Monday, February 25, 2008

"No Country"

I never watch the Oscar’s. Not only is it too boring, we go to church on Sunday nights! We haven’t “gone dark” like so many have. In fact, our Sunday evening meeting is a really great time both in fellowship and the Word. I wouldn’t miss it!

Today I noticed that “No Country For Old Men” won lots of stuff. I (like most people!) haven’t seen the movie. It isn’t the kind of movie Cynthia would enjoy (way too dark) and besides we don’t get out to the movies much, and when we do, they tend to be animated movies; something to do with the two small humans who spend time with us.

I did read the book some time ago and have to say that Tommy Lee Jones is one of my favorite actors. I doubt there is another actor today who could play Sheriff “Ed Tom” Bell--an aging cowboy sheriff coming to terms with the fact that his time has come and gone—and with the necessary edge of humor and authenticity, deliver lines like:

Wendell: It’s a mess, ain’t it, sheriff?
Ed Tom Bell: If it ain’t, it’ll do till the mess gets here.

One of my favorite lines comes when he tells another old-timer that things in 1980s America just aren’t the same anymore:

Ed Tom Bell: It starts when you begin to overlook bad manners. Anytime you quit hearing “sir”
and “ma’am,” the end is pretty much in sight.

I've been telling folks that for years! No wonder I liked that book!!


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

“Take Heed Unto Thyself”

As a young believer (all those many decades ago!), one of my favorite quotes was from the famous missionary William Carey who said that we should, 'Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.'

That’s how I wanted to live my life. I wanted to be someone who is not afraid to take bold risks for God because I knew God is big, and I had seen Him do awesome things in my life and in the lives of others. I knew that serving Him would be the adventure of a lifetime.

Three men were my early mentors—and have probably had more influence on my life and ministry that any others. Roy Lange taught me to study and live the Bible, patiently instilling the principles of right division and the grace life into my understanding. His gracious example of faithfulness has kept me going more times than anyone could ever know. Jim Isbill taught me to be soul-conscious. He was the most soul-minded person I ever knew until I met Oscar Woodall, who was perhaps his equal, but it was “uncle Jim” that put the issue of the clarity of the gospel into my heart in an indelible way. Then there was Clyde Reynolds who taught me to take what he called “the dare of faith.”

I really started preaching at the Mobile Rescue Mission under the watchful eye of its superintendent, Brother Reynolds. Along the way he gave me five pledges that he conducted his ministry by. I adopted them for myself, promising God that:

1. No one will meddle with my preaching;
2. I will make my decisions on the basis of right and wrong, not on the basis of expediency;
3. I will be loyal to principles and not institutions, unless they embrace those principles;
4. I will always be a friend to my friends;
5. Money will never be an issue in my ministry.

Every January since those early days I have done several things: For example, I reread C.R.Stam’s book, The Controversy. I do this to refocus my mind on the importance of the distinctive ministry and message committed to our trust through the Apostle Paul. I also review the past year and prioritize goals for the new one. During this exercise I “take heed unto thyself” (I Tim. 4:16) by examining how well I have followed these guidelines—repenting where I have failed to do so and recommitting myself to them for the future.

Taking “the dare of faith” is too important to not “give attendance” to these details. No matter how carefully we “take heed unto …the doctrine,” Paul put “thyself” first—and he did so for an obvious reason!

I confess I am passionate about our local church, about our various outreach ministries through Grace Impact Ministries, about our training program embodied in Grace School of the Bible. This is because we want to help people join in on the great adventure of living boldly for God and to guide them toward experiencing the new hope and fullness of life that is in the Lord Jesus Christ.

"Take heed to thyself" and make sure you are on the path of "the dare of faith!"


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Scriptural Solution to the "Immigration Problem"

Hoover & Ike did it.

I didn't know of this until Allen Leach pointed it out to me: Back during
the Great Depression, President Herbert Hoover ordered the deportation of
all illegal aliens in order to make jobs available to American citizens
that desperately needed work.

And then again in 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower deported 1.3 million
Mexican nationals so that American WWII and Korean veterans had a better chance at jobs. The program was called "Operation Wetback." It took 2 years, but they deported them. Now, if they could deport the illegals back then, they can sure do it today! If you have doubts about the veracity of this information, enter Operation Wetback into your favorite search engine and confirm it for yourself. I did. It's there! Why don't we remember this stuff? Or haven't those responsible for our "institutional memory" reminded us?

But I recently came across a much more unique solution to the "immigration problem" suggested by Keith Drury, Associate Professor of Religion at Indiana Wesleyan University. Since its a Scriptural solution, I like it even better--especially since it takes into account the one great factor Ike and Herbert didn't face. In fact, all the current "conservative" chatter on this topic misses this point too--even the s0-called "Christian" chatterboxes. This solution isn't for the faint of heart.

"Since 1973 the USA has aborted some 49 million Americans. Forty nine million lives snuffed out before birth. This was morally wrong but abortion also has huge economic consequences. Just think of the economic influence today of 49 million up-to-33-year-olds building homes, having children, buying stuff and paying taxes that would put Social Security on a firm basis for the next 50 years! Yet America killed off these 49 million fellow Americans.

So that’s the solution to the “immigration problem.” We should replace those dead children with immigrants. If we wanted “America for Americans” we should have let our own children be born. We killed 49 million of our own kids so we ought to replace that vanished generation with 49 million immigrants. It would be at least partial restitution for our national sin.

There are about 12 million “illegal immigrants” already here, so I think we should start restitution by offering every one of them a path to citizenship. If they all became citizens that would replace about a quarter of our own kids we eliminated. Next we can then figure out how to replace the remaining 75% of the American lives we snuffed out.

It’s a simple solution—a life for a life…"


A Great Time in California!

I’m back from California. Got back late last night. Leaving a beautiful 69 degrees to be welcomed four hours later by 4 degrees was a bit of a shock. But seeing Cynthia was so heartwarming I hardly noticed.

We had a wonderful conference in San Clemente. We meet in a new location this year and although it was a rather different type venue it worked out fine. The conference theme was “Understanding Our Ambassadorship.” Morris Chesnut, my son Rick, John Verstegen and I did the teaching (along with those providing the full children’s program). As always the music was great—Ted Marloff is without a peer when he has his guitar in hand!—and the Berean Bible Ministries “Tabernacle Choir” was truly outstanding. The messages and some of the music can be found at

The Saturday afternoon Q&A was one of the highlights of the weekend. While we were eating lunch, two “Mormon Missionaries” came by. One of our guys engaged them in conversation, inviting them to join us for lunch. They did and then also stayed for the Q&A. It was a special moment to watch John quickly and seamlessly rearrange the program with them in mind. The audience was sensitive to what was happening; questions were asked to gently bring up topics of importance for the visitors, who soon engaged in asking questions of their own.

John did a masterful job of answering their queries (which started with the Mormon view of the two sticks in Ezek. 37), going through right division and on to the gospel of grace. After the session, one of the young men asked to personally talk to the brother who originally invited them in. As he gained clarity on the gospel he gave indication that he trusted Christ alone as His Savior.

As I watched all this transpire I was touched to realize that our conference theme was being lived out in our midst! A special time, indeed.


Sunday, February 10, 2008

Redeeming the Time

We had a good taping session Tuesday and I was able to do four programs. Hope to again be up to doing five by next month! On Wednesday I was unable to get back to Chicago. A massive snowstorm canceled every flight from Detroit to Chicago. So, Marvin and Louise Taylor put me up for the evening and I made it home on Thursday morning. The Taylors are gracious hosts and we enjoyed an evening of warm fellowship.

When I got to the airport on Wednesday I turned on my cell phone and found a message from home. A young man in our assembly had taken a serious fall and was not expected to live. Not good news with me stranded out of town. Alex, of course, is there and able to minister to them as well as I can, but my heart is always with our folks at home.

This young man, Jeremy Alvarado, was a 21-year-old Seaman Apprentice. He graduated Navy Boot Camp December 7, 2007 and was looking forward with great anticipation to a career in Uncle Sam’s navy. He wanted to be a submariner.

He got sick last Sunday morning and reported to the base sick bay. While there he fainted, took a hard fall and experienced a severe concussion. By Tuesday evening it was obvious he was not going to recover. His brother, Josh, was on the east coast about to graduate from the Army’s Basic Training. He couldn’t get back to Chicago because of the weather, so they waited until he arrived to make the final decision to remove Jeremy from life support. He went to be with the Lord on Thursday.

It turned out that his mom and dad got the first call about his accident while we were in church last Sunday going over Col. 4:5,6! They had their phone turned off during the service so didn’t get the message till later.

Saturday we had a visitation at the church building that drew hundreds of young and old alike. Alex had an opportunity to share the gospel during a brief service that evening with great effect. Today we had the funeral at 2:00 p.m. The auditorium was standing room only (we have 213 seats) and our overflow room was also filled (another 60 or so seats). The opportunity to preach the gospel of grace to a room filled with sailors, soldiers, boy scouts, friends and relatives was an extraordinary privilege. I had the opportunity to personally share the gospel with two sailors (one from Maine the other from Texas) and a navy captain. The sailors gave indication they trusted Christ; the captain seems to have something of a testimony already, and really appreciated the clarity of the grace message. Others of our folk had the same experience.

Jess and Maggie (his dad and mom) wanted Jeremy’s home going to be a testimony to God’s grace. So it was. In the midst of their struggles with life, they have become an ensample of Romans 15:13—“Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.”

Notice the words, “in believing.” It is our believing in God and relying on His Word, resting in the facts of Calvary, that releases the power of the Holy Spirit to fill our lives with joy and peach so we may abound in hope. We’ve seen that in action this week. It’s one of the rewards of being a part of a local grace church!


Monday, February 4, 2008

Super Sunday ~ Super Tuesday

I know; I know. I've been awol for awhile. I've gotten numerous emails wondering what is going on. Everything is fine. I've just been very busy and along with a continuing low-energy-level it's been difficult to get things done. Thanks for all the concern.

Thursday I go back to the doctor for my next checkup. They wont know much about how effective the cancer treatment has been since it is still too early to get an accurate test reading. These first few exams are sort of forming a baseline for the future, along with making sure things are progressing according to plan.

Tomorrow I am going to Detroit to do TV taping. The weather here is really bad for flying at the moment, so I'll probably be in the airport most of Tuesday(going) and Wednesday (returning). Give me plenty of time to read!

Last Sunday was a Super day at Shorewood. We had good morning meetings and the rest of the day had a teen activity that lasted till well after 10:00p.m. It's exciting to see young people interested in the Word and the truths of grace. Registration for our up coming Teen Winter Retreat has gone over the top--a high-grade problem!!

The Super Bowl was exciting--the most watched ever, they say. It certainly demonstrates the hold it has on our nation's attention. Now comes Super Tuesday. If my mail is any indication, folks are also intensely interested in the up coming election.

I have a suggestion/observation: You can do more for your neighborhood, city, nation and world if you were to win 10 people to Christ in the next year than if you get your favorite candidate elected. There simply is no real answer in the political realm--no matter who your candidate is or stands for. Gal. 1:4 says it clearly, as does Eph. 2:1-3.

The real answer is in the gospel of grace. Nations turn to God one person at a time. This makes soul winning the answer and the need of the hour. Nothing less will spark a national awaking, a national consciousness, a spiritual revival. America certainly needs all these. We don't need politicians in pulpits. We don't need puppets in pulpits. We need preachers who will preach the Word of God rightly divided and proclaim the gospel of grace clearly, consistently, innovatively and boldly. We need to say, like Hilkiah, "I found the Book!"

Col. 4:5 admonishes us to "walk in wisdom toward them that are without." And what is the "goal" of walking in wisdom? Remember Proverbs 11:30? "....he that winneth souls is wise." Or Dan. 12:3? "They that be wise shall shine...and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever." In other words, the aim of wisdom is to win over the souls of those who reject God's Word; the goal of wisdom is to point people to Christ (Who alone is our "righteousness"--I Cor. 1:30). [Hey, I know those passages doctrinally/dispensationally are addressing Israel, expressly during the time of Jacob's trouble. But they also help you answer that question I asked too, don't they!]

So, get on with the program. Why not make it a goal of your walk to win your friends, neighbors, relative, associates--even enemies!--to Christ this year? Instead of just thinking about it, dreaming about it, praying about, arguing about it--just get on with it. If you don't know what to do or how to do it, find out! This isn't brain surgery. You already know more than every lost person you'll ever talk to! You know how to have your sins forgiven and have eternal life as a present possession. So, get on with the program!! It will do more good than all the other things you're doing. Our nation needs to experience a spiritual transformation. That will only come when believers--you and me, my friend--get busy with the great priority of heaven: winning the souls of those without Christ to Him.