difficult to understand, but along with more mature disciples, all will find it highly stimulating and challenging if read carefully. In re-reading it now, over twenty years after I wrote it originally, it is hard to believe how relevant it is right now compared to its earlier setting. Our churches and our members need it – badly!
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1 month ago  ·  

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