Brainwash – to make (someone) adopt radically different beliefs by using systematic and often forcible pressure.

Have you ever been directly or indirectly accused of being brainwashed?  I am convinced that this word is horrendously overused in today’s American English.  It implies being dominated completely by another human being, and not being able to think for yourself; as well it often includes being labeled as a “dunce.”  Being a Christian, I would say that I am fairly used to, especially in the post-modernist media establishment, being labeled as brainwashed.  It is hilarious to me to see how many angles this label/accusation originates from.  For example:

  • Many nations from around the globe claim that Americans are brainwashed into believing their country is the greatest on earth.
  • Those who believe in God are said to have been brainwashed into believing in Him when they were uneducated Christians.
  • Christians are supposedly brainwashed by their church to believe that Christ is God, and that there is no other way to heaven but through Him.
  • Fundamental Baptists are somehow accused of being brainwashed into adapting biblical standards concerning separation and godly living.

But what are all these accusations based on?  Fact?  The accusations are far from fact.  They are all based on opinion and emotion.  Brainwash is a very emotion-driven word, especially to the average person living in the United States.  The immediate reaction to this word is supposed to be, “How horrible!  ___________ is using mind control techniques to make people believe things.”  And I agree, human mind control is wrong in every aspect; but to be specific, why label separated Baptists as brainwashed?  Truth: it stirs the general public’s emotions by, at the very least, embellishing, if not outright lying to them about what is actually happening.

Let me illustrate by personal example and experience.  I was raised in what most would consider a very “religious” home –to be exact, a fundamental Baptist home.  I was constantly trained from the Bible.  I was always taught to listen to what godly teachers and preachers said, and as long as it lined up with the Word of God, to direct my life in that path.  Yes, I was highly influenced by people, starting with my parents, and so many others thereafter.  Who is not influenced by teachers and mentors in their life?  This is where the brainwashing accusation comes in.

However, the key difference is that I made a conscience decision to follow what I was taught.  I could have rebelled, stopped going to church, threw away everything that I was taught, and lived the way I wanted.  However, I didn’t choose to.  Why would I?  God has given me so much to be thankful for.  I could not have planned my life to be as joyful as it has been.  By God’s grace, I made my own choice to follow Christ with my life.  Contrary to today’s common belief, I was never brainwashed into doing anything.

I think what these people are really trying to say is that they do not like what people are being taught.  For most people who use the word, I think that they classify brainwashing as someone being taught anything that they themselves do not believe.  Now it all makes sense!

Here are some not-so-uncommon comments that are said when using the term brainwash.

“Those children behave too well.  They must be brainwashed!.” –No, that’s called obedience.  That used to be common in America up until fifty or so years ago.

“____________ just takes the Bible so literally.  He’s brainwashed.”  –No, he has faith.

“The people from _______________ Church are so religious..and they dress funny too.  They’re so brainwashed!” –No, they’re making their own decision to follow Biblical standards.

If we are going to use this false definition of brainwashing than we should use it universally.  All children are brainwashed by their teachers; all people who want to lose weight are brainwashed by their newest diet guru; all sports fans are brainwashed by their favorite team; and television brainwashes everyone!

I consider myself a pretty independent person.  I typically like to make my own decisions, make my own living, and make my own way in life –until God comes in.  And believe me, He is always there.  I gladly throw away every ounce of independence I may have, for His will.  I could never be happier than to be influenced and controlled by God and his Word.  What a privilege!

Happy Thanksgiving

Is this not the most cliché post title in the whole USA right now?  Oh, wait, I forgot to add three exclamation marks to the end of that.  Am I being such a bubble burster right now, or what?  Well, out of the network of family and friends that read our blog and have their own, I probably am the first one to actually post this on Thanksgiving Day!  It’s just after 12:30am here.

Right now, I am enjoying a great cup of black tea (no cream and no sugar, of course!), looking forward to the day ahead.  Don’t worry, I’ll go to sleep soon enough…

For our festivities, we are simply going over to the Hardecker’s home, where it will just be us two, and the three of them.  We got a turkey that is probably way to big for all of us.  Also, Andrea is making cranberry relish (yes, I really do like it a lot, as seen here).  She likes it too, Mom!

Anyways, I hope and pray that thankfulnessis not just a word for everyone this day.  I heard someone say once that thankfulness is the ultimate form of humility and submission: by being thankful, you are admitting to someone that they have done something for you that you either could not or otherwise would nothave done for yourself.  That is what the Lord should be to every Christian: a God who gave something to us freely that we could never attain ourselves: the gift of salvation through Christ Jesus alone.  Therefore–through thankfulness–we admittingly show our God submission and humility.  This is not my “religion” or “conscience.”  It is my sincere belief based on Christ alone.  Nothing can we ever be thankful for, except there be a time in our own life, when we, through faith, were born again through the blood of Jesus Christ.  Only then are we in truth able to grateful to anything or anyone.

Be Careful For Nothing–The Journey and Joy of Home Searching

Andrea and I were blessed greatly when we first moved to Pennsylvania with a place to live.  Our church has a beautiful Prophet’s Chamber that we were able to call our home from early June until August.  It was absolutely perfect for us newlyweds.  Was it big?  Definitely not.  Was it luxurious?  It seemed like it to us!  It had two bedrooms, a washer and dryer, and easy access to the church kitchen.  It was also very quiet–seven miles to the nearest town over 100.  We loved every bit of it.  It already had furniture, decorations, and appliances too.  It was everything we needed and more.

As the summer was winding down, I knew that we were going to start looking for somewhere else to live.  We were content in the Prophet’s Chamber, but I have this complex in my mind about not “overstaying your welcome.”  I knew that Pastor would have let us stay there for as long as we wanted, but I also knew that they built the chamber for guest preachers and missionaries–not us.  So, in late July, we began to keep our eyes open for places to rent. Andrea likes being around people–I do also, but I like peace and quiet sometimes too.  So that means Andrea preferred to live in the town, and I preferred living in the country.  It was during our home search that we discovered that Andrea is a “city-girl” and I am not that much of a “city-boy.”  The country idea got shot down pretty quickly, though.  It was usually twice as expensive, if not more, to rent in the country around here.  We then started to look around Red Lion for an apartment.  It seemed like we spent an immense amount of time in the newspaper, Craigslist, and driving around.  Finally, in early August, we had found it!

On Charles Street in Red Lion was a nice duplex with two bedrooms, a little kitchen, a family room with lots of windows and a little back yard.  It was definitely older and had some paint issues, but we knew that we could live there and be happy.  We talked to the landlord for a while, and soon after told him we would like to rent the home from him.  He was a good, honest Christian man that I think looked forward to us living there.  We were overly excited too!  He called Pastor Starr as a reference one day, checked our credit, and officially offered it to us; and we quickly accepted.  We were thrilled that we would have our own home soon!  However, I got a call back from our future landlord just an hour after we accepted.  He sounded distraught and discouraged.  We were soon to be also.

You see, he had a granddaughter who also posed interest in the same home even before we did.  She had delayed giving an official answer for a few days, then we came into the picture.  Just after we had accepted, she called her grandfather and said that she wanted it.  I am thankful that I was not in his situation.  I am not going to sit here and judge his decision; but out of necessity, he gave the home to her.  He was very apologetic.  He offered help to us in many ways–even inviting us out to dinner.  But, no matter what he said, we were back at “square one.”  All of that hope and excitement in us was crushed.  I am proud of how Andrea handled it, even though I knew it hurt to have “the perfect  place” in our hands, then all of the sudden, God took it away.  I remember her asking me, “Why do you think God took it away?”  She knew the answer, but just wanted it affirmed from me, I believe.  “God must have something better for us.”

So, the search began yet again.  Driving, driving through Red Lion and Dallastown; reading, reading the newspaper; and praying, praying that we would find where God would have us to live.  About a week after the first place fell through, we saw a sign on East Main Street in Red Lion that said, “For Rent.”  As normal, we called the number and talked to a man eating dinner.  We found out that the rent was low, and it had three bedrooms and a lot of square footage.  The next day, that landlord showed us the apartment.  Honestly, it was a disappointment.  It looked kind of old, strangely designed, and lots of useless space (which means a lot of natural gas in the winter!).  We left thinking, “Thanks, but no thanks.”  We also would not have been able to move in for a month.  Glenn, this landlord, was also a Christian, but we just didn’t want this place.  We walked down the stairs, and began the short walk to our car a little down-hearted, but still confident that God would give us what we needed. Just as we were opening the doors to our car, Glenn shouted at us and informed us of another apartment that he rents that was just a few blocks away.  He offered to show it to us right then, but warned us that it was a little smaller and a little more rent.  We thought, “Why not.  We have nothing to lose.”

So we followed Glenn in his Toyota Tundra through an alley and to this other apartment.  We walked up a long, single-flight stairwell to a simple white door in a turn-of-the-century building.  We thought we had walked into a mansion.  The place was bigger than we had imagined, had a lot of windows, and looked almost brand-new.  It was everything we dreamed of and so much more.  The only problem was cost, I thought.  I asked him what it was, thinking it was going to be way more than we could afford.  Andrea and I for those split-seconds held our breath.  He told us a price that was even less expensive than the very first duplex we thought was perfect!  We knew that this time we had walked into the perfect home for the Speckhals family.  After Glenn told us the rate, without even thinking much, I told him we wanted it.  He said that would be great under one circumstance: we had to be in the apartment within a week.  Even better!!!  We left so thrilled that God had found us just the right place.

Andrea and I were talking just a few days ago about our whole housing “drama” just over a month ago.  Now we know the answer without a doubt of that question we had asked before: “Why do you think God took that first place away?”  Because he wanted us to know that he was in control!  We could try and look our hardest for the “perfect place;”  but He wanted us to know that He was the only one in control, and that He was the only One who could bless.  What a wonderful lesson we learned, and are still learning.  I hope and pray that this is just the first step in trusting God more in our lives. Now, the problem was that we had ZERO furniture.  Over the last month God has given us beautiful things to fill our little home with.  Finally, I think we have a full home.  Sure, we don’t have everything brand-new–but Andrea and I both like it like that.  Here are a few pictures on our newly furnished abode.

Our library/hallway. The picture is taken from our bedroom. The angled thing is the stairwell to our attic. Straight ahead is the living room and kitchen
Our living room taken from the library/hallway. Our spare bedroom is to the right.
Our living room looking to the west. The library/hallway is to the left, and the kitchen is to the right.

Life at Fairhaven Baptist College—Freshman Year

As “back-to-school” time rolls around again, I think that I have a little paradox in my mind: this will be the first time in the last sixteen years I will not be going “back-to-school!” I for sure will not miss some of the work involved in getting a good education, but part of me will miss it a little bit—especially college. All four years of college, at least for me, were some of the prime maturing times in my life. So many of my friends are getting back into classes, college activities, athletics, and ministries very soon back in Chesterton. For the next few posts I am going to try to reflect back on my four years at Fairhaven.

Walking By Faith

During my freshman year, I was amazed by everything that I was experiencing. The first lesson I learned is a well known phrase found in 2 Corinthians 5:7: “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” Did I know which friends to be around? Did I know to what extent I was to be involved in ministry verses studies? Did I know who I was to marry? I sure did not know the answer to those things, but thankfully, someone preached a Sunday evening message that changed my outlook on finding the answers to those questions. I slowly learned (and am still learning!) to rely on God, and His Word.

Praise God, He directed me to some great friends, who still continue to be my friends today. Now, a lot of other students thought my room captain that year was a little annoying, stuck-up, quirky, etc.; but I am thankful that he was my roommate during my first year of college. He helped “show me the ropes” at Fairhaven. Put your heart into the ministry: whether it was a bus game, Saturday visitation, or setting up and serving in banquets. I also learned a lot of good study habits that year from him. Most importantly, I believe, he never had a critical spirit against the administration and college. I cannot remember one negative thing that he said about the staff. That alone made a HUGE impact on me.

No doubt, the other big influence on my life then, and up to today, was my bus captain whom I served under. I walked into the ministry director’s office my first day on campus, and was assigned to a bus route in the northwest part of Gary, Indiana. That one decision changed my whole outlook on ministry, and gave me a mentor to learn the bus ministry from. I remember the first day going bus visiting in Gary: we drove off of the highway and onto Broadway Street, and there at the first stoplight a homeless lady sat with a 5 gallon water jug that said “Hurrycane Katrina Releaf Fund”—with that spelling! My bus captain said, “Welcome to Gary.” Honestly, after hearing about the crime in that city, I was a little nervous going to our first house. That changed over the next couple of months. During my year and a half on that bus, I learned so much of what I know now about soulwinning, doing things right, and loving people. I could just go on and on…

Fairhaven Baptist Church’s 35th anniversary happened to fall on my freshman year too. Anniversary Sunday was such a blessing to me! The great old evangelist, Dr. Phil Schuler preached, and I can clearly remember that many were saved that day. I can also remember the evening service: the choir sang Great is Thy Faithfulness, and the line that really stuck out to me was, “Morning by morning new mercies I see.” God truly was and still is faithful to Fairhaven Baptist Church.

Another freshman experience is arriving into the busiest time of year at Fairhaven Baptist Church. First off, most get to be a part of the Stewardship Banquet. 2005 was the last year that the banquet was in the “old gym.” All I had heard was “get involved,” so I signed up to serve the meal. What a blast! Yes, it was hot and stuffy in the old gym, but it was a fun way to throw myself in. I am not a naturally outgoing person—I almost have to force myself to meet new people. Doing things like banquet setup and serving forced me to be more outgoing, and I am thankful to whoever it was that told me to get involved. I basically had one person I knew well going into college, and that was a friend I had grown up with back in Michigan. Over time, I eventually got to know more people, and really enjoyed most of the other college students.

My first semester, like most Fairhaven freshmen, consisted of English Grammar, American History, Old Testament Survey, and a few other classes. I had a couple of rude awakenings with study habits, but through a lot of prayer and work, I got the hang of it in a few weeks. I especially loved Christian Education class with Dr. Voegtlin teaching on practical ministry. The notes I have from eight semesters of that class are invaluable. Even after only being out of college for a few months, I have already pulled them out to look at them.

I can also say as a graduate, as the old saying goes: the more you learn, the more you learn that you don’t know. I really thought I was learning a lot, but the more I got into the Word of God, the more I realize that the truths of the Bible are infinite. I believe it would be impossible for me to effectively minister today without the challenging academics of Fairhaven Baptist College.

My relationship with God became a matter of fact after coming to college. I saw excellent examples all around me, and wanted to follow suite. However, I realized that it was not the person that I was to mold my life after, but the Word of God. God was central in their life, so if I wanted to do something for Him, I had to make God the center of my own life. Having a daily time with just me and God was the only way that could truly come. Along with that, being personally challenged from chapel and church services had to be frequent.

I sure had down times during college too. There were times that I was discouraged or weary, but learned that, “The Lord knows I can’t live on the mountain, so he picked out a valley for me”, as the song goes. I was encouraged by my dorm supervisor during devotions, calls from home, and preaching. Probably the most discouraging times were when peers fell into sin, and either left college or influenced others. Granted, those were definitely overshadowed by all of the good things, but they still had their effect. I saw those who were critically influencing others; and their lives were and are still miserable.

During my freshman year, I was introduced to some GREAT food too! Some may complain about college food, but there was very little that I did not like. My favorite was whenever they had French fries, especially with Italian beef—mmm… I’m hungry now! I ate out a few times too. Anybody from Fairhaven will eventually mention the “world-famous” George’s Gyro Spot in Chesterton. I have never had a gyro, but they are THE place to find classic Chicago street food in Northwest Indiana: Chicago hot dogs (Vienna Beef hotdog, mustard, a little sweet relish, sport peppers, onions, two slivers of tomato, a dill pickle spear, and a dash of celery salt), their double bacon burgers, Italian beef, and of course their fries—and all at a reasonable price! CiCi’s Pizza was a college place to go maybe once a year for all-you-can-eat pizza. Then you can never forget Wrestle-a-Rama: the biggest excuse to over-eat at Fairhaven. Believe it or not, I don’t think I gained any weight at college either!

Something that might have kept my weight down was being on the intercollegiate college basketball team: the Fairhaven Fighting Fundamentalists! We ended up being the first team to play in the new gym too. We won our first two games there, then got slaughtered (probably because of our attitudes!) and had a killer practice the next day. I learned a lot from my coach and being on the team. I will go into that a little more in the next few posts.

Fast forward to the college graduation of 2006; I had learned so much in just eight months, and was so joyful that I was in God’s will. I was living my dream. That year, my room captain and good friend graduated, as well as the woman who would eventually become my wife. No, I did not have a clue that I would be married to her. I had my sights set on others. I knew that Andrea was an excellent young lady, but never really considered her. The only inkling I had to “liking” her was my bus captain saying I should be interested in her. I didn’t really think twice about it at the time. I for sure did not realize what would be coming in the next few years.

I went into the summer of ’06 with a lot of tools to humbly use back home, but at the same time was eager to get back to Fairhaven—to my bus route, my friends, and classes. I enjoyed and was refreshed being with my family, as well as working a lot of hours for the next year’s school bill. God used a number of things to begin to mold me my freshman year, and little did I know how much more I would learn in the coming year. Year one was just an introduction…