Me with my lovely wife, Kathy:

Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve Thoughts, Especially for my church family:

It's New Years Eve.
For me the transition from one thing to another is palpable. Right now my son is off finishing up business in the Global Outreach Department of the church where he ministers. In a ministry the size of theirs, tomorrow will be too late; certain things have to be finished today so that important good deeds can be done in the New Year. The accounting folk at Chris's church remind us of, and reinforce, a universal truth--What we do today always leads to what we can do tomorrow.
There is another reason that I feel the transition. Before the day is done I will have departed my son's house. Last week with Chad and his family, and this week with Chris and his, have been wonderful, in a way that only a grandparent can understand. Half a work-week of driving is in front of us. I expect to use a good portion of it doing just that, working--laptop + cellphone + place to sit = office. At the moment nothing else is going on, so I'm already working. As another preacher famously said, "Sunday's Comin'."
Often times sermons coalesce around a question, or a contrast. I'm note sure yet which category to put this thought in, but in rough form, here it is in interrogative form: Do we spend too much time thinking of what we can do, and not enough about what we should do? I'm thinking not only about Sunday's sermon, but 2010 in my life and the life of my church. Since I'll turn 60 in a few months I'm thinking as well of the outcome of this mostly spent life of mine--but I'll avoid the maudlin. I'm thinking of the disciples looking in a little boy's lunchbox and concluding--by mathematic certainty--that they couldn't feed the 5,000, and Jesus insistence that they consider what they should do. Or, Esther very correctly telling her uncle that if she appeared uninvited before the king it would likely lead to her death--pretty good support for "I can't"--and Mordcai's insistence on, "Yes, but you should." Or Daniel, faced with the King's trumped up edict against prayer to anyone other than the King, himself, who refused to say "I can't."--sounds reasonable to me--and instead said, "I should continue my pattern of prayer unchanged." Many of you readers will remember my son's message about Jonathan, who with his armor-bearer crawled up the cliff to the Philistine camp. The question, "Can we?" was ludicrous--on a level with, "If we feed pigs bird-seed, can they fly?" Clearly he was motivated by should rather than could, and his energy came from a potential resource that we desperately need to factor into our equations for future plans, "perhaps God."
For the past couple of years at Covington Bible we have begun the year with serious doubts about whether we could achieve the budget put before us. God has enabled us to finish each year in the black. Adopting a yearly budget always puts us on a spectrum. On one end are the disciples looking at the little boy's lunch, flanked by charts and spreadsheets saying, "Here is what we can do." On the other end of the spectrum there is Jonathan, already climbing, waving a beckoning arm to his companion, saying, "I'd rather die on the cliff doing what I should do, rather than rot back in the camp doing what I can--PERHAPS GOD . . . !"

In my personal life what should I do? How does my conclusion about what I should do stretch the limits of what I conclude that I can do?
In my family . . . ?
In my career . . . ?
In my ministry . . . ?
In (fill in the blank) . . . ?
Collectively, in the life of my church . . . ?
The Spirit-inspired author of Esther does his job so effectively, that though God is never mentioned in the book I cannot hear the scene played out with out hearing God's name. Perhaps (God) has brought you to a position of royalty for such a time as this." (Esther 4:14)

Clearly we are here for a reason. What should we do?
I'd appreciate your input.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Some Christmas Foolishness--Really, nothing serious here:

My Brother-in-law sent this to me. Make sure that you read below the picture:


This explanation was with the picture:
"Good news is that I truly out did myself this year with my Christmas decorations. The bad news is that I had to take him down after 2 days. I had more people come screaming up to my house than ever.Great stories. But two things made me take it down.First, the cops advised me that it would cause traffic accidents as they almost wrecked when they drove by.Second, a 55 year old lady grabbed the 75 pound ladder almost killed herself putting it against my house and didn't realize it was fake until she climbed to the top (she was not happy). By the way, she was one of many people who attempted to do that. My yard couldn't take it either. I have more than a few tire tracks where people literally drove up my yard."

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Manhattan Declaration--and it has nothing to do with an Atomic Bomb:

A number of leaders from the various branches of Christendom gathered in Manhattan to issue a clear statement about a number of cultural/social/ethical issues that threaten the ethical fabric of our world today.
The Manhattan Declaration begins with a summary of the impact of Christianity on nations where the shadow of the cross has fallen. From the rescue of abandoned children in Rome, to the preservation of learning in the middle ages, to the opposition to slavery, to the civil rights movement of the last century, the church has, in spite of its "imperfections and shortcomings," been a blessing in this world.
Continuing this tradition of standing for righteousness, the declaration speaks to issues related to
  • Life: The declaration speaks against a "culture of death [that] inevitably cheapens life in all its stages and conditions by promoting the belief that lives that are imperfect, immature or inconvenient are discardable."
  • Marriage: The signatories endorse the view that marriage is a unique institution. "Marriage then, is the first institution of human society - indeed it is the institution on which all other human institutions have their foundation. In the Christian tradition we refer to marriage as "holy matrimony" to signal the fact that it is an institution ordained by God, and blessed by Christ."
    With compassionate firmness Christians must resist the various attempts to redefine, or diminish the respect for marriage.
  • Religious Liberty: "religious liberty is grounded in the character of God Himself . . . the right to religious freedom has its foundation in the example of Christ Himself and in the very dignity of the human person created in the image of God. . . . No one should be compelled to embrace any religion against his will, nor should persons of faith be forbidden to worship God according to the dictates of conscience. . . .

Perhaps most significant is the commitment to resist the erosion of ethical standards in our culture. Commenting on the dual-citizen-status of God's people the declaration says, ". . . we take seriously the Biblical admonition to respect and obey those in authority. . . . The biblical purpose of law is to preserve order and serve justice and the common good; yet laws that are unjust - and especially laws that purport to compel citizens to do what is unjust - undermine the common good, rather than serve it. . . ." The declaration goes on to promise noncompliance to government edicts that compel actions that violate these Biblical standards.

"We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar's. But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God's."

You can read the Manhattan Declaration in its entirety at http://www.demossnews.com/manhattandeclaration/press_kit/manhattan_declaration_signers

The leaders who put the Manhattan Declaration together didn't ask me to sign it, but I do agree with it, at least enough so that I would. I'll have more to say in days to come. The guys who signed the MD, as well as the rest of you, are welcome to comment.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Helping People Do Right, or Helping Them to Feel Better About Doing Wrong?


In doing some research for Sunday's message I ran across an excellent article related to idolatry and psychological health, http://jamiehart.typepad.com/files/idols-of-the-heart-powlison.pdf

Here is a sample:

The solution, without exception, is to offer different and
presumably more workable idols, rather than repentance unto
the Bible’s Christ! Secularistic therapies teach people
eufunctional idols, idols which do “work” for people and
“bless” them with temporarily happy lives (Psalm 73).
So, for example, self-esteem is nurtured as the replacement
for trying to please unpleasable others, rather than esteem for
the Lamb who was slain for me, a sinner. Acceptance and love
from new significant others, starting with the therapist, create
successful versions of the fear of man and trust in man rather
than teaching essential trust in God. Self-trust and self-confidence
are boosted as I am taught to set expectations for myself
to which I can attain. The fruit looks good but is fundamentally
counterfeit. Believers in false gospels are sometimes allowed
to flourish temporarily.
Therapy systems without repentance at their core leave the
idol system intact. They simply rehabilitate and rebuild fundamental
godlessness to function more successfully.
The Bible’s idolatry motif diagnoses the ultimately selfdestructive
basis on which happy, healthy, and confident
people build their lives (eufunctional idols), just as perceptively
as it diagnoses unhappy people, who are more obviously
and immediately self-destructive (dysfunctional idols).

I have observed, in my time as a pastor, a shift in the counselling community--a trend that is present in Christian as well as secular counseling--from helping people to do what is right to helping them to feel good about the way they are.
Read the article.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Follow-up on Sunday's message:

Last Sunday, 10/25, we looked at the defeat of the Egyptian goddesses and gods, in the ten plagues God used to bring about the relaease of his people. Here is a video that does a good job creating the mood of the Exodus.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bl8dazS0FeQ

Covington Bible Church, once again, presents the Live nativity:



If you live in our area we hope that you will join us one of the evenings, September 18-20.

The LIVE NATIVITY is a presentation of the birth of Christ, and what it means to us. Be our guest in the Village of Bethlehem and view scenes including:

  • The Annunciation to Mary,
  • The Stable where Christ was born,
  • The Visit of the Magi, and more.

Visiting the Life Nativity will take about hour, but many people choose to stay and visit in Bethlehem or find out more about what these events mean to each of us.
It is a great family outing--help your children understand the real meaning of Christmas.

To find out more, write.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Here we go again: Why would a Baptist pastor want to burn Bibles?

You have probably heard it by now, but if you haven't gotten the news about the church in North Carolina that is planning to burn Bibles on Halloween, go to the following link and watch the video: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/video/2009/10/13/VI2009101301831.html

Or you can read the story here: http://www.mercurynews.com/weird-news/ci_13567852

Nearly four decades ago when I began ministry, I knew about the King James Only movement. My hope was that when that generation died we would be done with them. We aren't. They have multiplied like rabbits--yeah, verily they hath been exceeding prolific in the spread of their view of scripture.

A couple of folk from the church where I pastor ran into some of these King James zealots recently. Thankfully, these devotees of what they call the "Authorized Version" aren't planning a Bible-burning, though I figure they wouldn't do much to talk the North Carolina pastor out of his event. One accusation, among others, is that modern translations like the NIV or NASB somehow downplay the Deity of Christ. Jesus Christ and Who He is are at the core of my faith, so I don't take those accusations lightly.
Here are a couple of good articles, if you want to read further:

Monday, September 28, 2009

A Video About God's Plan, & a Couple of Other Web Resources:

I recently, presented a message about the mess our world in. It was the first message in a three-part series on the Good News. The cause of the mess, both out there in the world, and in here--our hearts--is the same, sin. The remedy is likewise the same. Romans 8 shows all creation waiting for the redemption of God's people to be completed. As we are transformed so is the world.


I also had the privilege to share a through the Bible session with Coffee Break, The ladies ministry that my wife helps to lead.


Since I have been thinking of the global impact of sin, and the broad stroke view of God's work, the video below hit a responsive chord with me. Anytime you can get from Genesis to Revelation in less than 7 minutes it is worth the trip. Thanks to Shawn Thornton for posting the video on his blog: http://pastorshawn.com/







Here is another resource. At first I thought this one was pretty off the wall. I mean, who uses a $20,000 prize to encourage folk to learn the Bible? But after I looked at it I found it to be a pretty good presentation of the Ten Commandments. It is a cyber opportunity to take the hand of the Law and be led to Christ.


http://www.tenandwin.com/index.html


Finally, Evantell has provided some online training in evangelism. There is a mix of video, exercises and text. There are some specialized programs for youngsters, parents, etc. You will likely find one that meets your needs. If you like, you can print workbooks, as well. They do ask you to register. I did, and they haven't bugged with emails, etc.


ACT 111, one gospel. one person. one day.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I figure that most of the readers of this blog--both of you--are also readers of Something to Think About. Since I don't have any fresh blog-fodder, and on the off chance that someone unfamiliar with STTA will wander this way, I'm posting two reeent STTAs. Both of them are about some recent very uncivil actions that have been in news.

Are people less polite than they used to be?
I’m not sure. I figure that athletes have argued with officials as long as there have been games—“Are you blind? That discus was clearly in bounds!” Politicians are well known for spouting off, and much worse. Julius Caesar would have been glad to merely have his veracity challenged. When have you not known rich spoiled entertainers to act like—well—rich spoiled entertainers?
The essence of good manners is not snootily looking down one’s nose at people who don’t know which fork to use to eat their escargot. The Lord Jesus Christ gave the standard of civilized behavior in a compact statement: “. . . treat people the same way you want them to treat you.” (Matthew 7:12) The news the last couple of days are but the tip of the impolite iceberg. Way too many people turn the Lord’s maxim upside-down, “I demand that you treat me the way I want to be treated; I don’t care how it makes you feel.”
I’m not sure if folk are less polite than they used to be. I am confident that we are less considerate than we ought to be.
It’s STTA.

Joe Wilson, Serena Williams, and Kanye West have actually done us a favor. In case you haven’t seen the news lately, these three have been in the spotlight for their outbursts of impolite activity. I’m not saying their outbursts are entertaining, but the coverage of their antics has diverted part of the news from the decidedly non-entertaining subjects of healthcare and the economy.
Could it be, though, that the lack of polite behavior and our nation’s economic woes come from a common source?
If you look below the surface you find the common denominator of selfishness—whatever it costs, however it may affect you, I want what I want.
And there are people who say the Bible is irrelevant to our culture today.
It’s STTA.

Here is an interesting website dealing with this issue:
http://www.civilityproject.org/

Thursday, August 27, 2009

I was not a fan of Ted Kennedy's politics. He was the leader of the Left. I am mostly a conservative. While he may have argued against various expensive, and expansive, programs at different time in his career, he was clearly part of the movement that stretched the US government envelope in the direction of bigger government, impacting, even controlling, a steadily increasing portion of the personal lives of US citizens. In his younger years Senator Kennedy became well known for his failure to control various appetites. I regretted, and continue to regret the fact that the well-known politician was clearly part of the redefining of what is accepted, and even expected, morally and ethically, in the realm of public service. Apparently, in his latter years, the Senator gained the victory over some of these personal demons.

I did, however, observe a trait in Kennedy's public career that is admirable; one we could use more of in politics on a local, state, and federal level; one that many conservative and even Christian leaders need to learn. Ted Kennedy once spoke at Liberty University. He did not compromise on his liberal views, but he made his points in a gracious way. There was no doubt that the late Rev. Jerry Fallwell was his political counter-pole, yet he graciously responded to Fallwell's invitation and behaved like a gentleman. (BTW, he was treated like one, while on the Liberty campus.) In the Senate Orin Hatch was close friends with Kennedy. Again these men were, on most issues, political enemies, yet they were united by a profound friendship. Brent Alderman comments on this unexpected trait in the Lion of Senate, referring to the remarkable friendship between Kennedy and conservative columnist, Cal Thomas. http://capminmd.wordpress.com/ I'm not suggesting that we compromise on matters that are non-negotiable, or that we adopt a go-along-to-get-along mode. I am appealing for a more civil tone. I fear that too many of us look to Sean "Never-Let-Them-Finish-A-Sentence" Hannity rather than to our Lord, Who though He clearly confronted evil, was always more concerned about people's souls than their politics.

This is not just a concept that I am recommending for the big guys up in Washington. My little part of the world is currently involved in an argument over consolidation. A friend told me that some former friends were still divided because of the last consolidation vote, twenty-five years ago. My church, not long ago had to make a decision related to our building. Unfortunately, in the discussions leading to the decision, eternal values sometimes were sacrificed for stuff that won't even last a lifetime. Even when talking politics over a cup of coffee, I need to maintain a civil tone.
  • We need to remember that hindsight has shown us that there are times when we are sure that we are right, but we aren't.

  • We need to be reminded that the person who holds to whatever ridiculous view we are arguing against is a creature of God, a person who bears His image, and one for whom Christ died. How can we have such disdain for one whom Christ loves so much?

  • Ultimately, the answer is not the president, senator, governor, or dog-catcher we elect, but the Savior we serve.
Last night I prayed for Senator Kennedy's family. I encourage you to the same--whatever your political persuasion.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Family Time:

We are finishing up a week at Sandbridge, near VA Beach.
It has been one of those rare times when all of us have been able to be together.

We have had perfect weather and a wonderful time.

Chad and Tanisha & crew leave in the morning for PA. They'll be packing up to move to Louisiana. They leave on Tuesday. Chris and Nancy and their two fly back to Texas on Saturday, as we'll be driving back to Covington.
Above: Chris's daugheter, Kira, Kendal, Chris's son, Silas,
Madeline, Carringtom, Christopher, Tanisha & Chad, H&K, and
Chris and Nancy.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sand & surf & family:




Here we are at Sandbridge, near Virginia Beach.


Christopher is trying to catch a wave, while his uncle watches.

Three of my grandkids found a memaid lying on the beach
Kira running from a wave, and Carrington looking more grown up than her dad or I are comfortable with.
It is a lovely start to a week with family.















Thursday, August 13, 2009

Michael Vick apparently has another advisor:

Interesting connections abound, in this life.
Though I'm not sure if he has been reading, I've been offering advice to former--and probably future--NFL quarterback Michael in this column. At the same time that I was advising Vick, I've been receiving advice from another football great, Tony Dungy. We are going to be using Tony Dungy's book, Quiet Strength, as the guide for our study in our Men's Prayer Breakfast series this year. I hear that Michael and Tony have been getting together. I say "Amen!" to that.

About the same time that I got news that these two football stars were hanging out together I was reminded of the importance of reaching out to those who are hurting, who have been hurt. and even those who have hurt others, if they are willing to repent.

Michael, I have been impressed with Dungy's dedication to the Lord, his desire to right the thing, and his commitment to service. I encourage you to hang with the man.

Tony, thanks.
When we invest in others we are doing the Lord's work. BTW, if you are going to be in the neighborhood in the next several months, let me know. I'd love for you to have breakfast with my guys. Bring Michael along. He used to play ball just down the road at Blacksburg. We'll have some good biscuits and gravy, and a great time in the Lord.

Our first Men's Prayer Breakfast is September 12, at 8:00.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Power of Prayer:

Many of you let me know of your prayer on my behalf in relation to the funeral last Saturday.

Thank you.

Daniel was a young man of exceptional promise. He had a passion for sharing the Good News that is way too rare. He was a budding scholar, learning Hebrew, Greek and Theology. He was also a naive youngster, who plunged ito situations he should have avoided. I'm not sure the precise route, but one of those plunges proved deadly.
In his book When Bad Things Happen to Good People, Rabbi Harold Kushner says that the question of evil--especially as stated in the book's title--is the only Theological question that really matters. Of course, I don't agree with that assessment (nor with the conclusion of the book) but I do appreciate the emphasis. It is a question that often trips up unbelivers, who may be moving toward the cross, and it often causes the believer's ship of faith to wreck on the reefs of doubt.
I felt that Daniel's death required wrestling with the issue.

Part of the problem is that we assume that what think--or more accurately feel--as bad really is. Not necessarily.
Here is a summary of some of what I shared:

What we want is peace . . . It doesn’t come as a result of more knowledge. It comes from greater intimacy with and greater trust in the God of the Universe.
Peace will not come as a result of knowing something more; it will come as a result of trusting Someone.

Here are 4 things we need to know:

  • Know that you don’t know, and know this, that those who claim to have a greater knowledge don’t know either.
    Anybody can claim ignorance. I’m ignorant about far more than I’m knowledgeable about.
    A greater level of maturity leads us to know what we don’t know. That is a powerful piece of knowledge.
    The greatest maturity of knowledge is when one comes to the place that he knows that there are some things that in the here and now are unknowable. It is beyond us. I read a moment ago that passage of scripture from Romans. “who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? 35) Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? 36) For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.”
    I would submit, that knowing everything that we want to know about this tragedy is beyond us. I’m not saying that looking for more answers is wrong. In fact, if I have the opportunity, I’ll probably look into it some more. What we absolutely need to know is that no matter how much we know, we will never get to the place where this whole thing will make perfect sense. That is beyond us.
    What we want is peace . . . It doesn’t come as a result of more knowledge. It comes from greater intimacy with and greater trust in the God of the Universe.
    Peace will not come as a result of knowing something more; it will come as a result of trusting Someone.
  • Know that evil is an ever present reality in this world.
    Now don’t check-out on me, because what I am about to say is definitely not the final word, whether the ultimate attack was from outside of Daniel, or whether it was from a battle that raged within his own heart and mind, on August 1, 2009 Satan won a victory.

    I told you to not check-out, because we need to know that any victory that our great enemy won was only temporary—even illusory. His ultimate defeat is sure, and for Daniel Aaron Livick it is already accomplished.

    Let me put 2 passages of scripture about death together:
    Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15) and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. (Hebrews 2:14-15, NASB95)
    54) But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. 55) “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56) The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; 57) but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:54-57, NASB95)
  • We need to know that while death is an enemy, it is also a tool in the hand of God to accomplish His will, and do what is best for His child.
    In 1 Kings 14 the prophet Ahijah uttered this strange prophecy about King Jeroboam’s young son. He was dying. 13) “All Israel shall mourn for him and bury him, for he alone of Jeroboam’s family will come to the grave, because in him something good was found toward the Lord God of Israel in the house of Jeroboam. (1 Kings 14:13, NASB95)
    The rest of the King’s family would suffer through the coming calamity . . .
    In a couple of New Testament passages it appears that death is the Heavenly Father’s ultimate tool to keep His child as His own. He will not allow his child to continue in sin, but will take him or her to Himself.
  • Know that it is ight to take a chance and invest in people—that is the essence of love.
    Length of life is not a valid criteria. I would venture to say that there will be more people in heaven because of Daniel’s witness during his short life than there will be as a result of the 80 year long lives of most Christians.
    Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 15:58, NASB95)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Sadness and Bewilderment:

Our church family has been clobbered with devastating news.
A young man who appeared, to me, to be on track to becoming a Bible teacher of rare ability, and even rarer passion, has been taken from us at the young age of 24.
It would have been bad enough if his death had been the result of a car wreck, or cancer, but his death had a bizarre element to it, unexplainable. There are many unanswered questions. Every time I think I have a handle on it, something else comes up in my mind or some new piece of information surfaces. I'm sorting out what I know, and what I don't know. My pile of ignorance is way higher than my comfort level.

I'm acutely aware that I'm the one folk are looking to for answers. I don't have any, or many.

Perhaps that is the answer. Job didn't know either. God told him to trust.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Does He still have value?

As is often the case, AOL is following and exploiting the popular media. This time it was about someone I've been looking at through my keyhole. There is a nice, in a football sort of way, picture of Michael Vick. Next to it there is a question: "Does Quarterback still have value?" Let me cut to the chase, "Yes, yes he does!" And it has nothing to do with whether Vick can still pass and run, and elude defenses.
OK, in AOL's defense, I need to let you know that if you click on the link it opens up an article about Fantasy Football; the question has to do with whether or not Vick will be a good pick for a fantasy team. In a way though, I still find it subtly disturbing. People playing a pretend version of a game deciding whether a pretend version of a real person has worth, and doing it based on a rather narrow set of criteria in real life. That's cold.
All of us, talented athletes, and those who only passed Phys. Ed. because the only way to flunk was not to dress-out, need to understand that our worth does come from our performance. I am worthy because God says I am. I'm created in His image and He loves me and that gives my life worth.
I've been reading Tony Dungy's book, Quiet Strength. That lesson of where ones worth comes from is a question with which he struggled. And the answer he came to was "Not football." It is not the answer for you, either, Mike, and for me it has nothing to do with how well I preach.
I'm not saying we shouldn't do what we do well. We just need to understand that that isn't the source of our worth.

By the Way: I'm still expecting--though I am wondering because it is taking so long--that invitation for a beer at the White House. I understand that Joe Biden drank a non-alcoholic beer substitute, at the recent beer-lubricated public-relations meeting. I guess that is a possibility, but to be honest why would I want to drink something that I don't like, just because it is a substitute for something else that I don't like either? Would the President be offended if I asked for Diet Dr. Pepper, or a cup of coffee?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

More words for Vick & I'm still waiting on my White House invite:

It's late, so just a quick word or two on doing good.
Ephesians counsels theives--I'm not accusing you of stealing; stay with me for a minute--to go get a job. Their goal should be to not only meet their own and their family's needs, but to have a surplus so they can help others.
I say, "Amen!" to Paul.
I'm going to give you credit, Michael. If and when you get that chance on the gridiron I figure you will be show some generosity. Any of us who are blessed to have regular incomes ought to do so.
When you do give to someone less fortunate than yourself, make sure it looks like you are helping them, not helping yourself look better. Jesus said a good bit about that in the first part of Matthew 6. One graphic line he used is about not letting one hand know that the other hand is giving someone a gift. I think that pretty much leaves out a publicity agent. Come to think of it, we preacher-types have to be careful about that one too. We sometimes "let slip" from the pulpit news about how we helped someone.
Maybe we can work on that one together. I figure there are some other folk who struggle with that one as well.

Speaking of struggling. I'm still not sure: When the President invites me over to sit down at the picnic table with a "cold-one," I'm still struggling for the right answer. I certainly don't want to be the cause of a needless decline in his his poll numbers, or mine.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Advice for Michael & Beer with the President:

I need to continue my advice for the former Virginia Tech star, and I need some help:

OK, Michael, first let's talk about debt.
First you don't want to get in it, at least no more than you are, or were. I say "were," because from TV commercials that promise to eliminate credit card or IRS debt, to celebrities who claim to need $10K a week just to live in spite of the fact that they owe $10 gazillion, it seems that our culture regards it as acceptable to not pay our debts--or at least to put debt retirement way down on our list of financial responsibilities.
If you get the job you are after, #1 on your list of things to do with your salary is not:
  1. To be seen with two lovely ladies at a posh New York restaurant.
  2. To by a car that costs more than most people's house.
  3. A new earring.
  4. Don't even think about buying a dog. (Adopt, maybe)
  5. For more on this matter listen to Dave Ramsey.

Psalm 15 speaks about the person of integrity keeping his word even when it costs him. Proverbs says that when we are debt we are servants of the one we owe (22:7).

The honest way to get free is to pay what you owe. In this regard we need to remember that not everything that is legal is right. Here is a headline to make:
"Second-chance Quarterback Makes Paying Debts #1 Priority."
Drive a used car. Live in a modest apartment. Buy your clothes at Walmart. You have no right to live high, while you have unpaid debts.

If people figure out you are serious about this, you'll get a lot of interviews.

(If anyone else is reading Michael's mail, translate the above to your own situation. One of the tragic transitions I have observed in my lifetime is how people have gone from asking the question, "What do I owe?" to the query, "How little can I get by with paying back?)

Help me out. I need advice.

I figure it is just a matter of time. I need to know what to do when President Obama invites me to the White House for a beer. We all know that his rapport with older preachers who are of a persuasion that used to be called "Fundamentalist" (before that word got ruined by the radical fringe). So I figure any day now at a Rose Garden press conference, my name will be mentioned--"I'm having my people get in touch with him to see if we can sit down and have a beer."

Here's my problem. I don't drink beer. I know that the Bible doesn't prohibit it, but I conclude, based on Biblical principles, that not drinking is the best course of action both for me personally, and as an example to others.
So do I turn President Obama down? My wife would never forgive me. She would love a trip to the White House. She doesn't drink beer either, (If alcohol becomes an option I figure she's be a wine person.) but I figure she'd get a courtesy invitation to talk decorating with Michelle.
Or maybe I show up and just kind of move the glass around--or maybe since I make less than $100K it would be served in the can or bottle. No doubt there is an under-secretary of style who makes such decisions.
Do I have an obligation to tell the Leader of the Free World about the dangers of alcohol? Some of my preacher brethren would think I had failed if I didn't.
Or should I memorize 1 Corinthians 9 and drink away? It seems that another group of my preacher-type brethren have concluded that unless I get over my alco-phobia I will never get to talk to upwardly-mobile movers and shakers like the Obamas. (Not to mention the good-ol-boy crowd, who emblazzon their brew preference on T-shirt, truck, and Junior's diaper bag.)

I'd appreciate advice as soon as possible Officer Crowley and Professor Gates are up. Sean Hannity is angling to be on deck. I need to be ready for the nod.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Some unasked for coaching for Michael Vick:

I'm a casual football fan--at best.
I don't keep up with the scores, who's playing what position, and there are aspects of the game I don't understand. OK, guys, go ahead, make fun of me. From time to time something about the game will get my attention, though. It was a long time ago, but being a kid from the suburbs of the Windy City, I enjoyed the Bears big run--Refrigerator Perry, Walter Peyton, Jim McMahon, Mike Singletary, and of course Iron Mike Ditka became fairly familiar names to me.
I follow college football even less than NFL, but when Michael Vick played for Virginia Tech, I would watch whenever I could. I was in awe. When he went to the NFL I figured he would get clobbered, broken up, crippled, but he continued some of the same escape-artist magic. Instead of being brought down by linebackers, and defensive-linemen, he became a victim of stupidity, arrogance, immaturity and just plain old-fashioned sin.
I just heard that the NFL commissioner has cleared Vick to play.
If you happen to see Michael at 7-11 please pass this on to him.

Michael, I read shortly after your arrest that you professed to trust the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior. I sincerely hope that is true. A lot of people will tell you that your sins can't be forgiven--or at least can't be forgiven that easily. Not so. Moses, David, Mary Magdalene, the woman taken in adultery, the thief on the cross, Peter, and Paul all give testimony to the contrary. Yes God forgives those who trust Christ. (John 3:16, Romans 10:9-13, and Ephesians 2:8-10)
Know that we are not forgiven because we change. We change because we are forgiven. Michael, if you have trusted Christ you don't want to be what you once were--the you that drove your life to the tragedy it became.
I figure you struggle. I know I do. The Apostle Paul recorded his conflict in Romans 7. Know that God has given us the resources for victory. Prayer, God's word, the support of God's people. The ability to build new Godly habits to replace the old wrong ones.
There is no doubt that you have an incredible gift. At least you had one. I know you desperately hope that you still do. I don't know you, but I hope you can still elude defenders and throw and run like you did. If you are sincere in your statements that you have changed, I hope someone gives you a chance. Know that if someone gives you a chance, that it is a gift and that it is chance. Nobody owes you anything. You are trying to reenter a profession that depends on people buying tickets and tuning in. Really you need not just one person to give you a chance, but a few million. If we do, don't make us regret it.
Maybe some people who read this will chime in with some thoughts of their own, but let me share with you some thoughts, not just for you, but for all of us. You see the Bible says that not just football stars, but all of us have received a gift from God. (See James 1:17)
I, and maybe some others, will share some specifics later, but all of us need to know that if what I have is a gift from God then what I get from investing that gift, ought not to be used selfishly. 2 Corinthians 5:15.
Stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

TEENWEEK Report:

Just briefly:
As I said in a previous post, our numbers have been down some this year, but we have great group of kids, and an outstanding bunch of leaders: We have several new additions to our staff.

My grandson pronounced tonight's message as awesome. I can't argue.

I heard reports of several teens who trusted the Lord this evening. There were 12-15 who responded to the invitation in some way.

Tomorrow we finish up at Jackson River Sport Complex. The band from Sunday, One Day Closer, will be back. John will be speaking again.

Thanks for praying.
hm

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

It's TEENWEEK!

I begin with the words to an old song, "I made it through the rain."
Sunday we began TEENWEEK. We were supposed to have a combination of kayak/canoe-ing and outdoor activities. I can't remember ever looking a weather report where the chance of precipitation was "100%," but when I looked at the forecast on Sunday morning that was the case. For mid-day the forecasters regarded rain as a certainty.
Thanks to the good work of the folk over at Faith Baptist, we were able to move the operation inside.
Last night we had nearly 140 teens over at Jackson River Sport Complex. I'll post some photos as soon as I'm able, but for now picture this: The picnic shelter at JRSC full of kids and leaders listening to a message about Real Love--God's love.
Tonight we are at Faith Baptist for mud and water-balloon games.
Wednesday at Clifton Middle School.
Thursday at JRSC--One Day Closer will make a return appearance.

for more info. go to ahteenweek.com

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Progress is really cool!



Here is Kathy where she spent almost a week at Good Samaritan Hospital in Lebanon PA. (Point of trivia: I understand that "Lebanon Bologna" refers to Lebanon PA, not the Near-Eastern country.) The staff at GSH were competent and very pleasant. I was able to spend the nights at Tanisha and Chad's house, about 15 minutes away. I think this was on Kathy's last day. She is surrounded by some of her favorite people--clockwise from upper right, Christopher, Madeline, Kendal and Carrington. We had just stopped in for a visit with Chad & Tanisha when we decided that Kathy needed to go to the ER. (Read previous posts for more info.)



I'm glad to say she is home now, improving.




We at CBC have been involved in a fairly major remodeling project. Our Worship-Center had not really had an upgrade since it was built, nearly 30 years ago. While I was away the CBC family made remarkable progress on this project. That might be significant.




The major part of the project involved removing the sheetrock ceiling and replacing it with a pine, tongue and groove ceiling. It is done, & it is lovely. Paiting is well underway, and carpet is going down this week.



Thanks to all who worked, and are working, so hard on this project.











Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Quick update on Kathy

Kathy was kind of worn down this morning. Better in early afternoon. Tired when I left this evening--up & down. Still has IV.
Thanks for the prayers.

Service--When It Is Needed:

(Report on Kathy at the end of this post)

If you have followed this blog for the last few days you know that I have spent a lot of time with people who help--nurses, aids, doctors, etc. I have very much appreciated the help that these folk have offered to Kathy & me. I think one reason I am so appreciative is I am very aware of the need that we have.
  • Kathy is dealing with pain. They offer relief.
  • We are dealing with issues that we don't all-together understand. They give us answers.
  • We afe beset with issues that tend to drive one to worry and be in despair. These folk offer the soothing message that things will likely be fine.

I appreciate the compassion, competence and concern that is offered.

I find some great lessons for the church in all of this. Your comments are welcome.

Kathy is progressing slowly. She is still hurting. She has been drinking some juice today. She has been for a walk 2x already today. No news on when she gets out.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Two kinds of progress: one quick & the other slow:

Kathy is doing OK.
The folk here at Good Samaritan Hosp., in Lebanon PA, have been very good to us. I think Kathy is improving, though not yet to the point that she feels it. She is still nothing by mouth. She enjoys her few ice-chips. She is quite sore. Getting up to go to the restroom is quite a chore. She walked 2x today out in the hall.
She is still on antibiotic and painkiller in her IV.
No word on when she gets out, yet.

Thanks to all for the calls, emails, flowers, etc. She hasn't been up to talking on the phone, yet.

On the other progress:
I hear that the folk back home are making great progress on the Worship-Center remodel. I look forward to being there Sunday. Hope to see you.

My experience this last weekend, as well as the reports of Farrah Fawcet, Billy Mays, and Michael Jackson's deaths have reminded me how uncertain life is. Live for Jesus!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Things Change Quickly:

As I said in the last post, we very much enjoyed Bethany and Robert's wedding.
Our plan was to go from the wedding to Chad and Tanisha's home (our son & daughter-in-law), & spend the rest of the weekend with them.
We did arrive at the kid's house, but then our plans changed.
Kathy had not been feeling well all weekend. We decided that we should take her to the ER last night. About 4:30 this morning she had an appendectomy. She is at Good Samaritan Hospital in Lebanon (home of Lebanon Bologna), PA.
Her appendix was not ruptured, but was gangrenous--there was a good bit of infection. She will be in the hosp. for a couple of days.
Thanks for your prayers.

Romans 8:28

I'll keep you posted.

Howard

Saturday, June 27, 2009

A lovely Couple:



One of the answers that I have learned to give, is: "I am not in the marrying business. I am glad, however, to help people build Christian Homes.








It was my privilege earlier today to take part in Mr. and Mrs. Robert Gingerich's wedding.

Rob. and his bride, Bethany (Barzee) are graduates of Patrick Henry College, where they met.









The wedding took place in Ithaca New York. .



































Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Living in Construction Kind of Reminds Me of Life:

As you can see from the picture when we met for worship this past Sunday our Worship-Center looked a little different than it did just a week before, and, I hasten to had, how it will look in a short time.
(In honor of DADs we had a picnic Sunday after church. [below]
Can't let a little construction get in the way of a great meal.)


It's like life. Life goes on in the midst of construction. We are all figuring it out as we go along. This past Sunday, as we met under a partially finished ceiling surrounded by patched and unpainted walls, and over a carpet that will be removed in short time, we continued to look at the portion of Ephesians that describes how we ought to "walk." That is Paul's metaphor for living. A current term that is similar is, "journey." Both terms imply a process--even an adventure.

Sometimes the fact that we have to figure it out, deal with the old, and build the new, while we continue on with life can be frustrating, but the Lord has promised to walk with us. Look at Ephesians 5:15-21 for some insight on this process.



(At the left, our drywall contractor, Mike Averill, works on patching a bad spot over the stairs in our foyer. No hymnbooks were used to get Mike up where he could work on this spot. :)




For the CBC family (The rest of you might want to stop here.):


This Sunday we'll still be in a transition, but it is exciting to see the progress. Bill Schuit the Global Ministries Director for Liebenzell USA is working us in between trips to Germany--where he is now--and Papua New Guinea--where he will be early in July. Bill is a great guy and on target preacher. I encourage you to come and hear what God has to say to us through him.


In the mean time, if you would like to get involved in the ongoing remodeling project, drop me a line at covbc@ntelos.net, or call the church at 540 965 4256.


(Continued progress on the ceiling. Moving upward 6 inches at a time.

Sand, brush on and wipe off tung oil out in the picnic-shelter & tent. Let them dry. Move them in, and put them up.)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Continued Progress:

We are mostly past the tearing down phase.
It is good to see things going back.




I had the privilege of taking my Sunday School class, the Jr. Hi Class to Lake Moomaw. It was a lovely outing to a lovely place. Also a great group group of kids.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Couple More Pictures of the Remodeling Project:



We are using the picnic shelter together with our party tent as an area for finishing the tongue & groove, pine boards that are making up the new ceiling in the Worship-Center







Here are couple of our CBC ladies working on the finishing project.


We have been doing two batches a day. The boards get finished with a coat of tung oil and begin drying under the picnic shelter & tent. They get transferred to the Activity-Center to finish drying, from there on to the ceiling.
It is amazing how deceptive a photo can be. You might look at this one and think we are done. No, far from it, but we have a good start. Really, just a few boards have been put up. But I think they look nice.
I have always like the look of natural wood. It is God's artistry on display.





You can see the real product on Sunday.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Pictures of the CBC Remodeling project and some thoughts:

I wasn't around when most of the activity in these pictures was going on. I am impressed with the result!

At the left you see the Gospel Heralds, from Appalachian Bible College. They shared a concert last Sunday night. Note the drawings on the wall behind them. A crew showed up to remove the paneling from the front wall just before the concert.
The GH members took the opportunity to create an artistic background.





Note the congregation is sitting in the pews.


Here you can see the pews that were dismantled after the Gospel Herald's Concert on Sunday Night . They are now (Tuesday) on their way to Michigan. The GH artwork, as well as the sheetrock that was below the paneling is now gone. You'll see where in a moment.



Monday night the ceiling came down. As I type, some teens are upstairs pulling the nails that remained in the trusses.


The boards on the tables in the Activity Center will soon be part of the new ceiling. Stacked on the left you can see the new chairs that will be the new seating in the Worship-Center.

Here is the old ceiling, or part of it.




We won't be finished Sunday, but we'll be meeting in the Worship Center. The AC and sound system are fine. I am told that the carpet will be up, so we'll be on plywood. There should be some new Sheetrock to replace some of what we pulled down.

We want the place in which we worship to be of praise to our Great God, and to give forth the same warmth and welcome that exists in our hearts. Join us

Join us Sunday and stay for a picnic in honor of Dads.


Just a couple of thoughts:

  • The paneling and sheetrock that came down. I helped put up, almost 30 years ago. I'm reminded that all things down here are temporary. My prayer is that we at CBC will be doing that which truely lasts.

  • A friend of mine reminds me, regularly, that excellence reflects the nature of our Lord. We ought to offer God our best.

  • I am at an age at which most of those I desire to reach for the Lord are younger than me. I want our surroundings to be open and welcome to younger folk. I know that what is in our hearts is what matters. I would like to think that what we are doing in our Worship-Center (and other parts of our building) is a reflection of our heart. We are updating the delivery vehicle.

  • Things have a way of sneaking up on us. We talked about--and in a right sense argued about this project. It was "gonna happen, gonna happen, gonna happen," then wham it is here.

  • I'm already looking forward to the end.

hm









































Monday, June 15, 2009

Remodelling Project:

I thought I would use this blog space to let you know about a remodeling project our church has undertaken.
Our Worship-Center was built in 1981. We really hadn't done much to it since. We decided several months ago to undertake a remodeling project. We want the environment in which we worship our great God to be as warm and welcoming as the hearts of the people who gather there, so we undertook, what is really a fairly modest project, but one that wil give an entirely new look to our surroundings. When it is done it will include:
  • A new ceiling,
  • New seating,
  • New lighting,
  • New floorcoverings,
  • A refurbished foyer
  • New paint and other decor.

A contractor had intalled new floor in our foyer a few weeks ago, and our new chairs for the Worship-Center have been on site for several weeks.

This weeks some of our church family and even some guests from the Appalachian Bible College Summer team, got started on the big part of the project in a big way.

I'll post some pictures in the morning when I get to my computer, but for now, let me simply say that we are ahead of where I thought I would be. Way to go gals and guys.

Just remember, after we remodel it--or really while we do the work--we need to work on filling it.

See you Sunday. We won't be finished, but we'll be cleaned up & ready.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

DOING something good:

A friend of mine, Greg Alderman, didn't quite revolutionize our church with a message last summer, but he did plant a thought that we haven't been able to get out of our hearts. Partly the reason for that is because Mike L. and some other folk at our church keep reminding us about the concept.
Very simply the idea is that as a church we ought to actually do something good. It has been great to see activity in this direction.
This evening we had an emphasis on doing some things that are good in a practical way.
  • One Sunday School class set up a simple fun/outreach time targeted on a group of kids who very much need some love.
  • Another group got a head-start, by reaching out to a group of youngsters in an apartment complex. Some folk baked cookies, others went and played games and/or led in a craft time. The report is a good time was had by all. I'm impressed that a group of kids, who might not otherwise do so had a good, good time--it was worthwhile and it was fun.
  • Another Sunday School class met at a classmate's "new" house. Really the new house is fairly old--surrounded by overgrown bushes, and in need of various kinds of TLC. A neighbor stopped and thanked one of our folk for helping to improve the property. More of God's people ought to be caught doing good.
  • The class I am a part of didn't do a project this evening--though several of us helped with some of the others. We are going to get together later this week to work on the landscaping at our church. We'll pray for our neighbors as we do our project. We want our grounds to be a testimony to our community.

Thanks Greg and Mike for encouraging us in the right direction, and thanks to all of you CBC folk who were caught doing good.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Home-going of Kay Marsceau, my Mother-in-Law:

"Well Done, Good And Faithful Servant."

I am confident that Kathleen (Kay) Marsceau heard those words from her Master this afternoon.
We had been expecting her death at any time, for some time now. I am glad to report that time is one of the earthly things that is now irrelevant to her glorious state.
I look forward to joining a line of snot-nosed kids--many like me grown old--who will look into her face and thank her for using the
Wordless Book, for teaching the songs, telling the stories, letting us get a present from the Birthday Box, and, more than anything else, loving us to Jesus. Forty-seven years ago she was instrumental in leading me to put my faith in Jesus Christ.

I figure that when folk get to heaven, like all of their other infirmities their wrong way of seeing things instantly fall away. We were made to fellowship with our creator. This sin-cursed state in which we live is the unnatural realm. Heaven's air is the atmosphere we were meant to breath. Still from my perspective here below it seems that there will be some things my Mother-in-Law will have to get used to. Streets of gold and the other luxuries that surround the throne of God will be odd to a lady who was so thrifty she could have taught classes on the subject to the Scots. She always struggled, wondering what she had really done for Jesus. I can imagine that she will be neighbors with the widow who gave her two mites--marvelous examples of those who give all for the Lord. Her accepting the truth that her life was profound value is a truth that I'm glad she now knows.

She joins her husband, Rev. Eugene Marsceau, with whom she served in small church pastorates for decades. She will be reunited with her son, Gene', who died when he was just stepping into manhood. Her dad, who died leaving a wife and three daughters to live through the depression and the war, will embrace her, knowing the path on which he set his family was the narrow way that led to glory. Her mom, who raised those three girls and then joined one of them in missionary service will be there. Her Old-maid Aunts whom she loved as a daughter will greet her. And there will be HIM. "Enter into the joy of thy Lord."

Kathy was on her way to Charlotte to help her sister, who has been mom's primary caregiver these past months, when she received word of her mom's death. While we were ready for her to leave her emaciated body, she will be missed.

In keeping with the way my Mother-in-Law lived, and her wishes, the services celebrating her life, and home-going will be simple.
I do not have the details yet, but I know that her body will transported to Michigan where there will be a graveside service for the family and a public memorial service.

I will post this note on my blog. As further information is available I will post that there as well.
http://howardmerrell.blogspot.com/
At this point we will appreciate your prayers.

Monday, May 25, 2009

A Victory--Personal and for the Church:

Those of you who were present at Covington Bible Church yesterday morning know that yesterday was an outstanding day for Kathy and me.
I don't want to mess this blog up with a lot of blood and gore, so I'll simply say that our older son, Chad has been through a lot in the years since he left home. Kathy and I have always been confident that in the core of his being there was an attachment to God. Sometimes it appeared that Chad was running from that. On occasions it was clear that it was God's hand that kept him from going over the edge--various edges, actually. We can look back and see a trail of God's grace.
Yesterday, Chad was the guest speaker at Covington Bible Church. He told how he asked the question--first in fist-clenched anger, and then with submission, "God, I'm a good guy. What do you want from me?" Chad paralleled his experience with that of Asaph in Pslam 73.
Obviously, I am a biased observer, but my sentiments were echoed by a number of people who were there. It was a powerful message.
Bearing visible witness to God's work in my son's life, were his four children, not only present with him yesterday, but living with him full-time. His wife of less than a year, Tanisha, is another clear indicator of God's goodness. Tanisha is a Godly young woman, who not only loves Chad, but loves and "mothers" Christopher, Carrington, Madeline, and Kendal. Her coming into Chad's life, and Chad reopening the door for God to assume the place in his life that He deserves were processes that happened simultaneously. They are clearly inter-related. Again I am reminded of God's goodness.
Seeing our son at this point in his walk with God, enjoying time with his remarkably normal (from a Biblical standard) family was certainly great for Kathy and me.

I want to turn a corner here, though, because not only is Chad Kathy's and my son. He is a child of the church--the Covington Bible Church in particular. Not only did CBC provide him with a foundation that became that core that stayed with him through the dark years, but over the years numerous members of our church family have prayed for and encouraged Chad and his kids, and more recently Tanisha.

Thank You!

Many of our church family were kind enough to say things yesterday that helped us to maximize this "God showed up here" moment in our lives. I want to return the favor.
To those of you who:
  • Prayed
  • Encouraged Chad with emails, cards, phone calls, and letters.
  • Went out of your way to visit him, or open your home and schedule to him when he visited Covington.
  • Became aunts, uncles, and grandparents to his kids.
  • Challenged Chad to come back to the roots that in his heart he knew were true.
  • Encouraged his steps back toward the light.
  • Put your arms around Kathy and me in the really dark times.

This was your time as well. Rejoice!

At Chad and Tanisha's wedding I was reminded of Pastor Bill Hybel's words, "The Church is this world's last best hope." At the reception I was able to Thank Pastor Kirk. He walked to Hell and back with my son, and had the singed hair to prove it. He was there on that day as the representative of of the Body of Christ to affirm two people doing what was right, and to challenge them to keep on. My brother-in-law, another pastor, who had, over the years reached out not only to Chad, but to his kids, and not only as an uncle, but as a pastor who saw the opportunity to shine the light in a dark and needy place, also took part in the ceremony. He emphasized the importance of family. Church and family always go together. Then there was the impressive display of unity by a number of the CBC family who drove 600 miles to attend Tanisha and Chad's wedding.

There are those who question the need for the church or a church. In this day of cable-TV and Internet, why should a group of people get together on a regular basis and worship, banding together to serve?
I hold up my son Chad up as exhibit one. Chad has interfaced with social-workers, lawyers, courts, employers, physicians, and schools. These institutions were helpful. There were individuals in these realms who went out of their way at critical times to help my son and his kids--and to offer help to others who still need it--but in the final analysis it was the church that made the difference.

In the right sense of the word I was very proud of my son, yesterday.
I was also proud of the church--my church.

Know that your labor is not in vain.

(PS: We haven't started posting messages online yet--If someone in our assembly wants to take the project on I'll be glad to talk with them--but we can send you a DVD of yesterday's message. Just write and let us know you want one. covbc@ntelos.net

Tuesday, May 19, 2009



I recently returned from a trip to visit some missionaries and works in which the Covington Bible Church is involved.


I was privileged to visit with Fred and Cindy Stromberg and their lovely kids. Cindy's time is pretty well occupied taking care of Isaiah and Anna.
Fred is seeking to establish churches in the small communities that surround Neuva Ocatapeque in Honduras.


These good looking kids are students at one of the schools where Fred is currently holding character classes. Fred's plan is to use these classes and other points of contact to gain a foothold in these communities.


This week, a family from our church is going down to help Fred and Cindy work on their house.




From Honduras I went to Ecuador, where Doug and Dorcas Williams work. It was a strange experience, because while I was up in the mountains of Norhtern Ecuador at Rio Verde worshipping with the Williams partners and the some of the Awa Believers, Doug was in Covington preaching at CBC.


It was great to hear Milton (pronounced "meal-tone" more or less) Milton was teaching the children's lesson, but was clearly challenging the adults as well concerning the story about Lazarus, the rich-man, and eternal destiny.


Doug is translating the Old-Testament into Awapit. He, Dorcas, Becky and Sarah will return to Ecuador this summer.


Actually, the official reason that I had for taking this trip was to be one of the speakers at the Bible/Pastors' Conference held at the Liebenzell Ecuador headquarters. The Eglesia Puente de Amor (Bridge of Love Church) in Ibarra, Ecuador, shares facilities with this LME. Bill Shuit, the Global Outreach Director for LMUSA, and George Hege, former GM Dir. and former Ecuadorian missionary were the other guest speakers. Edgar Luz, the field the director from LM Germany, did a great job organizing the conference, speaking at each morning's opening session, and translating for we gringos.

It was great to relate, with these fellow-shepherds from another part of the world, from the word of God, and about issues that are common no matter what language the sheep speak.


Below you can see me with the guys from Word of Life Ecuador, who had an offical presence there at the conference. My arm is around Carlos, a young man with an amazing voice. Pastor Wilman paid me a great compliment. He had heard me speak ten years or so ago, and came back to hear me again. Through the language barrier, he and I shared some concerns with one another.

Some of the pastors at the conference are very solid in their doctrinal stance. Others could use some help in that regard. I thank God that we were able to encourage them in that regard


While Liebenzell is a relatively small, little-known mission, at least in the US. We are doing a significant work in Ecuador.

I thank the Lord for being involved










Thursday, May 14, 2009

A Witness in a Needy Place:

Most days I read, or scan, Chuck Colson's Breakpoint commentary.
Today's http://www.informz.net/pfm/archives/archive_781649.html was about the late Jack Kemp. I confess I mostly thought of Kemp when I was slaving over my income tax forms. His proposals for simplifying the tax system always look especially good on April 14 or 15.

I knew he was a conservative who shared many values with Bible-believing Christians like me, but until I read Colson's commentary I was not aware that Kemp was a believer.

Here is part of what Colson had to say about this his friend:

The pastor, Rob Norris of Fourth Presbyterian Church, [Kemp's pastor] gave the main message, from Job 14:14: “Can a dead man live?”It was one of the clearest expositions of Scripture I’ve ever heard, powerfully presenting the Gospel—and all this being listened to by most of the power establishment of the city of Washington. Some of the commentators afterward said that there had never been such an overtly Christian memorial service in the National Cathedral.

Colson goes on to add: "Jack Kemp’s life was his witness. God used the death of one of the great public servants of our age for perhaps the most powerful witness I have seen in Washington."

I was struck by Colson's unequivocal praise of his friend's testimony, Pastor Norris's willingness to take an opportunity to present the Good-news that many preachers pass up, and by the apparent lack of such witness implied by the commentators' comments about the overtly Christian nature of the service.

  • All of us who know the Lord need to live our lives as witnesses for Christ.
  • Those of us who are privileged to stand and speak for the Lord ought to make the most of every opportunity.
  • And we need to pray for the spiritual condition of our nation.

I welcome your thoughts.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Playing it safe:

I would encourage my younger readers--as in teens and young, single adults to read the May 5 post on Dr. Al Mohler's blog. http://www.albertmohler.com/blog.php.


I have some identification with the movement described in this article. Some young folk are not only refraining from having sex until marriage--may their tribe increase--but are saving their first kiss for their wedding day. Before you snicker and quit reading, let me briefly share my experience.

Kathy and I kissed before our wedding day, but I determined, and I'm glad I did, that I ought to kiss her until I was sure that I loved her, and she me. And, yes, thanks to some god teaching, I did have a pretty good idea what that four-letter word meant.

I would encourage you younger folk to consider this idea:

God gave us the marvelous capaxity to express love in a physical way--all the way from holding hands to sexual-intercourse. We should only use this wonderful ability to express love that is there, not merely to bring about an enjoyable physical reaction.


I may say more on this in a day or two. In the mean time I welcome your comment.


Since I'm talking about young adults, let me tell you some encouraging things I'm seeing related to the younger set.

I'm in Ecuador right now, at a pastor's conference. There is a young man, Carlos, from Word of Life Ecuador who has one of the most beautiful voices I have heard in a long time. He says he would like to do a CD. If I hear that he has, I'll let you know.
There is a group of young people here from Germany, an impact team from Liebenzell Mission in Germany. The sweet way they are doing even mundane tasks is very encouraging.
Actually, the churches represented here are quite young. Several have only been in existence for less than 10 years, and the congregations of these churches are made up of a larger proportion of young adults than I'm used to seeing here in the US. Again it is encouraging.
Later

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

More than an academic exercise, it was a Divine encounter:

I apologize, I didn't bring my camera. Some other folk took pictures. If they send me one, I'll post it.
Kathy and I were privileged to attend the Senior Recital of Parker Jones and Nathan Brown. These guys are graduating from Liberty University's Worship Leader program in just a few weeks.
Parker grew up in Covington Bible Church. His folks are much loved colleagues of mine in the ministry here. He did a great job last night.
I may miss someone here, but it was also great to see some other friends at the recital. In addition to Parker's family there were, Donna Bragg, Jeana Lee, and Nathan and Kristan Brown. Afterwards we saw Bill Morse, who joined us for a late supper/snack.
I guess what impressed me most was that through part of the program these guys were not merely performing the songs they had worked hard to learn, they were leading me in worship. I'll not get too deep here, but my soul has been rubbed kind of raw lately, and I crave something from God--time in the awareness that I am in His presence, and assurance of His love, mercy, and steadfastness. I was nourished by the guys' ministry. I hope God was pleased with my worship as they led me before Him.
Thanks guys.

Be watching. If we can match up a date, we'll have Parker here to lead us in a service of praise to our Great God.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Story at the end of 4/19's message:

Several folk commented on the story about the old deacon and the Hippie with which I ended the message, Sunday.
Seldom does something we read or hear become a permanent part of our thinking. Decades ago I read that little story. It has stayed with me since. I think it was in the old Moody Monthly Magazine. I'm fairly sure that Walter Wangerin, a pastor and talented author, wrote it. As far as I know it is a fictional story, but relates a very real truth.
If anyone can help me find the original, I'd love to know where to lay hands on it.

Easter Sunday at CBC:

You can get a glimpse of my remodeled study in the some of the pictures. Though I enjoy my study very much, that isn't why I put the pictures in.


On Easter Sunday morning, Ed Poage, Lori and Jim Taylor, and the CBC Junior High Sunday School Class filled helium balloons and tied strings and little tags on them. It had been a while since we did this. A decade or more ago I read about a church that made a great celebration out of their Easter Service, culminating it with the release of balloons. It sounded like fun, so we did it. Did it a couple of times, but then figured out that it is also a lot of trouble, so we hadn't done it for a while.


A couple of the folk on our music committee remembered the little exercise, and thought it would be nice this year. Easter was late. It showed promise of being a lovely day--it was, and . . .


I don't make any big spiritual claims for the event. Mostly it is just fun for kids--little ones, and big ones like me. There is some symbolism one can attach to the balloons floating up--though some of that was ruined by the large number that caught in a nearby tree. (Looked like a giant "Easter-egg tree.)--but I don't try to make too much of the symbolism.
Anyhow, balloons or no balloons, Easter was a great day at CBC. One of the joys for me was hearing Debbie Alt Harvey sing.

Debbie was one of my wife's students, longer ago than either of them would want me to mention. Debbie has used here musical ability over the years in service to the Lord.

Her music combined with that of Kelley Calhoun and our our congregation, led by Daryl Shreeve and Stephanie Hinkle, was just great. It may be better in heaven, but not much.






































Thursday, April 16, 2009

Thanks to a friend of mine for sharing the following post about people coming to the Lord in some remarkable places.
Read it and rejoice!

http://flashtrafficblog.wordpress.com/2009/04/10/more-ex-muslims-will-celebrate-easter-this-year-than-any-other-time-in-history/

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A wasted life:

As you could probably tell from my lack of any posts on the matter, I'm behind, way behind on my Bible reading project. I haven't abandoned my goal of reading through the Bible 2x this year, but the commitment is in jeopardy.
It is not that I have not been having a good time with the Lord in His word. I have. For instance in the couple of weeks before Easter, both in my study for my Easter message and in my Quiet Time, I walked with the Lord during the weekend of His crucifixion. The harmony I used can still be found at covingtonbiblechurch.org. Click on devotional aids. I needed that.
It is just that this has been outside of my plan--which I know is OK.
Yesterday, we were visiting with family. For me, most of the day was laid back--take a nap if you want to--which I did in the afternoon--but in the morning I read most of the life of King David.
I began in the later chapters of 1 Samuel, followed him to Philistia, ached with him when Ziklag burned, and then saw him ascend to the throne and deal with all competitors.
In the middle of 2 Samuel, though, there is the little matter of Bathsheba.
The book is divided--David's successes, David's failures. The line of demarcation is a woman who was taking a bath, and a man who didn't take a cold shower.
Tragic, instructive, but tragic.

I'm working on this weeks message from the second half of Eph. 2. I'm thinking about purposely--I'll be up front about it--going with a secondary point. If Jews and Gentiles are brought together in Christ, then why are we two millennia later dividing over skin-color, and musical tastes, or whether we wear ties or not on Sunday morning?
If you would like to weigh in with 2 cents--or even a nickle--I'd be glad to listen.

Easter at our church was great. Thank you Lord.