Forgotten? Never!

I drove out to Great Lakes National Cemetery today …

Normally, my wife Debbie and I do that on Memorial Day, but for some reason I couldn’t settle my thoughts while trying to write my Memorial Day blog, so I dropped the work on which I was unable to concentrate anyway, and made the drive—alone.  I thought perhaps that a blue sky, green grass, and solitude at grave marker 5-595 might help.

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Oh, that helped alright—helped break open a floodgate of memories, thoughts, and tears!  Then it hit me—that is really the whole meaning of Memorial Day each year!  Sadly, the true meaning is often lost in a sea of activities rather than being discovered—not to mention, appreciated from hearts overflowing with gratitude—by those who take the time to remember!

The mode of transportation today was my red 1965 Olds Cutlass.  Frankly, I thought Justin would appreciate that.  As I parked along the curb on the Avenue of Flags, with Justin’s grave off to my right, I shut the car off and just sat there—looking and thinking.

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Ahead of me some 400 yards were lines of automobiles, staged where all vehicles gather for funeral processions.  I reflected on how those families felt in those moments, remembering all-too-well the day I stepped from a black limousine with my family and made my way to my seat in a temporary pavilion.

The memory of numbly starring at a flag-draped casket a few feet in front of me seemed to me like instant replay as I contemplated the cars ahead of me today. I understand a bit of what they must be feeling as the drivers pull away, following the lead car.

DALE BEN AT GLNC 2006

Then I instinctively grabbed my cell phone from the seat, and after allowing a couple of vehicles to pass, I stepped from the car, and slowly made my way to 5-595.  While walking, I noticed how many markers have been added to section 5 since Justin’s marker was set.  In this one national cemetery alone an average of 11 fresh graves are dug and filled with someone’s loved ones every business day.

If you run those numbers, they add nearly 3000 veterans each year to this one location.  That totals some 30,000 new additions to Great Lakes National Cemetery since taps shattered my thoughts on 09 October 2006.

It’s no wild guess on my part—I know those families … no, that’s too abstract … those spouses and their children, those parents and grandparents, whose loved ones have been laid to rest in whatever cemetery, can’t forget on Memorial Day or any other day of the year!

Is it asking too much of a rather self-absorbed society to pause for a few minutes once each year—on Memorial Day—and remember and respect those who paid the ultimate price for our collective freedom?  I don’t think so—neither did the countless thousands of families dating back nearly to the Civil War—and neither does the 1% of America who shoulders the responsibility of defending our nation, so that the other 99% can enjoy the freedom which they provide.

BTW, do you pray?  If so, there is no better time than now, and no better day than Memorial Day, to spend at least a few minutes in prayer.  Every American, at the minimum, should express gratitude for those men and women who saw a cause bigger than themselves and that cause was you, me, and their posterity.  We owe a debt that we can never fully pay.

Everyone who lives under that beautiful red, white, and blue flag with its stars and stripes should also petition the Almighty—you know, the God in whom our Founding Fathers believed and Washington DC seems to have forgotten—that He would spare America and preserve the freedom purchased for us by those whose bodies rest in the dust from which each was created.

Then add to you prayer an appeal for strength for the families who have an empty seat at their tables—whether it has collected the dust of decades or is fresh with pain, as those friends and families in the processional earlier today.  At my grandson Jayden’s baseball game recently, his sister Caitlin ran up behind Debbie and me, with the exuberance of a ten-year-old who was excited to see Grandma Debbie and Papa Pete.

A moment later she gone, leaving me with a recurring and inescapable thought—there goes a little girl who will never know her daddy.  You see, she was only two days old when Justin deployed.  Think about it!  Freedom’s price tag is far greater than you can imagine.

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With that said, any people who mindlessly puts boating and barbecuing, picnics and parades, above remembrance of those who paid the price for freedom disgraces the country I love and those who died defending it.  However, even in America’s forgetfulness, comes the haunting biblical prediction of the characteristics of those living in “the last days”—unthankful!

May that never be truthfully said of you and me.  Let’s give ourselves this Memorial Day 2016 to gratitude and to expressing it appropriately … by reflecting and remembering.

Justin Dale Peterson 2006

Justin Dale Peterson 2006

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Happy Mothers Day, Mom!

With Mother’s Day looming in a matter of hours, and having read several Facebook postings and blogs about other people moms, my own thoughts have turned to motherhood and memories of my own mother.  One thought in particular hit me—have spent more of my life without my mother than I have with her! hazel summers peterson

While my eyes brim with tears at that very thought, there is also a measure of happiness that mingles with thankfulness that encourages my spirit in spite of a seat in our family that has been left vacant for nearly 36 years now.  One cannot escape the void in his heart when God, in His perfect wisdom, calls a godly mother from the humble hovel of an earthly home of clay into that land that is fairer than day—a heavenly home that fadeth not away.

However, with each passing year of my own life I can honestly say that my gratitude for Hazel Margaret Summers Peterson grows.  Although time and space prevents sharing everything—even if I could remember everything, which isn’t going to happen, here are a few worthy elements to be considered, especially by young mothers who may have more life in front of them than in the rear view mirror.

Mother was the kind of mom who set a great example for her children … well not just her children, but for anyone who knew her … but I speak/write from the vantage point of a son.  Frankly, I was at times the one child of three who could have been labeled “the black sheep” of the family.  (Don’t expect me to admit to the specific reasons behind that!  Those events and times have long been forgiven by mom, dad, and God—and are buried in two graves behind the old buildings of Salem Baptist Church and in the depths of the sea!)

I suppose you could ask my brother Dennis or my baby sister Gina, but they won’t tell you either, because mother taught us not to gossip.  Thankfully, the two of them were much more obedient, caused fewer worries (and mom worried about everything, I think), and received fewer spankings, though those repercussions were called whippings when and where we were raised.

Our petite 98-pound mother knew how to discipline when it was warranted, unlike so many modern moms, it seems to me.  Oh, I see them in the stores and other public places.  Some of them yelling at their children (which our mother never did, at least that I recall) or threatening their offspring with a “time out.”  We didn’t have “time out;” we had “time in”—time in the garden, time in the strawberry patch, time in the barn!  Come to think of it, I did spend a few hours in “time out” in the bedroom, waiting on dad to come home from work!

Mother's High School Graduation

Mother’s High School Graduation

Mother taught us with her words, to be sure, but perhaps she taught us mostly by example, as I reflect on those early years in the 1950s and 60s.  It was a wonderful example of the disciplined life—and I don’t mean punishment.

She was disciplined in her person.  She was always up early.  The bed was made, she was dressed, and breakfast was prepared by the time the family could get to the kitchen.  Good grief, it isn’t uncommon today to see moms (and dads, too, to be fair) get on airplanes still in their pajamas!

The Prince of Belgium at the Peterson's, circa 1955

The Prince of Belgium at the Peterson’s, circa 1955

Although dad was not a good reader, mother was, and she read and studied daily.  When she walked into a Sunday school class filled with children on Sundays (as she did for decades), she had not only prepared her lesson, and she had prepared herself.  It was a lifestyle for her.

She was disciplined in private.  I remember overhearing a member of the church where I was pastor some years ago.  He did not know I was at his house yet, but he was yelling angrily at his children, but when I came on the scene, I realized that I was dealing with a Jekyll and Hyde!  Not mom—she was in private the same Hazel that she was in public!

We were taught to clean up and pick up after ourselves.  If we opened it, we were expected to close it.  When we came to the table for a meal, we were expected to have washed our hands and combed our hair.  Proper table manners were a way of life.  (Lord, I could write a book on the kind of manners I see in my travels!)

Hazel Peterson, circa 1978

Hazel Peterson, circa 1978

She was disciplined in public.  Perhaps the greatest aspect of this would be good manners, which again, was a carry-over from home.  Because of who she was as a person, mother respected others and treated them with pleasant courtesy.

She was disciplined even in her passing.  After her injuries from a horrible head-on collision caused by a drunk driver, mother’s swollen body was kept functioning somewhat by various forms of life support from Sunday until it was all removed the following Friday.  Since dad was in another intensive care unit and could not see mom, I was with her until she was pronounced dead.

Afterwards I made the all-too-familiar trek down to dad’s bedside.  Looking him in the eyes for the few seconds that seemed like minutes, I quietly said, “Dad, she’s gone.”  We wept together and then I prayed with him, as I had done many times before with others.  This time, though familiar in many ways, was different.  This was my mother.

Following a few moments of silence, I said, “Dad, I suppose you want me to call Bud?” which was more of a matter-of-fact statement than a question.  Our neighbor and daddy’s friend since childhood, Bud Coomer, was the funeral director at Mynatt’s Funeral Home.  I knew they would handle the arrangements.

As though I were still standing by that ICU bedside, I can still see dad’s lip quivering as he spoke, “Yes.  You mother and I talked through the details last week.  In the closet is a garment bag with everything Bud will need—all the clothing and jewelry.  And, son, your mother had a request.  She wanted you to preach her funeral.  Can you do it?”

I guess what I’m conveying is this—because of her disciple in life, she was prepared in death.  That preparation was evidenced by the conversation she and dad had together on Friday before the auto accident on Sunday.  More importantly, preparation had been made years earlier at a little country church hear her childhood home, when she had a conversation with God Himself, asking Jesus Christ to be her Savior.

The notes for her funeral are buried somewhere in my files, I suppose … haven’t seen them in years … but I remember this above all else.  Neither as her son nor as a minister preaching her funeral did I have to hunt for good things to say about her.  Good things abounded from her life as a Christian, much as it had been reflected in her grade cards from school days, when she received A’s … sometimes with as many as four plus-signs after them.

BTW, do you pray?  Have you ever had that all-important conversation with God?  You know … the one where you get really honest and admit that you, like everyone else in the world, are a sinner.  You know … when you get honest with yourself, too, admitting that you need Him as your Savior, and then asking Him to wash away your sins?

If not, wouldn’t this Mother’s Day be a great time to do that?  I mean, if not now, when?

Dale, Gina, & Dennis

Dale, Gina, & Dennis

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

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!”

Jerry_Falwell_portrait

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.

LakinPrinceCover

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!