Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog
My sons and I often say that we don’t really want to know much about our favorite singers. It seems that there’s always immorality and stories of their ungodliness. That’s as true of many of the rock, country, and easy listening singers from decades ago as those making music today. Despite my having grown up in the south, today I was able to do something I’ve never gotten the opportunity to do. Kathy and I toured Graceland with our gracious hosts, Barry and Celicia Grider. We enjoyed ourselves. This tour tended to glamorize and sanitize his life and career. Elvis Presley enjoyed a meteoric rise to stardom, and he was a global icon. He made more money than he could spend, though his lavish collections of furniture, cars, instruments, clothes, and the like shows that he tried. Despite his love of gospel music and religious roots, there were the affairs, drugs, and fast living that likely contributed to his premature death at age 42. His daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, who remembers him reading often, “He had stacks next to his bed. He read all the time…Always of a spiritual nature. Always looking. Always searching for something” (from a placard in the mansion). Gospel preacher, C.W. Bradley, preached his funeral thanks to the connection of Elvis’ stepmother. But there is no evidence that his search led him to obey and live the truth, and there’s evidence to the contrary. He once sang a song where he said, “It’s a lonely man who wanders all around, It’s a lonely man who roams from town to town. Searching, always searching
for something he can’t find, hoping, always hoping that someday fate will be kind.”
Billions never achieve the fame or wealth of Elvis, but live their lives on a similar quest. They live, always searching for something they can’t find. Solomon spends so much time, with access to wisdom, wealth, wine, and women. He found, in his grand experiment, that these did not fill the void. Instead, the answer was to “fear God and keep His commandments” (Ecc. 12:13). This beautiful hope is shared by Jesus in the greatest sermon ever preached. He teaches, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Mat. 7:7-8). These things are written to keep mankind from duplicating the future search for purpose and meaning. It has been revealed. Let’s look in the only place where loneliness is vanquished—in the presence of God!
Recently, I was corresponding with Arthur Ohanov, a gospel preacher in Donetsk, Ukraine, who served as my translator on a couple of mission trips to eastern Ukraine in the early 2000s. In part, he wrote me, “As I am typing this letter I hear bombing in our city, but God is good! We continue our ministry of reconciliation of sinners with their Father!” Brethren like Arthur are heroes, facing difficulties we can only imagine in America. Walking the streets of Kramatorsk, Slavyansk, and Slavyanagorsk back then, I could not fathom that war, carnage, and death could possibly come to that region in so few years.
Periodically, people talk about how the immorality and unbelief in our nation will bring devastation to this nation. While that is undoubtedly a possibility, which we can see even with God’s special nation in Old Testament times, that belongs to the sovereignty and justice of God. Yet, nations throughout the centuries rise up and testify that national peace can quickly and dramatically give way to war and destruction.
Today, we wake up to calm and peace. At the throne of God, we can (and should) humbly thank Him for this tremendous blessing. Each day that begins like this represents a golden opportunity for each of us. Wherever we go, we encounter people who are alienated from God and who are heading for eternal catastrophe. We should consider this peace more than a privilege. It is an obligation. While we have time, we must try to reach as many as possible.
The deacons at Bear Valley have been working for several months, planning and strategizing to enhance our vision for the lost in our area. Many of our members have been approached and asked for help as we try to prepare ourselves as a church to more effectively carry out the Great Commission. That will continue to expand. We really need to feel the urgency expressed by Christ, who said, “We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work” (John 9:4). “Night” may come by virtue of how swiftly our lives are lived on earth. It can also come at the hands of dramatic changes in our nation and communities. Because the future is wholly unforeseen, act while you can!
I am filled with a tremendous sense of optimism that is not generated by politics, current events, the media, the economy, or any other worldly thing. Neither am I fueled by some Pollyanna spirit. Yet, I cannot shake this swelling tide of hope that fills me on a daily basis. It is a hope for what the church and its members can be in the face of the growing challenges we face in this culture and around the world. Why are these such exciting times?
The darkness is allowing the light to shine brighter! Sadly, moral, ethic, philosophical, and civil behavior is eroding. The messages being sent by those in power and authority are increasing anti-biblical. Those who have lived for any length of time have witnessed a pretty dramatic shift in thinking and behavior. This is reflected in so many things from language on the job and on “the street” to what is allowed and promulgated in TV and movies to the blatant lifestyle choices of the rank and file. What all this means is that as Christians we can, by leading “a quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Ti. 2:2; cf. 1 Th. 4:11), shine the light of Christ (cf. Mat. 5:14-16). As we share Christ with those in our circle of influence, we can countermand the marching orders of the “world forces of this darkness” (Eph. 6:12). That, brothers and sisters, is exciting!
People are earnestly searching! I read with interest the studies about exiting millennials, new world orders (not just conspiracy theories, but fundamental shifts in worldviews), spirituality over organized religion, and the like. For all of that, down where we live day by day on our jobs, at school, in our neighborhoods, and our community and civic activities, people are longing for meaning and purpose in their lives. Yes, they can be confused and misguided. Yes, they have broken and messed up lives. Yes, this produces a great challenge to churches as we are intentional and outwardly focused. But, we have not seen a day in any of our lifetimes where biblical ignorance and, thus, directionlessness has been greater. Remember what Jeremiah said: “I know, O Lord, that a man’s way is not in himself, nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps” (10:23). There are many who would say with the Ethiopian nobleman, “How can I (understand, NP), unless someone guides me?” (Acts 8:31).
The church is ripe for revival! It seems that the tale most churches with whom I have contact tell boils down to larger numbers, greater involvement, and younger members occurred in the past! Thus, panic, pessimism, and perplexity lace the private conversations and public addresses of the pulpits, the pastors, and the pews. Perhaps it is time for congregations to consider moving from the defensive to the offensive. I don’t know that individual Christians have ever been more impressed with the dire urgency of evangelizing than right now. I believe the conviction and dedication of our Christian soldiers is palpable. With bolder leadership, concerted efforts, and a faith-filled plan of action, I believe the church as a whole is poised for growth. This will require a change of priority, focus, and commitment, but I believe that we are more than ready for it. We are eager for it!
But, time is short! Paul is right. “The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light” (Rom. 13:12). If ever the mantra, carpe diem, has applied, it is right now! May our anthem become, “Rise up, O men of God!”