Saturday, February 14, 2009

A "Barbecue Memorial"

The conference is going alone well. It is touching to see folks from many different backgrounds so enthralled with the message of grace and an understanding of the rightly divided Word! As one of the teens told me at lunch, "this conference is smokin'!"

We had a special time this afternoon remembering our sister Vickie Lynn Matis. Vickie went to be with the Lord only a few days ago after a struggle with terminal cancer. She was young (56) and taken rather suddenly by cancer that was too far advanced when discovered to treat successfully--or even slow down.

But Vickie had a powerful testimony in life--and her "memorial barbecue" was no less powerful. She had asked that there be no sad time--"Have a barbecue!" had been her wish. So we did. Her family--mom, sister, brother and daughter gave touching testimonies of her faith and confidence in Christ. All who knew her knew the depth of both her understanding of the message of grace and her daily occupation with her Savior. We truly had a time of rejoicing for the life of Christ made manifest in a friend and fellow saint! John gave a clear gospel message and a strong appeal for the unsaved present to trust Christ.

I first met Vickie at this conference over a decade and a half ago. Through her I came to know her mom, brother and sister, husband and children. They have all been part of the "California family" that I have looked forward to seeing at these meetings. Seeing the sound doctrine living in this family during a time of deep sorrow and testing such as this is a benediction to the work of the ministry John and the saints of Berean Bible Ministries have so faithfully carried forward. Over and over Phil. 1:21 was quoted. Enough said!

Also attending this meeting is Barrry Curtis. Barry, you may recall, missed the Arizona conference last fall due to being hospitalized that weekend with newly discovered life threatening tumors in his intestines. Although at first thought to be inoperaterable, subsequent treatments and surgery have brought him to the verge of being declared completely free of danger!

He, and his young family, are thrilled with the situation, naturally. He boldly says, "If we hadn't known the grace message, we would have been basket cases during all this. Grace has given us hope and peace through it all. Knowing that God is for us no matter what has made all the difference."

This is all living fruit from the preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery. When we simply rest our faith in an intelligent understanding of God's rightly divided Word we find the joy and peace Rom. 15:13 tells us can be ours. It is ministries like this one where saints are established in sound doctrine that make the difference in the shoe leather of life. I am humbled and grateful that this caliber of testimony exists through out our fellowship around the nation--and world!

Praise the Lord!


Great Start

I'm writing this just after the second session of the first night of the conference here in California. We are off to a great start. The auditorium is filled with a really energetic group of saints of all ages. They have traveled not only from across the southwest but also from Illinois, Michigan, South Dakota and Florida. Several couples have come from the television program. The singing, led by Ted Marolf, has been spirited with everyone joining in with real gusto. I even was allowed to play the keyboard!

I introduced the Book of Ephesians the first hour, then John began the exposition of chapter one. It is grand to see folks eagerly soaking up the sound doctrine.

For those worried about where the young people are, let me assure you they are both here and interested. As I looked over the audience, maybe 15% are over 60. The remainder are mainly in the 25-45 age group along with a large group of teens. The children's work is in another building but from the number of young couples present no doubt there is a full house there too. Over the past several years, this has been the general ratio of most of our meetings. Don't despair for the future of the so-called grace movement--at least the network of which we are a part.

A good group has gathered with us via PalTalk. If you can join us tomorrow, by all means do so.

Every conference is different. This one is off to a rousing start--even though it has rained most of the day.


P.S. My Arizona grand children are here. I don't get to see them nearly often enough, but when I do they make my heart rejoice to see how they are growing up to be fine young people.

Friday, February 13, 2009

California In the Morning

I traveled to San Juan Capistrano yesterday, arriving at John Wayne Airport about 3:00 p.m. local time. The trip began about 7:00 a.m. Central Time with a long “to do” list before I could depart. Not a great way to start a trip!

As usual, I’m staying with Ted and Debbie Marlof. Elbert and Luawana Ray picked me up at the airport—I arrived sometime after they did—and took me to my “home away from home.” Nice to have some “Chicago folk” joining us for what is always a delightful, refreshing conference in the California sun.

Very early this morning, Ted’s phone rang. “Who is calling this time of the morning?!” Hey, we were still working on our first cup of coffee; Debbie hadn’t even left for work yet. What was going on with the early morning caller? Ted wasn’t amused and let the answering machine get it.

The experience reminded me of a verse I hadn’t thought about in awhile: Proverbs 27:14. It reads: “He that blesseth his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, it shall be counted a curse to him.”

This rather humorous proverb is pointing to a simple lack of common courtesy. Even if he means well, this friend’s timing is way off. There is a proper time for everything—including hearty greetings—but this man evidently doesn’t know or doesn’t care. Such a person is tone-deaf to the sensitivities of friendship. The idea behind the proverb is that we should be sensitive to how other people feel. Think about them before you speak.

I Corinthians 13:4-5 tells us that charity “is kind” and “doth not behave itself unseemly.” Ephesians 4:32 exhorts us to “be kind, tender hearted.” Courtesy is nothing more than the practical application of Christian love and esteem to the ordinary affairs of life. The dictionary calls it “excellence of manners” and “polite behavior.” It is a combination of tact, timing, sensitivity, and kindness. Courteous people are known not only by what they do and say, but also by what they don’t do and don’t say.

Admittedly, this virtue may not seem as noble as courage or as important as integrity. But when analyzed, courtesy is impossible without a whole host of other virtues, including patience, forgiveness, self-control and humility.

In a very real sense, the test of courtesy is the bad manners of others. Anyone can be courteous to nice people. It’s how you respond to the louts of the world that makes all the difference. That’s a good thing to remember the next time someone calls you at 6:15 in the morning!


Monday, February 9, 2009

Home & Reading

Just a quick note to report that little Noah has responded well to treatment and should be home soon. David and Stacy were given a rather extensive "cpr for infants" course to prepare them for the transition. They are doing well; grandma is still jittery!

I travel to Detroit tomorrow to make five more television programs. I'll be back Wednesday to teach the Book of John that evening and then fly to California on Thursday for the conference next weekend. By the way, the conference will be on PalTalk, so if you can join us that would be great. John Verstegen and my son, Rick, will be joining me teaching Ephesians.

Some folks from here will be on the same flight so it will be nice to have a bit of company. They have planned a "Christian tour" for that afternoon to see a couple of famous California site--the Crystal Cathedral and Azzuza Street Mission (sort of like going to see Ground Zero--curiosity plus voyeurism!). If Dan shows up, we'll probably have to visit a cemetery or two along the way!

San Juan Capistrano is one of my favorite places to visit. For one thing, it has a wonderful Italian restaurant that has the best lazanua I have ever tasted, and then there is the ocean (I love the water, even if it isn't the Gulf of Mexico!). Most of all, however, is the opportunity to enjoy fellowship with saints who are good friends. It always is a refreshing time for me, personally.

I am reading Harry Dent's latest book. Dent is the most amazing economist I have ever come across. He has put together an analysis formula based on the application of the generational concepts developed by Strauss and Howe in the 1980's. This application of the generational cycles opens an understanding of what is going on in the culture about us that is amazingly accurate. Those who have hear me teach the "Dots, Lines and Circles" studies know that the cyclical pattern of national life is based squarely on Biblical declarations of how God established the life of a nation to function. Admittedly this is not a subject commonly addressed in either Scriptural or Economic/political/social studies--but it is Scripturally grounded and historically demonstrable.

My interest in this topic has focused on gaining an understanding of the times we life in, where our culture is headed and how to position the work of the ministry to be most effective both now and in the future. It is a strange thing, but true nonetheless, that church leaders in general look to the past twenty years or so to plot their future course. Understanding this Scriptural approach allows us to look to the future with the confidence of the sons of Issachar, "men that had understanding of the times" (I Chron. 12:32).

The implications of the advances in thinking represented by Howe, Strauss and Dent are almost universally overlooked by civic leaders on the left, right and center of the spectrum. The inmates continue to run the asylum, as demonstrated by the current economic calamity. While clear answers are on the table, parochial interest simply ignore them. It is this narcissisticly induced blindness that leads our nation. It is the same with the truth of God's Word rightly divided: there it sits in plain view, but simply ignored by spiritual leaders more interested in sitting in the rubble created by satisfying fleshly goals of religious existentialism.

The course of a nation and its response to each cycle it passes through is determined by the amount of sound doctrine that resides in and thus influences the populous of that nation. It is on this point that we have the responsibility and privilege to proclaim the unadulterated, undiluted message of grace by every means possible. That's the way to do our part. We thank God for our friends and partners who join us in the campaign "to make all men see."

In light of the above, it was encouraging Sunday afternoon to have a meeting with a good group of volunteers who are interested in advancing our Internet presence. They had many good ideas and the enthusiasm to see them brought to fruition. Stay tuned!


Thursday, February 5, 2009

A Bitter-Sweet Day

I got a call this morning from Cynthia telling me that little Noah is being transferred to a specialized children’s hospital NIC unit. It seems he has developed a heart murmur that has worsened. Don’t know exactly what the situation is at the moment, but since the doctors didn’t seem to be overly excited, I trust it is something that can be managed successfully.

Grandma was pretty upset, which is to be expected. Even the smallest problem for a little one tugs at the heart strings. We appreciate your prayers for mom, dad and grandma!

I actually had a rather lengthy comment almost ready to post when I received the above information. My wisdom on the use of FaceBook and Tweetering will have to wait!

My day has been largely been spent making radio for Shorewood and GSB—both weekly and daily programs. What a privilege it is to proclaim the rightly divided Word via the media. So, today is a bit bitter-sweet!

When I learned that I had cancer, a friend sent me a message I have posted on my office wall: “You never know that Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have. When Jesus is all you have, then you discover He really is all you need!”


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Welcome Noah Avery!

Congratulations to David and Stacy on the arrival of their third son (and our eighth grand child) this morning! Arriving about 9:30 a.m., he weighed in at 7 pounds 6 ounces, making him the "light weight" of the trio. He, mom and dad are all doing well and we are grateful for another member of the family. Grandma and brothers are awaiting his homecoming later this week.

David's brothers, Rick and Jody, both had twins as their first children. David and Stacy have gone the "three boy" route, the path Cynthia and I traveled. We still have a plaque in our hall that declares, "A boy is the only thing God can use to make a man." We look forward to Noah growing into manhood and living for and serving our Saviour.

The first step of getting him born is done; next is getting him born into the family of God!