Unnecessary Barriers to Faith in Christ

When I said in Sunday’s sermon, “For a theologian to pretend to be a scientist or a geologist is fraught with danger; and demanding that a particular view of science or geology is the only one a Christian can hold can lead to a rejection of the biblical record and stand in the way of someone accepting Christ,” I wasn’t speaking hypothetically. I know it can happen, because it actually happened here.

In the early 80s I preached a series of sermons on the first chapters of Genesis, focusing primarily on creation and the flood, and insisted that the view championed by Scientific Creationism was the only acceptable option. A gentleman who had begun attending CCC with his family had studied geology extensively, and couldn’t accept the view I was insisting to be the biblical view. I even went so far as to say that if you couldn’t accept the Genesis account literally, which was the way I was teaching it, neither could you accept the account of Jesus’ life and ministry to be literally true. Eventually he had to agree, and decided he therefore couldn’t believe in Jesus, and left the church.

I was devastated, but assured myself that I had faithfully preached the truth, and wasn’t responsible for anyone’s rejection of the truth. But then I discovered there were Bible-believing scientists who did not insist on holding to a literal six-day creation, and who felt that the earth could be as old as geologists said. After further study I took him a copy of a book that helped change my mind, and apologized with tears, but it was too late. The damage had been done.

We stayed in contact, and I was even asked to preside at his wife’s funeral six years after they left, but he expressed no desire to resume his spiritual journey. Then, twenty years after he left the church, he called me out of the blue and said he wanted to be baptized! My tears of apology became tears of joy!

I’m so thankful that we have a God who can clean up our messes, and even undo some of the damage we do. Like Paul, who was convinced he was serving God when he persecuted Christians, I thought I was being faithful to Him and His word when I created an unnecessary barrier to faith in Christ.

May God give us all the wisdom to know when we are wrong, and the grace to admit it.

God Bless, Rick

Meetings with Missionaries

Mark and I have had the joy of meeting with missionaries both last week and this.

Last Thursday we met with Mark Fishel, who has been serving in Cambodia for the past nine years. Mark was actually a part of our fellowship for several years while attending Lincoln Christian Seminary and working at Family Christian, and we supported Mark while he worked in campus ministries in New York and the Czech Republic. While in Cambodia he has planted a church in Phnom Penh, acted as an advisor to an association of ten churches and about twenty cell groups, taught pastors and lay leaders, and helped churches find ways to become more self-sustaining. We helped him set up a mushroom farm for that purpose a couple of years ago, but haven’t supported him on a regular basis as a congregation since going to Cambodia. We were, however, recently made aware of a need for additional support, and invited him to meet with us.

On Monday Mark and I met with Tom Moss, the chairman of the board for Haitian Christian Ministries, and two pastors from Haiti, Pastor Bob who pastors a church of 650 adults in Pillatre and oversees the ministry in Haiti which includes a school of nearly 1500 students and a medical clinic, and Pastor Jacques who leads a congregation of 350 adults.

Mark Zimmerman, who is on staff at Eastview Christian Church in Bloomington and also on the board of Haitian Christian Ministries, brought HCM to our attention back in 2012, and we started supporting the ministry in 2013. Many in the church also started sponsoring students in the school at the same time. The report Mark and I heard told of many exciting developments in the ministry in Haiti, and opportunities for direct involvement in the work there.

Missions is very important to the life of our church, and God has used us to accomplish some pretty amazing things throughout the world. Please pray for the elders as they consider how to administer the tithes and offerings you will be entrusting to us in 2018.

God Bless, Rick

The Nashville Statement

On August 29th, the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood released a statement that was signed by 150 leaders in the evangelical community. When I read it, I thought I would share it with you as part of my sermon when we got into the second chapter of II Peter, where Peter speaks of the condemnation of Sodom and Gomorrah and the coming judgment on those who indulge the flesh in corrupt desires. Now that I’ve concluded that the best way to cover what Peter is saying is to present the entire chapter in one sermon, I realize there is no way I can do justice to Peter’s message and the Nashville Statement in one setting. I have therefore decided to simply encourage you to read the statement yourself. Printed copies will be in the new hall rack this Sunday.

The preamble to the statement begins with these important words:

“Evangelical Christians at the dawn of the twenty-first century find themselves living in a period of historic transition. As Western culture has become increasingly post-Christian, it has embarked upon a massive revision of what it means to be a human being. By and large the spirit of our age no longer discerns or delights in the beauty of God’s design for human life. Many deny that God created human beings for his glory and that his good purposes for us include our personal and physical design as male and female. It is common to think that human identity as male and female is not part of God’s beautiful plan, but is, rather, an expression of an individual’s autonomous preferences. The pathway to full and lasting joy through God’s good design for his creatures is thus replaced by the path of shortsighted alternatives that, sooner or later, ruin human life and dishonor God.”

The statement itself then consists of fourteen affirmations and denials that clearly lay out a biblical response to the sexual misinformation that is being actively promoted in our society today. I strongly encourage everyone to read the statement and have it available when their children come home with questions.

God Bless, Rick


On Editing Vice & Virtue

As we anticipate our Columbus Day weekend exodus to Turkey Run, I thought it timely to share some thoughts I found in a recent editorial in Touchstone entitled “Editing Vice & Virtue.” The editorial dealt with the current obsession to remove any reference to historical persons who don’t pass the litmus test of political correctness. And, of course, Christopher Columbus is one of them.

“Currently there is a movement in our country to apply principles of social justice to purge the land of the names of those who do not adequately represent modern values… Of course, there is much silliness associated with dissociating oneself from the past. Students at the University of Pennsylvania removed a large portrait of William Shakespeare from the halls of their English Department and replaced it with a photograph of the black feminist poet Audre Lorde… In the South, anything associated with the Civil War seems to be the target for culture warriors on the left. City parks and statues memorializing the war heroes are being renamed and removed at a rapid pace.

“As Christians, we generally take a somewhat different view of virtue and vice than do those engaged in the renaming movement. We know that all are sinners. Yet we admire those who performed great deeds, in spite of their sins. We see that this is the way God treats his saints.

“Rahab was a prostitute, yet she is honored in the Bible. Moses was a murderer, yet God chose him to lead his people to freedom. King David was an adulterer and murderer, yet he holds highest honors as the poet laureate of the Church… Among the early Christian saints there were many people who acted badly: Peter denied Christ, and Paul persecuted the first Christians (instigated lynchings?)… It is not very often that Christians are named saints and then ‘dethroned’ for their sins, having their statues removed and their names sandblasted off buildings.”

If we don’t repent of our sins and failures, our names may be blotted out of the book of life (Psalm 69:28), but God doesn’t resign us to the dustbin of history if our behavior isn’t perfect. Thankfully His grace covers our sins, our vice is overshadowed by our Savior’s virtue, and He doesn’t deny that we are His beloved sons and daughters.

God Bless, Rick