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I was born in 1961 in Independence Missouri. I was embarrassed to admit that for years. Well not for the City, but the hospital, Independence Sanitarium. The 1960’s were times exploding with CRAZY things. Somehow I always felt I took a bit of that with me. When in grade school it was a common theme to be asked where were you born. Most kids would just say the town, city, or maybe the state but NOT me, Independence Sanitarium I would blurt out, and then came the eruption of laughter. This would be followed by words like this. “No wonder you are so crazy” or “that explains a lot”. I came to enjoy it.

Independence Sanitarium

 

Years later my friend Bill Jones and I had traveling to Wyoming. We pulled over to view Independence rock. I began to read about the western expansion and how wagon trains would leave Independence Missouri for Oregon. Early July they would reach this large Rock outcropping. The story goes if they did not reach this point on the wagon trail by July 4th they were behind schedule. That would have been important, because they had to beat the snows to the mountains that awaited them in the great northwest.

17-0303a

Photo from the national archives https://catalog.archives.gov/id/516895

Independence Day, early this July 3rd 2017 as I contemplated that word I remembered one particular year. I was coming back from Uganda on a mission trip, and had a layover in London England. I was seated next to a very nice elderly gentleman. At some point in our conversation he must have felt comfortable enough to ask me a pointed question. He started it like this. He said “You know this is July 4th, and I just wanted to say happy Independence Day”. I said “Thank you” and smiled. Then with a smile he said, “have you considered that what some people call Independence others call Rebellion.  WOW, No I had never thought of that, but did for the next week or two. It was very difficult to contemplate because I am a bible thumper and this is what came to mind.

1 Samuel 15:23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.

Wow that was God’s word to Saul 1st King of Israel. Just a tad bit interesting to me being our Independence from England was a system of Kings. Israel had received their 1st King because they rejected God himself as king. Just a bit ironic for me a young man at the time so full of National Pride. I wondered had my freedom become a bit of an idol in itself. The answer is yes.

From that day forward until now this Independence born guy says “I am IN Dependence to Jesus”. That has served as a sort of reality check for me that the whole idea of a king and kingdom for an american is a terrible idea. That said I bow my knee to My king Jesus now and forever more.

I also want to give honor where honor is due. For all those who died to give me the national right to worship God as I see fit I say thank you. In great respect I say that with no reserve even in a time when our nation is so divided. That honor though as it should be is under GOD. With all this said I wrote this poem this morning and it seemed as if I could not have stopped the words from coming. They seemed to come from somewhere deeper than me. Maybe it is from my spiritual DNA from those from whom I came.

My hope is that these words in the poem below would impact you. That they would give a balance to our patriotism and voice to our faith.

INDEPENDENCE DAY

A life Dependent on Jesus

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Dianna always gives Her best and puts Her own desires on hold

Need an honest answer, come to Her, you know the truth is told

Though others leave when times get tough I know she will remain

When my heart is parched and dry Her words have come like rain

She has suffered much yet Her love has endured the test of time

The passion She has given me has caused my words to rhyme

Wisdom found a home in Her and what a treasure now resides

Watch her with our children’s children you’ll see great love inside

Precious are my memories with Her and inspiration for my life

She was cute as childhood sweetheart now beautiful as my wife

She’s my other half my better half and the half has not been told

She’s my one of a kind no average girl in Her they broke the mold

Dianna having Gamma Knife surgery25th anniversary

Progression of Cushings Syndrome

 Progression of Dianna illness : Cushings Syndrome

 

Dianna and I were married in 1979 in 1982 She became very sick. No one could diagnose the Problem but after breaking several bones in Her foot by simply walking up the stairs we went to Dr. Travis in Harrisonville Missouri. He said something very serious was wrong and sent Dianna to specialist in Research hospital in Kansas City. He diagnosed Dianna with Cushings Syndrome. Cushings is basically a small tumor on the pituitary glad. Dianna has now had 3 brain surgeries and a gamma knife surgery. She has had Her pituitary gland removed and now takes more medicine than I can keep track of. Dianna has suffered so much yet keeps trusting God. She truly is inspiring when you have seen Her suffer like I have over the many years.

Well here we are Dianna and I have made it 30 years. When we got married Feb 9th1979 most people gave us a year. Nine days not months between our wedding and David’s birth had nothing to do with the jokes about people from Arkansas. Dianna was born in Hot Springs and my Mother was from Mena, so we both have razorback blood in our veins. We love Arkansas, jokes and all. We have survived every curve ball life has thrown our way, and though it has been hard to keep going back to the plate, we have, and we will. GOD has been so faithful to us. We have raised our kids and are enjoying our grandkids. Though Dianna can not go to the third world because of Her medical condition She has sacrificed alot and blessed my going. I always bring Her perspective with me as I am ministering. Her heart has provided me with the needed balance, as I work together with a great team here in the midwest to launch an orphanage called Abba House. You can check out the work at http://www.houseoffriends.org/Abbahouse.html .
 
 
Dianna

You were ruff and tough, a true Tom boy to the core

The first day I saw you oh how my spirit soared

You were like a mustang daring to be tamed

A loner never crying out for fame

I was a wild one, adventure would be my call

Our lives mixed together, like a painting on the wall

Colors differing, yet blending, and converging into one

On lookers set and wonder, what will it be, when done

Wisdom and zeal have found a home in We

We have given our selves to life, as we crucified our Me

We are one, We are the picture of one, and what is left is none

Dianna I love Us Together, John

Thank Jesus for investing your life in US !!!!

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Paul tells the church in Corinth that they had many instructors but He was their father. When I first read this years ago I remembered the words of Jesus ” Call NO MAN FATHER.”  I had heard all the things we protestants say about using that term for priests as if it is OK to call our natural dad’s father but not our spiritual fathers. I think it is the heart of man, Jesus is addressing. Man exalt’s their spiritual fathers above the throne of God and His leadership.

1 cor 4:15 For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.

  

The word used for fathers is Pater which means “father of the corporeal nature, natural fathers, both parents a more remote ancestor, the founder of a family or tribe, progenitor of a people, forefather”

I don’t think Paul would describe himself in such a way without the Lord leading, lets look at fathering in the way it relates to the church today. I believe it is a place of relationship not Lordship.

The Modern Example

Ronald Dale Gross
Ronald Dale Gross

Ron Gross is my Dad, my Father, my mentor. Dad has been a pastor for well over 50 years all of which has been with the Southern Baptist. When I came back to Christ at 21 years old out of a life of drugs and alcohol I needed a radical walk with God to match my personality and makeup. I was always a radical, good or bad wanting to take things to their ultimate conclusion. Dad Knew that and actually encouraged me to attend a charismatic church giving me permission so to speak to venture out and build my own history with God.

Dad not only had a 4 year college degree but 3 more years at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. When I began to preach without the degree Dad never gave as much as a hint I should do it the way He did. When I began to respond to the call to the nations Dad never said to me you are married and have kids and you need to stay at home and preserve your life. He actually gave financially to every trip even though He and Mom lived a modest lifestyle.

Dad had almost nothing in common with His dad yet He never argued or pointed out where His dad was wrong. Me on the other hand the radical maverick I am have always challenged my dad yet could never push Him to the place of stopping to relate though I am sure He has been tempted. I say all that to say this, my son is now 30 and had taken my sin walk in the world to a new level and is now taking His walk with God to a new level.

David on the Guitar
David on the Guitar

 

I am so proud of Him as He has finished up track 2 of the night watch at the International House of Prayer. He has been signing and playing both the guitar and drums with different worship teams as well as being involved with an inner city ministry.

I have learned many things from my dad yet only recently have I concluded He has been quietly mentoring me for years by His silence. I now strive to mentor my son with silence as he tests his wings, the more I pray and the less I say the more He soars.

prv. 17:9 He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends.

I have heard it said “He who fathers well has been fathered well.” Jesus was Fathered well and after He covered our transgression by His own blood He confessed our righteousness to His father and said to us “greater works shall you do because I go to my Father.” I think that defines a true Father desiring their children to do greater works than them. I believe Jesus was talking about serving the needy under the annointing of Holy Spirit not building empires.

So how does that relate to the church today, well for weeks now I have been listening to all the “Fathers” release their discernment on Todd Bentley and the lakeland revival. My position is, covering a transgression DOES NOT MEAN COVER IT UP, but to cover the person with love and with prayer. It is not a time for gossip or to sell your product or toot your horn or say I told you so. Take heed lest you fall, please lets cover the fallen with prayer and mercy and ask the Lord to release grace for healing and restoration.

I have studied church history for years and power gifts resting on weak and broken vessels bring a premature end if not fathered well. Then let the real Father’s please stand up. Take your position of silence of accusation and vocal in prayer.

If you study church history you will find those who trumpet the sin of other’s have their own they are hiding, but blowing the trumpet is their own uncovering.

The lessons are obvious they speak louder than us, the uncovering has begun and will continue. We are in the midst of the greatest national shaking, I have ever seen, we are truely in the last days, and the last day fathers must rise up.

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Well at least a couple of years are passed I am now 50. My Dad is still preaching at over 80 and my son continues grow and find His own history in God. Many things are changing in this world and all creation groans waiting for : well I think a big part of the waiting is for fathers to FATHER.  God give us Grace

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January 13th early in the morning my wife Dianna woke me up and told me “you sure are sleeping loud” I knew it was true I had been dreaming I was back in Africa and I had been dropped into the middle of devastation. I was working to get orphans into homes. It was overwhelming, one minute I was in Africa the next I would be back in Missouri. Then the dream slowed down into slow motion. I had been trying to get someone to explain to me what had brought about such devastation in Africa and how I ended up in the middle of it all.

There it was the longest train I had ever seen, it was a old coal burning train. It was pulling passenger cars and on each car was written Show Me Orphan Train. In the windows were little faces pressed against the glass. At this point I am crying looking into the faces of desperation to be loved, it was overwhelming. In the dream Linda a 20 year old Ugandan girl that is living with us while going to college pointed at the children and said “John it’s about them” I woke immediately with all kinds of emotions.

I thought about the meeting I have today with my friends from Alma Missouri introducing them to Gizaw my friend from Ethiopia who will be talking to us about the need for orphanages in Ethiopia. I thought about our friends John and Sharon who minister in Kenya that had just been at the house talking about the conditions there. I thought about my own experiences in Uganda, Egypt and Ethiopia.

Then I thought about a teaching that Regina Shank does on overcoming rejection and She tell’s stories about the orphan trains that would move from the east coast to the Midwest dropping off children to waiting families. Of course there are some bad stories about abuse and using the kids as slave labor. As a whole the Midwest provided homes, I myself have a great grandmother who was an orphan and was taken in to a wonderful family in Beatrice Nebraska.

Here is an advertisement below that appeared in the Troy Free Press Feb 11, 1910. Troy is in Lincoln County.

Wanted
HOMES for CHILDREN
A company of homeless children from the East will arrive at
TROY, MO., ON FRIDAY, FEB. 25th, 1910
These children are of various ages and of both sexes, having been thrown friendless upon the world. They come under the auspices of the Children’s Aid Society of New York. They are well disciplined, having come from the various orphanages. The citizens of this community are asked to assist the agent in finding good homes for them. Persons taking these children must be recommended by the local committee. They must treat the children in every way as a member of the family, sending them to school, church, Sabbath school and properly clothe them until they are 17 years old. The following well-known citizens have agreed to act as local committee to aid the agents in securing homes:
O. H. AVERY   E. B. WOOLFOLK   H. F. CHILDERS
WM. YOUNG   G. W. COLBERT
Applications must be made to, and endorsed by, the local committee.
An address will be made by the agent. Come and see the children and hear the address. Distribution will take place at the
Opera House, Friday, Feb. 25, at 1:30 p.m.
B. W. TICE and MISS A. L. HILL, Agents, 105 E. 22nd St., New York City. Rev. J. W. SWAN, University Place, Nebraska, Western Agent

 orphantrain1.jpg

Orphan Train in Black & White – Diamond Someday “above”

Here are the words to a blue grass song: Orphan Train “below”

By (Utah Phillips)

Once I had a darling mother, though I can’t recall her name
I had a baby brother who I’ll never see again
For the Children’s Home is sending us out on the Orphan Train
To try to find someone to take us in

cho: Take us in, we have rode the Orphan Train
     Take us in, we need a home, we need a name
     Take us in, oh won’t you be our kin
     We are looking for someone to take us in

I have stolen from the poorbox, I’ve begged the city streets
I’ve swabbed the bars and poolrooms for a little bite to eat
In my daddy’s old green jacket and these rags upon my feet
I’ve been looking for someone to take me in

The Children’s Home they gathered us, me and all the rest
They taught us to sit quietly until the food was blest
Then they put us on the Orphan Train and sent us way out West
To try to find someone to take us in.

The farmers and their families they came from miles around
We lined up on the platform of the station in each town
And one by one we parted like some living lost-and-found
And one by one we all were taken in

Now there’s many a fine doctor or a teacher in your school
There’s many a good preacher who can teach the Golden Rule
Who started out an orphan sleeping in the freezing rain
Whose life began out on the Orphan Train.

Well I have to get going and get ready for Church, I just wanted to get the dream down before I forgot it. I hope it will stir you up to pray for those all over the world that have no place to call home and no one to call family. They need to know they have a father who has declared so from heaven. Some times we need to be reminded as the church we are His hands and Feet and more than that we are His Family with open arms and open eyes.

Psalms 68:4-6  Sing to God, sing praise to his name, extol him who rides on the clouds– his name is the Lord– and rejoice before him. 5 A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. 6 God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.

Part 2   https://riverflowsdown.wordpress.com/2008/01/16/show-me-orphan-train-dream-part-2/

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Dianna and I just got back from seeing Bucket List. I feel asleep not because it was boring but because I had been up since 3 am and had worked until noon. It definitely was not a christian movie with some strong language and a soft message that implied all roads lead to heaven. There was however a cord struck in my heart. Living Life unshackled by fear and not waiting until the last moment to do something about it. 

The question is raised if you knew exactly when you were going to die what would you do different. I think the biggest enemy for a christian is fear. Fear of failing. Fear of rejection. Fear of being alone. Fear of making God mad. Unless we have experienced the depths of the Love of Christ we shrink back in fear.

In Paul’s apostolic prayer in Ephesians perfect Love is made clear. 

Ephesians 3:14-21
14 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; 17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. 20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, 21 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

If we are operating in fear or sitting back doing nothing because of fear realize that’s not coming from God, but the enemy. Power Love and sound mind now that comes from the Lord.

2 Tim 1:7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

Fear when it runs its course will torment you, friends the answer is in the Love of Christ, as we return with our whole heart to Him and rest in that Love that fear must flee.

1 John 4:18  There is no fearin love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.

With a heart free of fear and made perfect in love we can live life without regret and live life to its fullest. What a difference we can start making in the lives of our family and friends not to mention strangers. They are waiting!!! 

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 Jesus, God’s only begotten Son, and at the same time He was a man’s Man. During His 33 years on the planet He created He related to real every day people and knew how to get to Them. My favorite hook He used was that of the fisherman. Jesus was calling these rough young fisherman to be become His disciples and He caught them with a word picture they could understand “I will make you fishers of Men”.   

Mark 1:14-18, 14 Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15 And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel. 16 Now as he walked by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. 17 And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men. 18 And straightway they forsook their nets, and followed him.

Let me tell you how Jesus hooked me the same way. It started back with John William Gross my grandfather who by trade was a lineman for Kansas city power and light but at heart He was a river rat. From the time I could cast my zebco 33 grandpa went to work teaching me how to tie a knot that wouldn’t break and how to take a hook out of the fishes mouth without getting stuck. Above all He gave me time and attention.

Years later as an adult I was in the back yard working in the garden when our neighbor Denver Stark ventured over and said “the Flathead are moving up grand river”. I told Him I had never fished for Flathead and asked Him if He could teach me how. He did and that lead to the greatest summer of fishing I have ever experienced.

My wife’s cousin Jeff Arnold and I took His canoe up the river with a 5 gallon bucket of live bait fish and limb lines that we tie off on good green limbs. We set our lines and went to make camp. We had just started a fire when we heard what sounded like a deer crossing the river. As we watching the bank up river about 50 yards no deer came in sight. The splashing continued and we thought oh no that poor deer got tangled in our line. We jumped in the canoe and paddled away. It was just getting dark and the green limb was under water. I leaned over the side and found the line and lifted it up slowly and then the hardest jerk you can imagine sent my heart into fast mode. I reached for the dip net and 20 minutes later Jeff and I wrestled the Big Cat Fish in the boat. Here is the picture of me with my first of many big cat’s.   

flat-head.jpg

Not to far in time from this picture God hooked me. I had been a Christian for about 10 years. I was working with the youth, doing a lot of prayer, writing music, doing jail ministry you know normal Christianity. I had just read a book that had challenged me to ask the Lord if I had any hidden sin issues so deep that I had even hid them from myself. Nothing happened for several weeks then it happened. My wife Dianna had me sit down and told me to brace myself. I was not braced enough. She told me that Her best friend at the time Karen had married my arch enemy Kevin. Karen was a Christian He was not, and She had asked Dianna if I could befriend Him hoping to get Him into church. Dianna had explained there was bad blood between us and that might not be good. I went off, yelling and screaming, then I remembered what I had prayed and could not believe I had so much bitterness built up inside. Even after much prayer and repentance it took two weeks for me to agree to meet with Kevin. We had a meal together, and we both felt uneasy but worked hard, mostly to make the wives happy. We eventually became friends and Kevin starting to come with us to Church and about 6 months later during an alter call He went up. My good friend Steve Lovelace and I prayed with Kevin as He asked Jesus to forgive Him of His sin and asked Him to come into His heart. There was a massive change in lifestyle and we were all so happy. Several weeks later Kevin was killed in a head on collision by an oncoming truck.

You have no idea how glad I am that I asked the Lord to reveal any hidden sin like unforgiveness. I am so glad the Lord was and is faithful and longsuffering. If we want to catch the big fish we MUST lay our nets down and follow Jesus. What an adventure ahead, Happy Fishing.

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I have the greatest memories in the world. The best ones revolve around my grandmother Leona Willis. She’s been gone for some time now but the memories are fresh. The long drive down 71 highway from Missouri to Mena Arkansas couldn’t be over quick enough. Busting through the door I would find grandma with Her apron on cleaning the flour off Her hands just in time for the worlds best hug. She would precede in telling us kids how much we had grown, then giving us the tour of presents under the tree and all the goodies she had cooked. She always reminded us that Polly the old three legged coon hound was getting old and be carefull playing to close to Her. Then out would come the Lincoln logs and we would build while grandpa Ira would settle into his favorite chair and start to play the fiddle. Every year like clock work He would stop, lean over and hit coffee can with a ping as he wiped the spit from His chin he’d say ” Ya’ll from Kansas city, let me play ya some them Kansas city blues.” Boy do I miss those Christmas’s and what things I remember. If the razorbacks made a bowl appearance, well then, the whole world came to a stop, while we all made our way into the front room, oh it was cold in there. NY Yankees and the Arkansas Razorbacks there was nothing finner to grandma than those two teams. That mild manored woman would come unglued just let the ref make a bad call, She would give Him the what for.

Here I am today watching my beloved tigers play grandma’s beloved hogs. I revolved in my mind today such stories and at the end of the day though I have been sick with a fever recovering from malaria it was awesome just awesome. Grandma was a christian and something tells me that in heaven today She was cheering on Her Hogs. Sorry grandma, We got this one.   Congratulations MU   Cotton bowl champs  

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