Monday, August 20, 2007

Enjoyable Meeting

This past Saturday I was blessed to attend the Hazel Creek Association at Hazel Creek Church near Greentop, Missouri. The meeting began on Friday, but with my Grandmother here (another blog post to come), I wasn't able to arrive until Saturday morning.

The setting of Hazel Creek Church is just beautiful. It is located about 3 miles west of Greentop, which is about 2 hours north of Columbia, MO. The area has many rolling hills, gorgeous valleys, green grass, and my personal favorite - cows. Growing up in Texas you couldn't drive five miles without seeing cows on either side of the road. Here in Illinois we don't have that same abundance of livestock. The church is located on a hill overlooking a beautiful valley, when I looked out the first time it took my breath away. I know, you want pictures. I took them, but accidentally deleted them! Argh!

I had been forewarned that services would start earlier than normal, at 9:30 to be precise. Breakfast was to be served also, so I arrived about 8:30.

There was already a good crowd gathered when I arrived and I was pleasantly surprised to see several folks I never imagined seeing.

First, Elder Steve Woods from Arkansas, who was ordained last December. I hadn't seen Brother Steve in 4 years and we had a wonderful visit.

Second, Elder Mark Wattenbarger, who was ordained just this past July. Brother Mark and I were exercising in the ministry together back in Texas. I met him for the first time in 1998 at Gorman Primitive Baptist Church in Gorman, TX. We were good friends who rarely saw or spoke to one another, but whenever together our conversations were full and very sweet. The last time I saw Brother Mark was in 2002, so I really rejoiced to see him.

The morning service was a real blessing. To open the service, Elder Clyde Farmer spoke of the heavenly Jerusalem and Christ being the Light there. He then offered a very sweet prayer. Elder Alan Curtis spoke first from Exodus, charging us to follow the pattern God has shown us. I really enjoyed his message. I've only heard him once before this, but Elder Curtis' messages are always very thought provoking and edifying.

Following him, Elder Mark Wattenbarger preached. The last time I heard Brother Mark was in 1999 I believe, and each time I heard him in the past I enjoyed him, but the ease with which he spoke and the confidence he had were very different than the last time I heard him. Of course, 8 years should make a difference for any of us! He preached on the resurrection, the hope it gives us and the encouragement we receive knowing our Lord was raised from the dead. It was a very good message.

Following him, Elder Steve Woods preached. And boy did he ever! I'd not heard Brother Steve before, but I really enjoyed his style. He is not the most "orthodox" in delivery, but entertaining in a positive way. He just really reminds me a lot of home. His message was on the name the "Lord Jesus Christ." He preached a wonderful sermon proving that Jesus is the Son of God, and thus our Lord.

We then broke for lunch and I had several good visits, especially with Elders Jeff Cochran, Jesse Halbgewachs, Brother George & Sister Liz, and Sister Cleone Stidmon.

After lunch we gathered again for services and Brother Stephen Conte from Iowa opened the services charging us to think of the true, honest, just, pure, lovely things, those things of good report and virtuous, the things that give praise. He then offered a very fervent prayer.

I then attempted to preach on Christ our Advocate and had good response from the congregation. I then had to leave, but to follow me were to be Elders John Anderson and Kobee Trueblood.

I then had a wonderful drive to the Corn's home for our monthly church fellowship, I arrived late, but supper was ready and then good visiting and to top it all off, a good bowl of homemade ice cream! Then I went home and hit the bed for rest for Sunday's services at Little Flock.

Below is a picture of some of the ministers present at Hazel Creek.

From Left to Right:

Row 1 - Elders Chris Crouse, Mark Wattenbarger, Jeff Cochran, Jesse Halbgewachs
Row 2 - Elders Russell Key, James Harris, Lic. Stephen Conte, Elder Kobee Trueblood
Row 3 - Elders John Anderson, Clyde Meek, Clyde Farmer, Steve Woods, Darle Siegel (Pastor & Moderator)

If you are ever presented with the opportunity to visit Hazel Creek Church, I highly recommend you do. They are a warm, lovely and faithful band of the Lord's people who are soldiering on respectably in His service.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Another Year

As most of you know, yesterday was my 27th birthday. And it was a good day. It began with a phone call from my sister (hadn't heard from her in a couple months), then my Dad called. Later I talked to several church members, then Mom, then Grandma ... and you get the point. The day was topped off with a wonderful meal with Brother Paul and Sister Barb Reynolds at Texas Roadhouse. I really enjoy that restaurant, but I enjoy even more the time I'm able to spend with this godly couple. They've become surrogate parents to me that I lean on a lot.

In past years I've hoped to downplay the event, usually with little success. However, as time has marched on I've grown more comfortable with birthdays in general, but I'm growing more uncomfortable with the ushering in of additional numbers to my age.

I realize that 27 is still young, but the thing I find somewhat bothersome is the swiftness that these days, months and years are moving. I am beginning to see small signs of the "aging process" in my body. There are wrinkles beginning to form around my eyes, mostly from smiling (which better from smiling than frowning), every few days I am noticing more and more gray hair coming in (perhaps stress?). My hair is thinning a little, or lot on top. And beyond the superficial things of wrinkles and graying hair is the effects of how I feel. In some ways I am in better shape now than I've been in for nearly 10 years. During my high school years I was fairly active, ate well and was in pretty good shape. After high school I began smoking which killed my immune system, I quit eating well and I adopted the habit of too many cokes.

I quit smoking May 7, 2006 (15 months ago) and have seen a drastic improvement in my immune system. I've started eating far healthier foods, and I've started exercising pretty regularly. All this to say I feel much better. But, yes, there's a but. I notice small aches where they've never been before, I pull muscles easier than I've done before, and I get tired just a bit easier. Now, all this is minor, no major pains, no major fatigue, just little things I am noticing.

And it bothers me just a bit. Why? Because I know that it is a process that is irreversible. The wrinkles will only become more noticeable, the dark brown of my hair is going to continue to give way to gray. The small aches will happen more often with increased pain, etc...

All of these things are just more evidences of a depraved world, and that I am a depraved member of this world. Each time I put on my bifocals, see a gray hair, notice a new wrinkle, wince from a pain in my knees, I am reminded that "sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death." I know that sin is working death in me. And as each year approaches and passes, sin has gained a little more edge and brought me a little closer to its conclusion of my physical demise.

But then I remember that when that moment comes, I will be absent from the body, but present with the Lord, so it is all OK. No wonder in the midst of that verse Paul said, "For we walk by faith, not by sight." As I sit here and wonder of all the events that may transpire between now and my departure, there's no telling if there will be battles with cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer's, strokes, knee replacements, organs failing. Who knows what manner of spiritual battles are also present before me? I do not know. I do not need to know. All we must do is continue in the intervening time to walk not by sight, but faith.

So the years are passing quickly, and more quickly each year. "For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away." While some might find such thoughts depressing, discouraging or even morose, I find them encouraging. Encouraging to use the "little time" for the purposes that my God has placed me here. So I look forward to this, another year, to serve the Lord and His people in a better way than in the year of my life before. I just pray for grace to accomplish that goal!

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Faith, Hope & Charity

"And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity"
(1 Corinthians 13:13).

I can think of two immediate reasons why the greatest of faith, hope and charity is charity.

1. Charity shall continue with us in heaven, while faith and hope shall cease.
2. Charity is the outward evidence of the inward existence of faith and hope.

Perhaps there are other reasons that charity is the greatest of these three, but these two I've named appear to be the most important.

1st. Charity most simply defined is "love," or, "love in action." Faith is the "substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Hope is the "anchor of the soul." Faith gives us the ability to believe in things that we cannot see, hope gives us the ability to hold on to such belief, charity is putting our faith and hope into action.

In heaven, when we're no longer seeing through a glass darkly, but seeing God, heaven, the angels, our loved ones, and above all the Lord Jesus Christ face to face; we'll no longer need faith to believe in something unseen. Nor will we need hope, for what a man sees, why doth he yet hope for it?

However, charity, or love will continue through all eternity. Love, one of the greatest attributes of our God, a love He places in His people when they're born again, will be evident in its purest form in glory. To know of these three blessings, faith, hope and charity, that love is eternal, no wonder Paul said the greatest of these is charity.

2nd. Charity, or love in action, is the expression of the faith and hope we possess. James complained of those who had faith without works, stating it was a dead faith. To contrast that, a person who is exhibiting the love of God to others builds up his own faith and hope, and gives a godly testimony to bother faith and hope. In addition, he also gives great testimony to the person of God, when he as an ambassador of God shows the love of God in his actions toward others.

While faith and hope are both extremely and vitally important to the child of God, it is as vital that the child of God first possess charity from God, and then is faithful to display that love to his family, friends, neighbors and even yes, to his enemies.

When a child of God is faithful to portray the love of God in his actions, it is a beautiful portrayal of the life of the Lord Jesus and will motivate others to follow suit. So in this sense, charity is the greatest of these.

May the Lord's people be mindful and diligent to express their love one to another by serving and ministering to one another.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Nearing the end, the end in sight, a light at the end of the tunnel...

Well folks, for those who have been interested in my dental posts, they shall soon come to an end. Thankfully!

First, praise and thanksgiving to my Lord for the mercy and grace He has extended to me. This process had gone so smoothly. From His help in financing the procedures, blessing me with very little pain through the process, and for many other blessings throughout the past two months.

Tuesday, I went to have the impressions made for the 3 crowns for the left side. The doc decided to also remove the last wisdom tooth. He thought before a surgeon needed to do so, but after looking at it time and again he decided he could handle it himself. I'm still a bit swollen from that, but otherwise I'm fine. I've got the temporary crowns on, all bright and shiny silver tin models. The permanent crowns will be white, well two will be. The one way in the back will be gold. I've never owned any real gold in my life, so now I'll be the proud owner of a gold crown. Just not the type to wear on my head as a monarch would - too bad!

I return in two weeks to have the permanent crowns installed, then he will take impressions of the right side for the crowns that will make the bridge. Two weeks for manufacturing the bridge, then it'll be on. Then I'll be all finished. So just two more visits! Which will be a total of 8 visits since the beginning back in June.

Thanks to all of you who have prayed, and who have laughed with me through some of the experiences!