Since my last entry a lot has happened. Things in a church discipline situation involving abuse came to light in new ways and I realized some ways I’ve really not led well through this. I’ve also dealt with it well, I think, and we’re getting on the right unified track as a church. We also spent a week on an Alaskan cruise. It was spectacular. Cruises are fun anyway, but the natural scenery and experiences in Alaska are breathtaking. God is an amazing creator. The land formations and vegetation on them are so unique and gorgeous. The wildlife is so free and plentiful. Bald eagles rest in trees like we would see crows or robins around here. Whales and seals swam all around us. Bears literally crossed our path. And the glaciers! Such power to carve out valleys and whittle down mountains. The beauty even of pieces of ice with old air trapped inside making for radiant blue colors was unlike anything I’ve seen. We spent time with family just catching up, playing, enjoying the sites, praying together, and worshipping together. What a blessing. In some ways, though, I felt kind of like one of those whales or a sea turtle. I felt like I was under water and that trip was a chance to come up for air before being plunged right back in. There may be a breath coming soon. I understand even more the need for Sabbath rest. Getting home from vacation, my grandfather passed away the next morning. I haven’t really had much time to think through that and mourn yet. That’s the last of our grandparents for Judith and me. Sean met Grandad and we got some great pictures, but he probably won’t remember. Grandad was a mixed bag. He was the epitome of stubborn. The trait has been passed down some, but he was too stubborn to let anyone take much of that trait from him. He was very simple. He didn’t need much. He did like having new vehicles, but even then nothing fancy. He liked a nice camper until Grandma passed away. He trusted the Lord to the point he didn’t even understand why I’d get ministry and theological training at seminary. He served the Charleston Mountain Mission for decades faithfully. He buried two wives and missed them both dearly. He provided well for his family with little education, driving a bus for 37 years with the same company. He was steady. Perhaps we can get a bus to drive the family and the casket for his funeral. 1 Timothy 1:8-11 While the law can be an often is used in wrong ways, it is not bad in and of itself. It has a God-given purpose…which is clear because God gave it. Like all good things God gives us, people often abuse it. The law is useful for showing people their sin. Paul wrote about that in Romans. We wouldn’t necessarily know what we were doing wrong unless we were told. It is an act of mercy much like church discipline even to the point of dis-fellowship is an act of mercy. The point is to lead people to repentance. Once we have the Spirit we aren’t under the law. That law is written on our hearts. The gospel is our guide. Paul basically went through the ten commandments with this sin list as kind of a (then) modern day version of examples. “Kidnappers” stands out to me in particular as the ultimate form of theft. It’s referring to slave traders. A multitude of Christians missed that for centuries. Some of our nation was built on the backs of kidnapped people and some even abused Scripture to justify themselves. I constantly try to find any ways I’m guilty of abusing Scripture to justify wrong beliefs and actions. I think the Church is in the midst of that now with how women have often been treated. It’s not just women, of course, but abuse has even been condoned by churches at times. Few really know how to handle it well. I’m learning. But God is good and His gospel is written on our hearts. He will guide and correct us and receive glory for it.
God is working around the world. At the Send Conference last week I was encouraged to hear about and meet church planters and learn what they are doing around the country. The NAMB push for church revitalization and the motive behind it, God’s glory in Kingdom growth through missional living and focus, encouraged me and makes me believe there is a bright future for the SBC and the Kingdom of God in the USA in coming years. Revival may be coming. We tend to hear and see more of the negative, but I believe a resurgence is coming. I pray all believers will get on board, even when it means personal sacrifice.
Over the weekend I heard stories from Judith’s family serving in the Middle East. They have baptized a national believer and the guy is an evangelist! He is passionate and bold in sharing his faith in Jesus. They have been meeting with another couple. The husband believes in Jesus now and the wife is coming along. He is waiting for her to trust in Jesus before going public. They are meeting with another couple and studying the Bible. That couple is further from accepting Christ, but making good steps.
Today I read a newsletter from some IMB friends overseas. What God is doing in their country is tremendous! Women are learning their value in Christ. The persecution of Islamic leaders is spreading the Gospel and opening doors for the Kingdom of God to advance there. An Imam even placed his faith in Christ recently! God is moving throughout the world. He is moving in my heart. May He move in this community as well!