Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Another Mind Dump From Florida

We travel back to Chicago tomorrow afternoon--back to the cold! The extra time here has been well spent. Cynthia and I have enjoyed the opportunity extended to us by a friend to use a condo for a few days and we have had our Florida grand children (and parents!) with us. Not really a relaxing time, but a fun time indeed!

I taught for Fred Bekemeyer Monday evening and at noon today. They front-end-load their week with studies. The Monday night session was on PalTalk and it was good to be able to personally greet the folks there in a way I don't usually have. The P-T room was well attended over the weekend for the conference and again on Monday p.m. Monday I taught a study under a title I first heard years ago at the Mobile Rescue Mission from Brother Reynolds , "When In Trouble, Remember Your 8's"--i.e. Romans chapter 8, then verse 18, 28, 38. Today we went over Ephesians 6:10.

Fred has not been well, but seemed to be feeling better today. He goes in for treatment on Thursday. I know he (and the saints of Community Bible Church) would appreciate your prayers.

I read an article recently about "Four Mistakes Pastor's Who Blog Make"--I don't have the link at hand but will try to remember to get it when I return home. The first point was "Using poor grammar and misspelling." That would be a no brainier, I would think. The last one was "Doing mind dumps." If you wonder what that is, well, its what I'm doing here! Most of the comments disagreed with that point; I do too, at least in general.

Another point was "Not establishing a regular routine." In other words, I should get into a regular habit that you can anticipate. Fat chance! But it explains posts like this.


Sunday, January 13, 2008

"Here I Raise My Ebenezer"

That familiar line from the old hymn originates from I Samuel 7:12, where Samuel raised a memorial stone to Israel’s victory over the Philistines, calling it Ebenezer (i.e., “stone of help”), and declaring, “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.” Thus the term has passed into use as a remembering of important moments in the lives of God’s people.

It is certainly fitting for two events we remember this weekend. First, January 12 is the third anniversary of the home going of our friend and fellow laborer, Oscar Woodall. Those who knew and worked with “Woody” will attest to the fact that it was an experience that was life changing. Rarely does one find a more fervent example of one so fully committed to doing the work of evangelism. Oscar’s influence lives on in those he trained and motivated to share the gospel at every opportunity through “life, leaflet, lip or ‘lectronics.” We are certainly the better because he was in our midst. I, for one, miss his friendship, counsel and constant prodding to excellence.

At the moment I am at our annual Florida Grace Conference in Tampa. This is the 20th year we have held this meeting. Attendance has been running 180+ for every session—along with 40-50 joining us via Woody was largely the motivating and sustaining force behind this meeting. Twice this conference was subverted by hostile opposition. Each time Woody labored to revive the effort; each time he succeeded. We have a strong group of leaders here in Florida, men who are getting the message of grace out with clarity and boldness. Our fellow soldier, Oscar Woodall, played a vital part in making this so. May his commitment to evangelism, the clarity of the gospel, final authority, Pauline truth, separation from error and neo-evangelicalism deeply resonate with us still!

Also, January 14 is another special anniversary: it is the 50th anniversary of the home going of J. C. O’Hair. John Cowan O’Hair was born in Little Rock, Arkansas on December 31, 1876 and graduated to glory January 14, 1958. In the interval he had a very eventful life!

Trained as an accountant, he ventured into life and soon found himself serving in Mexico City as Secretary to the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico. Returning to the States he engaged in a successful career in the lumber and construction business. Marrying Ethel, through whose witness he came to faith in Christ, they had six children. As he became more involved in the Lord’s work he entered “full time” evangelistic work in 1917. After holding several evangelistic efforts at the North Shore Congregational Church in Chicago, that assembly extended him a call to be their pastor in July of 1923. He accepted as was installed into office September 1, 1923. There are several dates for this in different accounts, so let me say that this date for his installation comes from the actually church record book, with the entry signed by O’Hair himself. We have the book in our church office—it makes very interesting reading!

In May of 1924 the church established its own radio station with the transmitter in the bell tower of the building at the corner of Wilson Avenue and Sheridan Road. The call letters were WDBY (affectionately referred to as “We Delight in Bothering You”!) but were later changed to WPCC (“We Preach Christ Crucified”). Mr. Charles Baker joined this ministry in 1929 as the radio station engineer. Baker later went on to lead the group O’Hair ministered to in Milwaukee, establishing the Fundamental Bible Church and the Milwaukee Bible Institute there. (That Institute later became Grace Bible College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.)

O’Hair’s radio ministry was national in scope by 1932 and continued until his home going in 1958, making it one of the two longest continuous running radio shows of all time (tied with Amos and Andy for that record). I have personally met folks all across our country who testify to the fact that they, along with untold multitudes, trusted Christ as Savior and came to understand the Word rightly divided through his radio program.

His most important ministry was as leader of Chicago’s North Shore Church. More than any single individual, O’Hair was responsible for the spreading of “the preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery” (Rom. 16:25). His grave marker, in fact, has in bold letters “II Timothy 2:15” engraved below the family name. He was known to multitudes as “Mr. Right Division.” His boldness in pressing the issue of the distinctive ministry and message of the Apostle Paul was an identifying mark of all he did. Ignore this truth, O’Hair warned, and the church would find itself “scourged with the rod of Pentecostal fanaticism.” So it has happened!!

He was also a champion of doctrinal integrity. When the Congregational denomination became liberal in its theology, O’Hair was at the front opposing error. The above mentioned record book records that under his leadership the NSC withdrew from that denomination because of this apostasy.

When our family moved to Chicago in 1979 we immediately had the unexpected privilege of becoming associated with NSC. Although coming to Chicago to work with another ministry, my family attended NSC from the time of our arrival. Because the church had no pastor at the time, I soon began to preach for them as became “pulpit pastor” to this wonderful group of people. They won our hearts and it seems we did the same with theirs. I can say, frankly, that I could never have imagined becoming a part of a congregation of such godly, spiritual giants who were in fact such humble saints in all respects.

I never met J.C. O’Hair in person. But I came to know him through “his people.” Even after all the years between ’58 and ’79, he still lived in them! His teaching still gripped their hearts and filled their lives. We were almost instantly bonded around a mutual vigor for the message of grace. Although we have relocated our meeting place and because of this changed the name of North Shore Church to Shorewood Bible Church (when we were no longer on the North Shore, we had little choice!), we have not forgotten or abandoned our tremendous heritage. Today almost all of “O’Hair’s people” have joined him in glory. But they have passed on to us the baton of truth and commitment he left in their keeping and we rise to say, “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.” By His grace we press forward for His glory in the same spirit of faith and determination as those who have gone before.

This is getting a bit long, so I’ll wait till later to share some things I have learned about what made O’Hair’s ministry so successful. Actually, through long association with “his people” I discovered two key elements that seemed to have been over looked by most of the preachers and leaders associated with him or who have written their versions of his history. I’ll share those thought in the next few days.


Monday, January 7, 2008

Good News From Arizona

The Southwest Bible Fellowship of Tempe, Arizona has purchased a piece of property on which they plan to soon erect a building of their own. Rick, my oldest son, is the founder of this assembly. While he was visiting with us over the holidays he filled us in on the prospects and they demonstrate a real commitment to getting the message of grace out not only in the Phoenix/Mesa area, but also across the Southwest. Pray for this fine assembly as they engage in another forward move for the message of grace!


Another Great Day At Shorewood

I know it seems repetitious, but we have been on a wave of “great days” at Shorewood. Not simply attendance wise, although that has been very good—near capacity actually; more important has been the spiritual interest of those in attendance and the joy of week after week seeing folks liberated from the religious treadmill into the joy of the grace life. This has all come in the midst the common trials and trouble of life, along with the natural opposition of the adversary to such activities of grace. But God’s grace is abundantly sufficient!

Ray Keable taught the Adult Sunday School and I preached both morning and evening services today. Tomorrow I’ll know more about how I did strength wise. My stamina is still limited, although preaching itself makes me feel better—at least while I’m doing it. Afterwards, well that’s when a bit of a price has to be paid. Frankly, its worth it!!

The reason I did both services is that Alex has been in Tennessee since Thursday. Last Tuesday evening Sherry’s mom went to be with the Lord. Sherry has been in Nashville for a couple of weeks due to her illness (she was in the final stage of terminal cancer). The whole family was able to be there for the holidays. Alex and the children had returned home but naturally went back for the funeral. He had a good time with his mother-in-law before she died, getting a clear testimony of her faith in Christ alone. Thus this has been a time of rejoicing, although very exhausting for them. I know they'd appreciate your prayers.

All our troubles in life are opportunities for God’s grace to manifest itself. God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. When we are weak then are we strong, Paul says. We usually don’t think of being weak and being strong at the same time. The troubles of life should make us realize that we are weak and in need of God’s strength. God’s strength goes perfectly with our weakness. In fact, it is only as we acknowledge our weakness that we access His strength. We sing, “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms”--but do we? The "everlasting arms" that He wants us to lean on are the riches of His grace to us in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. What a place to rest!


Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Home Alone Again

I’m sitting here listening via the internet to Alex teaching the evening study at Shorewood. Cynthia and our granddaughters are at church. I simply couldn’t make even the trip there. We had an outstanding conference last weekend with Brother Ted Fellows. Then we had our annual Watchnight Extravaganza Monday evening. Way too much “Christian partying!”

I think I am progressing beyond the most severe accumulation of the radiation effects of the cancer treatment, at least I haven’t felt like I am worse than the week before for two weeks. Until this week, that is. You know the routine: you feel bad over an extended time, for whatever reason; then as soon as you feel a little better (or at least no worse), you over do it and have a set back. Hopefully it is temporary. Today I simply haven’t been able to do anything, so I’ve spent most of the day in bed with fever like symptoms and big time fatigue. Tomorrow is another day! It’s wonderful to have great co-workers to fill in the gaps!

We also had a house full for the holidays—Rick and his family along with David and his family (and then the Fellows over the weekend). We tried to cram the months of not seeing our grandchildren into one short week. We did get a family portrait done; I’ll try to post a copy of it if I can figure out how to do so. We also had some snow, so the grand kids got to experience both the snow fall and the clean up--along with building a snow man.

By the way, Ted’s series on “The Mystery of Godliness” was very helpful. In fact, I noticed several conversations taking place during our Watchnight meeting about various topics he presented . When folks continue to discuss on their own what they have been taught, then you know it made the impact you pray for! We’ll have these studies on our church web site in due time; I recommend them to you!

I trust you will have a good and prosperous new year and that if the Lord tarries another year you’ll be able to look back at 2008 as a special year in your walk with the Lord.