Monday, January 26, 2009
Our morning attendance was 176 in the main service with another 46 kids in three “children’s church” meetings. That’s about the usual count. What was interesting was that Lou told me that we had exactly 100 Internet hookups. Each hookup represents at least one, but often more, individuals (one group out west has some 40 regular participants). It is a great way to expand attendance! We had 54 hookups for the evening study.
During the afternoon, after I took Cynthia to the airport (she is now in Florida to help with the birth of our 8th grandchild—David and Stacy will soon join the “three boy” club), there were a number of folks doing various Grace Impact Ministries tasks. I volunteered to put postage on this week’s mailing to our radio and TV responders.
I was amazed to learn there were 56 packages to send out, containing a total of 49 new contacts! Tom Bruscha sent me a note that there were some 51 responses to Forgotten Truths last week. Think about it: That’s exactly 100 new contacts for the message of grace last week!
By the way, the Grace Impact/Grace School of the Bible ministries have expanded into a four-office suit—along with two additional production offices—in the church building. We still have several “off site” offices but having more things under one roof makes us more efficient in many ways. All of these ministries—GIM, GSB or Shorewood Bible Church—are really one in heart and spirit, living examples of what Paul called “fellowship in the gospel.”
Monday, January 19, 2009
In his declaration, Bush noted that “the most basic duty of the government is to protect the innocent.” And who among us is more innocent and more worthy of protection than the unborn? Frankly, one of the clearest signals that our nation has undergone a fundamental moral/spiritual sea change is the willingness of its citizens to ignore such an atrocity as infanticide, commonly called abortion. Sadly, all too many who claim the name of Jesus Christ join in this tragidy, largely because it is in their own personal self interest to do so. How else can you explain the unfettered support for our new president, in light of his unfettered support for abortion on demand? He will be the most abortion friendly president in our history, if his own statements are to be believed. Sadly, this is swept under the rug in the euphoria surrounding his ascendancy to the highest office of our land.
Ironically, on January 9 an ardent spokesman for the pro-life cause, Richard John Neuhaus, died. During the 1960s Neuhaus marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. After the infamous Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 legalized abortion, he gave himself tirelessly to see the unborn protected. Few spoke out more often or more effectively. Last July he delivered a powerful speech at the National Right to Life Convention, explaining why we cannot give in to the “culture of death.” In part he said:
“We shall not weary, we shall not rest, until every unborn child is protected in law and welcomed in life. We shall not weary, we shall not rest, until all the elderly who have run life’s course are protected against despair and abandonment, protected by the rule of law and the bonds of love. We shall not weary, we shall not rest, until every young woman is given the help she needs to recognize the problem of pregnancy as the gift of life. We shall not weary, we shall not rest, as we stand guard at the entrance gates and the exit gates of life, and at every step along the way of life, bearing witness in word and deed to the dignity of the human person—of every human person.
“Against the encroaching shadows of the culture of death, against forces commanding immense power and wealth, against the perverse doctrine that a woman’s dignity depends upon her right to destroy her child, against what St. Paul calls the principalities and powers of the present time, this convention renews our resolve that we shall not weary, we shall not rest, until the culture of life is reflected in the rule of law and lived in the law of love.”
That is truly “change we can believe in.”
Monday, January 12, 2009
Going to Mobile I took William Kelly’s Exposition of the Book of John to read along the way. By the time we arrived I covered the first five chapters of this marvelous work by a gifted expositor from the past. Anything you see by Kelly is worth its price and a careful read. I purchased this particular work at Powell’s Bookstore in Portland last fall when we where there after the Northwest Grace Conference. Powell’s is billed, by the way, as the world’s largest bookstore. It covers a whole downtown city block with three stories of used and new books. I could spend a week there—and a fortune.
Kelly writes in beautiful nineteenth century English that requires you to read with special attention. I find this helpful, frankly, because it forces me to think carefully about what he is saying. And what could be more wonderful than the Book of John and its presentation of the Lord Jesus Christ as “the Word, the Only-Begotten Son, God Himself on earth in human flesh.”
It is our common understanding that Jesus Christ is “very God and very man,” that He is “true God and true man”—the God-Man. In other words, in His Incarnation Jesus Christ is both undiminished deity and full, authentic humanity. He is truly the unique person of all time. No wonder He is rightly called the Celebrity of the Universe!
One quote from Kelly puts it thusly:
“The Incarnation was no mere emanation of divinity; neither was it a Person once divine Who ceased to be so by becoming man (in itself an impossible absurdity), but One Who, to glorify the Father, and in accomplishment of the purposes of grace to the glory of God, took humanity into union with Godhead in his Person” (p. 60).
That He can thus actually, really and fully be “touched by the feelings of our infirmities” makes the heart cry, Oh, what a Savior!
Sunday, January 11, 2009
We had a delightful lunch with the whole Lange family and spent the afternoon and evening visiting with my brother, Travis.
Everyone knows that my preaching is very extemporaneous. I teach men to preach that way, too. There are, however, two parts of a message that I always try to write out in detail. First is the introduction—that way I’m sure to get started on the right track. Then, the conclusion—that way I have a clear destination and way to conclude at the station. I don’t always deliver these two paragraphs verbatim—I seldom simply read them—but do spend a good deal of time preparing them so they are there to guide my mind in the right direction and to bring it to the desired focal point.
Thus when asked if I could reproduce the concluding comment and prayer at Mr. Howell’s funeral, I can rather easily comply! Although not delivered word for word, I had written in my notes:
At a moment like this we all realize our own mortality and if we are honest, we realize our total dependence on the Lord. “What is your life? You are a vapour that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” The Bible says that the Lord is full of grace and abounding in compassion and His mercies are new every morning. We are told that God is the “Father of Mercies,” which to me means that because of Jesus Christ, we are invited to come, not to an angry God, but to a loving Father who waits for us to call out to Him. Romans 5:8 tells us that “God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” It is with great certainty that I say this: The Lord who loved Mr. Howell also loves us too. Jesus Christ has opened the door to heaven, not only for Pearlie, but for all who believe in Him—and that’s very good news on a day like this. Death will not win in the end. The Lord Jesus Christ has defeated death, and everyone who trusts in Him will share in His victory eternally.
So, look to the Cross! Place your faith in the Son of God who loved you and died for you. For “the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). The gift is for you, and it’s yours free for the asking. Reach out and take it. Turn your heart to Jesus and trust him as your Lord and Savior. Then no matter what happens today or tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, you’ll be ready when your time on earth is finally over. For those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, death is not the end of life, it’s the doorway that leads directly to heaven.
“We thank thee, Lord, for the death of the saints of God. Some go before and some after, but one by one your children pass from this life directly into your presence.
And now our dear loved one is gone from us, but he is not gone from you. We thank you that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. We thank you that we have not lost him, but you have eternally found him. He is in your presence, where there is fullness of joy forever.
We rejoice that for Mr. Howell, the best has already begun. Help us to rest securely in your grace until that day when you call us home too. In Jesus’ name, Amen."
Saturday, January 10, 2009
With Mr. Howell’s home going we have lost one of our most faithful TV viewers. He had become a regular viewer of Forgotten Truths via DirectTV, even adjusting his schedule so he could see the program. I just got word from Tom with statistics about the past two months on prime time. There have been over three hundred new contacts, with really touching testimonies about how they are being helped into and understanding of the message of grace. I’ll get the details together and post them in a later post.
The conference in Florida is going great without us. Fred Bekemeyer had successful hernia surgery Friday and was also unable to attend. Perhaps we should stay away more often! The meeting is being broadcast via PalTalk, by the way. (Just an aside: I have it on good authority that Fred "postponed" his surgery scheduled for Thursday so he could watch a ball game that evening--good thing his guys won!)
Rick left this morning at 6:00. I took him to the airport and was back to the bay house before sun rise. He arrived home safely. David and his family just left to drive back to Orlando. We again had seafood for lunch (David and my choice). When in Mobile, eat seafood!!
I talked to Debbie this afternoon and they are getting a pounding of snow at home to be followed by really cold weather. She said the drifts were over two feet in her driveway. I am scheduled to get home Monday evening and fly to Detroit Tuesday so I guess I have some shoveling to do! It is shirt-sleeve weather here so I’m enjoying it while I can.
Cynthia and I will fellowship with the saints at Forest Park Bible Church in the morning. I always rejoice to have a bit of time with Brother and Mrs. Lange. They tell me he has plans of retiring into Pastor Emeritus status the first of February. No one deserves it more.
Have a great Sunday! If your are a "stranded grace believer" then tune in to ShorewoodBibleChurch.org and join the services live via the Internet. There is not reason to be "stranded" anymore!
Friday, January 9, 2009
There was a large crowd that passed through the visitation last evening; a testament to Mr. Howell's good influence on so many. Cynthia and I grew up in the same neighborhood (I graduated highschool with her older brother; she was two classes behind us), so we saw folks we haven't seen since we were kids!
We appreciate all the expressions of love from so many friends. It means a great deal to enjoy a bit of "oneanothering" at a time like this.
Yesterday I discovered a great place for believers to do so—a funeral home!
While sitting in the lobby of the funeral home waiting for Cynthia’s family to arrive for the visitation, I watched as two young ladies and a teenage boy came in looking for help. Their dad died that morning and they needed to make funeral arrangements.
Later I noticed them still in the parking lot. I asked the 17 year old young man how his dad had died—soon we were all talking together. I had the opportunity to go over the gospel with them and the joy of introducing the boy and his 22 year old sister to Christ. Their 25-year-old half-sister was already a believer and thrilled to have her siblings respond this way. It was some of the “easiest fruit to pick” I’ve seen in awhile!
So, next time I have a free afternoon, perhaps I’ll visit a local funeral home and hangout in the lobby! Well, I have to confess that I’ve seldom seen as busy an establishment as Mobile Memorial Gardens. There were four viewings going on at the time we were there. But you don’t have to be at a funeral home to find folks open to the gospel—you just have to have your antennas up and you mouth open! And the fruit is wonderful. Proverbs 11:30 is true, indeed.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
I am happy to be able to say that with a good degree of confidence. Mr. Howell was a genuinely good man, exactly the “good man” Romans 5:7 talks about. His honesty, hard work and genuine, personal integrity (goodness, if you will) were know to all acquainted with him even in a casual way. But such “goodness” doesn’t purchase a home in heaven, just as Romans 5:6-8 demonstrate. Rather eternal life is a gift purchased at the price of God’s own Son at Calvary—and it is a gift Mr. Howell told me (and on separate occasions, Cynthia) that he had personally received by placing his faith in Jesus Christ alone as his Savior. It is a great comfort to be able to rest in that testimony—something we know about because we took opportunity to personally discuss it with him.
His death was unexpected, given his improving condition. When we got the call it hit Cynthia hard. She was close to her dad—only two days before he had told her how much he missed her. We shuffled our schedule and I was able to arrange tickets to fly to Mobile this morning (thanks to America Airlines Advantage Mileage!).
We were to leave O’Hare at 6:00 a.m., which meant we needed to be there by 4:30, which meant we had to leave home before 4:00, which meant….well, you get the idea: early! We made it in the morning snow and cold only to board the plane and learn it was “frozen to the ground.” Turned out that it was the tractor that pushes the plane back from the terminal that was stuck. Then they told us that one of the luggage carriers had turned over and we would be further delayed.
When we finally arrived in Mobile our baggage didn’t make the trip. We’re waiting now to see if it arrives. I might get a new suit out of this! I’m doing the funeral service on Friday afternoon; the visitation is tomorrow evening.
With Mr. Howell’s home going we have lost a faithful viewer of Forgotten Truths. He watched each week and consistently invited others to watch, telling them, “Ricky teaches the Bible different than those other TV preachers!” Proof he was watching!
We arrived in time to join Cynthia’s family as they made the arrangements with the funeral home and cemetery. After the business was concluded, the man in charge of the cemetery gave a word of testimony to the family and asked if he could have a word of prayer with them. I don’t think I ever had that happen before! It is nice to be back in the Bible Belt, where spiritual things—Bible things—are more readily talked about in conversation and life at a time like this. A lady from one of Cynthia’s sisters' work was just here at the house talking to her mom about the hope available in the gospel and how God’s Word is the real source of comfort and strength. This might turn out to be a great time of testimony!
By the way, I have to confess that the food has begun to arrive. If you’ve never done a funeral “pounding” Alabama style, you haven’t lived! Sugar baked ham, green beans, chicken-‘n’-dumplings, corn bread, killer peach cobbler—oh, I better stop! Getting hungry just thinking about it (and smelling it!).
I will miss the Florida conference—the brethren have already replaced me (what a great thing it is to have such a “deep bench” of great preachers!). I am scheduled to fly back to Chicago Monday so I can go to Detroit Tuesday for TV taping. Cynthia will stay in Mobile until the 16th. Pray for her, if you will. Someone asked me what to pray for. I suggested Ephesians 3:16 would be a good start.
Saturday, January 3, 2009
But the real point for my dear wife (and my brother) is that "our team" beat Auburn. That's the only game that really counts, when ya get down to it. They (Cynthia and Travis, that is) are sort of like Brother Mel (and Roger Savage, et al) about Green Bay, or Sal about the Bears, or Mike about Michigan, or Keith/Fred about the Gators, or David about the Buckeyes, etc. Oh, well. Fanatics will be fanatics!
Now if I can only get my wife to cheer up! She is working on her Sunday School lesson for tomorrow at the moment and that will help. She can't stay depressed when she gets to thinking about all those kids she loves so much. I've always said that it would be the greatest thing in the world to have her as grandma--and that's just what she is to every kid she meets. So, maybe there's hope I might get some supper after all!
As 2008 recedes into the history books I must confess it has been quite a year. Never before have I spent so much time focused on my own health. I’ve always been “healthy as a horse,” as the saying goes. To have spent the year working through cancer treatment was “very interesting.” I am grateful to report that my doctors are happy with the way things have gone. Thanks for your prayers and encouragement.
On the broader front, many fear we are entering a time of great instability and hardship. I don’t doubt it. Our world seems to think it can ignore the foundational truths of God’s Word and yet prosper—that’s a fool’s wish.
But for believers—especially, grace believers—to be fearful and insecure is just as foolish. It is to make the mistake the world makes: it leaves God out of the picture!
So, while the economic situation, international conflicts and natural conditions may change, God’s Word never changes! Understanding God’s Word rightly divided gives us a sense of our place in history and world events—along with a firm grasp on who we are in Christ and what our calling is as Ambassadors for Christ Jesus our Lord.
The year ahead will offer wonderful opportunities for spreading the rightly divided Word. As a famous preacher from the past declared, "When the money runs out, people get real basic!" We have only to be faithful to the precious deposit committed to our trust and rest securely in His love and grace to us in Christ.
These are exciting times to be serving our Savior. Thanks so much for your partnership and help. Your prayerful support is what gives life to our campaign “to make all men see.”
Thursday, January 1, 2009
After a delicious pot-luck dinner (everyone brings a covered dish or two—Nick had his famous Bulgarian cabbage, which is all I need!) most of the adults watched the move. There was also a fierce Table Tennis tournament going on, as well as a teen/adult floor hockey contest. There were a dozen or so 4 to 9 year olds (mostly girls, and wow could they squeal!!!) who played hid-and-seek after watching a kid’s movie. One 10-year-old boy who was visiting with one of our families declared, “This church rocks!” I guess he was enjoying the excitement. But I agree.
Anyway, after all the expended energy we had a “Wheel of Wisdom” game. It is formatted like Wheel of Fortune (with our very own Vana), but uses Bible themes for the puzzles. Frankly, I knew one team was in deep trouble when Cynthia and Sal wound up on the same side. They have a “take no prisoners” mindset when it comes to competition. Their team won—big.
The “Wheel” game began a bit before 11:00 p.m. We had posted a note on the web site that we would have a service at 11, so when I checked there were a number of hook ups on line. There is no telling what they thought was going on as they watched the spirited competition to solve the Scripture puzzles. They hung in there, though, and Bob told me that they stuck it out for the song service and message.
I will try to share a few thoughts about Expelled in the future, but I was struck by how it impacted Nick Terziski. Nick escaped from communist Bulgaria in 1970. He was captured and imprisoned twice before successfully making his way to the freedom he yearned for. The politically correct tactics of “scientific-academic-correctness” against even examining the “other side” of the evolution debate struck a nerve with him, mirroring exactly the tactics of the communism from which he had flee. Nick’s joy in finding freedom in America and then real freedom in Christ and then the grand freedom of the message of grace makes a powerful testimony.
We finished the year out by looking at II Cor. 1:12, where Paul opens his heart in a touching statement about what the believer’s life is about. Such genuine, authentic living is what the grace life produces.
It was a wonderful evening—a fitting conclusion to the old; a promising beginning to the new; a truly touching “family time” with the saints.