Winter at White Rocks

The other day, after we had a bit of snow, I went to a nearby park and spent the afternoon shooting some video. A little snow can sure add beauty to the winter scenery!


Happy New Year!

Greetings from A Radical for Jesus! It’s a brand new year, a great time for reflection, new beginnings, and changes.

As I think about this blog in the new year, I feel that it’s time I make a small change in my focus and content. On my “About” page (the most-viewed post last year, incidentally), I’ve had the following quote:

The purpose of this blog is not to amuse you, to update you on the mundane things of my life or to flap my jaws about whatever I’m thinking about. My purpose is to challenge you to a deeper walk with Christ, obeying Him and giving Him your all. I desire to help those who really want to serve Christ.

I feel that it’s time to change that a bit. You see, when I wrote those words, seven years ago, I felt that, if something was fun, with no other purpose, then it wasn’t really worth doing. In other words, if there was no obvious eternal value to an activity, then you should probably find something better to do. Obviously, working a job to make money to support yourself was a necessary evil to keep you from entering eternity prematurely.

But that philosophy is a recipe for burnout and depression. We need some downtime, some fun times, to rest, relax, and recharge. If you want to add some spiritual reasoning behind it, we have to rest, relax, and recharge sometimes so that we have the mental and emotional capacity to carry out God’s purpose for us.

I realize that there are many people who seem to have lots of time for fun, but little time for God. I don’t want to endorse that behavior at all. I’m not speaking to them.

So, in the future, I am going to give myself the freedom to be normal. A normal radical for Jesus. 🙂

In other words, while I will still focus on the spiritual side of life, I may post some things that are not necessarily overtly spiritual.

Joel HorstBecause, in the end, when we follow Jesus, we cannot neatly divide our lives into little boxes of “spiritual” and “secular”. He lives in us, whatever we do. Whether we’re preaching or working, praying or playing, Jesus is present. He touches everything that we do–or at least, He should.

Happy New Year!

(And, yes, I took the picture of the chicken!)

FREE Christmas Music!

I’m happy to announce that my family’s free Christmas recording, “The Gift of His Love”, is now available!

The music is also available as a free download at CDBaby; as a CD on Amazon; at music download sites such as Google Play and iTunes; and on music streaming services such as Apple Music, Spotify, and YouTube.

Merry Christmas!

Modesty: A Letter to Myself, 10 Years Later

Dear Joel,

I read your article about modesty, entitled “What Should I Wear?” I want to commend you for your passion and desire to serve the Lord.

However, I want to share with you some things that God has been teaching me about modesty. I was once just like you (okay, okay, I was once you), and I was passionate about telling women to be more modest. I had made a commitment not to look at immodestly dressed women, and I wanted to reduce the number of women that I couldn’t look at. In the summertime, especially, there were many women who revealed too much skin for me to look at: tank tops, shorts, low-cut tops, sun dresses, swimsuits, etc.

Jesus says that a man who looks at a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery in his heart. I don’t want to be guilty of mental adultery. I believed that if I looked too long at a woman who was wearing something like what I mentioned above (immodest clothing), I would lust, and I needed to look quickly away if I saw a woman dressed that way. Sometimes I would have to talk to one of these women, so I would either focus in on the woman’s face or look somewhere else to avoid my eyes shifting to any forbidden areas, because that would be lust or the next thing to it.

In recent years, God has been teaching me about these things. I have realized that I was wrong. I took down that article that you wrote, because it was teaching things that God didn’t want me to teach. In His grace, God has been showing me that the things you wrote do not work, and are false.

So now I’d like to share with you some things that I wish someone would have told me when I was your age.

The Concept of Modesty is a Farce

Teaching about “Biblical modesty” centers around one word in the entire Bible:  “modest”, in 1 Timothy 2:9: “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array…” From that one word, I made all sorts of conclusions about what a woman should or shouldn’t wear.

But when I investigated it in Strong’s Dictionary, I discovered that the Greek word doesn’t mean “modest” as we think of it in relation to clothing, but “orderly” or “decorous”. It is not referring to how much of the body is exposed.

This is the only verse in the Bible where God commands women to dress in “modest” apparel. As I just mentioned, that word “modest” is a mistranslation, at least in modern-day English. (It could, after all, have meant exactly the right thing 400 years ago.)

This verse is the only basis for requiring women to dress modestly or to cover a certain amount of their body. But the farthest you can take it is that women should be modest-minded (“shamefaced and sober”), and wear orderly clothing that is appropriate to the situation they are in. There is no basis for saying “This is modest” and “This is not”, or for condemning women for wearing certain types of clothing.

In other words, there is only one verse in the entire Bible that commands “modesty”, but that command does not actually exist. There is actually no Biblical command to dress modestly.

God Has Not Said that We Must Cover Certain Parts of the Body

It took me a long time to come to grips with this fact: God has not commanded that any part of the body must be kept covered!

Of course this doesn’t mean that God wants us to walk around naked. What it means is that there is no Biblical basis for commanding women to cover certain parts of their body. I have not found any Scripture, for example, that says that women must never show their shoulders or upper arms. Biblically, then, we can’t tell women who wear sleeveless shirts that they are sinning.

I know that you will react in disgust to this, Joel, but God never even commanded women to cover their breasts. While I would not recommend that women go around topless, we cannot say that every woman who has a little cleavage showing is a sinner, because there is no specific command that she is breaking.

God Does Not Want Us to Judge Others by the Outside

When I was your age, I judged women by their clothing. Those who wore modest dresses and skirts were Godly women or at least better than the society around them. Those who wore tight, revealing clothing were wicked mental prostitutes. I knew that they were dressing that way because they wanted me to lust after them, which was disgusting.

In John 7:24, Jesus said, “Don’t judge according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” He does not want us to judge someone based on how they look, but what is in their heart. He was speaking to people who were rejecting Him because they didn’t like the looks of His ministry, but failed to grasp His divine heart.

Recently, God has been pounding into me that I must not use someone’s external appearance to judge their spirituality. Since He has not commanded that any specific part of the body must be covered, I cannot condemn anyone for revealing anything. I know that some women probably do dress to get men to lust after them, but I know that not every woman in tank top and shorts is a slut. Furthermore, God has not commanded me to stay away from immodest women. It’s my job to preach the Gospel to every creature, regardless of what they are or are not wearing.

God Has Not Said that Women Cause Men to Lust after Them

One misconception is that an immodest woman will cause men to lust after her. Joel, you perpetuated this kind of mindset when you wrote, “I would submit that since it is adultery for a man to lust after a woman, any woman who wears revealing or suggestive attire is a mental prostitute, whether she intends it or not.” This is so wrong. This is putting false blame and guilt upon the guiltless woman who just wanted to stay cool in 95 degree heat.

Women do not cause men to lust after them by revealing skin. They may tempt men to lust, but God has never said that women can cause men to lust after them by revealing their bodies. This is huge. If a woman can cause (force) a man to lust after her, it means two things:

  1. The man is not responsible for lusting—he couldn’t possibly help himself.
  2. It is possible for a woman, by the way she dresses, to force a man to commit adultery with her, even if she is a Godly woman who would never commit adultery.

I am disgusted, now, by the guilt trips that people place upon Godly, pure-hearted women, telling them that if they dress a certain way, they will cause men to lust after them. God never said that. He only told the men that if they look upon a woman to lust after her, they have already committed adultery in their hearts. He said nothing at all about what that woman might be wearing.

Many people (including myself) have stated confidently that certain styles of dress “tempt men to lust” or “stumble”. I have seen a couple modesty surveys, and the only thing you can say with confidence is that different men are different. Some men struggle more than others, and some men have no problem with styles of dress that you would find highly immodest. I do not find “immodest” women nearly as tempting to the eye as I did at your age.

You might say that a woman should dress to keep her weaker brothers from lusting after her. But how far should she go? Must she wear a sheet hanging down to the ground, ghost-style, so that no one can see her form and lust after her? You would never promote such a thing, yet some men will lust after women who are dressed very conservatively.

Oh, that God’s people would stop condemning guiltless women who have no evil intentions in their dress!

God’s Point is that Women Need to Adorn the Inside

In both 1 Timothy 2:9-10 and 1 Peter 3:1-6, God’s real point to the women is not to give them a list of do’s and don’ts about the way they dress. His real point is this: “Your true beauty comes from the inside and results in changed behavior. Adorn the inside instead of the outside.”

If a woman truly is dressing to tempt men to lust after her, she needs a heart change, not a clothing change. Then she will stop trying to seduce men. At that point, what she wears is between her and God. He is the One who will guide her in what to wear. If, as a daughter of God, she is led by the Holy Spirit, He will guide her in how to dress to glorify Him and advance His kingdom. It may not be the way that some people think she should dress, but if God is pleased with her, that is all that matters.

This really needs to be the bottom line for both men and women, in everything they do: “Is God pleased with me?” Nothing else matters.

Modesty Isn’t Working

Joel, your dad, who taught you modesty for years, is now working on a book that greatly expands on what I’m sharing with you here. It’s currently over 500 pages of evidence that shows that, if anything, modesty rules increase sexual sin, instead of decreasing it. He’s been working on it for five years, and he hopes to publish it soon. We still have some work to do on it, including recording a music CD to go with the book. It’s called The Failure of the Great Amish and Conservative Mennonite Dress Experiment.

I can’t summarize the book in this article, but rest assured, if you want more evidence that what I’m saying is true, it will be there.


Joel, I wish that someone had written this letter to me when I was your age. Unfortunately, I can’t rewind ten years and deliver this to my 17-year-old self. So I’m sharing it on my blog in hopes that I can help someone else like you who believes in modesty.

You might be concerned that if women don’t dress modestly, you’re going to have problems with lust. I understand. God showed me some myths about lust—maybe I’ll share them another time. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this verse:

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you won’t fulfill the lust of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16)

With love,


I Am Not a Victim of ATI

I was once a student in Bill Gothard’s ATI (Advanced Training Institute) homeschool program. More specifically, I was raised in ATI from first grade until I finished school at age 16.

At the time, I thought ATI was great. The Wisdom Booklets (our curriculum) were interesting; I learned to know other ATI students who were good friends; the conferences and seminars were fun and interesting. Not only that, but we were part of an elite group of homeschoolers who were superior to all non-ATIers. We were receiving a superior education, and we were going to change the world.

But by 2005, our family had been seeing, for the past five or so years, that things were not turning out the way we wanted. Young people were rebelling. Dress standards were dropping. ATI wasn’t quite what it had been when we joined in 1994. Meanwhile, Gothard was cranking out program after program, with ever-glowing promises of what we would learn, and newsletter after newsletter about how God was doing marvelous things through ATI and its parent organization, Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP).

Bill Gothard (Photo courtesy IBLP)
Bill Gothard (Photo courtesy IBLP)

It was early 2005 when I finally went to my first Basic Seminar. Previously, all the Basic Seminars in our area had been too far away, but now one was held close enough for our whole family to attend. I diligently filled out the blank spaces in my workbook, trying to remember everything that Gothard was saying. (I was a little annoyed when I got my textbook toward the end of the week, and discovered that it contained everything that I had been busy writing down.)

Beside me, my dad, who had attended several Basic Seminars in the past, was growing suspicious about Gothard’s use of Scripture. Toward the end of the week, he brought his laptop and started looking up the Scriptures that Bill was referencing onscreen but not quoting. They turned out not to be as supportive as Gothard had wanted us to believe. He began having some questions about things that Gothard was teaching.

We left ATI that year. Slowly, we lost some respect for ATI and Gothard, but their teachings still permeated our beliefs and practice–especially me. ATI was all I had ever really known. I had grown up with its curriculum, and the teachings and mindset were all around us in the homeschool community: Courtship. Do things as a family. Youth-only interaction is dangerous. Guys don’t talk to girls. Girls stay at home until they marry. There were some ideas I didn’t even question. Why should I question them? I had no reason to think differently.

And then, in late 2013 and early 2014, the story broke. Bill Gothard wasn’t a Godly man; he was a liar, fraud, deceiver, and sexual predator. People weren’t getting the results he had glowingly promised. He had lied to us about how well the programs were working. He had been doing disgusting things that we would never have dreamed he would do.

The Emperor had no clothes.

That shook me to the core, because Gothard’s teachings were part of my core beliefs. As I examined the evidence, I found that there were many things I believed that were not true. So what WAS true? I wasn’t sure.

One thing stood as a solid rock through this turbulent time: God was true and faithful. I had seen Him work many times, and I realized that He was confirming what He had been teaching us previously through failures in the Mennonite church: rules and doctrines of men don’t produce righteous people. On the contrary, they drive people away from God. (You can read more of my story at Six Years Later.)

But as I saw all the negative ways that ATI had affected me, I felt like a victim. I became afraid that some other false teaching or wrong idea would hurt me and turn me away from God and cause consequences in my life. In addition, the wrong ideas and mindset had led me to make many mistakes in how I handled life. I thought I was permanently scarred. I would never have the life that I could have had if I had only been taught correctly from the beginning.

Secretly, I think I was a little upset with God. I knew better than to blame Him for the way He had led our family, because I knew that His ways are always best. So I blamed my parents instead. I was nothing but a product of a bad system, and now I needed them to make a good system to change me into what I needed to be.

And then, one day, God changed my perspective. “You’re not a victim,” He said. “You are a graduate. I put you in ATI to learn the things that you needed to learn there, and when you were finished, I took you out. I did not let anything happen that is going to harm you long-term.”

He showed me that my singleness was not a punishment for bad behavior, but that I had needed to remain single, living at home, so I could learn the lessons that He had me to learn. The things that had happened to me, the wrong ideas and mindsets, the relationships I hadn’t had and the places I hadn’t gone–they were all part of my training about the terrible consequences of following men instead of God.

You see, so many times, when people want to live for God and not like the world, they run straight for conservatism and commandments of men. ATI was a prime example. There were many first-generation Christian parents who wanted something better for their children than the sinful lifestyles they had experienced without Christ. Along came Bill Gothard, saying “Follow me, and your family is guaranteed to turn out as wonderful, Godly people!”

But it doesn’t work. Oh, sure, it “works” for some–at least for a while. But for those who you don’t hear about in the glowing reports, it causes all sorts of problems and sin.

My dad was in his fifties when he learned about these problems. I, on the other hand, got an early, forceful education about not following men and adding to God’s Word. I now have the opportunity to help people throughout the rest of my life with the things that I have learned.

God has promised: “All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) I have a choice: I call myself a victim, God a liar, and refuse to believe that God has a purpose in my training; or I can accept God’s words, trust in His purpose, and seek to use what He has taught me.

By saying that I am not a victim, I do not mean in any way to downplay or minimize the true victims of ATI–those whose abusive parents used the teachings of Gothard to abuse their children physically, emotionally, spiritually and/or sexually. I am so sorry that those people–including some of the ATI students I knew–had to go through what they did.

But for the rest of us–those whose parents were just trying to do what was best for us and give us a superior education–say it with me:

“I am not an ATI victim. I am an ATI Graduate!

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

The Day I Almost Lost My Dad

 Today, Nine Years Ago:

I was having a bad dream. Dad and I were driving down a country road. I was driving. We crested a hill and started down the other side. Partway down the hill, the van slid over into a driveway on the left side of the road, then slid back across the road and hit a bank, guardrail or maybe a tree on the other side. I heard a thud and crunching metal…

The dream went on, with a fireman asking me to rate the pain in my nose on a scale of 1 to 10, “with 1 being hardly any at all, and 10 being the worst you ever felt”…

Then I was apparently at a hospital, on a stretcher. “There’s your dad,” said someone. Sure enough, he was on a stretcher about ten feet away.

“Hi, Joel,” said Dad. “I love you.”

I love you too, Dad,” I replied…

I awoke from my dream. As my eyes adjusted to my surroundings, something didn’t seem right. Then I realized: This isn’t my room! I’m at the hospital! So—was my dream real?

A lady came into my room to do something. “What happened to me?” I asked.

She chuckled. “You’ve been asking us that over and over,” she said. “You were in an accident—I think you hit a tree. You were driving. You had a concussion, and your dad has a broken ankle, but he’ll be okay. They said you were up and walking around at the accident scene. We’ve contacted your mom, and she’s coming to see you.”

As she left the room, I lay back in bed. So that’s what happened! I thought. But what in the world was I doing on the road with Dad? The only thing I could think of was that I had gone with Dad to deliver eggs (on Wednesday), but I didn’t remember that happening. And if it was the case—That clock over there says it’s Friday! I thought. How long have I been laying here?

The machine parked beside me pumped up a blood pressure cuff on my arm every so often and took my blood pressure. My blood pressure was running in a normal range. A nurse came in and taped a cut on my right ear.

As I lay in bed, I remembered about a month before—Valentine’s Day. We had had about six inches of sleet on that day (a Wednesday, of all days!) and Dad had worked until 2:00 PM to open up our quarter-mile driveway with our garden tractor so that we could get out to deliver eggs. By the time he finished, he had a headache, so he asked me to come along and drive. I wasn’t an expert driver, and as evening came on and the slush on the road started freezing, I did some rather dangerous things. (Dad ended up driving the last thirty minutes home.) One thing he had said that evening came back to me. “Sometime, when things are slick, I need to take you to a parking lot and let you do donuts and learn how to handle slippery roads,” he said. “The problem is, the times when you want to do it are times like tonight, when you feel like staying home.”

Lying in bed now, I wondered if Dad was over in his room, berating himself for not teaching me how to handle slippery roads.

About an hour after I “came to” or woke up (whichever it was), they took me upstairs to a normal room. (I had been in a private room in the emergency room.) On the way to the elevator, they took me over to see Dad. After chatting for a bit, we went on upstairs. They parked my bed outside the doorway of my new room and asked me if I thought I could walk over to the other bed. I climbed, somewhat gingerly, out of bed and walked across the room to the other bed. After making sure I was settled, the nurses left.

I lay in bed, still trying to figure out what had happened. It was a regular hospital bed, with electronic controls to adjust it. Every couple minutes, something in the bed would roll to the end and partway back up, I suppose to keep my circulation going, or something. Try as I might to get the bed adjusted, it seemed like the foot was always hanging down just a little, and the only time it seemed “right” was when the roller had rolled all the way to the end, right under my feet.

After about half an hour to an hour, Mom walked into the room. Boy, was I glad to see her! I immediately began plying her with questions. What was today? What was I doing out on the road? What had happened, exactly?

Mom began answering my questions. “Today is Friday, March 16th. Grandma came yesterday, remember? This morning, you and Dad went to look at a stair lift for Uncle Dan. You were on the way to look at another one when you had your accident.”

Things were falling together. It was as though my memory was coming back to life. I indeed remembered looking at a stair lift that morning.

Mom had already talked to Dad. She told me that we had had our accident on Park Mills Road, which meant it wasn’t too far from home. She didn’t know the exact location. Dad was now in surgery.

We spent some time together, talking about the accident and related topics. After Dad came out of surgery, Mom went to be with him. “You don’t happen to have any reading material with you, do you?” I asked.

“Actually, I do,” she said, reaching into her purse and pulling out a book. “I brought this along to read if I had to wait. But you can read it if you want.”

It was entitled The King’s Daughter and Other Stories for Girls, but I took the book gladly. It was definitely better than having nothing to read.

The evening passed by. I got a call from Grandpa and Grandma Horst. Nurses stopped in periodically to check on me. I ordered supper and ate it. Mom stopped in again, once or twice. She was going to spend the night at the hospital. The roads were terrible. She had had enough trouble just getting there, and things were even worse now—icy and snowy. She would be sleeping on a cot in Dad’s room.

As I mused on the day, I realized how quickly life could change—or end. I resolved to be a better witness for Christ.

Around ten o’ clock, I was ready to go to sleep. I needed something for my contact lenses. Surprise—the hospital had no contact supplies. (I would have thought they would have a “sample kit” type of pack for just such cases as mine—but no.) They got me a couple small plastic cups with lids and some saline solution syringes that were actually designed for rinsing out IV lines (like the one stuck in my right arm), but that did the trick. I took out my contacts and lay down to sleep. The somewhat uncomfortable hospital bed was not terribly conducive to sleeping on my side, as I normally did, but I managed to get relatively comfortable, and settled down for sleep.

As I lay there, still thinking over the day’s events, I heard singing coming from the hallway, or maybe the nurses’ station, which was close to my room. “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine… This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long…” The words, sung by one of the nurses, soothed and ministered to me. I relaxed, and in a little while, I fell asleep.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

I was awakened the next morning by the entry of a doctor. I sat up rather sleepily as he approached my bed. “What do you want?” I asked.

He chuckled. “Just your arm, young man, just your arm. Anything else than that, it’s a million dollars. The only other thing I want is a million dollars.”

I gave him my left arm, and he inserted a needle and began filling a syringe with a blood sample. I decided to say something for Jesus. “Well, the only One who can give you that is Jesus Christ.” (In retrospect, I realized that wasn’t exactly accurate, but remember, too, I had just woken up!)

He looked at me with a big smile. “Are you a Christian?” he asked.

“Yes, I am!” I replied.

He told me that he was a Christian as well. “Are those your parents down the hall?” he asked.

“Yes, they are.”

“And are they Christians, too?”


“I wondered!” he said.

We chatted a bit about the accident and whatnot. “You have to take things one day at a time,” he said. “I was listening to Loretta Lyn sing that on the radio this morning on the way to work—“One day at a time, Sweet Jesus…”

“What time is it?” I asked as he prepared to leave. With my contacts out, I couldn’t clearly see the clock on the wall.

“It’s six o’ clock,” he told me.

Later, he met Mom in the hall. “I knew you were washed in the blood!” he told her.

At lunchtime, the food guy brought our plates into my room. (Mom was with me at the time, and was getting food from the hospital as well.) “He’s another Christian, Joel!” Mom said.

“That’s right!” he said. “There’s quite a few of us here. God has us here for a purpose.”

I had gotten back my clothes the night before, as well as the contents of my pockets. My pants were intact, and so were my shoes and jacket, but my shirt had, apparently, been cut off of me. It was shredded. (Dad’s clothes had fared worse. They had cut everything except one shoe.) So I put on my jacket instead. By now, I was feeling better. Before, if I had moved very quickly at all, I would feel dizzy. I still had to be careful, but by now, I was out of bed and sitting in a chair in my room.

In the early afternoon, I went over to see Dad. He was down the hall a little ways from me. (They had put us in separate divisions to prevent mix-ups.) He had a very black right eye and a brush-burn on his upper lip that looked like a Hitler-style mustache. The insides of his lips were also bruised. He had taken out his contact lenses the previous day, but Mom hadn’t thought about bringing his glasses (she had been so flustered, she could only think of getting to the hospital right away!), so he couldn’t read very well (he is quite nearsighted, just like me). They had only given him one cup for the two lenses, so when he put them back in, he would have to figure out which one went to which eye.

In addition to his broken ankle, now held together by screws and a metal plate, he also had a huge gash on the back of his leg.

He had a good perspective on things. “God allowed this for a purpose,” he said, “and I’m just thanking Him for this.” He also told me more about the accident.

They released me from the hospital in the mid-afternoon. Mom took me home, with orders from Dad to bring “some real food”. We arrived home about 4:00 PM or so. Everyone was happy to see me. I went down to the house, where it was nice to relax in my own home.

It had snowed four inches of snow the previous day. Nathan had had to plow out the lane and be man of the house. The responsibility had weighed heavily on his 13-year-old shoulders, and he was happy to have someone else to turn things over to. They had to move the fence for the sheep. Fortunately, they were able to do it without my help, because my head was still sensitive to too much movement, and I didn’t think that herding sheep would be good for me.

Mom got some things together (including some “real food”) and went back to the hospital. She spent the night there again. The rest of us took it easy.

 And Afterward…

Dad came home Sunday afternoon. It was great to have him home again. It was the beginning of many weeks on the couch for him.

On Monday, we went to see the accident site and the van, which was now at an auto repair shop. Dad told us to bring some crowbars and other tools for getting things from the van.

The van 038

I was aghast when I saw the van. The door had been crumpled in a whole foot. The floor was buckled up, and apparently, Dad’s right foot had been pinned between the floor and the door. His left foot had been pinned between the door and the engine cowling.

Inside the van 035

The front passenger seat was twisted to the left—and his leg had been between the door and the seat. That explained the big gash in the back of his leg, but it was a miracle that his leg wasn’t broken at that spot.

We removed our belongings from the van, and left it at the service center for salvage. Our faithful van was totaled.

The door after it was cut off 022

The door

That was the beginning of some “stretching” times for our family. I was suddenly thrust into the job of farm manager, and my 18-year-old head had a hard time keeping up with everything that needed to be done. But God gave us His grace for our trials, and saw us through that difficult year.

Nine years later, the day seems both vivid and not so vivid. The impact that it had upon our lives lasted for quite some time. Dad’s ankle took a long time to heal. By now, he has pretty well recovered.

God wants us to realize the frailty of life. Until we crested the hill two and a half miles from our house and our van turned sideways, we had no clue that our lives would be changed. By God’s grace, I still have my dad. He could have died.

Dad wrote the following email soon after the crash:

We are grateful for an experience that God has allowed to happen in our lives (yes, you read that right!). On Friday, March 16, I (Myron) and Joel were heading toward Urbana to get on 270. We were on our way to Washington DC to pick up a stair lift for my uncle, Dan Horst, who has cancer and has difficulty going up stairs. We had only gone about 2 1/2 miles. It was snowing a little and the road was wet, but didn’t seem to be slick. Joel was driving. We crested a hill when suddenly the back of the van started coming around. The van slid sideways across the road right toward a tree. I called out, “Lord, help us!” The van slammed into the tree going 40 miles an hour right in the middle of my door. Both of my feet were pinned between the caved in door and the engine. Joel, who had a concussion and doesn’t remember anything that happened, pulled the cell phone out of my pocket and called 911 giving clear information that there were two people and one was pinned in the wreck, and our location. Both Joel and I were taken in separate ambulances to the Trauma Unit at Suburban Hospital. Joel had a mild concussion and was released the next day. My right leg was the only thing that was seriously injured. I have a broken ankle, several small bones broken in my foot and two fractures in the small bone of the lower part of my leg. I had surgery to repair my ankle and a metal plate was installed to hold the pieces of bone together. I also had a large hole in the back of my leg that had to be closed up. I was released on Sunday and will have a cast on for at least six weeks. Things seem to be progressing well, and I have little pain.

It is ironic that several hours later, President Bush’s motorcade also had an accident near Urbana on 270.

I have sensed that God allowed this accident to happen for a purpose. I believe that God has something important that He wants to teach me either through the experience itself or during the forced rest in the weeks following. During our time at the Trauma unit I thanked God for the accident and allowing me to go through this experience. In addition to being thankful for the accident itself, we are also grateful that the accident was not worse. It could have been much worse. I realize after looking at the van, I was only inches from death. I have a large brush burn on my upper lip where my face hit the tree, and the inside of my upper and lower lips are black from the impact. I also had the blackest black eye I have ever seen. My work here on earth is not finished. We are looking forward to what God has to teach us through this accident. We are also grateful that Cathy’s mom had just arrived from Kansas several days earlier. She has been a great help, and was able to stay with the children so Cathy could come to the hospital.

Last year we also went through a difficult time that many thought was unjust, and unfair when our rent on the farm was increased 2300% and we had to move. However, now in looking back we see that God allowed that to happen for a purpose. He had a much better farm for us…

Our family is grateful for what we had to go through. It taught us to trust God and seek His direction in a deeper way than we had to before. Why do we wonder why God allows bad things to happen to us? Rather we need to find out what God’s purpose is in the event that He has allowed to happen. He has told us that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 Our responsibility is to be thankful for the gift from a Person who sees the bigger picture than we can, rather than complain about the gift as if it were a problem.

After I finished up writing this email and was getting ready for bed, I pulled a piece of paper from my pocket that I had stuck there when we were looking at the van yesterday. The paper had been laying on the floor of the van where my feet had been pinned. It was a paper that Cathy had given to me close to a year ago when I was feeling discouraged about not being able to find a farm. The paper had on these words “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.” Psalm 34:19

The Christian life is not easy, is definitely not boring, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

God’s blessings to you,


Six Years Later

Joel HorstToday marks six years since the first post on this blog. It’s interesting to think back on all that the Lord has done in my life over those six years.

Six years ago, I was still steeped in Bill Gothard’s false teachings, trying to live the Christian life on my own strength, and failing. I claimed to be a radical for Jesus, and I indeed wanted to be one–tried to be one–but I lacked the power of His grace to actually be who He wanted me to be.

Then came an experience I described as “The Terror of the Lord“. I believed that God gave me a great working-over about Facebook and my activities there. In the following years, I followed the feelings that I had–do this, don’t do that–as best as I could. Sometimes, the feelings, which I believed came from the Lord, were contradictory, or told me to do completely illogical things. If I failed to follow the impressions I received, I would have terrible feelings of condemnation.

For four years, some of the darkest of my life, I was in bondage to those feelings. My relationship with God suffered. Instead of having the delightful devotional life I had had before, seeing interesting things in God’s Word and blogging about them, I would sit with my Bible in front of me, trying to figure out the insight that my feelings had told me was just waiting in a particular verse. Sometimes I saw something. Sometimes I didn’t. I took weeks to read through the book of Proverbs–I mean, like maybe several months. And it’s not that I was learning a lot from it. I would go to spend time with the Lord and, instead of sweet communion, feel despair, silence, condemnation and bondage.

I also had a poor relationship with my dad. I work full-time on our family farm, and have done so for the last 16 years. Dad’s goal was to teach us how to work, but I wasn’t a good worker. Dad couldn’t trust me to get a job done properly and in good time. If he went somewhere for the day, I usually didn’t get much done while he was gone. It was a constant source of conflict.

In addition, we had numerous arguments, because in addition to being unreliable, I was also too bullheaded to listen to reproof. Eventually, God showed me that, to gain wisdom, I needed to listen better and hear what Dad had to teach me, but we still had many conflicts.

The breakthrough started in November 2013, when we found out about Doug Phillips’s immorality. This was followed, in early 2014, by the exposure of Bill Gothard’s sinful conduct and deception. That really shook me up spiritually. Next to my dad, Bill had influenced me more than any other one person. I was shaken to the core, because Bill’s teachings and philosophies were part of my core. I began to realize that maybe the things that I believed weren’t true, and started seeking to find the truth.

On May 5, 2014, God delivered me from the bondage of following feelings, when He showed me that these feelings were not coming from Him. What a relief!

Throughout 2014, God was working on my life and heart, wooing me to Him, correcting problems in my life, teaching me of the need for His grace. On October 18, I rededicated my life to Him and gave Him complete Lordship over me. This was a major turning point in my life.


I want to confess publicly, right here and now, that I was a hypocrite. I claimed to be a “radical for Jesus”, but I wasn’t one. People thought that I was a great guy, wise and dedicated to serving God. In fact, I even thought that I wasn’t too bad. That, however, was false, as was the image I conveyed to people. If you were one of the people I deceived, I apologize, and I ask your forgiveness.


Since rededicating my life to God, He has been revealing Himself more abundantly to me. The sweet communion is back, and better than before. 2015 was a banner year, as God worked in our lives and taught our family many lessons. It culminated in us closing our farm store and stopping production of meat chickens, turkeys and pullets, while increasing egg production. Our family relationship is much better than it used to be, and I now enjoy working with my dad. When he goes somewhere, things still get done. We have much less conflict than we used to, and our differences usually get resolved better than they used to.

If there’s one thing I want you to learn from my life, it’s this: follow God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and look to Him for the grace to obey Him. There is no other way to live the Christian life. Rules, formulas, plans, self-help books–they are all worthless for making us into God’s image. Only by God’s grace can we ever do what He wants us to do.

P. S. Please stay tuned in to this blog. My dad, Myron Horst, is busy working on a book entitled The Failure of the Great Amish and Conservative Mennonite Dress Experiment, and you don’t want to miss it when it comes out! Prepare to be shocked, stunned, convicted, and challenged–and your life turned upside-down.