Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Hello From Mesa

Cynthia and I are currently in Mesa, AZ. We flew here yesterday. It is hot! We left temps in the 30s and arrived to the 90s.

This afternoon we went by and looked at the property Rick's assembly has purchased in Tempe. It is in a great location just off the major East/West corridor (Hwy 60). I will be teaching at their midweek meeting tonight. Then the conference starts Friday evening. They already have a large number of folks staying in the hotel. Even had a couple from Michigan show up last Sunday for the conference--always great to have early birds! So we are expecting a good crowd. I made a couple of special radio programs for our Riches of Grace program which airs here on Sunday morning's over KXEG, and hope to have some listeners join us too.

One other piece of good news: Starting on Saturday, November 1, we will be airing Forgotten Truths in prime time! We have purchased 13 weeks on DirectTV channel 367 at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time. This puts the program on at 8:00 p.m. Central, 7:00 p.m. Mountain and 6:00 p.m. Pacific Times. We will continue with the midnight airing too. The late night program has gotten good response; pray that this venture into prime time will reach many with the Word rightly divided. One of our core goals is to get the message of grace into the market place. Radio and (especially) television are tremendous vehicles to this end!

Frankly, funding these type efforts has become quite a challenge. The income for Grace School of the Bible, for example, has taken a significant hit over the past four weeks as economic uncertainty has gripped the country. Lets pray for one another during these times, especially that we not be gripped by the spirit of fear that is so pervasive just now. II Tim. 1:7 is still in the Bible! I Tim. 6:6-8 is too. Lets not just claim to be followers of Paul, lets be followers of Paul as he was of Christ--depending on the truth of the Word of His grace.

I'm sitting here with my grandkids' dogs answering email and working on an article on John 1:29. Cynthia and Linda are at Hobby Lobby getting things for the conference children's program, the grand kids are at school and Rick had work to go do. Just thought I'd say hello before things get so busy I won't be able to get to my computer.


Friday, October 24, 2008

"Love ya!"

My friend, Johnny Hall, departed to be with Christ last Tuesday afternoon. He had been in a South Bend, Indiana, hospital for a little over a week. Cynthia and I enjoyed a wonderful time of fellowship visiting with him and his wife, Mary Jo, last week. It was obvious that Johnny would soon be moving to heaven. After 58 years in a wheel chair, today Johnny is walking the streets of glory!

As a 19-year-old soldier, Johnny’s earthly sojourn was forever changed when he was cut in half by machine gun fire during the Korean War. His life was saved, but he lost the use of his body from the waist down. He spent the remainder of his life in a wheel chair—a real American hero worthy of our greatest honor and respect. I was privileged to conduct his memorial service today. The chapel was filled with family and friends touched by his generosity and life. He was then buried with full military honors at the National Military Cemetery at Fort Custer, Michigan, where his earthly house awaits the trumpet sound.

Johnny was much more, however, than a soldier: he was a saint of the Most High God and an ardent student of His Word. I first met Johnny in the mid 1960s while I was a senior in high school. At the time he and Mary Jo lived in Mobile and my interest in Bible study and preaching the gospel to the lost made it natural that we would became fast friend. When I was struggling to understand the Bible version issue, he was a source of both information and encouragement. I was often in his home, studying the Word and discussing doctrine. We had wonderful times that have become some of my happy memories.

As a young soldier, Johnny paid a tremendous price for his country. Yet he never ever complained about his lot in life. He endured unceasing pain for all the years I knew him. During one of our times together he was in especially sever agony. Through the obvious suffering, he said to me, “Ricky, all my legs ever do for me is hurt”—but he immediately added, “Oh, but isn’t God so good!”

Johnny never allowed the bitterness of self-pity to poison his spirit; rather he filled his heart with the love and grace of God found in Jesus Christ. His example (and instruction) taught me as a teenager a lesson about I Thess. 5:18 that has never left me: It is “in” everything, not “for” everything, that we are called upon to "give thanks." Even in his most difficult circumstances, Johnny could always “rejoiced in the Lord” and all He has done for us.

The Halls returned to Indiana in the early 1970s and when my family moved to Chicago in 1979 we were able to see them again. You never left Johnny’s presence or ended a conversation without him saying, “Love ya!” For Johnny it was far more than just words. You knew he meant exactly what he was saying.

The Berean Bible Church of South Bend meets in the Hall’s home each week. These saints have an active ministry and enjoyed Johnny’s leadership and influence. Many reading these lines have attended our Summer Family Conference and enjoyed Johnny’s harmonica playing. Frankly, it was hard not to be influenced by this brother!

While his “seat will be empty,” we can only rejoice that he is with the Saviour he loved and served so long. Pray for Mary Jo. She has been a faithful helpmeet and now must adjust to a new life. She said to me this afternoon, “I just don’t know how anyone could go through all this if they didn’t have the Lord.” God’s grace has been on display in Johnny and Mary Jo for all to see. Thank you, Lord! And as Johnny would say, “Love ya!”


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The "Other Guy"

A friend sent me a note suggesting that we need to start praying for the “other guy.” In light of I Timothy 2:1-3 and Titus 3:1,2 I think he has a good point:

Who is the “other guy"? It’s the guy I’m not voting for on November 4. Doesn’t matter what his name is because I’m not voting for him. I’ve made up my mind and I can’t be moved away from my decision. There isn’t anything that could done or said that could change my vote. Let me say frankly that your “other guy” may be the guy I’m going to vote for. Fine. So be it. I’m not here to tell you how to vote or even to argue the matter.

But the increase in hostility, frustration, malice, name-calling, taunting, dissembling, rumor mongering, and general anger about the election can be seen and heard and felt all over the country--on both sides. If I were so inclined, I could do a rhetorical flourish and say, “And all this name-calling and hostility and the animosity must stop here and now.” That and about $5 might get you a nice cup of fancy coffee. The animosity isn’t going to stop because people are increasingly dug in about “their guy.”

So I propose something more modest and achievable. Starting today, prayer for “the other guy" and his running mate every day between now and November 4. And don’t use prayer as a weapon. Simply pray for them, for their spouses and children. Pray that God's Word will touch their hearts and that they will truly listen.

We all have a role to play. We can free ourselves from anger and frustration by praying for someone with whom we have profound differences. Since I truly believe in the power of prayer, I know it will do my own soul good.

So that’s my commitment. I’m going to pray for the “other guy” every day between now and November 4. Care to join me?


Friday, October 17, 2008

"Construction Completed"

It’s been awhile since my last post. Thanks for all the notes wondering where I’ve been. No, I haven’t been ill or down physically. In fact, in that regard I’m doing much better. My PSA count (a couple of weeks ago) was the lowest its been in probably 6 years. PTL! So, let me see if I can give an account just for those who thought I was loafing around eating Moon Pies and drinking D.P. as I listened to Ray Stevens.

When Cynthia and I returned from Oregon (on a Wednesday evening) I had radio to do the next day. On Friday I traveled to Grand Rapids to speak on Saturday (along with David Reid) at the conference there. It was great to be with Bryan Ross and the saints of the newly established Grace Life Church and see how the work has progressed. They have already been able to purchase their own meeting location and anticipate moving into the completely refurbished building in the next few weeks. Exciting! There is plenty of room in the Grand Rapids area for a strong testimony to the rightly divided Word and the message of grace we rejoice in—and Grace Life Church will provide just that!

Then we had a good day at Shorewood. I continued Philippians in the mornings and began a four part study on Bible Numbers in the evening (I’ll start I Thessalonians after that). Cynthia and I spent the week answering the school phone in order to give the Keable’s a needed break. Actually, Ray had a series of doctor’s appoints to get treatment for his long standing back problems. We are hoping against hope they provide some much needed relief for him. I began teaching the book of Ruth on Wednesday.

The next week I caught up in the office, worked on finishing the next Journal, worked on preparations for Shorewood’s Annual Business Meeting, did more radio Thursday and had an Elders meeting, Thursday evening, along with the regular Shorewood studies. I answer as many as 70 emails a day and write numerous letters each week, so this can be added to the mix each week. I also traveled to Detroit on Tuesday to do the TV taping. I was able to once again do five programs this time.

Last Sunday we had our annual church business meet. We have more than one business meeting during a year, of course, but this is the big one at the close of our fiscal year. It is where we set a vision for the year ahead. On Tuesday Cynthia and I were in South Bend, Indiana and Thursday we both flew out of O’Hare--she to Mobile to visit her dad, whose health is failing more and more; me to Charlotte, NC.

Currently I am in Concord, North Carolina, for a conference with Perry Lemons and the saints of Royal Grace Bible Church. Meetings start this evening and although it is currently raining there is already a good crowd reporting for the conference. We had some of the best smoked BBQ you could ever set your affections on for lunch—and for supper yesterday! I’m in “hog heaven.”

This morning a group of us visited the Billy Graham Library. It takes almost three hours to go through the whole presentation and is quite impressive. You begin by entering doors that are located at the foot of a cross that rises to the top of the structure. You conclude the tour by exiting through a walkway shaped like a cross. Not a bad way to begin and end!

One touching thing to see was to grave site of Ruth Graham. I carried away from the visit two memorable quotes—one from her grave and another from the video presentation of a lady’s testimony. The lady, after recounting her own conversion to Christ, commented, “I am so thankful to God that He was willing to take on Himself a body—one just like the one I so long to get out of!” Through her testimony I kept thinking of Rom. 8:3 and II Cor. 8:9. Then there is the quote Ruth Graham herself chose for her grave stone: “Construction Completed. Thanks for your patience.” That made me think of Eph. 2:10 and Phil. 1:6.

Well, that should catch you up some. I’ve got to get dressed now. They are coming for me in a few minutes. I didn’t have time to tell you about loosing my luggage on the trip to Detroit or the broken airplane on the trip to Charlotte or the various other odds and ends of the past few weeks. But then you’ve probably got plenty of such things of your own to laugh (or groan) about!