Monday, March 30, 2009
Our regular "snow plow" man is currently on a cruise with his family enjoying the sun. What a time to be away! Our backup guy was in Colorado on a ski trip with his family. Alex did get him on the phone and he was able to have one of his crew do the parking lot--we love cell phones! At least most folks didn't have to walk through the snow to get into the building.
I got home from Tennessee Friday afternoon. Cynthia picked me up at the airport and we were home before dark. Our kitchen is still not functional so we are living in/out of our bedroom. No way to cook, so eating has been something of a challenge. Didn't seem to be such a big deal while Cynthia was gone--the Alabama, Florida and Arizona kitchens were working! Now that she's home again, she isn't so happy about the lack of facilities. Jody is doing a great job, it just takes so much time. She purchases the appliances last week and they were delivered today. The cabinets are in, so now we have only one major item left--counter tops. Well, the floor still needs to be finished but that will be the last thing we do. We should be ready for company by the April school meeting.
Hanna and Kayla had their 7th birthday party Saturday. It was quite an event! 36 kids (27 girls!) at the Enchanted Castle for the afternoon. Watching them attack the rides/games quickly made it clear that my best option was to guard the presents! So I stayed out of harms way at the the present-table. Actually it turned out well, as there were several others doing the same thing for other parties. I had the opportunity to share the gospel with two of them as we huddled in the safe corner!
Something interesting happened in Tennessee along this line: A large group of us ate lunch at a Golden Coral buffet. Because of the size of the group we had several waitresses. Turned out that all of them had clear testimonies of salvation--six in all! I don't remember ever having that happen! A time of rejoicing and Bible study broke out in that end of the restaurant.
Lots of work got done while I was gone. The Tape of the Month mailing went out, TV and radio programs were shipped, all the orders are filled, the mail and office work is up to date, and this morning I finished paying the school bills. Makes me tired to think of it all! No time for a day off, however, since today began another week!
By the way, I'm still trying to figure my way around FaceBook. I'd be happy to be your Friend!
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
When its hot he wants it cool;
When its cool he wants it hot,
Always wanting what is not!
I have met several of my Facebook "friends" in person this week. Nice to put a person to their picture. By the way, I haven't figured out yet how to put a picture in my FB profile! Need to talk to a teenager!
A number of younger men are preaching during the morning messages and it is a joy to see them doing such outstanding jobs. There has certainly developed a good "down line" of men coming along behind us older guys who are taking up the baton and carrying it with vigor.
One thing David does that is rather unique is to have a Grace School of the Bible Day. The school is featured during the day, especially by having different students and grads give testimonies as to its impact on their lives and ministries. One special thing this year has been reports on what is going on in China.
Bob Barlow was able to attend this conference and he has been explaining some things happening in China. He originally went there to teach in a university as a means to share the gospel with students. Interestingly, students cannot attend university in China unless they speak English! So they are a great mission field.
After seeing a number of student trust Christ and also meeting many Chinese Christians in the "underground" church, Bob has had the opportunity to introduce the message of grace to an eager audience. It has caught on like wild-fire and now there are mid-Acts grace believing assemblies in every Provence of China--even the Muslim areas!
One of the things they have done is take the GSB classes (we provided Bob with the whole school curriculum) and duplicate them. Some 7,000 copies of the Romans DVDs have been distributed! Now they are working on the Ephesians class DVDs. We can't even imaging what the outcome of such an effort will possible be.
Bob has largely spent his time teaching the English speaking teachers and leaders, who in turn teach the other leaders and so forth on down the "house church" network. They have been translating the school classes, too! Bob, by the way, is originally from south Georgia....imagine learning/listening to south Georgian English and south Alabama lingo and putting that into Chinese! You have to have a real hunger for the Word just to get that far!
If you would like to have a part in helping with the financial needs of this effort, let me know and I can give you the details. There is a need to maintain a low profile due to the Chinese government's many restrictions and constant monitoring.
As the conference hits mid-week folks begin to go home. Some have actually stayed longer than really convenient due to job and life obligations. We had a tearful parting with several last evening, but we carry on! He that endureth to the end gets all the blessings!
Sunday, March 22, 2009
I had lunch with Steve Hamilton, leader of the grace church in Lena, Wisconsin, and our old friend Don Cote (also a cheese-head)--did I mention there are a number of cheese-heads here? Don's health has been improving and it is wonderful to see his happy spirit. We had a happy time sharing experiences and insight as we enjoyed our soup 'n salad.
Talked to Cynthia too. She's home and working this afternoon in the production department. Had a good a.m. at Shorewood she said and she and Debbie are filling orders--they also had a "mailing party" after church to get the registrations for the April conference ready. So she's home and busy!
Friday, March 20, 2009
Hanna Dowell and Roger picked me up and we arrived in Pigeon Forge like clock work. The hotel has been completely renovated and is very nice. The meeting hall is a great upgrade from the past. It seats about 300 (could go to 1,200) with tables and chairs and plenty of room to move around. We just had an "Ice Cream Welcome," and the first meetings start at 6:00 p.m. It's great to see so many friends from around the eastern part of the country. Gona be a good week of fellowship and study.
Cynthia will get back home tomorrow. She has had a good week with the Arizona gang. They are growing up into fine young people and are an encouragement to us both--although they still think having grandma around is more fun than you-know-who. It has been refreshing for her, and that is good.
Our theme here in Tennessee this week is "Rescue the Perishing." I'll be speaking nightly on "The Destiny of Man." I'm settled into my room and set up to work in the afternoons but look forward to the fortification my spirit receives from hearing God's Word taught rightly divided and with the passion of conviction.
If you have never been to a conference like this, you should plan on joining us next year--or in Chicago this coming July 18-23!
By the way, the Indian family I think I mentioned who attended Shorewood last Sunday night came back Wednesday evening. Johny Varghese was able to visit with them then. Turns out they have an understanding of right division and were excited to find a group in Chicago that did too. Their uncle in India teaches Pauline Dispensationalism and has a ministry there! God has His people everywhere--just because we don't know about them doesn't mean they aren't there! It is a benediction to know that the Body of Christ belongs to Him--and that He really doesn't need us. He just chooses to use us by His grace for His glory.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Some of what he says is spot and all of it offers rather compelling insight. But the article also illustrates one of the fundamental flaws of this type of effort. There is, in fact, under all these issues a more core problem. Spencer seems to sense this; he even seems to be searching for is; ultimately he is himself a victim of evangelicalism's core failure and hence misses it. Let me explain.
He is doubtless correct when he states that "Charismatic-Pentecostal Christianity will become the majority report in evangelicalism." It actually already is. Look at any representative Evangelical Church and even if it doesn't do the "charismatic-spiritual-gift-displays," it will still be dominated by the charismatic movement's music/worship style, atmosphere, programs, etc.
This is exactly what J. C. O'Hair predicted in the 1940! O'Hair was a champion of the distinctive ministry and message of the Apostle Paul. He heralded this truth as he pioneered in Christian radio, through literature, foreign missions, aiding in establishing educational institutions and fellowships of grace believers and preachers, all the while leading an aggressively evangelistic/Bible teaching church in Chicago.
As the tide of Fundamentalism began to shift toward rejection of a clear stand for the distintive ministry commited to the Apostle Paul (the cost simply became too high when traditions like water baptism were threatened), O'Hair issued a warning to his brethren. I don't have the exact quote in front of me, but the gist of it went something like this:
"If fundamentalism continues to refuse to embrace the importance of the distinctive ministry of the Apostle Paul the church will be scourged with the rod of Pentecostal fanaticism."
I have a few more things to say about Spencer's article, but this is the core problem--the eight hundred pound gorilla in the room no one wants to talk about (too often, even those who know/embrace it). The answer will not be found in the dust; the answer is in the cause of the dust swirling so thickly in the air.
What are these things? Actually they are just the fundamental flow of a happy life. I discovered them long after doing them, that is, I one day realize what I was already doing that filled my life with joy. They are: get up in the morning, eat, spend time with the Lord (via His Word and prayer), spend time with my wife (i.e., have some meaningful communication together) and then go to bed. There, that's it! Everything else I do (and there's plenty of that!) simply fits around those five verities.
Now I know this doesn't sound profound. But life isn't make up of the profound, its made up of the little things that matter. At least a happy, joyful life is. When I conclude the day, I think back over its events and if these things are in good order I rejoice. If I have allowed one to be crowded out, I feel the loss and repent!
One thing I've learned is to look for and at core issues. The "simplicity that is in Christ" is a guiding standard for me. This, for me, is my deliverance from "the bareness of business."
Monday, March 16, 2009
I'll be leaving for Pigeon Forge, TN on Friday. The conference there runs through the end of next week. It looks to be a grand time. The hotel has been completely renovated and there is a new meeting hall. Reports are that the reservations are already ahead of last year, so even in the current economy folks are looking for a time of renewal around the message of grace. Since I preach nightly, I'll be finishing my messages tomorrow. Also make radio for the next two weeks. Wednesday is packing day, Thursday I have two business meetings (one with our Chicago radio station and the other with an Internet company). So got to get lots done today and tomorrow.
After the extra busy time yesterday, I've been dragging today. I've come to realize that I am more limited physically than my "ego" wants to admit. My stamina this long after the radiation treatment is probably what it is going to be. I actually watched a video of me preaching a month or so ago and couldn't believe how slow I was talking! Not that anyone complained!! As I watched it I was struck by how tired I looked. As I thought back, I was tired! I suppose that it is a "man thing" not to want to embrace such limits. I guess I'll have to cut back to a 60-hour week.
Being "home alone" this evening I am going to reread Dent's latest book, The Great Depression Ahead. It contains a wealth of information that can help focus ministry for the days ahead. I am going to teach through the cycles or seasons of nationalism at the April school meeting. I did some of this a decade ago; this will be an update. So....I got some more studying to do.
Check it out!
Sunday, March 15, 2009
The wedding was beautiful. The groom's brother is a lay preaching and we had a great time talking Bible together. He visited our web site, listened to a couple of messages and read all the study articles between the rehearsal (Friday) and the wedding (Saturday)! Hungry fella!
Getting home was good. We are redoing our kitchen so have no facilities to cook at the moment. So, its good that Cynthia is leaving for AZ in the a.m. I leave for the Pigeon Forge conference on Friday (she's back Saturday). Another two weeks of passing the in night.
Yesterday we were at the South-side Chicago conference. Art Johnson and the saints of Shorewood-South do an outstanding job with this meetings. An overflow group met to study all day and their eager interest was refreshing for me. Several told me, "Hey, brother Rick, you're back to being like your old self!"
We had a long day at Shorewood today. The morning meetings went well--I preached rather fervently about the choice to make Christ our "life," and was thrilled to see the joyful reception the exhortation received. Rebuking sin and reinforcing righteousness (a la Titus 2:12) in a grace way works among genuine grace believers!
The morning was followed by a church lunch and then a two hour core-group meeting followed by a wedding shower (during which I had a counseling session) and then the evening study. We had 8 visitors for the p.m. meeting! I quickly transitioned the study to teach the chart! If you listen to the I Thess. 1:5 message you'll catch on that there were newbies in attendance. They responded very positively!
After a lively "after-meeting-restaurant-fellowship," we stopped at the p.o.box on the way home. Among the mail was another flier from a brother who seems to have little to do but attach us. Its exhilarating to be "shot at" by a fella who never even gets close to hitting the target. But this one didn't ever give me an honorable mention! So it went into file thirteen. But there also was an application to GSB in the box. I'll close with a portion of the touching testimony it enclosed:
"I was painfully aware in the depths of my inner man that I had given my life to Jesus and that I needed to live 'the Christian life' as a living witness to that which I professed to believe. It wasn't until many years later, while I was in my mid-thirties, that I first heard the message of eternal salvation and really became aware of the total victory we had over sin, and the absolute and total forgiveness we had in the grace we possessed through Christ's death Calvary. When the truth of that message really hit home, I experienced the love of God in my heart and the resultant peace in my spirit for the first time in all my life. For the first time I realized it wasn't about what I did or didn't do. It was about what Christ had done. I was accepted, justified, redeemed, PERIOD!
"Still, even in the light of that knowledge, I couldn't seem to get beyond the feelings of guilt and condemnation that are brought on by what Pastor Jordan refers to as 'trying to live up to a performance based religious standard.' I earnestly began seeking God's wisdom through fervent prayer and study at that point, and then less than a year ago, I came across one of the Forgotten Truths broadcasts. I had never heard of studying the Bible dispensationally before, or of living 'the grace life' in the light of who we are in Christ. Needless to say my life 'in Christ' hasn't been the same since. So, although I am certain that the Lord Jesus Christ truly did save me at that young age, I never really walked in a victorious Christian life nor truly experienced the joy and peace that comes from the freedom I've found in the revelation of God's truth in His Word, rightly divided."
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
This month's taping of the Message of Grace will mark our 20th year of producing the TV program. The crew from Grace Bible Church of Warren, Michigan has been faithfully producing this program. It has become a very special time each month for all of us, none more than for me. It is a high privilege to work together in the fellowship in the gospel!
Cynthia and I will be traveling to Mobile when I return. My brother's oldest daughter, Devon, is getting married Saturday and I am doing the ceremony. We will be traveling with our almost-7-year-old twin grand daughters, so the trip should be "fun." Their mom and dad (Jody and Heather) will fly down on Friday evening. Devon and her future husband are believers and want their wedding be an opportunity to have a gospel witness to family and friends. I'm good with that!
I talked this morning to a Brother in Canada who is part of a grace church looking for a minister. They are an established group and have a vision and zeal for the Word rightly divided. If you, or someone you know, would be interested in a challenge, let me know and I'll be happy to put you in touch with these folks.
During the past two weeks I have also talked via phone with folks in three other "foreign countries" (actually, since heaven is our real home, all countries here are "foreign"!) where the grace message has taken root. Exciting to know that "globalism" isn't exclusively a reference to economic issues!
When we sin, we always have an excuse. When God asked guilty Adam if he had eaten the forbidden fruit, he offered the classic dodge: “The woman which thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat” (Genesis 3:12).
Here we have the Original Sin followed by the Original Excuse. And we haven’t stopped making excuses since.
We’re victims; we were tired, the kids were driving me nuts; I was caught by surprise, I didn’t think anyone would see me; I thought I deleted those files; we didn’t have a choice; she made me do it; he told me it was okay; I didn’t think it was wrong; if you had warned me better; you would have done the same thing; I just lost my temper; they deserved it; I don’t care what anyone thinks; and on we go.
Let me say it again: No one sins without making some excuse to himself for sinning. The worst lies are the ones we tell ourselves. Our excuses keep us chained to bad habits, addictive behavior, sinful patterns, and they lead to stupid mistakes and keep us locked into a downward spiral of denial and cover-up. When we sin, we always have an excuse we accept. You’ll never get better until you stop making excuses.
And this is exactly what the grace of God allows--and enables--us to do. Jesus Christ has "put away sin by the sacrifice of himself" and thus set us free from both the guilt and dominion of sin. The old hymn says, "He paid the price for canceled sin and sets the prisoner free!" God's grace allows us to experience real guilt; facing our failures honestly and putting them away. Meditate a bit on Romans 6:1-14 and Titus 2:11-14.