Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Random Thoughts

Some random thoughts to go with your morning cup of coffee, or cappuccino or espresso or latte, or whatever.

Let me stand in line to congratulate all of the graduates from the Class of 2010. For some it was more of a challenge and a struggle to earn your diploma, but your perseverance was rewarded. You didn’t give up or drop out, but stayed the course. And you received what you perspired to achieve. Congratulations.

To my fellow citizens as we remember our fallen soldiers on this Memorial Day, what a debt of gratitude we owe! Those who have sacrificed their lives for the sake of freedom deserve our greatest respect. Let us live and use our blood-bought freedom responsibly, so that their deaths will not be in vain.

And, of course, we also remember with a special affection our loved ones who have gone before us. Whether it’s been decades or just days, the loss of someone close never fully heals. May the comfort and peace of the Lord Almighty strengthen you and help you as you allow Him to uphold you with His righteous right hand.

I’m going to put an early plug in for your fall reading material. A friend of mine, Shane Kastler, who preached our revival services back in March, has written a book due for release on October 1. I had the opportunity to read the manuscript last week and will tell you that if you like Civil War history, you’ll like this book. And if you love to see God’s providence and grace on display, you’ll love this book. It’s a biographical sketch of the spiritual journey of the notorious Confederate General, former slave trader and Ku Klux Klan member Nathan Bedford Forrest. You can even pre-order the book on It’s entitled Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Redemption.

Once in a while, especially when I have some frustrations or feel like I’m needing some explanations, I turn to the book of Job in the Bible and read chapters 38-42. Talk about a reality check! I never cease to be amazed at the sovereignty and strength of God. Read these chapters for yourself sometime, preferably aloud, and see if God’s revelation of Himself in wisdom, majesty, power and glory does not drop you to your knees in humility, repentance and worship. As the writer of Ecclesiastes says, “Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few” (Ecc. 5:2).

Sometimes when I get a cup of coffee at the QuikMart, I also pick up some Little Debbie Frosted Donuts for 75 cents. But don’t tell my wife.

Last year I complained about the time involvement in helping coach my son’s Bantams 1 baseball team. We had several practices and games rained out, so I felt I was always on the phone with other coaches and parents rescheduling and rearranging. It just seemed like it was more work than I had expected. Beyond that, our team did not win a single game all season, so I wonder whether or not the boys were learning anything or if I was a decent coach or not. But truth be told, I love the kids and I love baseball, and am enjoying coaching Toby’s T-ball team and helping Quinton Drone – who’s doing a great job, by the way – with this year’s Bantam 2 team. It also helps when you win the first two games of the season.

Somewhere in the back of my head I still have this crazy thing going on that I’d like to learn how to play the guitar. I mean, I’m not talking about becoming a rock star or anything, but if I could just play some worship songs or learn to lead on some children’s music, that’d be enough. I’m trying to decide whether or not to take a friend up on an offer to buy an acoustic-electric guitar for about $200. It would either give me the motivation to move forward, or be a waste of the equivalent of about 267 packages of Little Debbie Frosted Donuts. I’m not sure which.
Hope your day’s a little less random than mine. Hey, why not come to church on Sunday? Lord willing, I’m planning to focus in on a message about what to do when somebody does you wrong. I’ll even put on a pot of coffee for you if you’d like, but I don’t do the frilly drinks.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Finding Noah's Ark

Did you see the news story recently that some archaeologists claim to have found the remnants of Noah’s Ark? In April a group of Chinese and Turkish explorers announced they had discovered the remains of a wooden structure on Mt. Ararat in eastern Turkey they say is the legendary boat. “It’s not 100 percent that it is Noah’s Ark, but we think it is 99.9 percent that this is it,” said Yeung Wing-Cheung of the Noah’s Ark Ministries International, the research team that made the find.

Not that it’s been unusual throughout the years for such claims. CBS even aired a two-hour prime time special in 1993 called, “The Incredible Discovery of Noah’s Ark.” Turns out that the thrilling testimony of the explorer who saw the ark and recovered a piece of it was all a hoax. The “explorer” was a paid actor, and the authentic piece of ark timber was a piece of pine soaked in soy sauce.

So what to make of this new discovery? While I would be glad to know that the biblical record of the ark was validated by real archaeological evidence, it would not strengthen my faith in Christ and His Word. And if the ark is never found my faith will not be weakened in any measure. God’s Word is enough. I don’t need scientific confirmation for my trust in Him to be complete. If He’s said it in His Word, it’s true and I believe it.

Furthermore, such a discovery of biblical proportions as the ark will most likely not lead anyone to put their faith in Christ.

There’s a story Jesus told in Luke 16 about a rich man and a beggar. The rich man had lived life in luxury every day while the beggar sat at the rich man’s gate, covered with sores, longing to eat the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table. The beggar named Lazarus was carried upon his death to Abraham’s bosom, meaning the fellowship of believers in heaven. But the rich man went to hell, the place of the wicked.

The rich man in this parable looked up from his place of torment, and from far away saw Abraham with the beggar at his side. He pleaded for Abraham to have pity on him and to “send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.” The one who lived for his selfish indulges on earth, failing to show mercy to the poor, was now the one seeking mercy. But Abraham refused because of the “great chasm” that has been fixed between them, making it impossible for any to cross over from one to the other.

The rich man then begged Abraham to at least send Lazarus to his five brothers who were still alive and warn them, lest they, too, should come to this place of torment. Abraham said, “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.” The rich man said, “No, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.”

Now notice carefully Abraham’s reply: “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead” (see Luke 16:19-31).

There’s the point. Even if someone finds Noah’s Ark and confirms the record of the flood in Genesis, hard-hearted sinners will not repent and turn to Christ. Even if someone rises from the dead and warns unbelievers of their need to repent and receive salvation through Christ Jesus – they will refuse. Jesus was mercilessly beaten and crucified on a cross, yet He rose from the dead and showed himself to His disciples and “gave many convincing proofs that He was alive” (Acts 1:3), and yet the world still refuses to repent and believe in Him.

Moses and the Prophets and the New Testament writings – the holy Scriptures – are God’s infallible, unfailing, unchanging words of hope and salvation. The Bible in all its truthfulness, sufficiency and authority is already enough to “make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:15).

Finding the ark or not – what does it matter? Are you listening to God’s Word?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Staying Focused and Thankful

OK, I admit that I’m ready for summer. You remember when you were in school, and how hard it was to stay focused on your assignments when the weather started warming up? You started dreaming about your summer plans – playing baseball, going fishing, swimming, riding bikes, taking vacations, camping trips, just playing outside, or whatever. You started mentally checking out of school long before the bell rung on the last day of class. Teachers, you know I’m talking about your students, right? Not you, your students.

Well, I’m not in school anymore, but I’m there. We have some exciting things coming up this summer, and I’m ready for them.

One is Vacation Bible School. We’ve moved the dates back this year to July 11-16. Parents, you might want to put the newspaper down right now and take your red marker and circle those dates on your calendar. We’re hoping to see a great display of children from throughout the community learning about Jesus and coming to know Him personally through faith.

This year’s theme is “Saddle Ridge Ranch,” so round up yer cowboy hats and get ready to mosey on down to the ranch for VBS. We’re planning a special promotion event on July 8, and we’ll send out more details as the time draws near. Parents and grandparents, we would cherish the opportunity to show your children the love of God at this year’s VBS.

Then on Sunday, August 15, we’re excited to be celebrating Ridgway First Baptist Church’s 120 year anniversary. Some of you might remember when our first worship services were held back in 1890. If not, come anyway and help us rejoice in what God has done in us and through us and for us the past 120 years. And join us in the joy of anticipating His faithfulness for the next 120 and longer – or until Jesus comes again, whichever comes first.

I think it’s going to be a fun summer. Of course, on a more personal level there’s baseball and T-ball for our boys, which takes up pretty much all of May and June. T-ball games start this Saturday, May 15. If you’re looking for some cheap entertainment, come out to the ballpark Saturday mornings and watch the little ones chase the ball all over the field. It can be quite the show.

In July my youngest brother is getting married, so we’re looking forward to the wedding. And my mom and dad are looking forward to their 27-year-old son moving out of the house! That’s not entirely true, I don’t think. The nest is soon to be empty after nearly 39 years of teaching their four young to fly. No doubt there will be tears of joy mixed with a hint of sadness.

On his bride-to-be’s side the emotions will also be running high. Her brother had a motorcycle wreck over a year ago that nearly killed him. Instead he was left with severe brain damage and has been in and out of hospitals and rehab facilities ever since, needing constant care. He has made some significant improvements and shown some encouraging signs of recovery, and he’ll be in the wedding party.

July also brings some vacation time, and my boys are already eager to go, as are their parents. We’re hoping to visit with friends and family, as well as having a little time away by ourselves. There’s always something healthy and refreshing about getting away for a while, then coming back with renewed energy.

So I’ll try to keep focused on my current assignments before summer comes, and stay locked in when it does. I am so thankful for the many, many, countless blessings of my heavenly Father. His grace and mercy is simply overwhelming. I know I don’t deserve such kindness from His hand, but He’s been so good to me. When I think about my family and my church, all I can do is love God and pray that I’ll be faithful with all He’s entrusted to me.

And when I think about the immeasurable love of my Father who sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross in my place, to forgive all my sin and give the gift of everlasting life to all whose faith is in Him – I sometimes feel that my heart might burst with gratitude and joy. To God be the glory, great things He hath done!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Now Is the Time

Tomorrow may be too late. Now is the time to call upon the name of the Lord. “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts…” (Heb. 4:15). The urgency to call upon Jesus sounds forth for both individuals and nations.

As individuals we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). The Bible further says that the wages of our sin is death and hell (Rom. 6:23). Indeed, many are on broad road that leads to destruction (Mt. 7:13). If “nothing impure will ever enter [heaven], nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful” (Rev. 21:27), and if “all of us have become unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6), then we’re all individually destined for the eternal judgment of hell – unless we repent and call upon the name of the Lord.

The time is now to turn away from sin and receive the gift of everlasting life by believing in Jesus Christ, receiving Him as our Savior and following Him as Lord.

And as a nation who can deny that we’ve sinned against a Holy God? In our generation we have in essence told God that He is no longer welcome to influence our culture. We no longer acknowledge Him as the Creator who has endowed us with certain unalienable rights, as the signers of our Declaration of Independence did, nor do we claim firm reliance upon His protection as our Divine Providence. As a nation we no longer fear the Lord, nor do we urge one each other to humble ourselves before Him in repentance and seek His face as we once did.

When faced with perhaps the greatest crisis this nation has ever faced, the Senate adopted and President Abraham Lincoln issued a resolution proclaiming a day of national humiliation, fasting and prayer. Lincoln’s proclamation in 1863 contained some powerful language and a note of urgency appropriate for their day. I believe that urgency is equally appropriate for ours. In part the proclamation reads:

“And whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.

“And, insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment, inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!

“It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.”

There was a crisis in the land, and our leaders urged the nation to turn for help to Almighty God. Now is the time for our nation, likewise, to turn for help to God. We’re witnessing spiritual and moral decay like never before, and the problems plaguing our country today may well be “but a punishment inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation.” We need to pray now, because tomorrow may be too late. The ultimate downfall of our nation may occur in our generation – unless we repent and call upon the name of the Lord.

Lincoln’s call to humiliation, fasting and prayer ended with a word of confidence that God would hear and answer their cry for help: “All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine teachings, that the united cry of the Nation will be heard on high, and answered with blessings, no less than the pardon of our national sins, and the restoration of our now divided and suffering Country, to its former happy condition of unity and peace.”

May we repent and call upon the name of the Lord with the same urgency and hope in the God who answers prayer.