I’m a Christian in the making, stumbling forward in Jesus and delighting in His grace. I have a passion for the Kingdom of God, a degree in music, and a love for both people for truth.
I’ve spent most of my professional life in music, youth ministry, and since 1994 serving with Youth With A Mission, (YWAM), as a missionary, teacher and worship leader based first in Hawaii, then Central and Western Europe, and numerous locations throughout North America. These days when I’m not traveling I live in the mountains of Western Maryland, where I grew up.
I call this Blog “Dispatches from the Shadowlands” as a nod to both the Apostle Paul who in 1 Corinthians 13:12 says “now we see through a glass darkly“, and C.S. Lewis who – towards the end of The Last Battle refers to this present world as the “Shadowlands.” These are hopeful communications from a shadowy world that cannot yet bear the full strength of the sun.
My purpose for here is to lovingly point people to King Jesus, to showcase His grace, and to declare His Kingdom.
20 thoughts on “About”
So good to meet you this weekend! I cannot wait to see how your Kingdom revelation will impact all those who heard it here this weekend, including myself, as we spread out into the world! I hope I get to run into you again in the near future! Keep seeking the Kingdom, and keep carrying His Heart!
Just to let you know that I am still seeking the KINGDOM, as I have heard and saw in and from you a year and a half ago at Holmsted Manor. That has been like a second revelation to me, after getting to know Yeshua the Messiah. The KINGDOM has opened my eyes to know Him and His ways, to love Him even more, to understand Him better, to get to know myslef and my faith so much in such a deep way. I am excited for a lifetime of discovering more about the Almighty, through His Kingdom, through His message and through everything in life.
Bless you for this wonderful website and for your beautiful attitude!
Ran Muchtar, Israel.
Ran! So good to hear from you! Our conversation at Holmsted went so deep into my heart. When the enemy attacks me for my “excessive focus on the kingdom” the Holy Spirit reminds me of friends like you who have received the message with such joy. And then the encouragement comes to keep on. You’ve got a true Kingdom heart, and I’m convinced a strategic place in the story. Press on, my friend, and DO stay in touch.
Hi Don! You will be visiting my home church this weekend. I appreciate your words above “…while He corrects my silly religious ideas about who He is.” My own purpose seems to be just to hear and obey God’s will so that I can be where He needs me, when He needs me there, with the ability to be His vessel at all times. The rewards are a deep, rich, satisfying living in this world. I want to declare His kingdom everywhere, too! I’m looking forward to hearing your message!
Hey Debbie! I can’t tell you what a delight it was to be with my family at LaVale UMC this past week. Thanks for checking in and for the encouragement!
I wish I could have come to the talks, but it’s finals in school right now. I do the video editing for the church though, so I get to see them as I edit the footage! You are such a compelling speaker – to see the way you’ve obeyed the Lord’s call is powerful!
AMEN!!!! ME TOO MY BROTHER
Hi Don, how are you doing? I would love to see you and hear you, do you come to Bosnia often?
Hi Don! Quick question. Paul wrote a lot of the Bible but he never actually met Jesus, he only claims to have seen him in a vision on his way to Damascus. Now this is only briefly alluded to by Paul (in Galatians I believe), but more accurately described in Acts (which was written most likely by the author of Luke many, many years later). My question is, how do we know that Paul is telling the truth? I know that his experience turned is life around and led him to a life that he believed in that would ultimately end up in his death, but how do we know it actually happened? How do we know he just wasn’t writing stories that he thought was interesting? Things like this are my biggest hurdles for believing the Bible. NOT that the stories aren’t believable, who am I to say they didn’t happen? But realistically, how do we know Paul is writing a non-fiction work, not to mention any of the other authors?
Hey Aaron! Another worthy question. I smile when you say, “Briefly…”
Beware of falling into the trap of thinking that “knowing” equals “certainty”. Certainty means that it’s impossible to be mistaken, and there are a precious few things we can be certain of: the laws of math, the laws of logic, our own existence, and of course death and taxes! When we fall into the trap of believing that knowing involves certainty, we set ourselves up for inaction. We might never fly, eat, marry, cross a bridge, or drive a car because we could never be certain that any of these things were safe.
When it comes to Paul’s experience with Jesus, I rely on several things you already know. Ockham’s Razor, (as restated by Einstein) says, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” Another way of stating that is, “The simplest answer is the best.” Applied to Paul we know several things from historical sources: He was formerly a highly educated Pharisee/persecuter of the church. Something dramatically changed him into a man who was willing to be persecuted himself, to suffer, to be beaten, to travel long distances at great personal hardship and expense, to be stoned, run out of town, and ultimately executed by the Romans for the message he preached. Is there any other believable reason to explain all this apart from an actual encounter with Jesus on the Damascus Road? I certainly can’t think of any.
And then we have the validation of the Peter (the “Rock”) and James (Jesus’ brother), which you already mentioned in Galatians. It’s hard to imagine that either of those two “homies” would be easily snookered into a fantasy tale about Paul’s encounter.
And finally I would point to the countless people over the course of history who have had similar encounters with the living Christ. They are beyond numbering: alcoholics, criminals, Pharisees, slave traders, murderers, adulterers, and characters of every stripe who have been changed in the same manner.
In my opinion, that’s plenty of evidence for all but the most hardened skeptics. And even for those skeptics, God is quite willing to prove himself to those who invite him to.
Thanks for your quick response. I like you. I feel like we could sit down for hours and have a nice discussion. I, myself, am very open minded; and more than willing to accept a God if One so chooses to display Himself. I am, by profession, a scientist (almost, finishing my PhD), so I tend to put a lot of thought into everything.
I like that you cited Occam’s (also spelled Ockham’s) Razor, but I’m not so sure that Paul’s encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus is the simplest answer.
For the sake of argument, lets look at this from another perspective.
Lets say that someone else wrote what Paul wrote, but that its written from his perspective. Have you read the Hunger Games? Its written from the perspective of Katniss, and if the reader didn’t know, they would think that it written by a girl named Katniss.
If the cover is ripped off the Hunger Games and given to someone who has never heard of the movie, they might think its an autobiography – a work of non-fiction. They could be having a similar discussion about Katniss’ motives in the novel… Why did she or didn’t she do certain things…
So my question now is, how do we know that Corinthians (for example) is a work of non-fiction? How do we know that it wasn’t written by someone completely different, and ‘Paul’ is just merely a character in the story?
Also, we know that human beings are capable of convincing themselves of things that aren’t real. So with respect to this, how can we differentiate with what is real and what we convince ourselves to be real?
I do not feel above the idea of God at all, and I would have no problem succumbing to such an idea if I were to make some sort of logical stance from it. In fact, being in the field I am in, if I could prove it right, I could reach a lot of people that your average Christian probably never could. I try to educate myself a lot about the Bible, and I think my knowledge is pretty good. I am always looking to learn more. But herein lies the issue, proving it right.
Thank you again for taking the time to read this. Many Christians tend to fold when I try to talk to them, or they defend their arguments with Scripture. I understand why they do that, because it makes them feel good or it strengthens their faith, and thats a good thing for them! But for me, using the Bible to prove the Bible doesn’t help, because it goes back to my main question: How do we know it is a work of non-fiction?
Good morning, Aaron. I woke up this morning thinking about your question. Although I can’t make an argument for certainty, I believe we can establish a reasonable defense for the authenticity of Paul and his letters. God clearly invites our questioning, (”Come let us reason together”, “Test all things, hold onto what is good”), though He doesn’t seem to concern himself with “proving” his word any more than you and I would in an everyday conversation. The scriptures simply speak without a lot of bluster, and the proof, (or in Jesus’ words the “truth”) will become evident as the conversation unfolds. (John 8:31-32). All that to say I think your question is a legitimate one that deserves an answer.
Could Paul’s letters actually be works of fiction that have been misunderstood or even intentionally misrepresented as authentic letters written by a man who actually encountered Christ? I think it’s possible, though extremely unlikely. Here’s why:
Literary styles have evolved over the course of history. Augustin’s Confessions, for instance, opened a new genre in literature as the first “tell all” autobiography, if you will. Literary styles of the classical period consisted of histories, dialogues, dramas, epic poems, bucolic poems, letters, encyclopedias, etc. But so far as I know, fiction-writing in the style of letters just doesn’t fit into the literary forms of that time. I tried to do some research this morning, and wasn’t able to come up with anything definitive. But I do enjoy history and literature enough that I think I can say such a thing would be a true anomaly. Your example of The Hunger Games is a good one for our present day, but not so much for second century Rome.
Motive is something else to consider. Apart from making a deliberate attempt to confuse and obfuscate the Christian message, (which magnificently backfired), I can’t imagine any other motive. There almost certainly was no market for it, and if there was, I’d expect a fiction writer to choose loftier subjects or saucier details than mundane instructions about church divisions, food sacrificed to idols, caring for the poor and how to share in the communion meal. (What a snoozer that would be!) With the vast majority of Romans being illiterate, it’s hard for me to imagine someone with true literary ability writing plotless fiction about these kinds of everyday matters.
Then there’s the matter of corroboration, which you already mentioned, but bears repeating. The book of Acts establishes a substantial context for the locations, people and situations Paul addresses. We can also see from Luke’s history that these letters didn’t spring from a vacuum, but from a historical person who was, indeed, traveling all over the Roman world preaching and instructing churches about these same types of ideas. (If we take a step further and call Luke’s writings into question as well, then we probably need to rethink history in regard to how the Christian movement came to leave such a powerful mark on the Roman Empire).
Finally I think the validation of Paul’s language by the early church and it’s leadership is worth a look. It’s evident that this man left a clear stamp on the early church with his language of grace, justification by faith, etc. His introduction of the term “grace”, for instance, perfectly captures the beauty of Jesus’ unconditional love and embrace of sinful humanity. And this concept quickly became a hallmark of the early church. (Alas, not quite so much of today’s church). I don’t believe this could not have happened apart from the Apostles actively validating the authenticity of Paul.
Aaron, I was assuming at first that you were a Believer with questions. (Which obviously is OK). But if I’m understanding correctly, it sounds more like you’re withholding your trust in Jesus until you find answers for these, (and possibly other), questions. That, also, is legit because faith is built on knowledge, and should never be irrational. But there comes a point where we need to decide like Abraham to follow God without knowing all the answers.
I believe some of your questions, like Abraham’s, might only be answered in the context of a relationship with God where He can speak for Himself. If I had insisted on having all my questions answered first, I would still be missing out on this amazing life I’m living. There comes a point when we know “enough” to take a reasonable step of faith. I hope, when that point comes for you, you’ll take the step it requires.
And in the meantime I’m more than happy to carry on this conversation. I like the way you think, and the honesty and sincerity of your heart. Pretty sure we really could talk for hours over coffee!
Hey Aaron. Thanks for introducing yourself. I was wondering if you were one of several Aaron’s among my friends, or someone new. I’m also glad you didn’t tell me right off you were a scientist and a PHD candidate because I might have just frozen up. You’re very generous to indulge my assumption that we were both “laymen” in regard to science!
Anyway, I’ll need to give this question some thought before getting back to you. I process and write fairly slowly, and it’s been a full day. In the meantime it’s good to make your acquaintance. I’ll look forward to more. Happy Wednesday!
That was by far the best response I’ve ever had to those questions. I’m almost finished writing my dissertation so my brain is currently mush. It may take me a day or two to reply but I will get to it.
Your knowledge and willingness to discuss is very helpful. Thank you very much for taking the time to do so. Know that it doesn’t go unnoticed.
Also I see that you are from Maryland (almost West Virginia). I grew up in southern West Virginia and got my bachelors degree from West Virginia University. I’m currently in Florida now, torturing myself by getting a PhD in chemistry.
Glad to oblige, Aaron. I’d say I’m about 90% Mountaineer living in these parts. Blessings on your studies, by the way. I can only imagine the intensity of Doctorate Work. Check back when you’re ready.
Don!! i remember when you came to Kona and spoke at my DTS you showed us a video about seeing through new lenses, i was wondering where i can find that video! ive been looking all over and cant find it.. any way i can get a link to it??
Hey Talin! Goodness…. I showed so many videos, and I can’t think of any that specifically fit that description. Can you remember anything else about it?
May the Lord Jesus Christ give you confirmation and comfort
He showed me your name in the last days / weeks, so I connected
Also He has placed a great treasure in your heart, pure is the word, and pearl, that He revealed besides treasure.
If there might be something sad at home, aching,
well, the revelation He wants to give you about Him is dove and soft. He is crying with you. May you be blessed and comforted.
The Lord Jesus Christ gave me right now a pain in the left foot ankle, if it is yours, I pray for and declare healing.
a sister in Christ
May the Lord bless you richly on your birthday and throughout this year.