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Easter

by Mike Moore

We call it Easter. The word appears only once in the Bible and it is not referring to the event we celebrate this Sunday. It is one of my most favorite days of the year.

He is alive.

And everything is different because of it.

Education is great. But no one ever educated someone to walk out of a tomb. Medical science is wonderful. But it has limits. Even the best doctors and nurses can only keep us alive for a few years. Death seems so final. We talk about final expenses and final illness and final wishes. Philosophies are often nice, but no one ever thought his way out of a grave. Diplomacy is often impressive. No one ever agreed to rise from the dead. Military power is sometimes awesome. But no army or navy ever freed a dead person. And congresses and parliaments don’t have the power to conquer death.

Did it really happen? The evidence is overwhelming. And the wild theories giving other choices are really weak alternatives. Wrong tomb? The authorities could go to the right one and produce the body. Animals stole the body? Sure, a few animals got together and rolled away a two-ton stone and overpowered the guards. Try again. The followers stole it? Hardly. They had forsaken Him in a cowardly way. And if they stole it, would they have been willing to die for a hoax?
Great legal and historical scholars have studied the facts and decided Christ did indeed rise. Lawyer Frank Morison set out to refute the evidence and ended up writing a book called,
Who Moved the Stone? supporting the resurrection. Simon Greenleaf of Harvard Law School concluded that the resurrection was one of the best-supported events in history, according to the laws of legal evidence administered in courts of justice.

When I was a youngster in school we had holidays at Easter. We had the Friday before and the Monday after off from class. Later, the holidays grew to a full week and became known as Spring Break and they were not always at Easter time. People have forgotten in many ways what the date on the calendar means.

Spring is about new beginnings and new life after the deadness of winter. Easter is about much more than new clothes and ham dinners and colored eggs. Many will not give it a second thought, just as Christmas is only presents, food, Rudolph, and the office party. Some folks will go to church, just as they do on Mother’s Day or Christmas and feel as though they are doing God a favor.

Go ahead, visit Mecca and see the tomb of Mohammed, or view the grave of some other religious founder. Honor some dead leader. If it makes sense to follow someone who cannot defeat death, go ahead. Not me. If it does not work for the founder, the leader, I don’t want it. Losing coaches don’t conduct clinics on how to win games. Losing generals don’t tell how to win battles. But the One who rolled away a stone and walked out of a tomb, can tell me about this life and the next and victory over death. He tells us to trust Him for our eternal well-being. The Bible puts it so well, “Why seek you the living among the dead?” and “He is risen, as He said.”

He is alive.

Dad loves Mom – Family Priority Number 1: The Marriage

ktdby John Howell, Jr.

 

This is Lesson 2 in the study “Kids These Days: Biblical Help for Families.” This  13-week study is aimed at connecting powerful truths that the Bible gives us about the family with the pressing, painful needs within our families.

While parenting is hugely important and even sacred in significance, the human relationship that is most critical is the marriage relationship. The marriage relationship is second in importance only to one’s walk with God through Jesus Christ, which is the relationship that trumps (and controls) all others. The marriage relationship is more important than the role of being a parent. It is more important than the role of being a (grown) child. It is more important than one’s role as employee, business owner, or supervisor. It is more important than any friendship. My role as a husband is more important than my role as a pastor serving in the local church.

The Power Passages: Ephesians 5:22-33 (especially verses 22-25); 1 Peter 3:7

When Daddy loves Mommy, and the home radiates the feeling of a stable sanctuary from the craziness of our planet, the children in the family receive joy and confidence. Conversely, we need to realize what goes on in a child’s heart and mind when parents fight and fuss, or worse. Our little ones are looking to us and to our/their homes for their foundational peace, even after they grow up. You may be thinking: “Uh oh! We’ve really messed that up for them!” If you feel that way (and we probably all do to some degree), know that everyone struggles as the result of our innate, sinful selfishness. Take solace in the reality of the redemptive power of God’s grace and in the fact that we can—through the power of Jesus Christ flowing through us—respond to this truth now and begin to impact our families with the peace and love of heaven.

Here are the three takeaways in this week’s lesson:

  1. Marriage is a picture of an important spiritual truth

I love asking married couples the “how-did-you-meet” question. I cherish my wife’s and my story. If you don’t believe in the possibility of love at first sight, I’m pretty sure I could put up a good debate with you on that. I was 15 years old, and summertime life pretty much revolved around the little league baseball park, which was a five minute walk from my boyhood home. I was a lefty who played first base, savored the post-game free snow cones, and enjoyed my buddies. Life was pretty simple. Then one day, that summer when I was 15, I saw her. Standing in front of the bleachers. What a smile! What a gorgeous girl! Incoming…Cupid’s arrow…direct hit!

I was smitten, but very shy. So I spent the next several months watching her from a safe distance. I knew when her brothers would be playing baseball (meaning she would likely be there). I knew her parents’ vehicles. I think the modern term for my strategy would be “stalking.” My friends faded in importance. My mind was in another place entirely. After a few months of observing my paralysis and pining, my cousin/best friend walked up to Jennifer at a ninth-grade dance and very much broke the ice. “My cousin wants to dance with you,” he told her, “but he is too shy to ask you. Will you dance with him?” In retrospect, I realize that this crossroads had two potential outcomes: freeze up or step up. I stepped up…thanks cuz!

Jennifer and I dated all through the rest of junior high school and high school, except for a couple of months when she transitioned from junior high to high school and announced to me those dreaded words: “let’s take a break.” (I’m almost over that painful period). We stayed together as we went to college at Ole Miss. When I was a junior, and she was a sophomore, we knew it was time, and we were married during spring break, 1991.

Full disclosure: right before we married, I did my best to talk her out of marrying me. Why? I loved her so much, that I wanted her to be sure that she wanted to throw in for life with a guy who wasn’t gearing his life around the American dream of big house/lucrative career/nice toys/travels, etc. Instead, she would be getting permanently mixed up with a guy who believes that this world is just a place where we learn to die to self and learn to live out by faith a life in which we focus on the things that have eternal significance. I loved her so much that, unless she also saw the big picture in this way, I did not want her to be with me and be frustrated that our goals were not in sync.

Thankfully, she didn’t blink! At this writing, our marriage has been a glorious 25 ½  years and has been blessed with three children. My relationship with Jennifer brings incalculable joy and meaning to my life journey. The way I can count on her and can count on us brings strength and peace to me that is my foundation for service and ministry, second in significance only to my eternal security in Christ.

You may be wondering…what does your love story have to do with God (or Ephesians, Chapter 5)? Here’s the spiritual connection: my feelings of love and devotion to my wife provide me with insight into how Jesus Christ feels about me. He loves me much like I love my wife—only His love transcends even my strong love for Jennifer because, well, He is God! He is love!

Thus, as a metaphor, marriage helps us to understand some important truths about God. It also gives us insight into His priorities and plan for creation. We know that God is beyond brilliant…He is majestically and gloriously wise. His depths of wisdom and majesty are unfathomable and beyond what our finite minds can grasp. To help us to least get a glimpse of the important, fundamental truths about Him, God has put into motion things that we can understand that He then connects to those important spiritual truths. In addition to the marriage metaphor, some additional examples of this from Scripture include:

  • The way we are told to look to Him and trust God as our “Father”
  • The fact that a fellow believer is our “brother” or “sister” in Christ
  • How children are told to obey and honor their earthly parents as the “training wheels” version of learning to obey their Creator.
  • The use of many other metaphors that help us to understand invisible, spiritual truths: “light” of the world, “bread” of life, Shepherd/sheep, branch/vine/fruit and countless others.

Marriage was put into motion by God in part to help us understand many truths about Him, especially about His great “agape” love for us. When the Word of God connects the marriage of a man and a woman to the relationship between Jesus Christ and His church, we can know that marriage is a big, big deal to God. Our “power passage” that teaches about this connection is Ephesians 5:22-33. In this passage, we read these amazing words: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it” (Eph. 5:25). This is a standard for loving another that is more premium and more pure and more powerful than any love we can imagine. The husband is to love his bride even as Jesus Christ loves the church! Motivated by His love for us and by His obedience to His Father, Jesus Christ suffered immeasurably and loved the church all the way to the cross and charged into the gates of hell, emerging victorious from the grave! And husbands are to love our wives with this kind of love as our model!? Husbands, what should be hitting our minds is that this love for our wives is a sacrificial love, an intense and focused love, a protective love, a selfless love—a love that exceeds all other earthly relationships!

In this Ephesians 5 passage, we learn in verses 30-33 that God set the original marriage union into motion back in the garden of Eden in part to help us to understand the way that He feels about us. When I think about the way I love my wife, these deep emotions and feelings can help me to get at least a glimpse of my Savior’s love for me. This helps my feeble finite mind get a little traction in understanding the way the infinite Lord Jesus Christ feels about me.

In Ephesians 5, the apostle Paul reveals that this connection is by design. The relationship between man and wife united in marriage, united in such a special “one flesh” relationship, gives insight into the “great mystery…concerning Christ and the church” (v. 32).

Now, ladies, if your husband were to take this powerful message from Ephesians 5:25 and run with it, what would be your response? (Don’t say, “I would faint!”) According to the amazing God who created you as a woman, according to His Scriptures, you have been built by Him to respond to that love. We will study this beautiful aspect of God’s design for the woman in more detail later, but for now note that it is by the stunning design of our great Creator that:

  1. A man who loves His wife as Christ loves His church;
  2. teamed with a woman who is responding to that strong love being poured into her;
  3. puts into motion a force that is a great testimony to the love of God and the genius of God.

Somehow, mysteriously, in the marriage union, 1+1 equals something bigger, greater and stronger than 2. The one-flesh relationship of marriage is one of God’s most precious and supreme gifts to His creation.

  1. Success in the marriage role depends on our walk with our Savior

Now the hard part.

While the truths presented above are fascinating, glorious and hopeful, there is bad news to confront. The husband is sailing into some pretty strong headwinds. In fact, considering the realities of life on this fallen planet, he is sailing into a monster storm! There are enormous challenges from without the marriage, within the marriage, and within our very hearts and souls.

The external attacks on marriage are obvious. Our culture has abandoned the truths of Scripture, which place loving boundaries on sex and marriage. We are barraged with images and messages telling us to gratify our needs and impulses, regardless of purity or consequences. Our culture tells us that our (fleeting) happiness should be our main passion and goal. Our culture tells us that the Bible’s definition of marriage is lame and outdated (and evangelicals haven’t done a very good job of refuting this attack by living out biblical marriage). This is spiritual war. The enemy quickly attacked Adam and Eve’s “one-flesh” relationship through his temptations, as we see playing out in Genesis 3:

Eve, did God really try to limit your happiness?

Eve, take the forbidden fruit…doesn’t it look good?

Eve, be free from the shackles God has placed on you and Adam…

Adam, Eve, be free…be like a god yourself…be the captain of our own destiny…

The enemy is still using the same strategy, with the same devastating consequences.

The very definition of marriage, from a biblical perspective, has been replaced by both a warped definition of marriage (same-sex “marriage”) and by a “who-needs-marriage anyway” attitude. Believing parents can even fall into this trap of downplaying the significance of marriage, for example, when we emphasize our children’s education and careers over their sexual purity and God’s plan for marriage in their lives.

The external attacks are relentless. Then, within the home, there are other forces feeding into this storm:

  • Financial stress and the long-term toll on families caused by the setup of mom and dad both working outside the home.
  • Extended family members who haven’t figured out the “leave-and-cleave” instructions of Genesis 2:24.
  • Unbiblical priorities, as measured by how we invest our time.

These forces chip, chip, chip into the marriage, like termites. A marriage can get into trouble and be sinking before the couple even realizes the gravity of what’s going on!

But the biggest, toughest, and most pervasive threat to our marriage is what we see when we look into a mirror. It is our sin nature. Ephesians 5:25 instructs me to love my wife selflessly. My sin nature oozes selfishness and ego. Ephesians 5:25 instructs me to sacrifice for her. My sin nature says, “Wait a minute! She oughtta be focused on me!” Ephesians 5:29 tells me to nourish and cherish my wife. My sin nature tells me to make my needs be the primary focus. Wives fight the same internal, sin-fueled battle. Ephesians 5:22 says “submit,” which means “respond,” to your husband. Her sin nature says, “I’ve got a better plan than he does.” Her sin nature says, “I will call the shots because he’s incapable.” Her sin nature issues forth and radiates the desires to control, to lead, and to “fix” her man. However, the part of her made in God’s image is engineered to respond to the leadership of her husband, and a civil war erupts in her heart that drains the peace from her life (and her marriage).

What’s is the answer? How does the husband navigate this storm? How does the wife? Is there any hope, with divorce rates showing no signs of slowing down even with our nation (and the Christian community as well) moving into the 50 percent meltdown rate?

The standards that God puts forth for the husband, and for the wife, are impossible to measure up to in our own strength. For me in my own strength and through my own resources to love Jennifer “as Christ also loved the church” (v. 25)  just has not happened, is not happening, and will not be happening. For Jennifer in her own strength and resources to respond to me “as unto the Lord” is not going to happen, either. Our sin nature recoils at these principles of selflessness. The hope, our only hope, is to by faith access the grace and power of our position in the Lord Jesus Christ. Then, and only then, will His power and resources flow through our lives by means of the Holy Spirit. Looking at Ephesians 5 as a whole, and the letter to the Ephesians as a whole, the Bible student will learn that Paul is teaching that the life of spiritual fruitfulness is attainable for the believer only as he or she is by faith will daily:

  • “be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man” (Eph. 3:16)
  • “put off…the old man [sin nature inherited from Adam, with its pride and selfishness], which is corrupt according to its sinful lusts (Eph. 4:22)
  • “put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Eph. 4:24)
  • “be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18).

The Christian learns from a study of the New Testament that victorious living—in which we experience freedom from the bondage of self  (the worst of all our enemies) and thus freedom from the bondage of sin—is made possible by God’s grace as we place our trust in God’s promises pertaining to who we are in Christ. Though this (sadly) seldom-taught, game-changing truth is not the specific focus of the “Kids These Days” study, before you and I can become a godly spouse or godly parent, we must first know the source of our true power for godly living. Take a hard, hard look at Galatians 2:20, and study the ramifications of this verse, and you will be on your way to unlocking some amazing information about how by faith to tap into the supernatural power of God Almighty Himself as you move through this fraying world. Additionally, Romans Chapters 6-8 is perhaps the most comprehensive teaching in the entire Bible on the reality and implications of these truths. Men, we must go to the Scriptures, which bring us to the person and work of Jesus Christ—and connect us to His power—before we can love our wives even as Christ loved His church. Women, you must go in faith to these truths and connect by faith to His power, before you can respond to your husbands as if you are being led by the Lord Himself.

Go at it another way…and roll the dice on the 50/50 plan. Half of the marriages make it (though outside of Christ are still missing the true blessings of marriage)…and half of the marriages don’t.

  1. Marriage (in the Lord) is AWESOME!

Here is a prayer that every husband should pray: “God, thank you for marriage…thank you for my wife!” Men, when you think about it even just a little bit, you gotta admit that God put forward some of His “amazing grace” when he made woman. In fact, that is how Eve got her name. Adam saw her. His mouth dropped open, and the next words he said were, “Whoa! Man!” Hence the birth of the noun, “woman.”  This occurred after Adam discovered he was lonely because there was not yet before Eve, in all of God’s creation, a help or soulmate who was suitable for Adam (Gen. 20:19). Turns out, God was just adding some dramatic timing by making Adam wait for the best part of creation. God did something about Adam’s loneliness, and, as always, He did it right! He then put them together, and God Himself officiated the first wedding ceremony as Genesis, Chapter 2, comes to a close.

A pattern that emerges in the Bible is that God puts up fences and limitations for our own good, and then the arrangements and avenues that He blesses us with inside the fence are very, very good. For example, extra-marital sexual activity is outside of the fence; thus, it is accompanied by feelings of guilt, fear, and the knowledge that the strong chastening of our heavenly Father is guaranteed to follow. On the other hand, the intimacy of marriage is inimitable, unsurpassed, spectacular and a special “grace of life” (1 Peter 3:7).  And God put it all into motion as a very special part of His perfect plan for mankind.

Can I get an “amen”?!

Battle stories from the front lines: Children acting out when a marriage is crumbling around them; what the home looks like when the child or children are running things.

Scenarios

  1. There is a simmering problem that I have got to address with my husband/wife (or I will absolutely explode!), and the kids are in the next room…what’s the next move??
  2. So I’m feeling affectionate, and it is so good to see my wife that I want to let him/her know with a real kiss. ‘Ooooh gross!’ says our daughter. Is it a bad idea to be affectionate to my spouse in front of our children?
  3. Hold on now, so I’m supposed to make sure my kids know they fall just below my spouse in the ‘pecking order’? Won’t that hurt their self esteem?”

Your turn

  1. Why are husbands told to love their wives in Ephesians 5:25, but the wives are not given similar instructions to love their husbands?
  2. Peter warns the husband’s failure to honor his wife will “hinder” his prayers. That sounds serious…what is going on in that verse? (1 Peter 3:7).

 

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A Tribute to Mother

Guest Blogger, Linda Hill, shares a tribute to her mother who recently passed away.

April 15 has alwhandsays been a day that I dreaded to see coming. Now April 15 has a different meaning for me. It is the day that my beloved Mother met Jesus face to face! When my husband and I took on care-giving for my parents, we knew that someday this time would come. You never know how it will play out, and you are never really ready. As I sat holding her hand on that last day, I posted the thoughts that came to my mind with my Facebook friends:

I am holding the hand of the one who birthed me, fed me, gave me Toni perms, washed my clothes on a rub board, drew water from the cistern for me to drink and bathe, bathed me in a #2 washtub, nettled my legs with a peach limb when I was disobedient, taught me to look up words in the dictionary because she couldn’t spell that well (but I didn’t know that!), baked many a pound cake for the sick or bereaved, taught me to cook, iron, sew on a button, and put up vegetables and jellies from the garden, demonstrated sacrificial love, saved every letter I sent her from college, and (most important) led me to the Lord at age 6. Soon and very soon that hand will be in the nail scarred hand of her Savior as He shows her around her new dwelling place. It is hard for her to leave us (she’s been trying to go for a week now) but she will love it there.

Those words describe not only my Mother but a way of life that is slipping away. I am so grateful for my heritage and for the legacy that Mother leaves. As hundreds of family and friends paid their respects and poured out their love over the next few days, we were overwhelmed at the testimonies of what an important role Mother had played in so many lives. “She took me under her wing when. . . ” “She was the best Sunday School teacher I ever had.”  “She took us girls on a trip to the zoo and made us wear a dress and act like ladies then she took us to a nice restaurant.” And the comments went on and on.

Mother only had a high school education. She lost her husband (my father) and her own mother within a couple of weeks when she was only 35 years old. She was a single mom with no job. In a couple of years, God graciously brought us a wonderful “Papa” who sat by her side till the end. He is now 93.

In spite of all the hardships and chronic pain and illnesses (which were many in later years), I don’t remember Mother ever complaining or rationalizing why she should not be serving the Lord. She accepted her responsibilities as a bond-servant with joy. Lord, give me such a heart and passion to serve you too! Thank you for the privilege of having had a godly Mother who loved you most of all.

A Grace Champion Comes Home

July 23, 2012

Nap Clark

Nap Clark

By John Howell Jr.

Bible students cherish the Book of Esther because it allows us to look past the surface of life and see how God works behind the scenes to accomplish His purposes. In Esther, we are reminded that our God works out, in time, innumerable intricate circumstances as he orchestrates the lives of kings and paupers, believers and unbelievers—and the details of your life and mine. At Ikthoos Camp 2012, a group of staff members and approximately 110 campers had the privilege of seeing the hand of God at work in unmistakable ways.

On Tuesday night, July 17, at around 11 p.m. our Camp Director finished laughing and visiting with fellow night owls in the dorm lobby, and hobbled off to bed, as he had done hundreds of times before at camp during the past 45 summers. The campers and staff members were at breakfast the next morning, Wednesday, July 18, in the East Mississippi Community College cafeteria when Nap’s daughter, Susan, discovered that Nap had gone to be with the Lord Jesus Christ, whom he loved dearly. His body, nestled under the covers peacefully, was in that simple dorm room, soon to be surrounded by his widow, Dixie; his daughter, Susan (another daughter, Stephanie, would soon be on the scene after a quick trip from Atlanta to Scooba, Mississippi); and some of his “boys,” who were actually middle-aged (to put it nicely) preachers who had been launched into the ministry by this country preacher’s simple, accurate gospel message. Just as obviously as God in approximately 500 B.C. orchestrated the complex, seemingly impossible series of events that would make Esther the queen of a worldwide kingdom, our Father clearly orchestrated the events that set the stage for Nap Clark’s physical death in south Mississippi, in 2012 A.D.

Think about it: Nap was determined to make it to camp despite very poor health in the weeks before the July camp (a sweltering time in Mississippi!). He made it to camp all right, and when my family arrived Monday morning Nap was perched at his usual spot in the lobby, handing out the big hugs for which he is known, but slowly and more quietly this year. Nap had been dealing with hospitalization and a variety of health problems. Also on everyone’s minds was the fact that Nap was pushing a five-year window following the removal of his left eye due to a melanoma. Against significant odds, he made it to the podium on Tuesday night for Ikthoo’s 7 p.m. “rally,” gently assisted by daughter Susan. Tears streamed down my wife’s face as we watched him struggle to walk, see, read, speak and write—pretty much all the simple tools he needed for his powerful calling to preach the gospel of grace. Nonetheless, he made it through his message! And the 150 staff members and campers were enthralled. Many of us realized at this moment, we would discover when reflecting later, that we knew Nap’s teaching days were winding down. His “Timothy,” Dick Hill, was privately agonizing over how to counsel and console Nap on this very issue. But on this final lesson, Nap shakily drew out the cross with the upturned arrow at the bottom signifying the resurrection. He wrote out the name “Jesus Christ,” though he had difficulty writing the letters on the projector sheet, and explained how the names had deep meanings, in keeping with Jewish culture. He clearly and firmly explained how Jesus Christ came to die on the cross for all of our sins. Then came the simple offer from God’s Word: believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be placed into the forever family of God. Then he drew out his beloved “circles,” which he for decades had used effectively to illustrate the Bible’s message of eternal security, the joy of fellowshipping with Christ (“two fellas in the same ship”), and the chastening and loss of joy that comes with getting out of fellowship with Christ, along with a few other critical Bible doctrines unleashed by God for this age of grace. Though it wasn’t his full “circles” presentation, he invited campers to grab as many copies of his full illustration (that he had placed at the exits) as they might need to help them share Jesus Christ with others. It was vintage Nap—including a reminder to us all that no one knows how long each of us will be allowed to live and, thus, the urgency of accepting Christ through faith alone and the urgency of telling others what the Bible says about God’s gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ.

And the next morning, Nap Clark was gone! It wasn’t the rapture, but all of his friends agree Nap had earned the next best thing for him—homegoing during his beloved Ikthoos camp ministry. Though we certainly tried to be sensitive to the family’s loss and the impact on his best buddies while analyzing this amazing week, we collectively could not and do not dismiss the conclusion that God chose to extend Nap and his family a special measure of grace at his appointed time to die. Nap gritted his teeth and made it to camp, with quasi-permission from his doctor. He had fellowship with friends and family (including his grandson who had travelled to Atlanta for the camp) at the cafeteria for two days. He got to that podium Tuesday night to share the gospel with boys and girls and teenagers one more time. He enjoyed the company of his friends and fellow believers one last evening in the lobby. And he got under his covers, went to sleep, and then “went to sleep” (I Thess. 4:13).  His body was discovered the next morning by his daughter, and instantly something amazing happened. The best way it can be said is that we realized that God had positioned a support network for Dixie and the family that could not have been scripted with any more love and precision—including experienced pastors and camp staff members who were mentored by Nap, friends, and those little kids and awkward teenagers that Nap and Dixie love. And we all tried to do our part to meet the need.

What about the kids? What do you tell them at a time like this? That is a story all its own. Camp leaders and counselors concealed the matter for a very short period of time, maybe an hour, while we huddled, shed tears, and scripted a plan out of thin air (undoubtedly under the guidance of the Spirit) to meet this dramatic and unusual need. We gathered them in the auditorium, and we told them that Nap had died peacefully in his sleep and gone to be with the Lord Jesus, whom he loves and had faithfully served. Obviously, they were stunned, and hurt, especially the longtime campers and those from his hometown of Starkville. I felt like I had something to say at this moment, because in my job as a school headmaster I had ministered to teenagers during times of loss, and also because there were many on the staff who were much closer to Nap than I, and therefore in more pain and shock and more involved in assisting the family and handling the tidal wave of incoming phone calls. I believe the reason God motivated me to take a week off of work at a busy time in my profession was to be in position to do my part by talking to the older campers.

Teenagers and adolescents deserve truth and love at such a time. Under the intense scrutiny of this group of youngsters, I first carefully explained, in Scriptural terms, what physical death is, as contrasted with the second death. Philippians 4:6-7 is my go-to Scripture when reeling from one of life’s torpedoes or ministering to someone in crisis, so we together rallied behind that the truth of that verse. It reads: “Be anxious for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” We gave thanks to God for Nap’s life and ministry. We asked God to provide his peace for the family, and for all of us at Ikthoos 2012. God moved quickly, providing, liberally, his supernatural peace that transcends human understanding, during the remainder of the camp. Next, I went to Romans 1:11-12 and reminded all of us that, even in the case of apostle Paul, Christians need each other for encouragement. So we opened up the microphone and asked campers to share any thoughts of encouragement for each other that might be hitting their minds. Wow, how they delivered! Those teenagers were growing spiritually right before eyes, as if rocket fuel had been applied to their spiritual lives. I remember seven or eight teenagers speaking. They were not just guided by emotions and blubbering (though they had that right considering the circumstances). They had something to say. As these amazing kids came forward, they all began to pull together and confront issues such as our mortality, the truth of the gospel, and the need to share the gospel, “like Nap.” One camper read from Philippians 1:21-24, reminding his peers from Scripture that Paul was “hard pressed” to choose between his desire to be with the Lord Jesus and to continue to minister. What a great passage for the moment! Another camper shared with the group that it was “fitting” that Nap would be at camp when it came his time to die. The kids were understanding what God was doing, too! But it seemed that the main point that they were rallying around was the importance of sharing the gospel, as Nap had committed his life to doing. I can’t imagine any lesson gained by this experience that would have made Nap prouder. Also, it was goose-bump chilling to hear Dixie tell the campers the next day that she was experiencing peace despite the storm, as she thanked the youth for their prayers.

The camp continued through its Saturday conclusion, and the campers and adults had a lot of fun and laughs, at Dixie’s request. This essay includes a few of my observations of an amazing 48 hour period. This essay is not an attempt to speak for everyone’s experience, especially not the family’s, though the family members did express similar conclusions regarding the timing and place of Nap’s death. I am sure that each of the 150 individuals at the camp saw a variety of other clear examples of God’s use of circumstances to accomplish his providential plan in Nap’s death. I am also sure that believers in attendance also recognize they were sent to camp to accomplish some detail or details in God’s plan related to Nap’s finale here on earth. Nap was a champion of the Bible’s message that God has extended grace to sinners through the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. What a joy to see that God extended to Nap a special effusion of grace with which to meet physical death, and placed him at Ikthoos 2012 so that we could see a glimpse of God working out his amazing plan for Nap, and for all of us.

I Corinthians 4:16-5:10

What a Trip

July 1, 2009

My wife and I recently attended the Southern Baptist Convention in Louisville, Kentucky. Taking the long way, we went through the Atlanta area to visit some old friends. Someone once said that one old friend is worth ten new ones. There is a lot of truth in that. We stopped for an overnight stay with Buzz and Kathy Nofal. When one walks in their house they are immediately mindful that grace resides there. This couple is richly gifted by God with maximum hospitality. And since one of my spiritual gifts is “receiving hospitality” it is always a perfect match :).  What a great visit.

Next it was Athens or bust and a meeting with Melanie Garland and her children, James, and Victoria (precious children) at the Golden Dragon Chinese restaurant.  Geoffrey and Melanie (Geoff could not be there) and family are an important part of our forever family.

Then it was off to Comer, Georgia and a short pop in visit with a fellow preacher of the gospel, Lynn Kellum. Lynn is a fulltime witness for Jesus Christ and he runs a hardware store in Comer to help pay the bills. We always enjoy getting caught up on his church activity and his family. Great visit!

Our 4-Runner (Linda’s chariot) then pulled into driveway of some of our most cherished friends, the Walker clan, Steve, Donna, Luke, and Joseph. We always recieve VIP treatment while we are there. An overnight stay and a great breakfact at the Craker Barrell and we were off through the North Georgia mountains headed to Louisville. Beautiful!

The Convention far exceeded our expectations. We sensed a stirring from God to return Southern Baptist to the spiritual mandate of the Great Commission. One major motion that was passed brought us renewed hope of streamlining the convention beauracracy in order to get more mission funds to the missionaries that are ready and waiting to go into all the world with the gospel.  We also were introduced to a new ministry from Lifeway, Crossbooks. Crossbooks is a print on demand ministry that may be used of God for my future writing.

We never fail to be amazed at God’s sovereignty. On the way to the convention we received a surprising phone call from a close friend, Doc Parrish. Doc had been on our mind and in our prayer for some time and gave us the news that he was going to be at the convention. What a great meeting. We also met Jim Sheffield from Florida Bible College. They were there on behalf of Global Focus mission organization. And then God provided another surprises! Mel Carbonell, a lifelong friend in the Lord was there also. We spent some quality time with all of them. We also always look forward to seeing Doc Quick from Mississippi College. He has been a constant encourager for Linda and I through many years. We always enjoy running into old friends like Walter Price, the Satterfields, Dr. David Ball from Batesville, Bobby Wagner from Kosciusko, Dennis Salley, Park Neff, the list could go on and on.

On the way home we stopped in for a visit with some more cherished friends, Dave and Nomi Shipley. Dave and I were in the “Spokesmen,” a singing group from Florida Bible College years ago. It had been a very long time since we had seen each other and many words flooded the air as we got caught up. Dave is a gifted musician (and a pretty good cook) and Linda and I were impressed with gentle Nomi.

After a brief stop over at the Ponderosa, (my pet name for my inlaws home) just in time to put up some 400 ears of corn we drove to Charleston, Mississippi, were reunited with some friends from my B.C. days.  Jess Dickinson and I were in a rock and roll band together in college.  Jess and his lovely wife Janet were the entertainment for a church dedication ceremony.  Janet has a beautiful voice and Jess’s talent on the hammered dulcimer is beyond outstanding.  Jess was instrumental in my coming to know the Lord. Mack and Elaine Venable are also treasured friends from Charleston and we thorougly enjoyed our evening with these precious friends.

Mentioning books, Colson2here are some I have read recently; “The King James Only Controversy,” by James White, “The Disappearance of God” by Al Mohler and “The Faith,” by Charles Colson.  More about these books in future blogs. Linda and I hope that you are having a fruitful summer.