I apologize in advance.)
“Honor your father and mother” which is the first commandment with a promise” “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” Ephesians 6:2-3
“Give everyone what you owe him… if honor, then honor.”
In 1984, God apprehended me for the first time; mercifully bringing to an end the outward rebellion of my college years, which included a couple of years of Ayn Rand style atheism, and then a whirlwind tour of practically every religion under the sun except Christianity. I thank God for the people He employed in bringing about my birth into His Kingdom. On some other day I will honor those others (those whose names I know), but today I would like to thank the Lord for Art Katz, a man He introduced to me during that first year of believing as I cried out to Him for my daily bread.
I had volunteered to serve for 6 months at a Christian community in the Southeastern US that was assisting refugees (who were fleeing from Central America) get to Canada legally. I was looking for the closest thing to New Testament Christianity I could find and so far that was it. As the weeks turned into months I found myself starving for the Word of God. The ministry there was to the body only, and though I knew that there was something of a far more urgent and penetrating kind (having recently tasted it), I was powerless to adequately express it.
I began to fast, and spend most of my free time in prayer or scouring the Christian radio stations for food. One of the refugee families gave me some material by one of the “Faith” ministries in the midwest, and I latched onto it for dear life, perceiving that in that was greater life than where I was currently abiding. This ministry had a Bible School and I promptly applied and got “accepted” for the curriculum that began in the fall.
In the meantime, someone gave me a brochure from a Pre-Internet audio-cassette Tape Ministry. You could have them send you 2 or 3 taped messages of well-known ministers (although they weren’t well known to me) for the cost of shipping, and when you returned them you would then be allowed to check out 2 or 3 more. I began randomly picking messages that sounded good to me by their titles.
There were at least a half dozen messages by a man named Art Katz available through the tape ministry. After listening to only a few I just knew that I would not be attending the “Faith” Bible School. It was clear to me that this was something of a different order. That “something” in my belly rumbled when this man spoke. I do not believe it was the man himself, but rather, God speaking through the brokenness of the man. It did not take me long to exhaust the messages that this tape ministry offered. Nearing the end of my volunteer term, I prayed earnestly that the Lord would let me go to the Ben Israel community that Art spoke of. I wrote a letter addressed only to – Ben Israel, Laporte, MN – and I prayed that the Lord would cause them to ask me to come, if it was His will. It was not until 20 years later that I found out that Ben Israel had shut down for a year or two that encompassed the time of my letter. No one but the Lord would have read it.
I waited as long as possible for a response. Receiving none, I chose an obscure “Charismatic” Bible School in Upstate New York that had been brought to my attention by friends. I attended that school for one year and gradually forgot about Art Katz, having no copies of those tapes and no further contact with his messages. During that year I found out about a little Christian fellowship called Zion Ministries that was only 6 miles from my childhood home. They were meeting daily for morning prayer and then also bible classes at 9am, 10am and 7pm daily. This seemed to me to be the New Testament type of fellowship I was longing for. I was given a small room in the basement and I got a job at a hamburger place from 12 to 5pm, six days a week, which allowed me to participate in all the meetings.
During the middle of my second year there (late 1987,) a dear sister gave me five new tapes (3 long messages) by Art Katz on the topic of Israel and the Church (Now available here). Again, something deep within was moved and shaken, but my efforts to express the message in my own words were feeble if not pathetic. I do remember that in one of those messages Art sang a few verses from Romans 11 in a very “special” singing voice. Unable to discern a melody in Art’s singing, I asked the Lord to give me a tune to those verses. That He did, and he also gave me a bonus verse preceding the ones Art sang:
God hath concluded us all in unbelief,
that He might have mercy upon us all. 2x
Oh, the depths of the riches,
Both of the wisdom and knowledge of God.
How unsearchable are His judgements,
and His ways past finding out!
For who hath known the mind of the Lord,
and who hath been His counselor?
Who has first given to Him
that it should be recompensed to him again?
For of Him, and through Him,
and to Him are all things,
to Whom be glory forever, Amen…
to Whom be glory forever, Amen.
I remember the tune that God gave me to those verses to this day.
In 1989, I married Patricia, a wonderful sister in the Lord from Guatemala, who had moved to Asheville to be a part of the local ministry. Interestingly, she found out about the fellowship in Asheville during two days of special meetings (a convention or convocation) in Minneapolis in 1985 that Art Katz also attended. This was during his “Sabbatical” in which he “could not be coaxed to speak.” Patricia remembers that Art wept either from something said or prayed during those gatherings.
After marrying, I spent an entire decade adjusting to living by faith for a growing family rather than just myself. To put it more accurately (if not quite so politely), the Word of God was being choked out by the many cares of THIS world.
In the late nineties, someone who was trying to stir our generation to rise up was making a note of saints who had recently gone on to be with the Lord. Somewhere in the list they mentioned Art Katz. I was taken aback, and stirred to search the internet to see if I could find anything on Art. To my surprise, I found a thriving Ben Israel web site, with ALL of Art’s books available for reading, and DOZENS of messages available for downloading. Best of all there was an itinerary of upcoming engagements, which is not very common for someone who has passed away.
I still had not figured out that Ben Israel was closed when I had made my plea to the Lord to go there fifteen years before. Therefore I was still under the impression that the Lord had resisted me in my request. So I was cautious in allowing myself to consider that as an option. Also, by this time, my wife and I had had five young children, and making ends meet was like walking on water. This made long vacations to attend the prophetic schools and convocations a seeming non-option.
In the summer of 2004, I happened upon a television program with Kirk Cameron (the actor) talking about modern day idolatry, and using the Law as a tool to prepare an unbeliever’s heart for the gospel. His comments on idolatry were some of the most insightful I had ever heard on television (especially by an actor) so I turned aside to see his (and Ray Comfort’s) website. This was the first season of their “Way of the Master” Series on evangelism, and I ordered the whole set. Our whole congregation watched the entire series together and contemplated reaching out to our city. That set of programs was a fuse that ignited two decades of Art’s messages in my being. I kept hearing in my inner man “… to the Jew first… to the Jew first…” as I considered acting upon their messages, and I just knew that what they made look easy would not be so easy in that arena. As an aside, it had not escaped my notice that Asheville’s two Synagogues AND the Jewish Community Center were within a mile of our fellowship. I wrote a message called “The Law Shall Go Forth Out of Zion…” (now available slightly modified on the ZCP web site) and delivered it one Sunday I had been asked to speak. At the conclusion of the meeting the pastor exclaimed that it was no accident that our fellowship was called “Zion”. Later that month it was announced that the name of the fellowship would be changed to “Glad Tidings Family Church”.
For almost two years after that there was a perpetual groaning for enablement in my being. I started the Zion Christian Press dot org website as a way to begin to articulate what was happening in me. I had taken the name change personally, and as a result there seemed to be a divide happening between myself and my fellowship of 20 years. No one else, including my wife, was sharing my vision for reaching out to the Jews. I had also recently decided to change jobs after 11 years, which provided additional strain for a short period of time. I had talked (translate: stammered and stuttered) to the paster about the two issues that troubled me most (the recent name change and the question of whether she should have taken her husband’s place as pastor a couple of years earlier when he was asked to step down). Weeks later, she made it clear that that our conversation would go no further than herself and I (which was not what I was hoping). She also approached my wife and I and suggested that we get marriage counseling. Not a bad idea, but WHO would have the understanding to give wise counsel in our circumstances. I could only think of Art and Inger Katz.
At about that time, in late 2005, a notice appeared on the Ben Israel website that said Art would be ministering in Tennessee and South Carolina in January of 2006, and that if anyone was along the route, it might be possible for Art to come and minister. Those of you familiar with geography and highways will know that it is not easy to get to South Carolina from Tennessee without passing right through Asheville, North Carolina. To me this seemed like the perfect timing and provision of the Lord.
The pastor was open to having Art speak in our church. I mailed out flyers to dozens of significant acquaintances over the years, as well as the Christian radio and TV stations, etc.
We also drove down to hear Art speak at the Fire School in Charlotte in October. After more than an hour of very loud, repetitive worship and an additional half hour or more of church business, Art was given the pulpit. He spoke briefly (45 minutes) on the “Strange Fire” that Aaron’s sons offered before the Lord. Art was hurried out after the meeting and I literally ran, chased him down, to speak a few words to him. He was kind and said we would talk more at his January visit to Asheville.
Those of you familiar with Art’s itinerary can fill in the blanks. It was on this trip that the disease that eventually ended his life first appeared. Just days before his scheduled arrival, all of his remaining appearances were cancelled, including ours. This was a cause for great soul searching; not just because a meeting was cancelled, but because it had seemed so much like the hand of the Lord, and it was the second time the door had been shut hard to being around this man.
When the day Art was supposed to visit arrived, I was exhausted. I still had it in my heart to reach out to the Jewish Community, and as yet had not the substance within me to move. I was still struggling with the fellowship’s name change, and as a result of that arose the issue of women in authority over men (see my Mothers in Israel post). Not wanting to be confrontational (having already spoken with the pastor privately), I decided that night that we would stop attending the fellowship.
The following Sunday we visited a Church that I found out about through a precious “older” couple who had contacted me in regards to Art’s planned trip to Asheville. They had known Art for years. We had good fellowship with the couple but the church itself was disappointing. I knew at that moment that we would be meeting in our home for awhile.
In August of 2006, Art went experienced a downturn in health before the “Prophetical School” and it was uncertain if he would pull through. I pleaded with the Lord to let me have more than the 30 seconds of contact I had with Art in Charlotte. It seemed impossible. My job was such that no one was trained to take my place for extended periods of time that driving would entail, and the plane tickets from Asheville to Bemidji were around $600 or more (far beyond what we could fit into our budget). One night, a few weeks before the School and Convocation, I rechecked the flights. To my amazement there were 5 available tickets for $350. Within hours I had the required approval from my wife, my boss and from the Ben Israel Office to come to the Convocation.
Added February 25, 2008:
Those five or six days at BI were blessed. I claimed a chair on the front row next to Art. I was desperate for impartation and proximity, and by the grace of God I believe I obtained something in the Lord, although it remains to be seen exactly what it was. The preaching by Jim Borchert of Texas was inspired and powerful.
I was able to squeeze in a few conversations with Art here and there and I shared with him some of the things that were taking place in my life regarding the faith. A day after I had shared about leaving our fellowship, he made the remark that he felt we may have left prematurely. I “received” that correction but my interpretation and the outworking of it were probably not what he had in mind. All that is another story that is still being written.
I made key friendships with other saints who gathered there, and, I was also able to linger for a day and a half after the Convocation, so twice I got to attend the smaller prayer meeting in Pearl’s (“Mama Rose”) trailer. On the final morning Art invited me and a precious couple from Washington State to have breakfast with him. I made further comments about a change I felt the Lord was leading me to make to the Zion booklet I had written, which Art either did not hear or disapproved of because he got up from the table and went to the kitchen without comment. The couple from Washington tried to comfort me, but I felt that it was more a rebuke from the Lord for seeking Art’s approval for something HE had already approved by giving perfect peace.
I talked to him on the phone twice before his death. The first time he was polite but it was clear that he didn’t know who he was talking to. The last time was on Mother’s Day 2007 and I had a good conversation with Inger, who then let me talk to Art. That conversation was more personal (he seemed to remember me) and I am grateful for it.
My wife (who is from Guatemala) has a sister and her mother in Minneapolis, and it just so happened that she (my wife) was needed to be around her aging mom in early July. I signed up for the 1st of the Table Talks with Art and Reggie Kelly, knowing full well by this time that Art might not make it that far. But I knew that if he did pass over that the funeral itself would be “an Event” (as Art would put it) worth witnessing and being a part of.
He died two days before we were to leave. We arrived in Minneapolis on Sunday night and drove up to BI on Monday just in time for the funeral. I thought it was powerful. Afterward, I had good fellowship with Mark Klafter, the brother who feels called to write Art’s biography and a few others. We stayed the night and I did not sleep one wink, but lay awake the entire night contemplating what I was witnessing. The next morning we went to the prayer meeting and then breakfast at Art and Inger’s house, with a myriad of guests including Paul Volk (Scott’s uncle), and Reggie, who had been busy with medical issues concerning his wife at the previous convocation.
To be continued someday when the dust settles.