Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Monday, August 18, 2008
We had a very busy weekend. Last week was my week to put together a month's worth of radio: that's 20 Daily Bible Time and 4 Riches of Grace programs. I now have a studio set up at the church building so I'm no longer making the programs at home--my home studio was taken over by Cynthia in a bedroom remodeling project! This makes it a bit more of a formal process to make the program. At home, I could do it on a "when-I'm-ready" schedule (in shorts and tee shirt!); at the church building I have to at least get dressed up a bit more!
Anyway, it is a great privilege to still be doing radio. I believe in radio. We do TV and I know how tremendously effective it can be. But TV is still "owned" by the charismatic/Word of Faith crowd. Radio, on the other hand, has long been the bastion of more evangelical focused ministries. We have been on our station in Chicago, Salem Communication's WYLL (AM1160), since March 1992. It has been the base from which we have established churches across the Chicago metro area. We are also on a dozen stations in different states. Between the radio and cable television program we average over 300 phone calls per month--the great majority of which are first time callers!
You can hear our weekly and daily radio programs at ShorewoodBibleChurch.org. Check them out!
Saturday morning we had the last summer edition of our Timothy Fellowship. Alex gave an excellent study on "redeeming the time," after which a dozen men hit the streets to pass out gospel literature in our neighborhood. In the late afternoon we enjoyed a "third wedding celebration" for Jen and Bill Hatters--a delightful backyard bash. They "got married in a fever" without telling anyone, then had a ceremony in Seattle for their west coast friends and now here for friend in the Midwest. Now we all believe its true!
In between all this, Cynthia worked on CD and DVD orders, along with restocking the GSB shelves, making over 2,000 copies. Friday we took receipt of another shipment of 4,000 CDs and 2,000 DVDs along with albums, cases and shipping material. It is a lot of work, but wonderful to see the message going out!
Sunday morning I began teaching the book of Philippians. We are beginning our study in Philippians by spending three weeks in the Book of Joshua--not exactly a normal beginning, I realize. Many years ago, F. B. Myers wrote about the comparison between Joshua and Ephesians (J. Sidlow Baxter picked up on this in his excellent book, Explore the Book). The idea is that Joshua focuses on "possessing your possessions"--taking actual possession of the promised land; the same emphasis is found in Ephesians, only directed as possessing the "all spiritual blessings" bestowed upon the Body of Christ.
Paul's epistles are arranged in our Bible according to a spiritual design intended to produce the "godly edification" needed to perfect the saints. This "milk to meat"/"childhood to adulthood" progression follows the "doctrine, reproof, correction" pattern: Ephesian (doctrine), Philippians (reproof), Colossians (correction). As we recognize this relationship, we properly appreciate the Divinely intended impact of Philippians.
Unfortunately, it seems the self-absorbed nit-wittery of our age has christened Philippians as the "Handbook of Happiness" and the "Epistle of Joy." While joy and rejoicing are certainly present in this epistle, it's real focus is more readily seen in Phil. 1:9-11, 2:12, 13 and 3:14. "Working out" the appropriation of our life in Christ by abounding in "knowledge and judgment" that gives us the single mindedness to press toward that mark--in other words, to "possess our possessions" in the details of our lives. Actually, Philippians contains no less than ten specific examples demonstrating how to put "grace into shoe leather" (the path, of course, to true joy and rejoicing!). Since that is how Joshua 1:3 begins that book's focus, it is fascinating to see how Philippians also parallels Joshua in these areas. Interesting to me, anyway. You can listen to the studies on ShorewoodBibleChurch.org and decide for yourself!
Sunday, August 10, 2008
I actually had the following written before I got word about Brother Spoelstra’s homegoing. I, frankly, didn’t want to take away from its importance so have waited a few more days to post the following. Two great saints at home in one week!
Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn, writer, Nobel Prize winner, and the most famous Soviet dissident died at the age of 89 on August 3, 2008 in his home near Moscow. He lived a long and hard life, but he died the way that he wanted to: "He wanted to die in the summer – and he died in the summer," his wife Natalya said. "He wanted to die at home – and he died at home.”
Solzhenitsyn spent many years in the Soviet Gulag system and wrote his masterful Gulag Archipelago to chronicle the horrors of the brutal labor camps. One of Russia’s greatest writers, he will be remembered as an unyielding champion of freedom who dedicated himself to revealing the horrors of socialism and exposing the ultimate evil of Lenin, Stalin and their cabal of mass murderers. He became a moral and spiritual leader who exposed and condemned the nefarious nature of the socialist ideology that served as the basis for the monstrous communist slave camps established from Siberia to Ethiopia, Cuba to Vietnam, China and Yugoslavia.
Exiled from Russia in the early 1970’s he taught at Stanford University for awhile and later moved to Vermont where he lived with his family for years. In 1990 Gorbachev restored his citizenship and he returned to Russia in 1994 and actively participated in the reform process.
I had the opportunity to meet Solzhenitsyn in the mid-80’s. He was working on editing his works in English with a son of one of the saints in our assembly here. We traveled to where they were working and had the privilege of spending a brief time with him. He had a clear testimony of trusting Christ as his Savior and was quite forthright in saying that it was God’s grace that had and did sustain him through difficulties and joys, alike.
A short article chronicling his life can be read here.
Friday, August 8, 2008
Down South there is an old saying, “When in trouble, remember your 8’s.” The reference is to Romans 8 and the verses containing 8—verses 18, 28, 38. It’s good advice!
The first twelve years of a century contain a day like today, at least as far as the calendar is concerned. But today will be a special one to remember. No, not because the Olympics began today in China. The Olympics long ago ceased to be about simply athletics and became a political party for the use of propaganda. No, something far more memorable happened on 08-08-08.
This afternoon our dear friend and fellow soldier, Keith Spoelstra, graduated into the presence of the Savior he loved and served for seven decades. In the Scripture, the number 8 is the number of a new beginning. So it is for Brother Keith—and triply so!
I saw Keith in the hospital last Monday and reminded him that soon he would be with the Lord Jesus and once again see his beloved Lilly. His eyes sparkled with joy, even as they moisten with emotion. John Verstegen saw him yesterday and related to me how Keith, though almost too weakened to speak, would finish the verses John was reading to him. Such are the last days/thoughts of a veteran soldier.
Keith and Lilly were in our home often in years gone by. Their wit was irrepressible; sort of an on-going stand-up comedy team. Our boys loved them!
My favorite memory of Keith has always been of him debating II Thessalonians 2:13 at the Cedar Lake Conference in the late 1970’s. It was my first trip to the Berean Bible Fellowship’s summer conference. I arrived only to discover that there was a controversy raging over Calvinism. No one seemed willing to engage the debate too fiercely, perhaps because most of the BBF leaders were themselves Calvinistic, really rejecting only the one point of Limited Atonement.
But Keith (along with Harland Shriver, Floyd Baker and a few others) were standing against the tide. Actually, Keith was doing so more openly than anyone I could locate that week. One afternoon Q&A session was given to a “debate” over II Thessalonians 2:13. On the Calvinist side was a brother who was touted as the smartest of the smart, an unbeatable debater. Then there was Keith. From Win Johnson on down, Keith was considered, jokingly, at best to have “no chance.”
Since I didn’t really know any of these brethren, I watched and listened with keen interest. The Calvinist did his usual song and dance through II Thess. 2:13—all the while making it clear that his use of the Nestle-Aland Greek text was to be unchallenged. Then it was Keith’s turn. Everyone seemed to wonder at his foolishness to expose himself to such an opponent; what would/could he possible say to this presentation.
Well, it was amazing. Keith simply read the verse, going through it phrase by phrase from a purely dispensational point of view (what an idea at a mid-Acts conference!!). The verse came alive in front of my eyes: The “salvation” in the verse was salvation from the danger in the contest—verses 1-12’s exposition of the Anti-Christ and the 70th week of Daniel. The “beginning” was located by the fact the Thessalonians were called to this salvation by “our gospel” (v. 14)—I can still remember Keith stretching his neck, cocking his head and asking, “And when did Paul’s gospel begin to be preached?” The only answer that crowd could give was obvious: the beginning of the Dispensation of Grace. His conclusion: From the very beginning of the dispensation of grace God had chosen the Body of Christ to be saved from the culmination of the Lie Program destined to culminate in the 70th week of Daniel by it being delivered into the “eternal glory” of our Lord Jesus Christ at the rapture. In other words, the verse is talking about the "pre-trib" rapture!
Having thus completely rid the verse of the Calvinist’s assumptions, he sat down. The Calvinist brother quickly dismissed as foolish all Keith had said and gave another Greek lesson. For Keith’s rejoinder he simply said, “Well, in my Bible the verse still says the same thing it did a moment ago,” then reviewed what he previously said and went on to point out the weaknesses in the Calvinist’s assumptions and assertions.
It was that clear appreciation for the rightly divided Word of God and his simply grasp of great truths that won my heart and endeared this Brother to so many of us. That week I was privileged to become a friend to Keith and “Doctor Lilly” (as Mel Dary always called her). They quietly gave me a copy of Keith’s book on Calvinsim that had been banned by the BBF Board from distribution at their conference—they took me to lunch to give it to me (they gave me several more copies to take home out of the trunk of their car after the conference had ended!).
When we exited the BBF in the late 80’s due our unwillingness to adopt their view that the KJB is filled with mistakes and errors, Keith joined our fellowship of rejects. He was already highly regarded by our brethren and continues to be so even now. He didn’t have to stand with all those “young men” but he did so because his heart was with us. Frankly, I believe he saw the life, the conviction, the future (if you will) in those rejected brethren and I think he recognized that we were indeed his crowd. I, for one, have never regretted going outside the “camp” of the establishment of the so-called grace movement. Neither did Keith.
At any rate, a soldier has moved to heaven and we shall miss him. By the way, Keith was awarded the Purple Heart twice as a soldier during WWII, but his real soldiering came his service for his Savior. Even in his last few years when preaching has not been possible he was a constant testimony for the gospel of grace to those about him and a heartening encouragement to the saints in Southern California and across the country. As Paul said of David, “after he had served his own generation by the will of God, he fell on sleep” (Acts 13:36). Now the baton is in our hands. May we follow his example!
Sunday, August 3, 2008
One interesting occurrence was that I had to preach in my pajamas this evening. Well, its a bit of a story. This afternoon I have been wearing a pair of cargo shorts that it turns out I slept in last night (I can't really remember why!). After supper I went to our room to change and couldn't get in because Cynthia had locked the door and I didn't have my key. She didn't arrive at the meeting hall until we were underway and it was too late for me to change. So, it was really her fault I had to preach in the pj's--something I've never done before but that the crowd thought was great. I was also wearing my "Ricky Ricardo shirt" (actually a really nice Cubavera) so it was a good thing there is no video of the meeting!
When I finished tonight, closing in prayer, immediately every hand the the hall went up! They were, of course, playing a joke on me. It isn't the first time that has happened at camp! Anyway, I do appreciate the fellowship we have in the gospel of grace--and that we can have loads of fun along the way. I had pointed out during my message that God has quite a sense of humor--I didn't realize it would be demonstrated in such a dramatic fashion at the end of the study!
At the moment, while I'm using his computer again, Dan is discussing his adventure with Mitch Schmidlin to visit several cemeteries in the LA area. Turns out he once discovered a dead aunt he didn't realize had died--although she would be 120+ if she was still alive! This trip was to show Mitch (who is from Michigan) some of the graves of famous people. Actually its something I might like to do--but I'm married! Dan and Mitch aren't.
Goes to prove that "after meetings" can go down hill quick! But we are having lots of good laughs.
Saturday, August 2, 2008
Camp has been great. I had a "bad day" Thursday--I still forget that I can't do everything! Otherwise, I've been ok. The preaching--by Keith Baxter, my son Rick and John Verstegen--has been right on the mark. It is wonderful to see parents with kids that I knew when they were kids themselves! To see how God's Word has taken root and borne fruit makes the years of camp ministry more than rewarding!
One interesting feature of this meeting is the Q&A session after each study. The informal nature of the setting allows more give and take and keeps everyone on their toes. This morning before Keith had finished his closing prayer hands were already up!
One lady came in yesterday who has been involved (with her husband) in the ministry of Gene Scott. She has been listening to PalTalk and come to an understanding of right division and the grace life. Thanks to Dan Cobb (dandc_3 on PT) our teaching sessions have been on line. He also let me use his computer to post this note (on the condition I say something nice about him). Check HelpersOfYourJoy.com to hear the messages.
This morning we got a call that our dear friend and fellow soldier Keith Spoelstra had a heart attach yesterday. Now in his 90's his future is uncertain as far as recovery--his eternal future is secure, however. Keith has preached the message of grace for decades, coming from a grace family that goes back to the "early days" of the grace movement. Soon he will move to heaven; we'll miss him but for him t will be "far better."
The news about Brother Spoelstra (who has ministered many times at this camp) makes our joy all the more sobering and real. Far more than an emotion/circumstance based happiness, the joy of the Lord flows from the God of hope filling us with joy and peace in believing (Rom. 15:13).