Friday, January 16, 2015

I Think Maybe it's TIME

I've had several friends encourage, cajole, and maybe even threaten me a little about writing the book. You know the one, it's the one that resides in everyone's mind, the life story, the account of great--or maybe not so great--things he or she may have accomplished.
After listening to many, and having read a couple books by good friends in my profession, I guess it's really time to do that.  The final thrust came as I finished one such book just today, often laughing so hard I had tears running down my face.
Much of it will come from the Game Warden Files posts, and that will be the working title of the book.  I'm putting a deadline on myself of having a working manuscript ready the time Peggy and I head for Maine--probably the latter part of June.
Stay tuned and keep me encouraged.  Off on the new adventure.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

A Long Hiatus, Yet Again

When someone on a forum asked for any of us who had blogs to post the links, I went "Um...will my link still work?"  Yeah, it's been months again, and though I probably could have made some posts, I just have not made it a priority.  Maybe I can explain how hectic life has been.
In January and February I had opportunities to preach in a couple churches.  One is pastored by a good friend who would be on vacation.  The other was the church I'd grown up in, down in East Chatham about 80 miles away while its pastor was doing some work in Africa.
I had a great time with both groups, preaching twice in each church.  My wife got to join me for one of the Sundays in E. Chatham and we spent the rest of the afternoon with some old friends...oops, make that friends of long the area.
A couple weeks later, I had a mid-afternoon phone call on a Saturday asking "How are you at short notice?"  Seems a local pastor had left a church suddenly and their scheduled pulpit supply for that next day had developed a conflict.  One thing led to another and before long I wan't just the preacher, I was the interim pastor.
Preaching is really pretty easy.  If you put the prayer and preparation into the message, the presentation is usually not that difficult.  That said, when done with a 20 minute message, I'm most often drenched with sweat and my hands are generally ice cold--yeah, sort of an odd combination, but that's the way I am. It's fun; but it is work.  Trying to grasp the dynamics of an organization such as a church, and tread the ever-present minefield of relationships (present in all churches, by the way) is challenging.  They surely didn't teach me that stuff in the police academy! We've started a couple new programs and the church seems to be moving along well. Thankfully, this is a church filled with servants.  Though small, the congregation works to keep it running pretty smoothly, and most everyone pitches in to get what must be done, done.  God is indeed good.
In other news, I'm now officially old in that I've filed for my Social Security.  My first check hits the bank the end of next month.  That means that I have to really watch my monthly income from the church, my two police jobs, our little Christmas tree farm, and whatever else I might dabble in. So, as much as I've loved teaching the DARE program, I'll wrap it up in May or June and hand it over to another Deputy that I pretty much hand picked.  She'll do a great job, I'm sure.  I'll be staying with both the agencies, though limiting my work to a couple court details, a few village patrol days every month and firearms training.
Since I mentioned trees, we had a great year in our Christmas tree farm, selling more trees than before and giving more away, with those going to the Baptist Church of Northville--still our home church, and the Sacandaga Bible Conference.  Some of most beautiful trees went to the Bible Conference this year and were gorgeous for the Christmas program.    
In the middle of all this, we've kept up our  traveling, even taking our 14 year old grand girl with us on a trip to Maine late in the summer.  We also made our annual pilgrimage to Beaverdam in Tennessee for the encampment of the Christian Game Warden Support Group. At the moment, we're really looking for someplace warm for our end of winter trip.  Stay tuned....I might even get around to posting that.

Friday, May 16, 2014

BASICally Outstanding

It's tough to read a review of a place or a report of an event that is done purely in superlatives--it's tough to write one without feeling like I haven't been observant enough to find at least something to criticize--at least a little bit. However, looking at the 2014 Basics Conference, held at Parkside Church in Chagrin Falls Ohio earlier this week, it is pretty tough to find problems. The music was excellent; speakers the same; the food beyond belief for such an get the picture ( The BASICS Conference has been an annual even at Parkside for many years. This was my fourth year attending and I've not been disappointed at all.

  • The music is always well done.  A praise band with a wide range of skills from guitar and mandolin to piano to washboard to violin plays all the music well and leads the singing with joy. The music is never mindless; but always uplifting and fitting to the teaching session which it introduces or closes. The musicians "all have real jobs" as was said; but give up their time to devote to this ministry. They do an awesome job. 
  • The speakers were awesome. Alistair Begg himself is an internationally known speaker, preacher and teacher, he opens and closes the conference, sandwiching in a couple other exceptional men whom he believes to be among the best in the world. This year he had Christopher Ash and Gary Millar as his guests. Their messages were clear and compelling calls for pastors and leaders to do their jobs well and filled with practical tips on how to do it. All of them are easy speakers to understand and present their messages clearly, concisely and simply. All speak with humility and grace.  It's interesting that Begg, whose theology appears to be Baptistic, often has Anglicans and Presbyterians as his guests. He trusts them as Godly and honest men without regard for their denominational affiliations--we should all learn from that. That openness allows the presence of men who come from a great variety of denominations--this year there were even a couple Amish men there. That's diversity without compromising truth! 
  • Books by the Park is the in-house bookstore at Parkside Church. Only the largest Christian bookstores are as well stocked and as helpful as this. During the conference, many major publishers underwrite some of the cost, allowing the store to sell everything at a substantial discount--this year was 30%!  If a student has a hundred dollars to spend, it's wise to wait for that conference.  
  • The meals are something to behold--and for a men's conference, that's important. The food is always good, well prepared and served in ample quantities--we won't even discus the desserts except to say they are amazing. The high point seems to be the Tuesday night BBQ with wonderful ribs and chicken, done to perfection. Served with spicy BBQ beans and sweet corn, it's a wonderful meal. 
  • The meals cannot be discussed without talking about the service. Though the meals are catered in, Parkside volunteers do all the service, serving with "great joy and humility," as was mentioned. A church that engenders that culture of service is to be commended for that alone, if nothing else. The volunteers are retirees, housewives, folks on vacation college students..., all kinds. One fellow flew in from California and spent three days just making coffee, nothing else. That's the heart of a servant. 

So, yes, this is review in superlatives.  I expect next years will be as good or maybe even better--though I can toss out no viable suggestions on how they can improve it. Well, maybe one suggestion--men, get a bunch of guys from your church to join us!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Too Good to Pass Up

Sharing this transcript of Erwin Lutzer's statement on a major problem of the church today.

Dr. Erwin Lutzer message from the Understanding the Times Conference
April 26, 2014, Minneapolis, MN
This is this trouble, this is the rub. If you are 40 years old or younger, there’s the 40-40 split in
America. If you are under 40, you probably belong to a group of evangelicals who basically see
nothing wrong with same sex marriage. They are more tolerant, saying that there may be other
religions that lead you to God, so on and so forth. I say it humbly: They don’t have much of a
clue. Not everybody of course, but many of them have no clue what the implications are or what
the real issues are. They were reared by “Will and Grace” on television.
They are obsessed with technology. Many young people – not the ones that are here today by the
way; they are the exception – but many young people are so narcissistic. Yesterday I heard on
the news that one kid took 200 selfies – 200 pictures of himself in a single day. I mean the whole
technology world out there.
So there are those who say we can’t preach against homosexuality or mention Islam or anything
because we want to win these people to Christ, and that’s a barrier. So what we’ve found is that
the gospel and its implications are often dumbed down. Then you have a form of ecumenism that
compromises the gospel. And then there’s something else and that is it’s popular today to say,
“God loves you unconditionally.”
Now, to the one who’s sitting in the pew that’s sleeping with his girlfriend, he says to himself, “I
know exactly what that means. That means that it’s okay for me to continue to sleep with my
girlfriend because, after all, God loves me unconditionally. That’s His job. That’s who He is.
You see it used to be, and some of you who are older would remember this, that preachers used
to preach against sin, and then when people knew that they couldn’t live up to God’s standard,
and they were aware of their sin, then grace was offered to them. Thank God for amazing grace,
how sweet the sound.
Today grace is offered up front. Grace is offered to people when they don’t even know they need
it and whether or not they really care as to whether or not they want it because God loves you
“unconditionally.” Not to put too fine a point on it, but there are several different passages in
Scripture in the Psalms where it says that God says, “I am angry with the wicked every day.” Certainly, God loves the elect, those who are saved and He loved them, the Bible says, from the
foundation of the world. But to throw that out there for everybody to hear – that God loves you
unconditionally – is really to water down the seriousness of sin and the real understanding of
grace. Because you cannot understand grace until you fully understand sin and the better you
understand sin the better you will magnify grace. But we don’t have that today in our society.”

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Not My Battle

That's a true statement in some way, though not in others. Some of my friends would rather that I be more vocal and visible in my stances toward a lot of issues, particularly the erosion of personal rights in our nation. That's a big issue, and I support my friends in their fights on the many fronts; but I have chosen a different line of attack based upon my beliefs, my theology.
I do not believe that this is a purely physical battle. Actually, I believe that what we're seeing is only the physical manifestation of a spiritual battle.  In the book of Ephesians, Paul tells his readers where the real battle lies, it is "against authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm."
All bad government aside, all bad policies aside, all conspiracy theories aside; here and here alone is the battle. I will take my stand as a preacher and teacher--and even a blogger, not lashing out against the evils we see; but against the one we cannot see: the father of lies, the prince and power of the air, the god of this age...Satan himself. He is the source of the problem.
If men would seek God, follow Christ and Christ alone, Satan would have a much more difficult time damaging our lives. Will I support those who battle the earthly side? Certainly. Will I speak on their behalf? Of course. However my part of the battle will be on a different echelon, urging men and women to come to terms with sin. When hearts are changed, lives are changed, belief patterns change. When beliefs change, behavior changes, politics change. I will attack the problem at the root.

Ephesians 6: 12: For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places 2 Chronicles 7:14: if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Fly on the Wall

Sometimes that fly is in a position to see some great things.

It was a small courthouse in an obscure town. Even a GPS has trouble getting folks there without a few wrong turns. It was not a busy court night, nothing big on the calendar, really just traffic tickets and a couple low-level offences.
The guy had LOSER written all over him: rough, rumpled clothing; unkempt, dirty hair; scruffy beard. His face was tired, the sagging eyes suggested a history of alcohol abuse. He came in, met with the prosecutor to see if could make a deal of some kind on his charges and then took his seat, waiting quietly to be called by the judge.
The judge is the epitome of a small-town judge. A godly man, he attempts to administer justice appropriately.  He's a bear of a man, looming large behind the bench in his black robe. He takes each case seriously and deals with each case on its merits.
When the man was called before the judge, the judge noted from the plea agreement that the prosecutor had recommended a low fine as the defendant was a disabled veteran. The judge, a veteran of Vietnam himself, inquired about the man's service and found that he had served there also. The picture became clear to the judge--he was looking at one of the overlooked heroes, one of the many had come home from an ugly and unpopular war and had never recovered from its effects. He noted, on the record, the fact of the service and thanked him for it--probably more recognition than he had when he returned home from the war. Making a decision as good judges do, the magistrate opted to reduce the fine considerably, to an amount that most people can spend without thinking much about. The man thanked the judge for the consideration, and asked for a couple weeks to pay the fine. His check would come the first of the month, until then, he'd be unable to pay.
Until that time, court had been business as usual; but then something unusual happened. A woman in the courtroom got the attention of the bailiff and quietly asked if it would be OK to pay the man's fine. She was given permission to approach the bench, which she did, and handed the judge the money for the fine. She was totally unknown to the defendant; but had heard the dialogue between him and the judge and decided to take an action. The judge was speechless, the defendant stunned; the courtroom came to a complete stop for a moment--several moments, actually.
The lady who had stepped up and paid the fine had to run out the door to compose herself; the defendant had tears in his eyes and his family was in awe; the judge had a lump in his throat and the bailiff suddenly disappeared into the judge's chambers. When court resumed, it was different than a normal court session.  Folks who had driven many miles to have their day in court and were anxious to get on the road homeward were just a bit more patient than normal; fines were paid with smiles; and thanks to the judge, prosecutor, clerk and bailiff were just a bit more frequent, and seemed a bit more heart-felt.
Funny what happens when someone steps up and does the right thing, just because it's the right thing to do. Life changes, and the change is a good one.

Sobering Thought

This morning I started reading John Piper's book called Don't Waste Your Life. I'm a couple chapters in and so far, so good. Early on in the book he mentions that throughout his growing up years there was a plaque in his mom's kitchen that he saw every time he walked through through there. He described it in great detail, and I recognized it...right down to the details of color and design. My dad had the same plaque in his shop. It said: Only one life, 'twill soon be past. Only what's done for Christ will last.

Piper seems to have taken that to heart, being a well know preacher, teacher and writer of solid doctrine. Dad was not perfect and will never be known far and wide like John Piper; but anyone who knew him well knew where he stood on matters of faith. Even if they didn't notice the sign on the wall in the shop, they could see it in his life. He lived it out and displayed it within his family.

Most likely, in the not so distant future, my siblings and I will be called upon to write our dad's obituary. He's 94, in a nursing home and dealing with the ravages of dementia; but he's still Dad. A pastor friend paid him a visit last week and they talked about him needing to live that same way yet. He still understands.

Dad's legacy will show four successful children, all hard working in their callings. One has spent most of her life in full-time ministry, another has been part-time in ministry and serving his local church for years and a third has spent time serving as an officer in his church also. Looking beyond that, he has grandchildren who are hard working and successful, and some of them involved either in full-time or part-time in Christian service. Two generations removed from his active life, what was done for Christ is still visible and ongoing. The great-grandchildren are still growing.

No doubt, some of this will end up going into his obituary or will come out in eulogies when the time comes, and that's a sobering--and yet a refreshing thought. He is leaving a lasting legacy: What's done for Christ will certainly last. His life has been proof.