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Giving Thanks for a Life

30 November 2023

Dear Friend,

    • For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers…
    • 1 Corinthians 4:15 NASB

In Memoriam: Dr. Ray Rempt (1943-2023)

Dr. Raymond D. Rempt in 1972This photo of Ray Rempt was taken during our wedding in 1972.1

A dear brother called me the day after American Thanksgiving last week to tell me someone important in our lives — Dr. Raymond D. Rempt — had at last been released to be with Jesus three days earlier.

For those of you who didn’t know Denise and me in the early 1970s, Ray’s life was intertwined with ours for over ten years. Within two months of my salvation in 1968, he became my youth pastor. His role evolved to pastor, counselor, and finally friend and co-worker. It was Ray who shared — in no uncertain terms! — that going to Bible school would ruin me; so I didn’t. (The Holy Spirit immediately bore witness that what he said was true; but that’s just part of a story of God’s wisdom for another time.) It was Ray who founded the church I attended starting in the summer of 1970; Denise and I later pastored that church through late 1977, and then a spinoff of that same church through 1985. Ray headed up the elders’ council that ordained me in November 1971, and he married Denise and me in January 1972.

Ray Rempt around 1970This is how I remember the beardless youth pastor. On a retreat, circa 1970.2

Ray’s birth certificate shows his middle name as “Doak,” but his mother Dorothy later amended that “error,” declaring that his name was “Raymond ‘Very’ Rempt, because everything he did, he did ‘very’!” His brilliance and his “very-ness” propelled him through UCLA in record time; he made the journey from his first day as a freshman to his Ph.D. in plasma physics in the shortest time anyone had ever done it (at least at that time).

That very-ness was evident in his teaching and preaching (of which we were the blessed recipients), and during those years he was my father in the Lord. But his very-ness also led to “leap before you look” incidents, the most notable of which was his headfirst dive into the covenant discipleship movement in 1977, a theoretical and (as it turned out) short-lived man-centered reinterpretation of church authority. When Ray went off, most of the church went with him, taking almost all of the young professionals and middle-class families, leaving seventeen people behind, mainly “the poorest sort of the people of the land” (2 Kings 24:14).

But the seeds of the teaching Ray had planted — about how love and forgiveness are choices, about how long restitution can take — bore in them the fruit which led to eventual reconciliation. In the new church, made up of “leftovers,” we exercised our “choice” to love and forgive. During the first weeks after the split, those choices had to be made literally moment by moment.

Ray Rempt and Denise Halbert Kerwin on January 29, 1972Ray and Denise rejoicing in the moment about 30 minutes before our wedding ceremony. This is one of my favorite photos.3

But as our hearts remained fixed in purpose, “moment by moment” grew to “hour by hour,” “day by day,” then “week by week” — until one day we realized that we weren’t making a conscious effort any more; we really still loved them, were walking in forgiveness towards them, and bore them no animosity. Ironically, God had kept us free from bitterness largely thanks to Ray’s teaching.

That was a blessing. Keeping our hearts free from “the root of bitterness” (Hebrews 12:15) set the stage for what followed. Ray, as it turned out, was ejected from the movement by his Pacific northwest church, a victim of his own “very-ness.” And he was the first one to reach out and reconcile with us. Others followed over the years, and a blessed number of old friendships were restored. Ray’s subsequent Christian non-profit organization became a channel to help with my graduate-degree tuition, and was in no small measure the reason why I graduated without student debt. (And, though I don’t know any of the particulars, I was made aware that there were old friends from the first church who were the source of the donations.)

Ray and Pam RemptRay with Pam, his wife of over 50 years (circa 2018)4

Ray was able to fit in two visits to our home in Virginia, I think during the early 2000s, and for many years we would have two or three long conversations on the phone each year. We would keep up with each other’s ministries and know how to pray for each other. Alas, because I had already committed to a Latin American missions trip, I was unable to attend a special 75th birthday party for Ray, to which many of the “old gang” were invited. The party had a special purpose: Ray had been diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia, and his dear wife Pam decided to bless him (and all of us) by having one more round of fellowship before Ray was lost to us mentally in an especially difficult “prison.”

On November 21st, my pastor, mentor, and old friend (hey, he was 80 and I’ve known him for 55 years!) was liberated from that prison to be with Jesus, in a new home where the “very-ness” of love is highly esteemed before our God who is Love. If our ministry has ever blessed or helped you, dear reader, Ray’s impartation into our lives is part of the reason for the blessing.

Giving Thanks for Life

Photo of a PFO heart-plug apparatusIn this heart outline you can see: 1) the “hole” in the ventricle wall that was filled with the two-sided plug; and, 2) a replica of the device that was stuck in that hole!5

f you who prayed for my heart procedure on October 30th, many thanks! I can now serve God more whole-heartedly and no longer “hole-heartedly.” I feel well, though overall more tired than usual. This tiredness might be a) the cumulative effect of the August trauma to my knees + the double stroke in September + the heart procedure in October; or, b) it could be a side effect of the blood pressure medication I’ve been ordered to take; or, c) all of the above.

Most days the weariness doesn’t keep me from rising well before dawn for a period of uninterrupted writing; but afternoon naps are more frequent than I care to admit.

Speaking of Writing…

Title tile for 'The Lordship of Jesus and the Correlate of Kúrios'This chapter jumps ahead to Book #3, The Fellowship of the Forerunner, in The John the Baptist Experience series; but it’s too powerful to “keep under wraps” until that book comes out.6
  • By the time you read this, I will have finished posting The Lordship of Jesus and the Correlate of Kúrios (chapter 3 of book 3 of The John the Baptist Experience series) to the website.
  • Just today I completed the first draft of Repentance: The Love-Gift from Above (chapter 3 of book 2 of the series). Along the way, writing this chapter has spun off two “deeper dives”:
    • Deeper Dive #3 is Heart, Mind… and Kidneys?! Draft #2 of this is ready for the editor.
    • I started and completed the first draft of Deeper Dive #4 while away for the long Thanksgiving weekend. The working title is Recovering a Prayer Principle from a Misguided Translation.
  • Unless the Lord immediately grants me two straight weeks of 72-hour days right away (not likely, is it?!), I shall fall short of my annual goal of adding a new “Christmas chapter” to my “it’ll get published eventually” collection of Christmas messages. However, here’s a link to what exists so far of The Curious Corners of Christmas for those who might be interested in reading one or more of them in preparation for the Advent season. (I have also appended Percy Gutteridge’s unique Christmas message — Holiness: Preparation for His Coming.)

Serious Prayer Preparation

As I look at the calendar for 2024, I feel intimidated by at least two of the trips. What’s the source of the intimidation? This: Each visit will require far more than whatever inspired teaching I can provide. I don’t think I’ll name the countries involved yet, but let me describe the situations:

Map of Central AmericaPart of my heart is always here.7
  • For me to succeed on the first trip, the Holy Spirit needs to have been working in deep conviction. The pastors seem to lack basic knowledge (both head and heart knowledge) about personal interactions — they hold grudges, believe rumors, and are often insecure. No mere teaching can facilitate the necessary changes; but teaching propelled on the Spirit’s spearpoint might! As a result of a conversation I had today, it looks like I’ll be having two or three Zoom-call teaching sessions in January and February with these brothers.
  • I’ve had a strong feeling for seven months that I will be teaching on the fullness of the Holy Spirit on the second teaching trip. Knowledge isn’t what’s needed; what’s lacking is an empowering breakthrough, a return to a “first love” encounter, a fresh infilling of the Holy Spirit. Words and handouts can’t bring that about; but perhaps a prepared, refilled heart speaking to prepared, hungry hearts could be God’s means to His end.

FYI, it looks as though everything is falling into place for us to list our home for sale by the end of December. Even more “fun” begins then! Thank you for praying.

For those of you who care about such stewardship matters for tax-deduction reasons, there are only 31 more giving days in the year. For those of you who have been praying and giving and encouraging — we are genuinely thankful to God for you! By next newsletter, I hope to have a report of how thing are shaping up for the Finest of the Wheat Teaching Ministry here in Florida as we transition to a new location in our lives and new season in our service.

Much love in Jesus,

Jim

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  1. Photo of Ray Rempt taken by Mike Ollila, and provided by Steve Bryson.
  2. Photo provided by (and taken by?) Steve Bryson
  3. Here’s another of our wedding photos, taken by Mike Ollila and provided by Steve Bryson.
  4. Photo of Ray and Pam provided by (and taken by?) Steve Bryson
  5. The heart-plug photo was taken by Denise Kerwin at the hospital on my surgery day. The display was, I think, was the creation of the “plug“ manufacturer, but none of that data appeared in the photo. Anything colored red in the photo is the result of my own digital doodling.
  6. Image for the “The Lordship of Jesus and the Correlate of Kurios” title tile is a copyrighted photo by Rex Wholster and used under license from iStockphotos.com.
  7. Map of Central America courtesy of Wikipedia.org.
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