Dr. Stephen Phinney | Sept. 16, 2020 |
Believers are to be “children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:15). This reminds me of the function of a prism. White light that passes through a dispersive prism separates into its constituent spectrum of colors. But the refraction of light is affected by the composition and angles of the specific prism. Similarly, Jesus Christ is “the Light of the world" (John 8:12) and believers are to function as His individual lights in the world (Matt. 5:14).
These blog entries give readers an understanding of how Dr. Stephen Phinney was shaped into a unique vessel of God's light. And the spectrum of his ministry activities is very colorful!
I met Steve in person when he re-visited Grace Fellowship International in 2011. As he spent a year in a consultant and leadership role with G.F.I., I was inspired, not only by his vision and zeal, but by his testimony. It was almost in passing that the remarkable events of his childhood, adolescence, and career path came up in conversations and training sessions. It wasn't long before it became obvious that Steve's unique life story is one that needed to be told more completely and publicly.
As I consider Steve's life, I am intrigued by the formative events of his childhood and adolescence; these could be a volume in themselves. But when Steve became a Holy Spirit-indwelt child of God, he became a new creation with a new identity, new purpose, and new potential.
As Steve recounts his various ministry experiences, we see a variety of ways the True Light shines through him in ministry contexts such as social work, care, and guidance for the handicapped, family/child specialist, mentor, small group leadership, in-patient care, leadership development, politics, on-line commentating, author and pastor.
But these ministries have not diverted Steve from devotion to his wife, Jane, their extended family, and the advocacy of Christian family values.
And just when you think you have this brother categorized, you discover his remarkable gifting and skills in art. (Recently, I was admiring a portrait of the Apostle Paul on display in Dr. Charles Solomon's home; Steve had given it to him as a birthday gift.)
So I commend Steve for his zeal, spiritual devotion, vision, and perseverance. May this autobiography encourage readers to appropriate the indwelling life of Christ so that their lives will fulfill their potential as unique expressions of the Light of the World.
Dr. John Woodward | Grace Fellowship International
John has been a true and faithful friend since 2011. What John didn’t mention are the endless circumstances we have been through together. The test of friendship is in the “who” is remaining when life comes at you fast. John is a Truth Friend that is seen after all the fog of demise is lifted. He has become a compass of sorts in my life.
Throughout my life, the Lord has reminded me of a short story about a shepherd boy who got tagged with “Crying out, Wolf.”
There once was a shepherd boy who was bored as he sat on the hillside watching the village sheep. To amuse himself, he took a great breath and sang out, "Wolf! Wolf! The Wolf is chasing the sheep!"
The villagers came running up the hill to help the boy drive the wolf away. But when they arrived at the top of the hill, they found no wolf. The boy laughed at the sight of their angry faces.
"Don't cry 'wolf,' shepherd boy," said the villagers, "when there's no wolf!" They went grumbling back down the hill.
Later, the boy sang out again, "Wolf! Wolf! The wolf is chasing the sheep!" To his naughty delight, he watched the villagers run up the hill to help him drive the wolf away.
When the villagers saw no wolf, they sternly said, "Save your frightened song for when there is something wrong! Don't cry 'wolf' when there is NO wolf!"
But the boy just grinned and watched them go grumbling down the hill once more.
Later, he saw a REAL wolf prowling about his flock. Alarmed, he leaped to his feet and sang out as loudly as he could, "Wolf! Wolf!"
But the villagers thought he was trying to fool them again, and so they didn't come.
At sunset, everyone wondered why the shepherd boy hadn't returned to the village with their sheep. They went up the hill to find the boy. They found him weeping.
"There was a wolf here! The flock has scattered! I cried out, "Wolf!" Why didn't you come?"
An older man tried to comfort the boy as they walked back to the village.
"We'll help you look for the lost sheep in the morning," he said, putting his arm around the youth, "Nobody believes a liar...even when he is telling the truth!"
This Greek fable communicates a very powerful principle regarding “nobody believes a liar…even when he is telling the truth.” One of the key ways that Satan diminishes future prophets of Truth is through messing with their childhood – particularly forming a fleshly pattern of the child crying wolf.
The older man in this story became Dr. Charles Solomon, my life-long mentor. However, in the organic version of this story, the older man is Jesus Christ. As most disciplers know, God uses human leaders to carry out the work of discipleship in/of Christ.
Permit me to share this story one more time, but this time in a paraphrase, I believe the Lord gave me many years ago.
There once was a boy who was called to be a prophet of the Living God who was restless, lacking love and acceptance. The boy had no idea of his calling by the great Shepherd. The Shepherd wanted to train the boy in taking care of His sheep, but the boy was constantly distracted by rejection. Then one day, while the great Shepherd was training the boy, he realized that the only time the people paid attention to him was when he was in trouble, so he cried out, “Help, I’m in trouble! I’m in trouble. I need help! The wolf (enemy) is chasing me!”
The people came running to help the boy drive the enemy away. But when they arrived at the place of the boy, they found no enemy. The boy found great pleasure in the urgency he saw on their faces.
“Don’t exaggerate little boy,” said the people, “When there is no trouble!” The people walked away from the boy labeling him a ‘little liar.’
Later, the boy cried out again, “Help. I’m in trouble! I’m in trouble, and I need help! The wolf (enemy) is chasing me!” To his excitement, he watched the people come to his rescue to help him in his time of trouble.
When the people saw no trouble, they sternly said, “Save your call for help when there is something wrong! Don’t cry out for help when you do not need it!”
But the boy found great comfort in their coming to his rescue and watched the people retreat in disappointment and frustration.
Later, the boy had real trouble, for he saw the enemy (Satan) of the great Shepherd prowling around seeking whom he may devour. Alarmed, he leaped to his feet and cried out, “Help, I’m in trouble! I’m in trouble. I need help! The wolf (enemy) is chasing me!”
But this time, the people thought the boy was trying to get attention, and so they didn’t come. The boy, not knowing what to do, knowing he couldn’t count on the people – he cried out to the great Shepherd. The Shepherd saved the boy and chased the wolf (enemy) away.
As time passed, the people wondered why the shepherd boy in training hadn’t cried out for help anymore. They all went to check on him and found that the boy was content and filled with joy. The people being curious, they asked, “Why the change, little boy?” With great excitement, the boy said, “I found the great Shepherd. He rescued me! “We don’t believe you boy!” With that, the people walked away in disbelief of what the boy had said.
Later that night, the boy went to the great Shepherd and asked, “Why didn’t the people believe me when I told them about You?” Then the great Shepherd gracefully said, “Nobody believes a liar…even now that you are telling the Truth!”
This was my life story for many years. In this blog/book, I will be sharing my heart as to why I did cry “wolf.”
This Greek fable was written in the 13th century. History tells us that it was a child’s story to communicate what happens when a boy grows up lying and once converted to Christianity; no one believes what he had to say about the Shepherd who saves and the fact that the enemy is chasing the sheep of the Shepherd.
We do not know if the original author of this fable was gaining his insight from the original teaching that was given to us through the prophet Isaiah but here is the passage:
Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him, The spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge, and the fear of the LORD. And He will delight in the fear of the LORD, And He will not judge by what His eyes see, nor make a decision by what His ears hear; But with righteousness He will judge the poor, and decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth; and He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked. Also righteousness will be the belt about His loins, and faithfulness the belt about His waist. And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little boy will lead them. Also the cow and the bear will graze, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child will put his hand on the viper's den. They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD As the waters cover the sea. (Isa. 11:1-9 NASB)
This passage is communicating the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, what He will accomplish regarding the Wolf, and what Heaven will be like after He has righteously judged the entire human race and the demonic realm.
Not everyone can relate to the story of “The Boy Who Cried, Wolf.” But I can. What if the enemy knows, minimally suspects, a future prophet of the Lord as he is a boy. The childhood ideology of this story would be a perfect way to block the future ministry of the Wolf’s greatest enemy – God.
While the Wolf was successful in formulating habits within the boy's flesh, it cemented the future of the young prophet with His God. Once the boy received the Truth Sayer through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, history proves these boys become great men of God – prophets of the ages to shout, “Wolf, Wolf, the Wolf is coming.”