Friday, June 26, 2009

Filling the earth with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea!

Last January I had the privilege of preaching in South Africa at an African Pastor’s Conference (APC). I have been invited to attend once again this coming January. While I am still praying and seeking the Lord’s will in this invitation I would ask each of you to pray with me that the Lord would continue to bless the conferences and raise up an army of godly men filled with passion and love for Christ.

We have been supporting conferences in South Africa, Brazil, Europe and Great Britain. My prayer is that the doctrines of justification by faith alone and the doctrines of God’s sovereign grace will be spread throughout the earth for the glory of the Lord.

Below is a report of the African conferences that I was able to attend and which we supported financially. I trust you are all encouraged by reading this report.

Six African Pastors’ conferences were held in South Africa during January. My portfolio was to see that these conferences ran smoothly and that included organizing the display of the books which are sold at subsidized prices thereby bringing very considerable advantage to the pastors. This latter responsibility was made a pleasure by diligent workers at each conference who know the book trade. Cornerstone Baptist Church, Bolton, generously and whole-heartedly supported me in these travels in sunny South Africa. My first pastorate was in Mandini, Kwazulu and with that background I have great sympathy for the needs of African pastors who live in an economic climate very different to ours.

The first conference was held at Mseleni near the border between Mozambique and South Africa, Pastor Choolwe Mwetwa (Central Baptist Church, Chingola, Zambia) spoke very challengingly on ‘The marks of faithful ministry’, and Pastor Raymond Zulu, with the advantage of preaching in his mother tongue, soared wonderfully on the theme, ‘The Word of God as our sure foundation’.

Our second conference at Koinonia Conference Centre was nearby the town of Hillcrest which in turn is not that far from the city Durban. The Speakers included Choolwe, Raymond, Dennis Hustedt (Utah, USA) and myself. The response was encouragingly very positive. Such is the increasing interest and edification that the pastors are calling for an extension to this work to reach the youth and from them so seek to build up a future body of able ministers of the Gospel. We will have our work cut out to wrestle with this challenge and act positively.

Our third stop was in the Eastern Cape in at the city of Port Elizabeth, where Dr Paul Stoltz organized the three day conference. Pastor Bob Dickie (Berean Baptist Church in Flint Michigan USA) also expounded the awe inspiring subject of Worship. We also had an outstanding Q & A session. Some interesting topics were discussed including the role of women in ministry. This cropped up at most of the conferences. It seems to be a recurring theme that may need to be addressed sensitively in the future.

The fourth conference was near the beautiful city of Pretoria. This time the speakers included Pastor Irving Steggles (Birchleigh Baptist Church, Kempton Park). He spoke on revival and delivered the conference sermon (’Motivation in the Ministry’). The conference was a tremendous success under the very capable leadership and organizational skills of Irving Steggles. The Book table ministry was also a great blessing here. The three days and two nights, including six meals cost each person the equivalent astounding sum of 70 Rand (£5.00). This is an admirable demonstration on just how far money given by churches in both the USA and the UK can go towards financing more APC’s in future years.

The fifth conference was in the large Free State town of Welkom. This once rich gold-mining town is now not far from poverty. Even the local fire engines have been repossessed by the manufacturers. The local CESA (Church of England in South Africa which is a reformed denomination) minister, George van der Westhuizen, acted as host to the conference at his church building. There was tremendous response to the preachers Choolwe and Raymond. On a personal note heartbreak and challenge came to me the next day when the three of us visited Morning Star, a crèche for 85 local HIV positive children. What an inspiring work is done by the ladies there, especially Joan Adams who is responsible for running it.

Finally the last of the conferences took place at Newcastle. This was a first time event and was capably organized by pastor Paul Jacobs. Here we saw demonstrated what can be done when a whole church supports a conference like this. This practical backing came from the Newcastle Baptist Church. Apart from the books hardly any subsidy is needed when this takes place. Some were disappointed inasmuch that they did not have enough time to secure enough money to purchase more of the discounted books that were available. In Newcastle they all wanted us to stay on for a second day. Lord willing next year we will.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Happy Father's Day!

This Sunday is Father's Day. I want to wish all of the men of our church a happy and wonderful Father's Day. Not all of us have children but all of us have a father. Whether your father is living and has passed away this is a day to pause for a few moments and to thank the Lord for the wonderful gift He has given us in the Fathers that He placed over us. Yes, I believe that every father is a gift from God. Even if the father you have did not or does not know the Lord. The Lord is wise and knows exactly what He is doing. When He gave you your father He knew what was best for you. May we all show our gratitude to the Lord for the wonderful gift of life that came to each of us through the biological father that brought us into life.

I was reading a column by Cal Thomas on his love and respect for his father and it brought tears to my eyes. It caused me to think about my father who passed away back in 1989. The years have come and gone but the void and pain that I still feel at times haunts me. I trust this column by Cal Thomas will be a blessing to you all.

A Father's Day card

Cal Thomas

Thursday, June 12, 2003

He's been gone 20 years this month. Funny how when I write this, I wonder if some readers might think he walked out on us, as many do. No, Dad left us the only way he would. He died in June, 1983.

I still miss sending him a Father's Day card and finding a present beyond the predictable tie he might like. Shopping for a card by an anonymous rhymer that expressed the right sentiment was always a challenge, so I wrote notes and eventually a letter telling him how much I loved him and what he meant to me. He framed it and hung it in his office.

People of a certain age think he was Lowell Thomas - the famous newscaster and Fox Movie tone newsreel narrator of another era. That's because Lowell and I share the same last name and the same profession. But, no, Clinton Samuel Thomas was nothing special to the world, only to his family. And he was special to my brother, Marshall, who was born with a defect diagnosed as mental retardation. How Dad treated my brother taught me a profound lesson. He spent a lot of money on doctors and in search of the right environment for my brother after keeping him at home for years when many suggested institutionalization.

My father survived the Great Depression and World War II, and these experiences burnished his character and honor and made him realize that things are less valuable than people, family and relationships. We never lacked the essential things as I grew up and did not miss luxurious things.

I remember when he took me to buy my first suit and told me, at age 12, how I was becoming a man. I recall the baseball games and the smell of hot dogs and real grass and how good it felt doing guy stuff with him. I inherited no money but got his fishing tackle box. Priceless.

Are too many men too busy to be much more than biological fathers today? Have they convinced themselves that more hours on the job in order to buy more stuff is of greater importance than inhabiting their place in the home and their position as father in the hearts of their children?

My recent high school reunion concluded with a tour of the old building. When we arrived at the gymnasium - where I had played basketball - a classmate asked me what I remembered most about those games. I said that while I recalled a few shots that actually went in, what I remembered most was that my Dad attended every home game. I pointed to where he sat on the upper row. It is an image burned into my heart and mind. One year he promised a steak dinner to the entire team if we beat our arch-rival. We did, and he came through. On that night, my teammates seemed to love him as much as I did.

My father treated my mother with honor and respect. He never let me call an adult by his or her first name and demanded I show respect to my elders. When he let me drive shortly after my 16th birthday, he made it clear he had rules for using his car, just as there are rules of the road. When he said he wanted me back at a certain time, if I wanted to drive again, I returned at the appointed hour until I was able to buy my own car (with his help on the bank note).

Times change, but standards don't. Not a family on my boyhood street experienced divorce. Now divorce is common. Then, a battered woman was a rare occurrence. Now it is far too frequent. Boys were taught by their fathers to respect women. Most guys I knew in high school were virgins, though many lied about it. "Safe sex" meant saving it for marriage.

My favorite picture is of Dad feeding me a bottle when I was 6 weeks old. He is dressed in a suit and a large smile. His right hand holds the bottle, while his left hand is cupped around my shoulders. It is a picture of security and serenity. I wish more boys had fathers like mine. I wish even more that mine was still with me.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Dr. Edgar Andrews will be with us this Sunday. Dr. Andrews is the former chairman of the science department from the University of London, England. Professor Andrews has been recognized as one of the top physicists in the entire world. We are very privileged to have him as our guest speaker once again. I have been greatly blessed over the years for the deep and personal friendship that Dr. Andrews has given to me. Much of my ministry has been shaped and inspired by his spiritual mentorship. I trust that all of you will be blessed by his ministry with us this weekend.

Our office staff is taking a trip to Tawas for a dinner cruise out to Charity Island. Dr. Andrews will be our special guest and will speak to the staff on Saturday morning.

Last week I spoke at a Leadership seminar for the Team in Louisville, Kentucky. I quoted a poem in my Sunday message and was asked to put that poem on the blog. I trust that you will all be blessed by the words of this poetic rendition of a revival that was recorded many years ago in Texas.

The Ninety Men In The Marshall’s Den

“I’m going to preach and I’m going to teach, to the ninety men in here, (while a storm was raging outside). Of the words of love, from the throne above, and his words rang out loud and clear. I’ll preach for you of a Savior true, and a happy home on high. Where the angels dwell, where all are saved from Hell, and where the righteous never die. And he said a prayer in the prison there, as the ninety bowed their heads, to the old Choctaw and the Chickasaw, to the whites and the blacks and the reds. He prayed for the chief in his unbelief, and the dark highwayman bold, to the robber crew and the bandits too, to the criminals young and old. And he sang a hymn in the prison grim, he sang, “Turn sinner, turn.” “It’s not too late to reach God’s gate while the lamp holds out to burn.” And then from his bed, from the black and the red, a broken outlaw too. With trembling steps to the parson crept, and he shivered as all in the cold. As the lightning’s flashed, and thunders crashed, showed his features pale and stern, as he bowed his head he solemnly said, “I am resolved to turn.” And it seemed to me I will never see, a scene so great so grand, as the white and the red and their darkened friends around that Christian one did stand. While the light came down, like a silver crown, for the promise came to all. For the ninety men in the marshal’s den heard only the Savior’s call. And the lightning’s flashed, and the thunders crashed, showed their features pale and stern. As they all bowed their heads they solemnly said, “We are resolved to turn.”