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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Tickets Please

Having never served as an usher at such a major event, I felt a little trepidation as the doors swung open and I got my first glimpse of the surging mass of people about to push their way through. I was responsible for checking the tickets of these people as they pushed into the Gaither Family Fest - a 3 day concert of gospel music in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. There were expected to be somewhere between 6,000 and 8,000 in attendance, and as I surveyed the swarming crowd, it seemed they were all going to try and come through the door I was assigned to.

"Tickets, please," I said sweetly to the first to push through. And then I said it about 8,000 more times. "Tickets please." "Thank you." "Tickets please." "Thank you." "Tickets please." "Thank you."

Those in charge of the concert had made it clear, "Nobody may enter the concert hall without a ticket. You must check each time they enter, not just the first night. No ticket - no entry - no exceptions."

The first night, nobody had any problem with showing their tickets. Even when the little old ladies arrived with their tickets buried deep in bulging purses, and they had to struggle to find them while the crowd breathed impatiently behind them. Even when the man arrived trying to balance two tall decaf Cappucinos from Starbucks in one hand while delicately retrieving the tickets from his billfold with the other hand. Most people understood that in order to get in, they had to show their tickets.

The second night, the smiles were a little more fixed. "I showed it to you last night. Why do I have to show it again?" "No ticket, no entry - that's the policy. Please have your tickets available every time you want to enter the concert hall." One nice Christian lady put it succinctly when she angrily brushed past me and said, "I'm not going to dig it out again," and in a nice demonstration of unChristlike defiance, pushed past and into the room.

The last night, most had the routine down, and were smiling and waving their tickets as they walked past. Some still bucked the trend, though, and had to be stopped yet again and asked for their tickets.

But at least these had tickets - and even though there was that momentary delay as they fished around to produce them, they eventually made it in. And once in, they enjoyed the concert of a lifetime. Some, sadly, arrived at the door without a ticket, and there was no entry for them.

There is coming a day, you know, when you will die and stand at the doors of heaven. When asked for your ticket, will you have it? There is only one ticket that will get you in, and that's the ticket bought and paid for by Jesus Christ. Jesus described this scene when He said, Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matthew 7:21-23 KJV)

People trust all kinds of things to get them to heaven. There will be preachers who will miss out on heaven ("have we not prophesied in they name?"). There will be people who have worked hard in church work all their lives who will miss out on heaven ("and in thy name done many wonderful works?") Only those who are trusting in Jesus Christ, and His finished work will make it in.

"Tickets please." When you are called home, will you have your tickets?

Not One Moment

Well, we are back in Randolph after several days in the Smokey Mountains at the Gaither Family Fest. We met countless thousands of music lovers and believers. We heard sixteen hours of gospel music. Yes, you heard that right - 16!!! We listened to wonderful testimonies and great speakers. Our cups were filled 'til they could hold no more!

Somewhere during the Sunday morning worship service, I remember the speaker sharing this particular thought: "No matter what has happened to you in your life, know that there has never been a moment when you have been unloved." Those may not be the exact words, but they give the gist of the speaker's point. And I haven't been able to get it out of my mind since.

  • When I have been in love with God - He has loved me.
  • When I have fallen away from God - He has loved me.
  • When I have been busy working in His church - He has loved me.
  • When I have let other things displace His work, which shouldn't - He has loved me.
  • When I have been kind to others - He has loved me
  • When I have been cruel to others - He has loved me.
  • When I have remembered to pray - He has loved me.
  • When I have abandoned prayer - He has loved me.
No matter where I have been in my life, even those times when I've made myself completely unlovable - He has loved me! And He has loved you the same way, too.

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39 KJV)

His love is always there for you, no matter the situation. This really got through to me this morning as I was praying. Praying for the many things I always pray for. And then the thought hit me that He is always faithful to me, no matter whether I am faithful to Him or not! And my prayer became simply - "Lord, help me to be just as faithful to You today."

Stop right now and spend a minute thinking about how faithful He is to you, friend. Nothing can separate you from His love. Nothing. NOTHING! When you get hold of that thought, I think you, too, will want to pray, "Lord, help me to be just as faithful to You today, as You are to me."

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Veggie Tales

You've heard of Veggie Tales, right? Not too long ago they were a huge thing, selling millions of videos to Christian parents around the country. But now they are bankrupt.

In an interview discussing the fall of his empire, the founder of Veggie Tales gave the following very insightful comment.
"As everything was falling apart, I started reading a weekly study by Henry Blackaby. On the first page Blackaby more or less said, If what you are trying to do for God is not working, it may be because it came from your own head and not God. You may want to do something significant for him, but he just wants you to be obedient."
"He just wants you to be obedient!" Saul learned the same thing when God told him to do something a particular way, and he chose to do it a different way. God was displeased and sent Samuel to him with this message, "And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams." (1 Samuel 15:22)

In everything we do, Christian, we must always remember that God's way is the only way. We might think we've thought things through and come up with a better plan, but come on... how likely is it that you and I can come up with something better than God's way? Behold, to obey is better... as a matter of fact, to obey is BEST.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Haven Of Rest - Updated Schedule

For those who are interested in serving at the Haven of Rest, here is our updated schedule:

First Saturday of every month at 10:00 until 12:00, we will be helping with setup and serve. Please mark your calendars!

On June 10, at 2:00 PM, we will be participating in a tour of the facility. This is a Sunday, and will allow us time to grab something to eat after our worship service, and then take the tour.

Please consider participating in these activities!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

As The Waters Cover The Sea

"There's one! Right there!" As quickly as I heard the shout, I turned to look - just in time to see the dolphin drop back into the water. We were on a boat tour on the Gulf of Mexico, and we were hunting for dolphins - beautiful creatures that are fascinating to watch. Whenever I experience such a part of God's creation, I am awed. There is so much variety in what He made; so much beauty. As I watched that beautiful animal drop into the water, the thought came to mind - "My God made that."

But my eyes moved from the dolphin to the vast vista of water that he had dropped into. As far as I could see - water. And it brought a verse to mind - a wonderful promise about the end times: For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. (Habakkuk 2:14)

The day is coming when everybody will know my Jesus. Everybody will know God. There will be no wickedness and no evil. The knowledge of God will cover everything, just as the water of the sea covers everything as far as the eyes can see.

Are you ready for that day?

Ambulances Come To All Driveways

Greetings from beautiful Naples, Florida. Beth and I are vacationing here this week, so pray for us as we travel. We continue to pray for all of you back there in Ohio!

It never ceases to amaze me how there are lessons in everything that we experience. Today, we drove down Gordon Drive in Naples. We were told this road held the richest and most opulent homes in the area, so we decided to see what that looks like. Quite different than the way we live, let me tell you! These homes were of such magnificence and grandeur that my entire home would probably fit in one bay of their garages! We drove along with our mouths gaping open, marvelling at one mansion after another. But then we came around a bend and saw something that seemed somewhat out of place - an ambulance sitting in one of the driveways with lights flashing.

I was instantly reminded that no matter how we live on this earth, we still have that appointment, don't we? And those who seem to have so many more material blessings than normal, are not going to escape that appointment. The psalmist said it like this:

I have seen a wicked and ruthless man flourishing like a green tree in its native soil, but he soon passed away and was no more; though I looked for him, he could not be found. Consider the blameless, observe the upright; there is a future for the man of peace. (Psalm 37:35-37)

As we drove away, leaving the ambulance with its flashing lights behind, I was encouraged to know that the reward to the righteous far surpasses the temporary rewards some receive here on this earth.

Keep serving Jesus, my friend - even if it seems that other masters pay better - keep serving Jesus.

Friday, May 11, 2007

A Sermon on Two Wheels

Just a flash of brown - that's all I saw. I was on my way to work this morning, and once again God gave a beautiful day for riding my motorcycle. And this morning, my thoughts were arrested by that flash of brown alongside the road - a flash of brown that indicated the presence of two deer feeding in the brush.

As I slowed to make sure they didn't jump in front of me, and then accelerated to leave them safely behind, I reflected on something. How did I see those deer? They were very well camouflaged. Most people would not have seen them. My wife never sees deer along the road, and I am often saying "Deer!" to her as we approach one alongside the road. I talked this over with the Lord as I rode, and here are some conclusions:

  1. About 5 years ago, I took up deer hunting. Since that time I have spent countless hours in the woods learning to see deer. Although my success record at hunting might say otherwise, I have definitely learned to spot them. You might say I have trained myself to see them.
  2. On a motorcycle, few things are as much a concern as deer and other animals running out in front of you. Many riders have been injured or killed by such animals appearing out of nowhere and causing them to crash. My fear of this causes extra vigilance when I'm on the bike. I am always looking for them; scanning the edges of the road; knowing they are there and trying to be ready in advance for their appearance.
Those deer remind me of our adversary, the devil. He is hiding in the brush, always lurking, and always looking for ways to knock us to the ground. Peter said, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour. (1 Peter 5:8) There is no way to know from which direction he will try and hit us, but we know he will try.

Now, consider the two lessons I learned this morning on two wheels:
  1. As we study our Bibles, and learn about the Christian walk, and learn about our adversary, we will get better and better at spotting him before he steps out in front of us. Paul said, "Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices." (2 Corinthians 2:11) Read your Bible, Christian - every day. Train your spiritual eyes. It might not seem like it's doing much, but over time you are learning what God wants you to learn. When you need it, He'll bring just the truth you need to mind.
  2. Never let your guard down. Memorize what Peter said about our adversary, and know that he always is after you. Little things that seem innocent are often just what he needs to take your attention off the road and cause you to stumble. Just as a cyclist needs to constantly scan for road hazards, so you and I need to be constantly on the lookout for little sins, little temptations, seemingly minor things that Satan might use to send us to the ground.
May God help us to always spot the flash of brown, before it can hinder our walk with God.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

My Friend

I maneuvered my motorcycle out of the MacDonald's parking lot this morning. I worked my way through the gears as I accelerated down the road toward my work place, and as I did I reflected on the morning. I had just spent some time over breakfast with a good Christian friend. Christian friends are something I've come to value more and more over the years. Have you ever studied what the Bible says about friends? It says a lot:
  1. God's relationship with Moses and Abraham was described as "friendship" in Exodus 33:1 and 2 Chronicles 20:7 (Wouldn't that be a great thing to have on your tombstone - He/she was a friend of God!)
  2. We are told that a friend loveth at all times - Proverbs 17:17, and those blessed with true friends know it is true.
  3. True friends can be trusted to tell us the truth, even if it wounds us - faithful are the wounds of a friend - Proverbs 27:6 A true friend will not just tell us what we want to hear, but will also help us with what we NEED to hear.
  4. A friend makes us a better person - as we interact with our friends, we are improved - Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend. - Proverbs 27:17
  5. Of course we are also warned to be careful of "friends" who would lead us away from our God - Deuteronomy 13:6. We are given some amazing examples of such false friends, such as Amnon - 2 Samuel 13:3 A true friend will never lead you into sin, or into questionable activities, or away from God.
Do you have a Christian friend, or Christian friends? There's only one place to find one - and that's amongst Christians. I encourage you to seek out friendships among God's people, for such friendships are invaluable in your walk with God. Come to church faithfully... check out the Bible studies, ministry opportunities, and small group activities that are available. There are friends there... friends who are looking for you, just as you are looking for them.

But perhaps some of the most beautiful truth about friendship is that which describes Jesus as our friend. He was called a friend of sinners (and that includes you and me) - Matthew 11:19. And He called His disciples friends - John 15:15.

Is Jesus your friend? Would you like Him to be? At Randolph Christian Church, we can introduce you to Him. Read this. And then come visit us on Sunday morning. We would love to introduce you to this greatest of Friends.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Being Honest with God's Word

Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. (2 Corinthians 4:1-2

I came across this passage in my devotions this morning. It always gives me pause, and I have to spend some time in reflection. Is it true of me? Paul is saying here that a minister is to be scrupulously honest (having "renounced the hidden things of dishonesty"). He is to never misuse the Word of God, or use it deceitfully. Rather, his job is to simply proclaim and live the truth openly and honestly before all. The results are up to God. Pray for me that I will be able to live up to the high standard God sets here in His word.

You see, it is very easy to take just portions of the Bible, and use them to make a point. People and groups with hidden agendas are often guilty of this. They will lift a verse of scripture out of context and use it for something completely unrelated to what it really means. A ridiculous example, but one which I've heard before, is that some go so far as to say the Bible denies the existence of God. And they quote the Bible to make their point, "There is no God." (Psalm 14:1) But they quote absurdly out of context, for that verse says, "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God." (Psalm 14:1)

We must always be careful to be honest with God's Word. Someday, after all, we'll stand before our Lord and give an account. Ministers have to give a particular account of how they have handled their ministry and His Word. But we all will give an account. Won't it be better to hear Him say, "Well done - you were faithful and honest with my Word - both in how you taught it, and how you lived it." May it be so with each of us.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

I was twelve

It was May 3, 1970. In just 24 hours one of this area's most well-known historical events would occur - the shootings at Kent State University. But on May 3, something happened that didn't make the news, and is unknown to all but a select few now. On that day, a twelve year old boy experienced the most important event in his personal history. That boy was me, and on May 3, 1970, I trusted Christ as my Savior. I am, spiritually, 37 years old today. And so it is a special day as I look back over the journey Christ has led me on so far - a journey that has included both ups and downs, successes and failures, victories and defeats. But one thing is certain. I am more sure today of His love for me than I have ever been. He promised, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." (Hebrews 13:5) I can testify after 37 years of walking with Him, that He never has, and He never will.

This day is also special for another reason - it has been set aside as a National Day of Prayer. Will you join with me this day in praying for our nation? Our church? Our brothers and sisters in Christ? Those around us who have never yet met this Man who loves them so? Pray. He will answer. "If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it." (John 14:14)

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Haven of Rest - Details and Directions

This Saturday, May 5, at 10:00, some of us will be traveling to the Haven of Rest in Akron to serve meals. Here are the directions from Randolph. Those coming from other areas will be able to use these same directions, I think.

  1. Take Route 76 west, and then Route 8 north.
  2. Exit at the Perkins exit, and turn LEFT.
  3. Travel 2 blocks to UNION and turn LEFT.
  4. Travel 1 block to PARK and turn RIGHT.
  5. Travel 1 block to PROSPECT and turn LEFT.
  6. Travel 1/2 block to JOURNAL ALLEY and turn RIGHT.
  7. Turn LEFT into the parking lot. From this parking lot you should be able to see the Food Service Door. There is a buzzer at that door. Ring the buzzer and somebody will let you in.
We need to be there right at 10:00. We do not need to be earlier than that.

Those who have indicated willingness to serve in this capacity, please call the church or contact me if you have any questions.

And there is always room for more if others would like to participate. If so, please give me a call first, as there are some regulations the Haven has concerning dress code, etc., which we need to review.

Discouraged because of the way

The children of Israel were wandering in the wilderness. This was so, because of their own disobedience to God. But they had forgotten that fact, as we all often do. So many of our problems are of our own making. If we would only serve God absolutely and fully, so many of these problems would not exist.

But they had sinned... and they were wandering in the wilderness. As we read about these things in the book of Numbers, we find this observation:

And they journeyed from mount Hor by the way of the Red sea, to compass the land of Edom: and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way. (Numbers 21:4)

So often our way is difficult. Our good Brother Bob lies in the hospital suffering from cancer, dehydration, and other things. Pray for him. Our good Brother Bill also suffers with ill health, as does our Sister Ann, and others on our weekly prayer list. Pray for these. It is true in their life sometimes, that they become "much discouraged because of the way."

And what of you, my friend? Do you find yourself, also, "much discouraged because of the way?" You can find comfort in the fact that no matter the difficulty... no matter the trial... no matter the level of discouragement... God loves you. More than you can imagine. Trust in Him, wait for His answer. He will never disappoint you.