John Schmid Music

Author: John Schmid

RAVI ZACHARIAS or WHAT IF?

I was having breakfast at our hotel in Louisville, Ky. when Ravi Zacharias walked by. He was one of the speakers at the convention I was attending (NACIE ‘94). I looked up and said, “Hello,” and he said, “Hello,” and then he paused and chatted a bit and then he sat down at our table and shot the breeze with us for several minutes, as if we were old friends! I couldn’t believe it! He acted as if we were equals!

Ravi Zacharias died this month and the more I heard about him in the eulogies and funeral tributes, the more I realize that he treated us like equals because that is what he believed: we are equals. He didn’t think he was any better than anyone else, even though he was known all over the world as the premiere apologist in the Christian World. The C. S. Lewis of our age. He has spoken in well over 50 countries and was the friend of Kings, Shahs, world leaders, presidents… Muslims, Hindus, Mormons, street kids, University students… he took the message of Jesus to wherever he was invited.

He was a brilliant thinker. His motto: “Helping the Thinker Believe; Helping the Believer Think!”

Ravi was born in 1946 in India. Althought his family was Christian, he was a skeptic. At age 17 he was so hopeless that he tried to commit suicide by swallowing poison. While recovering in the hospital, a friend brought him a Bible and told his mother to read to him from John 14. A phrase in verse 19 touched Ravi: “Because I live, you also will live.” He thought, “This may be my only hope: A new way of living. Life as defined by the Author of Life.” He committed his life to Christ, praying that “Jesus if You are the one who gives life as it is meant to be, I want it. Please get me out of this hospital bed well, and I promise I will leave no stone unturned in my pursuit of truth.”

Ravi got out of the hospital and kept his promise. He left no stone unturned in his pursuit of Truth. He helped thousands of others to see the validity of the Christian message. The only thing more indisputable than his logic and his intellect was his love for people. He never tried to win an argument; he tried to win people. He realized that behind every question is a person, and behind every person is a soul searching for meaning. He always saw the soul and tried to win the person, not the debate.

The Christian World AND the whole world will miss this great man of God. I never can hear him speak without thinking of a hotel breakfast room where this giant walked by and sat down and chatted with us! He was one of us! His ministry (RZIM) will continue to win people to Christ for years to come!

With all the wonderful things that we could be saying about Ravi and his life, here is a thought:

What if that friend would not have brought a Bible to Ravi’s hospital room? What if Ravi have tried suicide again? Would he have recovered and been a good businessman in India so that no one outside of Delhi ever heard of? Would someone else have lead him to Christ?

We’ll never know. But we do know this: That friend DID bring a Bible and Ravi DID commit his life to Christ, and he became the world’s leading apologist for Christ, and I along with thousands of others are better people because that one kind deed allowed a suicidal teenager to recover and reach his potential.

Folks, you never know. You give a Bible, a tract, a kind word… and the world is changed!

May God continue to bless the life and ministry and memory of Ravi Zacharias. And bless that friend who gave a Bible. May you and I be that friend.

UNANSWERED LETTERS

MARCH/APRIL 2020 NEWSLETTER

I toured with the We Care Prison Ministries Fund Raising Banquet Tour for two weeks.

In each of the 14 banquets ex-inmate, Jeff Tyler, shared his story of being helped by Steve Stoltzfus, one of the We Care chaplains in Alabama. Jeff had messed his life up so completely that he lost everything- his business, his wife, his three daughters, his parents, his siblings- everyone close to him! He wrote to his daughters every week, but they were so traumatized by his abandonment of them (drugs) that they never wrote back. He wanted to give up, but Chaplain Steve encouraged him to keep writing, even if they never respond. They never did.

Now that he is out of prison, he has re-established a relationship with all three daughters! The letters, even though they went unanswered, surely helped.

In each of these banquets I sang Randy Davenport’s song, Mail Call- about a prisoner who went to mail call everyday but never got one letter. Russ shared that at mail call all the inmates gather around the officer and wait for their name to be called. Some never received one letter the whole time that Jeff was in prison. They turn away trying to look tough. BUT, when Jeff heard his name and the officer handed him a letter, he said it was like winning the lottery! Better than a million dollars! He hurried back to his rack and read the letter once, twice, three times… and then he would share it with a friend, and then another friend. Then he would read it again.

One of America’s great poets, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, has a similar, even more devestating story of unanswered letters. She was born in 1806 into a difficult family. Her tyrannical father was very domineering and for some unknown reason forbid any of his 12 children to ever marry. When Elizabeth ran off and married fellow poet, Robert Browning, her father disowned her.

For the next ten years, Elizabeth tried to mend the relationship with her father. Every week she wrote incredibly crafted, poetic letters to him. She never received a response. Finally, one year before her father’s death, she received a box in the mail from her father. She was ecstatic! Her excitement soon turned to anguish. Every single letter she ever wrote to him was in the box, unopened! She was devastated. How cruel!

Today these letters are published and are considered to be some of the most beautiful classical English literature ever written. What a tragedy that such incredible writings were never seen by the one for whom they were intended. If Elizabeth’s stubborn father would have just opened even one letter, perhaps his heart would have been softened just a little. But he didn’t, and he died a poor, bitter man because of it.

As I think how foolish, bitter and even stupid this was, I am reminded of the beautiful collection of love letters that were sent to me and remained unopened for 23 years of my life. They sat on the shelf, collecting dust. This collection of love letters is called the Bible. God wanted to mend our relationship. He wrote how much He loved me, but I never opened the letter until I was 23!

Now it’s different. I read His letter everyday! Then I read it again. Then I share it with a friend. It’s like winning the lottery. Better than a million dollars!

Do you read God’s love letter to you? Are you like Elizabeth Barrett Browing’s father? Are you like I used to be? Or are you like inmate Jeff Tyler. You read God’s word everyday. You read it again. You share it with a friend. I want to be like Jeff. Realize how precious is a letter from a Friend.

Good news from [the outside] is like cold water to the thirsty man.” Prov. 25:25
“Study [the Bible] to show thyself approved…” 2 Timothy 2:15
“Thy Word have I hidden in my heart that I might not sin against Thee.” Psalm 119:11

A FAITHFUL LIFE

FEBRUARY 2020 NEWSLETTER

The weekend of July 28, 1991 we went to Putnamville Correctional (then called The Indiana State Farm) for a Gospel Echoes sponsored “Daily Light Seminar – Self Acceptance from a Biblical Perspective.” During the invitation on Sunday morning an inmate asked Doug Gingerich to go with him to the altar. Doug and the inmate walked to the old fashioned altar in this huge prison chapel that was built before Christian Chapels were considered discriminatory in government facilities.

“He asked me to pray for God to help him quit smoking. I was so convincted, I don’t remember praying for him, but I remember praying that God would help me quit smoking,” Doug said.

Doug was in my Sunday School class and I didn’t know he had a hidden habit. He later told me that he thought, “Now that I quit smoking, everything is fixed. I’m clean with God…. Later I realized that now God could show me all the other garbage in my life!”

Doug was a changed man. Within two years he sold his thriving construction business, moved to Florida to be a volunteer prison chaplain with a newly formed minsitry: GEMS (Gospel Express Ministries South), and with the money from selling his business and his house, he went to college classes after working in the prison all day. He earned his B.A. and became state chaplain (no longer volunteer). His first salary was $21,000 @ year. With four teenagers and a stay-at-home wife!

For the next 15 years he served as chaplain at five northern prisons: Liberty Correctional, Appalachee Corr., Washington Corr., Wakulla Corr. and Gulf Correctional (some of these prisons twice) before being promoted in 2001 to the Central Office in Tallahassee where he was appointed head chaplain over all the faith based prison dorms in the Florida System.

Fast forward to Jan. 25, 2020: I was on my way from Sarasota to Montgomery, Alabama to be with We Care Prison Ministries Program for the 30th year in a row (minus a year or two). I called Doug to tell him I’m coming through his town, can I park my RV in his yard overnight? “Sure! In fact, I’m having a retirement party on Saturday. Can you stay an extra day and be here?”

Of course I can! Can you believe that?! I’ll be late for We Care, but I was at the very first prison service where Doug Gingerich fully dedicated his life to the Lord and later to prison ministry, and now I have the honor of being at the celebration of his last prison service. Well, his last “paid” prison service. I know Doug well enough that even with the travel and retirement plans, he will never stop ministering in prisons and in his local church. Oh! I forgot to mention: Doug is also the pastor of the church they attend (Berean Christian Fellowship)!

I dedicate this letter to my friend and fellow soldier in the trenches, Chaplain Doug Gingerich. Almost 30 years of faithful service and sacrifice. Doug is the kind of man who would have been one of my financial supporters if he had stayed in business. Instead of giving tithes and gifts to many ministries, he gave his whole life to God and to prison ministry. Congratulations, Doug! You and I both know that “retirement” just means a change in direction.

Blessings in this new phase of life.

HALLELUJAH! PRAISE GOD FOREVER!

January Newsletter 2020

Dennis Kinlaw was president of Asbury College when I attended there. He tells of taking an afternoon walk in the Helderberg Mountains (NY) with Norman Grubb, son-in-law of C. T. Studd, the “Babe Ruth of British Cricket,” who became a missionary to Africa. Grubb spent many years in the heart of Africa, working with his father-in-law. One of the stories that Grubb told Kinlaw was “unforgettable.”

Studd and his missionary team lived deep in the interior of Africa. Their mail only came every two weeks. Their existence depended on the money that came in the mail, so its arrival was always an event. C. T. Studd was the master of ceremonies at this bi-weekly ritual of the “opening of the mail.”

One fortnight there was a pleasing amount of money in the mail. Studd’s comment was, “Bless God forever! He knows what a bunch of grumblers we are, so He sent us enough to keep us quiet!” Another fortnight the amount was quite small. Studd’s comment was, “Hallelujah! We must be growing in grace. He thinks we are learning to trust Him.” One fortnight there was nothing. Grubb said that the missionaries gathered around Studd waiting, wondering what he would say. They were not disappointed. He lifted his voice in a shout, “Hallelujah! Praise God forever! We are in the kingdom already, for in the kingdom there is neither eating nor drinking, but righteousness, joy, and peace in the Holy Ghost!”

Some would think Studd’s faith was reckless, but I suspect that he had a special place in the heart of God because he dared to expect God to be faithful to His promises.

As I look back on 2019, do I see the undeserved goodnesses of God? As we look forward, do we look with joyous anticipation? We should. His track record is very good! May this be your (our) best year yet!

A BUSY CHRISTMAS SEASON

December is usually my busiest season because of the opportunity I have to sing/speak at local small business Christmas banquets. At one time Holmes County was the “small business capital of Ohio,” and many, if not most, of these local businesses are owned by Christians who want a family friendly, Christian program. They may not want a preacher, but they don’t want something devoid of content. I seem to fit right in to that genre. I enjoy having fun, but the end goal is to point folks to real meaning of Christmas: Jesus.

The banquets are also a great help financially to the ministry. The local businesses believe in what Common Ground Ministries is doing and they are generous.

So… I am tired, happy, content, excited, thankful… I have several days off. Bring on 2020!

Leave the irreparable past in His hands and step out into the irresistable future with Him.” – Oswald Chambers

There’s no future in my past.” – Will Stoltz

The best is yet to be!” – Dr. Robert Coleman

2020 will be a great year..” – John Schmid