The Hand of God

During the “shelter at home” order I managed to finish an interesting book by Michael Medved entitled Gods Hand on America that tells of historical events and persons that caused Americans to see the hand of God at work. The stories detail amazing accomplishments, as well as tragedies that were narrowly avoided or courageously endured, that assured our country of God’s providential care. The book opens with a chapter about something I never knew existed.

In the 1840s, explorers in the Rocky Mountains kept hearing about a colossal cross of snow that appeared for a few months every year on an uncharted Colorado mountain. After it was finally photographed in 1873, and a painting exhibited at the Philadelphia Centennial International Exposition in 1876, it “touched the happy hordes as freshly revealed evidence that God looked with special, clearly expressed favor on the works and ways of the new nation that celebrated its first glorious century of existence.”

The “Holy Cross National Monument” was established in 1929 by presidential proclamation, but its national monument status was stripped by congress in 1950 after a rockslide took away one of the arms of the cross. I’m not sure what to make of it all, but I don’t think it wrong to look for the hand of God in both natural and unnatural events.

If you see something that encourages you and strengthens your faith, don’t be afraid to share it. And don’t worry, as long as we have eyes to see, the cross upon which we base our hopes will never disappear from sight.

God Bless, Rick

Canceling Services

The Hidden Word from James 1:5, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him”, is a promise that we relied upon when trying to discern how to respond to the coronavirus situation.

When it was announced that indoor gatherings were to be limited to 250, and there were no reported cases of COVID- 19 in Sangamon County, the elders decided that we could plan on meeting together as usual on Sunday. But when it was announced on Saturday evening that there were now two confirmed cases in the Springfield area, the elders agreed that we should cancel all services and activities for the next day, as we would do in the event of a major snow storm. The prospect of canceling services for several weeks, however, meant that we should meet together and discuss alternatives. And, since none of us had any plans for 9:15, we decided to meet then.

Casey opened our meeting by sharing something he had shared with his family earlier in the morning; Psalm 34. We then prayed briefly, and began looking at ways to meet the spiritual and physical needs of our church family. Shepherding responsibilities were divided to make certain the needs of our most vulnerable members are met, and then we focused on how to encourage worship outside of our building.

After exploring several alternatives, we decided the best approach would be to make available a time of praise, a message from God’s Word, and a communion meditation that could be used to facilitate worship in homes. We will record such during the week, and make it available through our website. We will also burn DVDs for those who don’t have access to an iPhone, iPad, or computer.

No services or activities will be offered at the church building for the next two weeks. The elders will reevaluate the situation on the 29th, and hopefully we’ll be able to meet together by Easter, if not before.

God Bless, Rick

The Story of Steve

Deciding what to write about is by far the most difficult part of writing to you each week. I want it to be personal in nature, and even entitled it “Rappin’ with Rick” when rapping meant something other than what it means today.

I’m always on the lookout for something to write about, and to my family’s chagrin it’s often them. Other times it’s simply something that’s caught my interest, something I’ve come across in study, or just something I’ve been thinking about.

I’m not usually impressed with celebrity conversion accounts, but I found one while reading a gun magazine last week that I thought you might enjoy. The article was about a special rifle that Steve McQueen carried in the movie Tom Horn. A sidebar in the article had this to say about Steve.

“McQueen was a difficult man. He was married three times and had two children. He was notorious for demanding strange things in bulk like jeans and electric razors in his movie contracts. It was later discovered that he was donating this stuff to the reform school where he had lived as a teen.

McQueen was a competitive racer of both cars and motorcycles as well as an experience pilot. In his prime he ran five miles a day seven days a week, worked out for two hours daily, and was an accomplished martial artist. He was, however, also a heavy smoker and regular drug abuser.

After a lifetime spent pursuing hedonistic pleasures McQueen found himself empty and quite literally dying. In his final months, McQueen became an evangelical Christian. He was active in his local church and met with the famed evangelist Billy Graham while keeping in touch with his friend, and fellow actor, preacher Mel Novak.

In the high-octane life of Steve McQueen, the King of Cool, we see a tough yet talented man who had simultaneously both everything and nothing. Despite a life wasted in sin and excess McQueen nonetheless finally met Jesus and found peace, purpose, and redemption. His story serves as a timeless cautionary tale.”

God Bless, Rick

Putting Words in David’s Mouth?

If you haven’t read Casey’s meditation on “Hitting the Mark”, I’d encourage you to stop here, and read it before continuing.

As Casey noted, we’ve been looking at the priesthood of Jesus in our study of Hebrews on Wednesday nights. And after making it clear that Jesus’ priesthood is far superior than what went before it, the author focuses on the sacrifices offered by both, and clearly states that it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

He then goes on to say, “Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says, ‘Sacrifice and offering Thou hast not desired, but a body Thou hast prepared for Me; in whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin Thou hast taken no pleasure. Then I said, “Behold, I have come (in the roll of the book it is written of Me) to do Thy will, O God.”’”

As I was preparing for our study, it struck me how amazing that statement really was. The author was quoting from Psalm 40, and has Jesus, stating through the words of David, that God had prepared for Him a body that would do what the bodies of bulls and goats could never do.

My excitement turned into confusion, however, when I actually read the Psalm. Rather than say “a body Thou hast prepared for Me”, it reads, “My ears Thou hast opened.” Why the change? Did the writer of Hebrews misquote the Psalm to make a point? Surely not.

I quickly checked various translations to see if there was one that read as quoted in Hebrews, but found none. Then I spotted a footnote in the NIV that said, “Hebrew; Septuagint but a body you have prepared for me”. That was an answer that simply raised another question.

The writer of Hebrews obviously quoted from the Greek translation of the Old Testament. But why did seventy Jewish scholars, working nearly 400 years before Christ, change David’s words about having his ears opened to the truth that God didn’t want animal sacrifices, into a prophecy about a sacrificial Messiah they were not looking for? A Messiah who would give His body for the forgiveness of sins.

The only answer I can come up with is that once again we find evidence that the Holy Spirit worked behind the scenes to make sure we could understand why Christ did what He did for us.

God Bless, Rick

Controversy and Confusion

Last month we had a response to our website that expressed a sincere hope that we would rot in hell. What prompted that hateful and condemnatory comment was that we support Kent Paris and his Nehemiah Ministries.

As you no doubt know, Kent is a former homosexual who repented of his sinful behavior when He accepted Christ as Lord of his life. He then dedicated himself to helping others with similar struggles find victory over enslavement to sin.

His desire to effectively minister to those with gender confusion issues led him to pursue the education needed to do so, and He eventually received a MA in Christian Counseling Ministry from LCU, and established Nehemiah Ministries. He chose not to become licensed with the state of Illinois because he foresaw possible government interference in what a biblically based Christian counselor would be allowed to say.

When I informed Kent of the note we had received, I told him that in light of the number of states that have banned conversion or reparative therapy, and the charge that it often leads to suicide because it promises change that it cannot deliver, it might be helpful for him to share a statement on how his counseling differs from the goals and techniques used in such therapy.

We corresponded at length on the matter, and, in response to our request, the latest issue of his newsletter featured an article entitled “Clarification on Reparative Therapy in Relation to our Mission.” In the article he very clearly states, “I was never trained in ‘Reparative Therapy’, have never practiced it, nor held myself out to be a ‘Reparative Therapist’.” He further notes, “The ultimate goal is NOT ‘heterosexuality’ but repentance from any sin, surrender out of love for Jesus, yielding wholly to Him to follow Him as a disciple.”

His article not only addresses the current controversy over gender related counseling, it also offers insight into the causes of such confusion. I have copies available for those who might desire one.

God Bless, Rick