Developing Partnerships

Yep … another day … another airport … doing what I do … waiting on a flight out of Dallas-Fort Worth at the moment.  I’ve just spent the better part of two days with friends and ministry partners, sorting how we can do greater ministry through partnerships.

As usual, I do a personal debriefing, using the waiting time to reflect on various aspects of all we discussed.  However important that may be—and it has great value, to be sure—my thoughts have turned primarily to the aspect of relationships, specifically the value of authentic, long-term relationships.

Sitting in the planning/strategy meeting from 10am until 3:00pm, my thoughts went beyond the presentation of material, questions, and answers.  I was reminded of what should be a life-long process of developing new friendships and partnerships in both life and ministry.

The wise man Solomon stated that a man who has friends must be a friend (Proverbs 18:24).  To my right at the conference table was my older friend of 35 years—Harold Brown, longtime pastor of Oakhill Baptist Church in Somerset, Kentucky.  In recent years we only see each other once in a great while, but we invariably engage like we’d never been apart for more than a few minutes.

To my left at the table was Harold’s son Dan Brown, with whom I have partnered in youth ministry and other events, both in America and in the United Kingdom, through LIFT Student Ministries.  As with his father, weeks and months can pass without contact, but Dan and I always have an unbroken continuum of friendship and ministry.

Also at the table were several other businessmen/women and ministers—people with whom I enjoy newer but growing relationships, in part because of a developing partnership with Manna Worldwide.  Bruce O’Neil, founder and president of Manna Worldwide and several of his staff like Jerry Abbott, Ryan Jones, and Andrew Even, are amongst those new relationships that exemplify the great opportunity and privilege of a healthy ministry lifestyle.

What I mean by that is this—throughout our lives, each of us should be meeting new people and building new relationships.  It’s the embodiment of iron sharpening iron, which leads each participant to greater personal and ministry heights, translating into the furtherance of the Gospel in our world!

BTW, do you pray?  If so, would you pray for these new partnerships for ministry?  The issues and opportunities we are discussing, as well the plans we are formulating, have the potential to become one of the greatest movements in modern Christianity—indeed, worldwide!

Stay tuned!  Although things are developing, you will be hearing and seeing more!

dale

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This Wasn’t What We Were Expecting, Was It?

Have you ever considered the reality that God is at work, though we may not see or understand it at the time?  Perhaps you are hesitant to answer without knowing where the question may be leading!

For example, had I told you that God would send His Son to earth for a 33-year visit—stepping from eternity past and into time—who amongst us would have guessed that He would have come just as one of us!  This wasn’t what we were expecting!

Had I told you that the Son of God would make his entrance into this world through the womb of a virgin, and be born in a barn, you would have said “Certainly not!  He is the designer and creator of the universe!  He shall be born of royalty, and in the finest castle!”  So this wasn’t what we were expecting!

Pretend for a moment that we actually grasp the humanity of the eternal Son of God.  Let’s say that we can fathom a child being born to a young virgin.  However, when we consider that the young lad grew up in ancient Nazareth, we would rightly ask ourselves, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth, of all places?!”

Yet, listening to the conversations in the Synagogue, and observing the elders, we’re taken aback by the wisdom  pouring with ease across the lips of this lad of twelve!  We would turn in disbelief to each other, acknowledging, “This wasn’t what we were expecting!”

From that day in the Temple, it seems earth’s Heavenly guest drops off the radar, but the author and finisher of our faith emerges by the water’s edge, requesting baptizm by the eccentric evangelist, John the Baptist.  That clearly wasn’t what John expected; hence, in Matthew 3:14 (ESV) …

… John tried to stop him, saying, I need to be baptized by you, and yet you come to me?

No, that wasn’t what we were expecting, was it?!  However, after seeing the Spirit of God descending like a dove and finding a perch on Jesus, we hear a heavenly voice saying, “This is my beloved Son!  I take delight in him!”

Then, He’s gone again … this time into a wilderness area, where he fasts (and no doubt prays) for forty days and nights.  Well, we certainly weren’t expecting that, since many of us seldom pray for 40 minutes at a time, let alone 40 days … and Americans aren’t known as the fasting types exactly now, are we?

When hunger pangs must have been indescribable, the shadowy figure of the underworld—Satan—the tempter himself—approached Jesus, and began tempting him to turn stones into bread … to take a flying leap from the pinnacle of the Temple … or worst of all, after showing Jesus the splendor of all earthly kingdoms, Satan promised to give them all to Him if Jesus  would fall down and worship the great liar.

Well, this wasn’t what we were expecting, was it?  However, from His obedience in baptism and victory over temptation, it appears as though there’s a new sheriff in town.

Jesus relocates from Nazareth to the seaside at Capernaum, and begins a preaching ministry, and while doing so, recruits a dozen associates from such diverse backgrounds as fishermen, tax collectors, and medical doctors.

Ah, but that isn’t all—as he speaks, this carpenter of Galilee unfolds truths in the New Testament that were in-folded prophecies in the Old.  This wood-worker becomes the miracle worker, unstopping deaf ears, opening blinded eyes, cleansing the untouchable leper by the touch of this master’s hand!

Well, that certainly wasn’t what anyone expected, was it?!  Days turn into weeks, weeks into months, and wherever this miracle-working man travels with his authoritative message, we increasingly discover a divided crowd.

Many who have experienced his miraculous power follow him wherever he goes, bringing their sick for healing, and singing his praises.  You would think with that track record, everyone everywhere would be thrilled; but in the background is another group—grumbling and griping at his every move and miracle!

Well, that wasn’t what we were expecting, was it?!

However, let’s join the celebration—in Luke 19:36-38—near  the Mount of Olives—at Bethany and Bethphage.  Lining the street is an endless crowd, chanting “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”  Many are tossing fig leaves and even their jackets into the street to carpet his path, as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords comes riding into town, not on a stallion, but rather on a young donkey!

Well, this wasn’t what we were expecting, was it?

On Palm Sunday, consider the meaning of this progression that has lead us to this point.  While the crowd surrounding us shouts “Hosanna!” you and I surely have reservations about their celebration.  Why?—because we know how fickle this crowd really is.

We know how the plot will take a sinister turn in a matter of hours.   These exultant echoes of “Hosanna!” will soon give way to sinister shouts of “Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!”

What?!  This wasn’t what we were expecting!

Backroom plotting by haters of the Messiah will quickly result in a thespian trial of Jesus … a mockery of justice … and the miracle babe from the manger of Bethlehem … the man of miracles from Galilee … will soon become the man of sorrows!

This wasn’t what we were expecting, was it?

After being swapped for a hardened criminal named Barabbas, he will be beaten beyond human recognition.  The timbers of a tree will be thrust upon his bleeding back, and the compassionate Christ who raised to life the children of broken-hearted parents and called a dead brother from his grave in Bethany, will stagger in his frailty beneath its heavy load, along the Via Dolorosa to the place of the skull.

No, this wasn’t what we had in mind … not at all!

Yet there on Golgotha’s rocky knoll, we witness a collision of justice on the one hand with the grace and mercy of God on the other.  Two thieves, convicted for their crimes and sentenced to death—one on either side of the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world as he lays down his life.

Through clinched teeth, an unrepentant thief rails sarcastically on the man in the middle, “If you really are the Son of God, come down from your cross!  Save yourself, and save us also!”

Yet, on the other side, a frail and broken thief repents … admitting to his sinfulness.  Listen to his supplication!  After rebuking his colleague in crime, he feebly appeals to the miracle man in the middle, saying, “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

With vision of palm branches still in our minds, and the now-distant shouts of “Hosanna!” reverberating in our heads, gaze for a moment at the middle cross.  Beneath the abuse and the blood is the marred resemblance of the man who was once the innocent babe in Bethlehem!

Force yourself to continue looking intently!  That man was once the lad who caused the scholars of the synagogue to marvel.  This is the man who was moved with compassion for hungry people, and who would borrow five barley loaves and two fish from a little boy and use them to feed 5000 hungry people!

Why, pray tell, is he hanging on a cross after all the good he had done for so many helpless and hopeless people?  Why doesn’t he call 10,000 angels to release him from the cross and set him free?!

This wasn’t what we were expecting, is it?

However, I can answer your question.  I can tell you why he didn’t come down—because he hung there for you and me—paying for our sins, rather than his own.  He who knew no sin became sin for you and me!  He whom God loved has now become what God hated!

The one who always was, who is, and who always will be the giver of life, now willingly lays down his own life—to pay a price in our place.  Through parched and swollen lips, He cries out—“It is finished!”  and yields His spirit.  This really wasn’t what we expected, is it?

It would appear that the sinister forces of evil have won the battle of the ages.  But let’s hit the pause button for a moment.  Let’s remember how this story ends!

While the situation looks bleak and hopeless from our perch on Golgotha’s hill … after all, we’ve experienced an earthquake, the day almost instantly turned to the blackness of night, the veil has been torn in two, and our hopes that this was the Messiah would certainly have been dashed … except for one thing.  We know how the story ends, don’t we?

Yes, a few lady friends will anoint the miracle working man from Galilee.  Our friend Joseph of Arimathea will loving bury the bludgeoned body.  The tomb will be sealed with a stone and closely guarded, lest someone rob the grave.

Oh, but this tomb will soon be empty!  While no power from without could challenge the guard and empty that grave, consider the power inside the sepulcher!  …  Remember Jesus’ words?

John 10:18 KJV  No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.

And because He lives, I can face tomorrow!  Because He lives, all fear is gone!  Because I know, I know, He holds the future!  And life is worth the living just because He lives!

John 14:19 ESV  Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live

That, my friends, is the hope with which we wave palm branches today!  That is the hope that carries us through the deepest and darkest valleys!  And when the world has done its worst and become its darkest, our hope remains in Jesus, the Christ!

dale

Life’s Uncertainties

Once again, I have been reminded of the uncertainties and the unknowns of life.

Since returning to Michigan last Sunday night, we’ve had snow, sunshine, frigid temperatures, and melt-off by day.  To anyone living in the northern tier of states—or anyone who has ever lived here—that means filthy vehicles.

I can’t stand a filthy vehicle, perhaps in part because I have traditionally driven black Chevy Suburbans and Tahoes for decades.  So, while the sun was shining a few minutes ago (even though the temps were hovering just below freezing, I was in the driveway washing the Tahoe, when a friend of my neighbor Scott walked over.

“Did you hear about Scott?” he asked.

“No,” I quickly replied, sensing something serious had happened.  Sadly, I learned the news that my 44-year-old neighbor had suffered a stroke while I was out of town.  My heart almost stopped!  How can this be possible?

Scott, who is almost the same age as my oldest daughter, is athletic.  He runs regularly, including some half-marathons.  He golfs regularly, too—even in terrible conditions—and on a recent business trip to Virginia, was planning to golf a bazillion holes!  He exercises regularly in his condo.

In short, he makes his older neighbor look pretty overweight and sluggish.  Oh, wait!  I did that all on my own, didn’t I?  However, all winter long, whenever in town, I have been walking 2.5-3 miles each Monday-Wednesday-Friday with other senior citizens at the local mall!

While I’m doing well to walk a few miles each week, Scott (20+ years my junior) is running that much or more.  He could pose as a model for Mens Health magazine, while I … oh … never mind.  Scott’s diet probably consists of lots of green, leafy things, while fried okra is about as green as it gets for me … unless you count green beans, garden peas with lots of butter, or lettuce on a greasy cheese burger.

How is it that Mr. Health next door has a stroke, while his out-of-shape neighbor is still “trucking?”  (And don’t write to tell me that I should go on a diet and exercise more!  I already know that … and I also know that life is filled with uncertainties.)  I could drop dead before I finish typing this essay … or you could before you finish reading it!

So, what’s your point, you may be thinking.  Our times are in His hands (Psa 31:15).  While we should act responsibly with our physical bodies, there is more to you, me, and life than just our bodies.  I’ve known since boyhood that it’s appointed that each of us will take a turn shaking hands with “the grim reaper” … death.

These bodies weren’t designed to last forever, but the “Dale” that lives inside this one is going to outlive this “jar of clay” by an eternity.  The real “me” is going to live forever, and I’m pleased to announce that I’ve made a reservation for a brand new body to replace this one someday!

You see, the second Sunday of May 1959, I recognized that I had a sin problem and needed to do something about it … only to discover that the best that I could do on my own was nothing more than “filthy rags” in God’s eyes (Isa 64:6).  However, that Sunday an evangelist named Allen Herr shared some great news!  There is hope!

One person in the whole world has the only cure for the disease (sin) that has afflicted mankind since the Garden of Eden—Jesus Christ.  My sin problem (and yours, too) is far worse than high cholesterol, hypertension, or my “central obesity,” as my long-time family doctor so ruthlessly puts it.

BTW, do you pray?  Have you ever prayed about your sin problem?  Wouldn’t now be an excellent time to at least consider it?  I wouldn’t recommend denying the problem, like a certain presidential candidate recently did, when he claimed he’d never done anything so bad that he needed forgiveness.  Yikes!

All have sinned, according to the Bible.  We’ve all fallen short of the mark.  All we, like sheep, have gone astray and turned to our own way.  However, the Lord laid on Jesus Christ the iniquity (sin) of each of us.  That’s what the crucifixion was all about—Christ paying for our sin!

You could pray right now … just a simple conversation with God Himself … in which you acknowledge to Him that you understand that you’re a sinner.  Second, make up your mind that you’ll accept His cure (salvation) for your disease (sin).  Third, let someone else know that you’ve made this decision and prayed, asking Him to become your Savior.

Establishing a relationship with God now will help you through the difficulties, the storms, and the valleys of this life.  Further, it prepares you for the time when you must step from this life into the next.

If you prayed that prayer just now, would you write me and let me know about it?  Are you hesitant?  Do you have questions?  If you want to write, I will try to answer in a timely manner.  You can write through this blog site, or through my website at www.dalepeterson.org.

Also, please pray for my neighbor Scott and his recovery from the stroke!

Well, my wife will be home soon.  She said we are having salads for dinner.  <sigh>

Dale on Coronado (CA)

Dale on Coronado (CA)

Default Passion

Have you ever contemplated what your “default passion” is in life?  I mean, what is the prevailing passion of your life?  What is the subject to which, given a few minutes of free time, you discover your mind instinctively reverting?

It seems that no matter where in the world I go or what I am doing at a given moment in time, my thoughts return again and again to the commission given to the Church by Jesus Christ.  His parting instructions were for the work He wanted to us do until his return at an unspecified time in the future.

Since we would not know the day or time of His return, He cautioned us to work faithfully, fervently, and fearlessly, and in so doing, He would provide the fruitfulness.  For 2000-plus years, Christ-followers have been about the Master’s business globally. However, we must ever be mindful that …

First, we have a task that is unfinished.  The mission that we were given 2000 years ago has yet to be completed, but the beautiful thing is this—the message that he wants us to share is singular and never needs to be revised. Not only is it singular, but it is simple—rather than “many ways,” there is but one way!  Further, we have more methods for accomplishing this task than any previous generation.  Of all people, we should be motivated to reaching our world with message of hope and redemption.

Second, we have gifts that are not yet given.  The flames of the aforementioned task must be fueled by believers who are motivated to invest our resources.  Some would say that we must give “sacrificially;” however, that may be overstating the case.  Do you recall Jesus addressing His disciples concerns when they felt like they had given up houses and lands to follow Him?

His response was that no man has given up anything but what it will be repaid to him a hundredfold! That being the case, nothing we give is really a sacrifice, but rather the greatest investment of all time!  We just don’t find financial advisors who make that kind of return on investment!

Finally, we have lives that are yet unlived.  Yesterday—with whatever we may have done, be that good or bad, wise or foolish—is gone.  Each past victory should build our confidence and each blunder can serve as a valuable lesson for self-improvement.  Did life knock you down yesterday?  Get up and determine to live a life of obedience for His glory and the good of others today.

BTW, do you pray?  If so, why not ask God to help you focus on the task He has given?  Ask Him to show you what you can give?  Remember the miracle of the feeding of the 5000?  It was a wee lad who gave his small lunch (5 loaves and 2 fish) to Christ, who in turn used it to feed the crowd that day.  Your “little” becomes “much” in the hand of the Master!  Ask Him to use your efforts in life.  He will take you up on it!

Dale on Coronado (CA)

Dale on Coronado (CA)

 

My Valentines

Last night was a huge ministry night for me!  Oh, I don’t mean the size of the crowd.  As far as I was concerned, there were only two people in my audience—and I loved it!

It was Daddy-Daughter Dance night for two of my granddaughters, but their father (Greg LaPointe), firefighter-paramedic, could not get off work.  What an honor it was for Papa Pete to step up to the plate and be a “dad to two daughters” again, albeit for only a few hours.

Of course, the preparation began with the arrival of the first text message from my daughter Joy.  I made sure that I would be in town, and then cleared the calendar for that afternoon and evening.  Then there was the follow-up details that most of us dads aren’t all that great at tracking—what color dresses would Brooklyn and Emma be wearing, order their wrist corsages and a boutonniere for myself.

After picking up the flowers, I headed for the car wash.  No self-respecting guy would pick up his date (or in my case, dates) with a dirty Black vehicle covered in Michigan’s road salt.  Thankfully, it was still clean upon my arrival at their house.

BROOKLYN AND PAPA PETE FEB 2016

By now, some reader is thinking, “What in the world does this stand-in-dad and his granddaughters have to do with ministry?!”  Oh, I’m so glad you asked!

EMMA AND PAPA PETE FEB 2016

The light that shines farthest shines brightest at home—so much of real ministry is with those who know us best.  For too many years, my own five children were at times left in the shadows while Pastor Dale gave their time to other people.  Maybe, just maybe, grandchildren are sort of a do-over for some omissions in bygone years.

For me, last night was about setting an example and sowing some seeds in two young girls’ lives.  I pointed out that a gentleman opens their doors, and whenever a boy fails to do so, or to treat them respectfully, that’s a warning flag.

They noted the clean truck, so I let them know that they were special, this night was special, and that was an important detail to remember—especially if a young man ever came to pick them up and hadn’t bothered to clean his vehicle.  They also heard that young men should never pull into their driveway and blow the horn, expecting them to come running.

At the restaurant, those two turned heads, let me tell you!  They walked elegantly behind the hostess to our table, as almost every mother in the place smiled broadly and commented to table mates.  Perhaps the girls were oblivious—but Papa Pete caught it.

As they glanced over the menu, it was time for another lesson—always order modestly, perhaps even asking their date if he could suggest something, noting that the young man may be on a strict budget—and that they would know this if they ordered a filet and baked potato, while their date timidly ordered water and a cup of soup!

BROOKLYN AND EMMA FEB 2016

Interestingly, this conversation prompted one of my dates to change her mind, leaving the adult menu and returning to the kids’ menu!  <grin>  After a rushed meal—not on the part of our server, but we were close on time when our food finally arrived—we headed back across the icy parking lot to the truck, where the girls waited for their doors to be opened for them.

After checking our coats upon arrival at the school, and against their mother’s instruction that “Pictures aren’t necessary, so don’t spend the money!” we got in line and had our photo taken anyway—because it was a special night, at least for Papa Pete!

EMMA PAPA PETE BROOKLYN FEB 2016

Then the fun part … and I’m still not sure who enjoyed the next 1.5 hours more—the girls or me!  I have never been a dancer, but I do know that dances have names—waltz, the twist, hokey-pokey, or whatever.  After observing last night, I think the entire evening of dance might be called the spasm!

Well, let me clarify that somewhat.  After trying to keep up with those two granddaughters (ages 7 and 9), I think maybe it was me who had the spasms!  Thankfully, 27 songs into the evening, the DJ played a slow song—something with which I could keep pace!

BTW, do you pray?  If so, maybe this is a great time to ask ourselves as adults a few tough questions—like “Am I giving my time to the people and things that are most important in life?”  If you, like me, have ever struggled to balance priorities consistently, then you understand the difficulty of that—and hence, the need for prayer.

In the course of a lifetime, there will be many important relationships.  At times, we will struggle to find and maintain a proper balance of those relationships.  However, apart from your relationship with God Himself, there is no greater than family.  Let’s ask the Lord for His strength and wisdom.

I discovered all over again last night the importance of family—a lesson taught to me by two little Valentines!

Political Perspective

Listening to the non-stop wrangling of politicians and their respective followers, I’m reminded of the importance of perspective.  The late Victor Borge was known for his “phonetic language,” postulating that we do not always understand each other because we do not use punctuation marks when we speak, as we do when we read and/or write.

Perhaps more closely to the truth, we misunderstand each other at times for various reasons, but quite often it’s because of our limited perspective.  Someone once said, “We don’t see the world the way it is; we see it the way we are.”  That’s a very limited perspective.

While Meriam-Webster offers four dimensions to their definition of the word perspective, let me simplify that in two.   First, they offer, in part, this meaning—“the technique or process of representing on a plane or curved surface the special relation of objects as they might appear to the eye.”

This explanation conveys to us the concept of illusion—that, for example, as we view a drawing or painting, we perceive depth when in reality, it is an illusion.  What is not real is created in such a way as to cause an observer to see it as real.

Secondly, Webster adds this dimension to their explanation—“the interrelation in which a subject or its parts are mentally viewed,” in contrast to the subject being physically viewed.  Ideally, the greater our understanding is, the better our capacity to view things in their true relations or relative importance.

Most of us have heard or said to others, “You need to maintain your perspective.”  I suppose each of us has come to realize keeping our perspective is more easily said than done at times along the trail of life.

BTW, do you pray?  If so, wouldn’t this be a great time for us to pray for perspective for ourselves as we navigate the twists and turns of life?  It may be that you, your friends, associates at school or work, or neighbors are faced with financial or physical difficulty.  Ask God to give you His perspective.

During the 1970s when I served as one of the missions pastors under the late Dr. Jerry Falwell Sr, I often heard him say that wisdom is “seeing things from God’s point of view.”  That is the perspective that each of us needs daily in life!

Thankfully, according to James 1:5 (ESV), “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”

Further, as America approaches another presidential election, our citizens desperately need wisdom and perspective.  Without wisdom, many voters will be fooled by candidates who paint an illusion—pretending to be one thing, when in reality they are another.

Historically, America began with men—though imperfect—who understood the importance of Godly wisdom, and they appealed to Him in prayer, and did so in earnest.  I fear that some 240 years later, our nation is being lead to our demise by men and women who pretend to talk the talk, but their walks betray their talks!

Let us humbly pray until we see, not “through a glass darkly,” but rather from God’s perspective, and see all things clearly!

Dale on Coronado (CA)

Dale on Coronado (CA)

Will the Real President Please Stand Up

As a boy growing up on a dairy farm in Tennessee, I watched somewhat regularly the CBS television show To Tell the Truth, hosted by Bud Collyer, beginning in December 1956.  The show consisted of the host and a panel of 3-4 celebrities such as Tom Poston, Kitty Carlyle, and Orson Bean.

The premise of the show was for the “celebrity panel” to ask questions of three guests in order to determine which guest was telling the truth about who they were.  One guest was truthful, while two guests were imposters, merely pretending to be someone they were not.

Watching last night’s Republican “debate” on Fox News, I was reminded of that old television show.  Truthfully, there were a few resemblances.

For example, To Tell the Truth only had one host, whereas last night’s debate had three—two men and a woman—which is sure to tick off the women’s rights crowd … unless they feel that one Megyn Kelly is equal to a combined Chris Wallace and Bret Baier.

Also, last night there was a live audience to watch the taping of the show … er … debate … only the audiences at the NYC tapings of To Tell the Truth listened intently and quietly, while last night’s audience appeared to be more like cheerleaders for their respective guest panelists.

And speaking of audiences—and panelists—unlike the TV show To Tell the Truth, where the celebrity panel voted on who they thought was telling the truth, it’s the combined live and television audiences who must eventually vote for which “celebrity panelist” we think is telling the truth!

The thing that strikes me most, however, as I compare the old To Tell the Truth with last night’s debate is this—Was there even one panelist in seven who told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth—with no spin?

To tell the truth, I’m not sure—and therein may be the greatest issue of all.  Grassroots America has been lied to so many times by so many politicians concerning so many issues that citizens no longer trust ANY politician to tell the truth!

BTW, do you pray?  If so, then from now until Election Day would be an excellent time to pray for our country.  That we are a nation in crisis, distress, and trouble is not debatable.  The debate lies in who is the right leader, with the right solutions, so that we—the grassroots panelists—can vote this November for a real president, not an imposter!

Dale Peterson First Grade 1956 scan0001

They Were All Here; Now They’re All There!

The Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year holiday season is an especially difficult time to experience the death of our loved ones.  I know this from both personal and vicarious experiences.  For example, I preached the funeral of my own mother just three days before Christmas 1980.

A few days ago, word came to me that former classmate from college, ministry colleague, and friend Ed Dobson of Grand Rapids, Michigan, had died just one day after Christmas 2015, following a fifteen-year battle with ALS.

Pastor Ed Dobson  is debuting a new film series called Ed's Story through local producer Flannel.  (Cory Olsen | The Grand Rapids Press)

Pastor Ed Dobson

Yesterday, my elderly friend and mentor of almost forty years, Dr. A.V. Henderson, passed from this life to the next.

avhenderson

He was the last of my unofficial board of mentors—ministry men to whom I turned for advice and counsel.  Suddenly, I find myself thinking, “Now where do I turn when I need an experienced human being to suggest a course of action when I have questions?”

Today, and relative to that, the thought that continually circles my mind is this reality: They—that is, my mentors—were here, but now they are all there—that is, heaven.  From the multitude of those thoughts, I find reasons for reflection and for gratitude.  Perhaps quite by “accident,” I have been blessed from my early adulthood with marvelous mentors.

Soon after getting married in 1970, my young bride and I moved from hometown in the southern city of Knoxville (TN) to metropolitan Detroit.  From the first Sunday at Temple Baptist Church of Detroit, their pastor G. B. Vick took us under his wing, treating us as if we were his very own.  Old time Temple members will appreciate this statement—I have eaten many lunches at Snow Whites’ in Detroit, whether I wanted to eat there or not.  If Mister Vick said, “I’ll see you at Snow Whites,” it meant that we were going to Snow Whites!

If I had ever missed the example from my own father, Dr. Vick was to me what a Christian gentleman should be.  While there were other men in America whose churches were larger than Temple in the mid-70s, there was no larger ministry example in my life than the gracious G.B. Vick.  Although he died in 1975, I miss him sorely.

During my three-year tenure as a student at Bob Jones University in the late 1960s, I was privileged to be on stage with one of the world’s leading Shakespearean authorities—Dr. Bob Jones Jr.  His father, Bob Sr. died during my freshman year at the school.

Perhaps it was in an early rehearsal of The Merchant of Venice, that Dr. Bob and I first became acquainted.  He played the role of Shylock, while I was a lowly jailer with no lines at all.  But those hours on stage together afforded me opportunities to spend time with a very personable Dr. Bob.

Through the years, we disagreed on a few ministry personalities and philosophies, but I cherish to this day many conversations and correspondences.  Once, after making some bold statements to him, I waited for him to virtually dissect me.  Instead, I received the most grandfatherly advice and warm affection, not the tongue-lashing that I feared might come. Those are things one doesn’t catch from a pulpit on the platform.

The name R.O. Woodworth and Baptist Bible College have been synonymous since the inception of the college in 1950.  For decades “Reg” was the business manager and taught personal evangelism, among other courses.  One cannot talk for more than a few minutes with any graduate of BBC and the name Dr. R.O. Woodworth not be mentioned!

Because I had married into the Woodworth family in 1970, he was just Uncle Reg, and his wife—Mrs. Woodworth—who had tended the bookstore at the college, was Aunt Dorothy.  I can still see and hear my oldest two children—when they were young—crying in fear that Uncle Reg was going to die in our living room!  Why? Because he was standing on his head, trying to prove to them how young and strong he was (in his 80s!), and his face had turned 20 shades of bright red!

Although I haven’t lived in Paducah (KY) for more than 25 years, I still miss his annual stops in Paducah, breakfasts together, and his passionate preaching in the church where I was pastor.

Of all my mentors, I probably spent the least amount of time with Dr. Lee Roberson, long-time pastor of Highland Park Baptist Church in Chattanooga (TN).  Our paths crossed numerous times through the years, usually at conferences in the 1970s-1980s.  I seldom asked for his advice directly.  However, anyone who ever heard or read his sermons received practical advice in short sentences.

Without disparaging other pastors for whom I worked, and without listing the many reasons for this statement, Dr. Jerry Falwell was the greatest pastor I’ve ever known.  After my first six months in Lynchburg, I was discouraged, thinking, “Jerry doesn’t even know who I am!”

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One Sunday evening, as I headed to a side entrance to the auditorium at 701 Thomas Road, a black Buick Electra 225 screeched to a halt in the parking space beside me.  Out jumped Falwell, tickled no doubt that he had startled me.  He slapped his arm around my shoulders and with that voice of authority said, “Dale Peterson!  I just got off the plane from De-troit, Michigan!  You know, not one person asked me about Liberty Baptist College or Thomas Road Church or Old Time Gospel Hour, but everybody I met asked me about you!  We’re glad to have you onboard!”

I learned through the years that Jerry truly loved everyone.  He could walk away from a sound stage or studio after interviews by celebrity types, but he was just as interested in the cameraman or the lady calling the lights as he was the Phil Donahue’s!  Another excellent illustration of his love for people was in my church office one morning.

Before walking into an auditorium filled with pastors one day, I asked Jerry to hang on for a minute, and we let everyone else leave the room.  My youngest daughter Joy—12 years old at the time, wanted to interview Falwell for a class project.  His attention instantly shifted to Joy.  He asked if she had her tape recorder ready.  He had her sit in my chair while he made himself comfortable on my desk.

Joy had her questions written on 3-by-5 cards, and asked them one by one.  Jerry Falwell treated her like she was a contemporary of Barbara Walters or Katie Couric!

I would like to think that some of those noble characteristics rubbed off on this pastor.  Few days have gone by since Jerry’s death that I haven’t missed him.

B.R. Lakin, like all the others named, was a true friend to preachers everywhere.  I had listened to and read his sermons for a few years before finally meeting him in Southgate (MI) in the early 1970s.  Shortly after hearing him in person, I invited him to speak to a youth rally in southern Michigan.

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Picture this, if you can—2400 high school teenagers and their youth leaders sitting spell-bound listening to an old southern evangelist from Fort Gay, West Virginia.  I still meet people who attended that meeting—and they all remember the lights suddenly going out and Dr. Lakin quickly saying, “Just hold!  It’ll go out quicker than that for some of you one of these days!”

Then, just as quickly as they had gone out, the lights came back on.  I will refrain from divulging the name of the young man who hit the master light switch in the control room at Temple Baptist Church.  A few minutes later, after finishing his sermon, Dr. Lakin invited young people to come to Christ, and dozens were saved that evening.

Three years after entering vocational youth ministry, I accepted the role of youth pastor under Dr. Tom Malone Sr., founder of Emmanuel Baptist Church and Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac (MI).  Malone was a preaching machine—a preacher’s preacher, with a style all his own.

tom malone sr

I asked Doc one time, “Doc, how do you get your sermons?  I know you don’t just subscribe to The Sword of the Lord, and get other preachers’ outlines because that publication usually prints yours!”  I’ve never forgotten his reply.  Without going into lengthy detail as I tell it, he outlined for me how he read the Bible each morning, and continued reading until God had spoken to him.  Then he said, “ … and I have found that what God uses [to do those things in my heart], He will use in the lives of others.”

The one mentor who influenced my life over the longest period of time was Dr. John Rawlings.  My first introduction to Dr. John was in the late 1950s when I listened to his national radio program—The Landmark Hour.  It was the live broadcast of the evening services from Landmark Baptist Temple in Cincinnati (OH).

As a child, I loved to hear Dr. John preach because he told a lot of stories as he spoke.  As I listened to those messages, it never entered my mind that this man would one day become a dear friend.

Dr. John & Dale

Dr. John & Dale

Finally, the last of the old-timers to hang up his sword is my friend Dr. A.V. Henderson, whose passing has prompted my reflections today.  As I write these words, I am trying to book hotels from Michigan to Texas.  A younger pastor friend from Waterford (MI) and I are planning to make the journey to attend the memorial service in Haslet, Texas.

BTW, do you pray?  If so, would you pray for our safety as we make this unscheduled trek?  Further, and perhaps more sobering, let me ask this—whose lives are you influencing for the cause of Christ?  While we’re praying, let’s ask God to use us to positively impact others for His glory.

The men mentioned above are a handful of the men and women whose lives have touched and encouraged my personal and ministry life.  With whatever inherent faults I have, these are people who helped make my life more Christ-like because they cared about others, including me.

One of my prayers—since childhood—could be summarized in a song that George Beverly Shay used to sing.

If I can help somebody, as I pass along,
If I can cheer somebody, with a word or song,
If I can show somebody, how they’re travelling wrong,
Then my living shall not be in vain.

My living shall not be in vain,
Then my living shall not be in vain
If I can help somebody, as I pass along,
Then my living shall not be in vain.

If I can do my duty, as a good man ought,
If I can bring back beauty, to a world up wrought,
If I can spread love’s message, as the Master taught,
Then my living shall not be in vain.

My living shall not be in vain,
Then my living shall not be in vain
If I can help somebody, as I pass along,
Then my living shall not be in vain.

 

Well, no airport intercom announcement calls me to board a flight, but common sense tells me that I’d better go pack my suitcase for Texas.  Thanks for praying with me!

Then I Met the Master

After Thanksgiving each year, I really get into the Christmas spirit.  Invariably, one the Christmas songs will stick in my head—sometimes for days!  This year, it’s been the song, Rocking around the Christmas Tree, and a great tune—for the first 300 times!  After that, the “sentimental feeling” wears off when you hear voices (in your head) singing, “Let’s be jolly; deck the halls with boughs of holly!”

As much as I love the secular sights and sounds of Christmas, I know there’s a deeper meaning to the holiday than tinsel & trees.  The real reason for the season is a Savior.  Have you ever met Him?  I first met Him as a nine-year-old lad, in a small church in Knoxville, Tennessee.

He changed my life that day, and like the song says, “ …all things were changed when He found me; a new day broke through all around me—for I met the Master, now I belong to Him.”  I’m so thankful that He accepted me—“just as I am!”

Through the years I’ve met people who thought that, although Jesus would accept others, He would not be accepting of them.  Some had done things that left them feeling that they were too bad for God to ever accept them.

The great news of Christmas is that God sent His son, so that every human being of all time could discover forgiveness through Him!  Christmas wasn’t just a time for angels, & shepherds, & wise men to meet the Christ child—it’s for you & me, too!

Christmas is a great reminder that we can meet Him in a manger.  From the very beginning, that’s what Christmas has been about from the very beginning – Behold, a virgin shall be with child, & shall bring forth a son, & they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

The manger was an earthly beginning to the ingenious plan of God, established in His mind before the dawn of eternity.  The little Jewish infant in the manger would grow, just like other newborns, through childhood, but as He grew even the scholars of the synagogue marveled that a young lad would have such knowledge, insight, & wisdom.

Although we lose track of this teen when He leaves the Temple, some 18 years later He re-emerges in the Wilderness.  There Satan is tempting Jesus to turn stones to bread, to take a flying leap while calling on angels for protection, and to bow down and worship this fallen angel Lucifer.

Soon following the days of temptation, however, comes a series of opportunities for us.  If we miss meeting Him at the manger, we can meet Him in the miracles.

After Jesus’ baptism, He began to teach wherever He traveled, but as He spoke, some doubted His words.  For example, one day there was a rich young ruler who met Jesus, & asked him how to gain everlasting life.  Sadly, when the young man heard Jesus’ answer, he was disappointed in God’s solution & turned away, doubting Jesus’ words, choosing instead to trust his own abilities & riches.

To my thinking, though some might doubt His words, it would take a lot to doubt works—His miracles.  I mean, if you had seen Jesus touch eyes that had never observed a sunrise or sunset, & instantly a blind man could see, wouldn’t you believe?

If you watched the compassionate Christ touch a leper and witnessed his sores instantly made clean—wouldn’t you believe?  If you had heard Jesus say to a lame man, “Rise, take up thy bed & walk,” and you saw a crippled man who’d never taken a step in his life, suddenly leap to his feet, roll up his mat, & run throughout the village, would you doubt for a moment that this was the Son of God?

No man has ever done what Jesus did—healing the sick, feeding the hungry, & raising the dead!  Not only can we meet the Son of God in the manger & in the miracles of 2000 years ago, but we can meet Him on a mountain.

Consider the Via Dolorosa—the way of suffering—the way of Sorrows.  Today this is a street within the old city of Jerusalem, held to be the path that Jesus walked on the way to his crucifixion. The winding route from the Antonia Fortress westward some 2000 feet, past the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to the Place of the Skull, is still today a celebrated place of Christian pilgrimage.

Don’t you see that what began in the cradle now advances to the cross?  The very reason the babe was born in Bethlehem—leads us from a manger to a mountain—Mount Calvary—where on Golgotha’s rocky knoll, we would observe three crosses.  While justice is being served on two of them, grace & mercy collide with justice on the cross in the middle!

Two men, convicted for their crimes & sentenced to death, hang on either side of the Lamb of God.  One convict offers criticism—If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross!  Save yourself & save us!  (Oh the bitter toll that sin takes on those who reject the miracle man in the middle!)

On the other side, is another sinner—guilty as charged, but willing to admit to his sinfulness.  What a substantial difference in heart attitude between these two dying men.  Rebuking his colleague in crime, he feebly appeals to the merciful Man in the Middle, saying, Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom!

Gaze for a moment at the middle cross.  Beneath the abuse & blood is the marred resemblance of the man who was once the Babe of Bethlehem’s manger!  This was the twelve-year-old boy who baffled the scholars in the Temple!  This is the man who unstopped deaf ears, who wept at gravesites before calling the dead back to life!  Why, pray tell, is He hanging on that cross?!

My friend, gaze long and consider carefully the One hanging on the center tree—because He hangs there for you & me!  Do you realise that Jesus Christ set the greatest example of the purpose driven life!

Perhaps you’re thinking, “Dale, what possible purpose could there have been in the birth of a baby who would just live to die?”  I’m glad you asked!

The best news ever to come to human ears is this—the babe we meet in the manger … the man we meet in the miracles … the Christ of the cross on the mountain … lived & died, so that we can meet Him in a mansion!

Everything I’ve shared has been about the temporal journey to an eternal destination.  Some people in this world, like the unrepentant thief, spurn the sacrifice on the center cross, passing from the tortures of this world into those of the next, and awakening in the never ending torture of hell.

However, for those who, like the penitent thief, meet the Master and accept His substitutionary death as payment for their sins, the eternal destination is neither a manger nor a mountain, but rather a mansion—heaven!  Jesus said, Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.   In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.   And if I go & prepare a place for you, I will come again, & receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

However, heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people—have you made your reservation? Are you prepared?  The Christ of Christmas said, I am the way, the truth, & the life; no man cometh unto the Father but by me.

Looking beyond the cradle & considering Calvary, we realise that it’s the cross that makes the difference.  Jesus Christ didn’t come down from the cross that day to prove to a skeptic that He was the Christ.  No, He stayed on the cross, dying to provide the only solution to our sin problem. The proof came three days later when He arose from the dead!  He said, I am He who was dead, but I’m alive forevermore!  And because I live, you too can live also!

We celebrate Christmas and the birth of the Christ child because we know that his story—though it winds through the valleys of heartache, trials, rejection, & even death—ends in victory!  And what a day that will be—when we behold Him—not in this world, but in the next!

There are many breathtakingly beautiful sights in this world, but if you think these things are beautiful, you ain’t seen nothing yet!  Eye hath not seen, ear hath not heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. …

So, while you celebrate the Season, be sure to ponder all these things in your heart.  Meander mentally from the manger along the trail, contemplating the miracles, and make your way to the mount.

Rejoice that the Christ of Christmas has provided the means for you to meet Him in a mansion!  There’s every reason to celebrate the Savior who makes the season possible!

A Cup of Coffee

As I placed the Maxwell House coffee pod into the Keurig earlier today, a smile burst onto my face as a flood of memories from childhood raced through my mind in a nanosecond!  The predominant memory was of my grandfather—Garfield Blaine Peterson.

Keurig Maxwell House

Most people in our rural community knew him as Blaine, although some older adults referred to him as G.B., but to my siblings and me, he was just Papaw.  To Aunt Mildred, he was Daddy.  He owned the largest dairy farm anywhere around in the 1950s and early 1960s, though it would pale in comparison to today’s dairy farmers who milk 4000-5000 head of cattle per day.

I remember the old farmhouse where Mamaw—Omega (Graybeal) Peterson—lived when I was a young lad, complete with the wall-mounted telephone that you cranked to ring the operator, who then connected your call.  Later in my pre-teen years, Dad and Papaw built a modern ranch-style brick house for my grandparents.

Great memories were made for me in both those houses—like practicing the songs that I would sing for church.  Mamaw would play my accompaniment on the old upright piano that sat in the living room, while Mom would “coach” from the davenport.  I still remember the first song that I sang as a solo—Near to the Heart of God.  Both Mother and Mamaw insisted at each rehearsal that I sing all three stanzas—but I wanted to do only two.

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When I was introduced that Sunday morning, Mamaw played and I sang the first verse and chorus—and then it hit me!  I’m the one in charge here, and there’s nothing anyone can do if I skip the second verse!  I boldly launched into verse three, followed by a closing chorus, and sat down.  Perhaps memory fails me, but I don’t recall either Mother or Mamaw being upset because I failed to follow their directives—they were probably too proud of little Dale.  However, if they did remember, I was probably spanked … seems like I was spanked for about everything in those days!

But I digress … and you’re wondering what any of this has to do with Maxwell House Coffee, I suppose!

One of the great memories that I carry close to my heart is the scene I would see in the mornings when I spent the night with Mamaw and Papaw.  I would slide my way from bedroom to kitchen in my socks, rubbing my eyes as I shuffled along.  Then, squinting in the early morning light, I would see something that would influence my entire life to-date!

Sitting at the table would be Papaw—sipping a steaming cup of Maxwell House coffee and reading his Bible.  That was the scene that popped into my mind this morning as I closed the lid of the coffee maker down onto the Maxwell House k-cup!  Although I doubt that Papaw planned for his Bible and his brew—actually his cup of coffee was not brewed, it was instant—to impact his grandson, I did!

That impactful scene got me to thinking—I wonder what habits of my own are impacting those around me?  Is or has the influence been healthy or detrimental to others?  That’s a provocative thought, isn’t it?

BTW, do you pray?  If so, perhaps you would join me in asking God to help us develop, maintain, and hone habits that are wholesome—for us as well as for others.  We have little clue of the impact our lives are having on those around us.  My prayer is that the influence is to their benefit.

Oh, look!  My cup is empty!  I’m heading back to the kitchen for another cup of Maxwell House.  Cheers!

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