Gail Lindman – Saint Extraordinaire

The memorial service for Gail Lindman was held at TSF on Saturday afternoon, as a portion of her family were in attendance along with about 60-70 local friends.

Gail and her late husband Mel (who passed away in 2005) were a major part of the founding of TSF and the advance of the church over these nearly three decades.

Bill Kesecker spoke at the service, while Ward Childerston presented a couple of songs. Karin accompanied and I read the wonderful passage of the 139th Psalm.

The family shared a number of thoughts and remembrances – speaking also of their gratitude for those who made a continued residence in Hagerstown possible until a couple of years ago. Though from the Midwest, Hagerstown really became their home and the place where their six children grew up.

Tim Lester and I reflected upon Gail’s profound encouragements to us as pastors. She was a regular part of community groups – especially the Barnes group in recent years – and exhibited faithfulness and a confident walk with Christ at all times.

The Lindman family is a model of what we want to see be a more common experience of our church community. This is a family where the faith has been passed down through the generations – such that there is no denial of the great value of – as Bill Kesecker said – a long walk in the same direction. Though the family has spread all over the country, the Lindmans served here as cross-generational mentors … and received as well the affections and heart-felt desires of many to be taught in a discipling manner.

This is what a legacy is all about. Why not desire the same – as much as is possible in as much time as remains? We could say as well that these thoughts really resonate with the theme we are exploring right now of “The Bucket List: Choosing to Live before You Die.”

Greetings from Florida

I’m here in Fort Myers for a week with Nathan and Allie and Bella and Hudson. Sorry about the snow squalls I hear you folks back north are having – that sorta stinks.

I’ve not seen a snake yet, though I’m sure they are not far away. When I see one, I’m gonna take a picture and get it on here for you to see.

However, I did see two Redmans today – yep, Paul and Tina. The church they attend here in the winter is a rather large one, and my family has been going to it also. So today, I looked around a bit before the service started, saw Paul and Tina, and just walked into their pew and sat down next to them unannounced. That was fun.

Hanging with the Snowbirds

The program featured a really great kids musical production – lots of energy and well-done.

Snake Loving “Friends”

So… these are the kinds of friends I have! One of them – whose initials are Tim Thorpe – posts the following picture on Facebook and says, “This makes me think of my friend Randy.”

Random Snake in South Florida

Then, my other friend – whose initials are Russ Ellis – comments that, “It looks just like the one I saw going down Dam 4 Road!”

OK, so, I know there ain’t no snake like this around Downsville. But, the caption on the picture said it was in Florida … the place I was going the very day I saw the picture!  The place I am as you are likely reading this – if you see it the day I post it.

So, Tim and Russ … watch your step. I always laugh last!

Baby Bottle Campaign

It is that time of year again where, as in years past, we encourage your participation in the Hagerstown Area Pregnancy Center’s baby bottle campaign. This is the primary fund-raiser for this valuable ministry in our community.

Where else do you know that it can be said that someone or something literally saved lives? We hear of great stories from time to time, but it is without exaggeration able to be said that the HAPC saves literally hundreds of lives a year.

The medical services provided by the center – services that open deep conversations between workers and clients – come at a cost of operation. Along with an entire host of other evangelical churches in the community, we want to make this possible – to have the doors open as often as possible in order to reach young women at vulnerable times.

It would be wonderful to be able to see the evil of abortion overturned. But until that time, we may make a true difference by our practical support of this ministry of life!

So pick up a bottle at church – fill it up with coins, bills, and large checks – and bring it back by the end of February.

The Long Arm…

I had to laugh this week at what I thought was a rather humorous Letter to the Editor in the Herald-Mail. It said:

I imagine when a young man took a car and went speeding through a restaurant parking lot on Pennsylvania Avenue and flying into Rest Haven Cemetery at an estimated 70 mph that he had no idea that someone in their final resting place could stop him. But, when he went careening down the hill, he hit the large solid granite gravestone belonging to my grandfather, Joseph Dallas Baker, former sheriff of Washington County.

As a family, we are thankful that the speeder hit the monument rather than the giant oaks directly across the driveway or the outcome might have been tragic. We choose to think Granddaddy got his man and possibly saved a life at the same time, exactly the way Sheriff Baker would have wanted it in his day.

Kind of adds a new meaning to the “long arm of the law.”

I don’t know about Sheriff Baker reaching back across the great divide to get his man, but there is a long-armed presence that we can never escape – the Spirit of God …

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.  (Psalm 139)

This is a good truth for us to remember – both at times when we are fearful because of some circumstance where God seems far away, or at other times when temptation seems most especially close. The fact is that God is always there – up, down, east, west – there is no escaping this truth.

It is a long arm!

UPS and the Delivery of the Gospel

The UPS Delivery System

I was recently watching a business documentary on the shipping and logistics techniques of FedEx and UPS.  Many of you have probably heard me talk about my several years of working for United Parcel Service in Dallas during my seminary years. It was a very, very fast-moving environment. Everyone who worked with me on the primary sort aisle was a high-end college or grad student – all young and healthy guys who could memorize thousands of numbers (zip codes) and also re-arrange on the fly how they would all be grouped.

UPS has the 9th largest airline in the world

I have never worked harder in my life. It was a part-time job, and I’ve always said that you’d drop before you made it to eight hours! We were paid really well… at a rate that even today, over 30 years later, would be a decent wage.

Something I was very proud of is that I was undefeated in a particular test they would give us on eye-hand coordination. The supervisor would show you a grid chart of numbers, and you were timed as to how quickly you could put your fingers on the numbers in consecutive order.

UPS is the most efficient outfit I have ever seen. They timed everything for proficient operation. So, in this modern technological age, I guess I should not be surprised that the job I did is now completely automated with computer tags, scanners, and mechanical devices. These advances came a couple decades too late for my sciatic nerve – which reminds me from time to time of my years in Dallas.

However, the documentary presented one area where the continued personal touch of a human – the delivery guy – was indispensable. Everything else can fall apart if that person acts like a jerk!

The Gospel Message Delivery System

There are incredible advances as well in the resources for the Gospel to be presented to lost people. We have tracts and books and blogs and videos and web pages … literally libraries of materials to communicate the message of eternal truth. Yet it is still a practically indispensable element for there to be a delivery person who communicates the truth by a quality of life and capacity for verbally witnessing.

Romans 10 says this: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”

As I said in my opening sermon of the year: “There is no growth path forward for TSF that does not include a church family who cares about lost people and is actively communicating it to people.”  The days of people just flocking through our doors out of curiosity are gone. We need to deliver the truth to them.

Smokey Snake

“Only you can prevent snake escape,” could be the public service announcement by a cute talking snake in Florida named “Smokey.” (Oh, hold it, there is no way to make a snake look cute!). The 5-foot long boa constrictor escaped from his aquarium and was found in the garden next door.

The even worse part about people owning pet snakes is not simply the troubling nature of the fact that they see this creature as a pet, but that they themselves are … well … how to say this gently … ah … not likely to be people who scored 800 per section on the SAT.

Snake escape stories abound daily on the internet, and the clueless owner always has some version of “I just don’t know how Foofie got out of his container.”  Ah, maybe they shouldn’t be in a container?

To quote the news story, “I just want to take him home,’” <the owner> said, still a little choked up at the thought of losing Smokey.

(I’m not making this up …) She said she was just glad to be able to bring the pet snake home, where she also has three Chihuahuas — Dynamite, Peanut Butter and Lucy. It seems to me that better names for those dogs would be Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner! Isn’t this a little bit like keeping a pet lion in a homemade cage in your sheep pen?

I’ll never understand the “pet snake” oxymoron.

Thanks For Not Noticing

Well, I made it through another birthday and circle around the sun. Thanks for not noticing – truly – as I don’t like the attention of it and I go to some detail in advance to not make it visible. I don’t have it listed in profiles like on Facebook. I am a complete birthday non-sentimentalist!

But, when you have children, one needs to be making something of a fuss over them. Yet think about this – with five children … if we made a big deal out of each kid’s birthday for the 18 years of growing up, that would be 90 days, or three months of birthdays to celebrate. That is a lot of cake and candles (905 total candles, for example).

A thing I especially don’t like about birthdays is the reminder of getting old. I do not like getting old, and can’t believe a young man like me is stuck in a body like this!

But here are some recent reminders that things are getting worse:

1.  At a fast food drive-in, I remotely placed my order and was told it was $6.03 … so I had a five, a one and three pennies ready at the window. The lady opens the window and says, “That will be $5.43.”  So I replied, “Back there you said $6.03 … have you got the right person?”  And she answered, “Well that was before the senior discount – you do qualify, right?  I think?”  I said, “Well, I’m 56 for a few more days, so you do what the Lord leads!”  And she said the Lord led her to give it to me for $5.43. OK, maybe getting older has an advantage or two.

2.  On my birthday itself, I was walking across my back yard and under a tree. I guess I was not looking enough at where I was going, and like the old dude that I am in my dotage, was apparently looking at my feet too much as I shuffled along. Suddenly, the end of a tree branch poked me 100% head-on just under my eye! I am not exaggerating at all when I say that if I was about ½ inch shorter, it would have taken my eye out! So – giant scratch / bleeding / swelling, etc.  … and, I had to leave within minutes to go to a political luncheon. So there I am in a restaurant sitting next to Senator Shank, wiping the blood off my face with a napkin – hoping it would stop!

3.  I spend a lot of time doing what I’m doing now – sitting at a keyboard writing. Essentially, I am in the business of word crafting and communicating. I am very thankful for modern tools, and often marvel that I went through so many years of advanced education with an electric typewriter as my primary techno-gadget. But now, every day, multiple times per day, I go to do something either in a document file search or a web search, and in the midst of it forget completely what it is that I’m looking for among the sea of open documents and pages!  Ok, ok… maybe that is A.D.D. more than it is aging.

 

4.  I have noticed that my taste in the cars I look at (but never actually buy – so far) has changed. It used to be that I looked at sports type cars, particularly Mustangs.  Not anymore. Now I look at BMW 3-series and Benz 230s or something of the sort. I have not yet, and cannot imagine, looking for the stereo-typical large sedan so commonly associated with the elderly… but who knows what will be the next morph! If you see me drive up in a big boat vehicle, you’ll know I’m pretty near the end!

Well, it does stink to get older. I might have posted this in one of the blogs from my last life, but here are the lyrics to a song – to be sung by an older gentleman recently married … to the tune of “Side by Side” …

Well, I got married last Friday
My new wife stood beside me
When the guests had gone home
We stood alone
Side by Side

We were glad we were wed then
We got ready for bed then
Her teeth and her hair
She laid on a chair
Side by Side

One tin leg to follow,
one glass eye so small
She unscrewed her left arm
And put it on the chair by the wall

I stood there broken hearted
Most of my wife has departed
So I slept by the chair
There was more of her there
Side by Side

The Connection of Antietam to the Scofield Reference Bible

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere in this blog, I have another blog that features material from my interest in the Civil War, and most particularly the Battle of Antietam. That blog can be found at www.enfiladinglines.com.

In that blog I have written a post about a Confederate soldier who fought in the fields south of Sharpsburg with the 7thTennessee … a guy named Cyrus Ingersoll Scofield.

Cyrus Ingersoll Scofield

I encourage you go to my “enfilading lines” blog for all the details, but if you fear getting lost in the historical weeds, let me quickly say that this man, though not a believer in Christ until 17 years after Antietam, has had a large impact on my life and family…

… He founded my college (Philadelphia College of Bible) and was an instrumental force behind the founder of Dallas Theological Seminary (my grad school).

… Diana taught in the Christian school of a church he built in Dallas.

… He also popularized a system of theology called “Dispensationalism,” particularly through his Bible notes called the Scofield Reference Bible. This was essentially the first “Study Bible.”

If you have heard me preach and teach for very long, you are hearing the interpretation of the Bible through the construct of what is known within the theological world as “Dispensationalism.”  What is that? It sounds like a fatal disease, doesn’t it? (And some people would certainly see it as exactly that!)

Scofield Reference Bible

Dispensationalism interprets the Bible as a coherent message from beginning to end – explaining God’s workings with man as a holistic story on a grand scale – one that brings glory to God, not merely explaining the way lost mankind is saved.

The system divides the Scriptures into segments of time – periods during which God’s dealings with man involve a responsibility for man to obey, which of course man always fails to follow … upon which God institutes a new economy or dispensation (period) of responsibility.

Various proponents of Dispensationalism over the years have divided Scripture in various ways, but probably the most common delineations are:

Dispensation of Innocence – from creation to the fall of man into sin – where man is to obey God in the perfect environment of tending the garden – man fails by disobeying God, so God institutes a new economy …..

Dispensation of Conscience – from the fall to the flood of Noah – where man is to live in obedience to God’s ways by following his conscience and engrained understanding of right and wrong – and all fail but Noah and his family, who alone survive the flood …..

Dispensation of Human Government – from the flood to the Tower of Babel – where man is to rule one another under God – this too fails as instead of spreading throughout the earth, man congregates around an immense structure – so God judges man by confounding languages and sending them spreading throughout the earth

Dispensation of Promise – from Abraham to Moses – where man is to live under the promise given to Abraham of His provision of a land and a redeemer to come – but man refuses to trust in this and so…..

Dispensation of the Law – from Moses to Christ – where God revealed in great detail His perfect law by which to live and worship Him, and though the people said they would do all that was written in it, they disobeyed and were oft punished. And though they were to be a witness to the world, the nation of Israel failed terribly in this, and so …

Dispensation of Grace Abounding – also called the Dispensation of the Church – this is the message of Christ’s atoning work to be preached to all the world. But even with a final provision for sin in this grace, the bulk of mankind refuses to believe and trust, and so …..

Dispensation of the Millennium – the fulfillment of all time, when, after the rapture of the church and a period of 7 years of intense tribulation, God establishes the promised literal 1,000-year Kingdom rule and reign of Christ upon the earth … yet even with his physical presence, still significant percentages of mankind rebel, and thus God ultimately establishes a new heaven and a new earth for all of eternity.

There are literally tens of thousands of details left out of this accounting. The overall scheme of teaching that we do at TSF – called “God’s Big Story” – is essentially this system as it relates to how we have a personal relationship with God.

As I wrote in the Civil War blog, Scofield did not invent this, but what he did was bring it to thousands of people through his organized study materials and reference Bible.

One of his early books – one that I recall always near my grandmother’s chair – was “Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth.”  This booklet summarizes the teaching above, and is a take-off from the Scripture in 2 Timothy 2:15 – “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

That is what we want to do as a church – to so delve into the Scriptures that we understand it both in a macro and global sense, but also in the micro sense of understanding the incredible ways that it all does indeed tie together from beginning to end.

This does, however, take work!

 

 

 

 

Elder Board Math

My father was a math wizard and worked as a bookkeeper. He was constantly running some figures through his head, and I suppose I picked up a bit of that from just living with him.

For some reason while preparing the agenda for yesterday’s monthly Board of Elders meeting, I got to thinking about how many of these and other special elder meetings I have attended since coming to Tri-State Fellowship in 1994. The number is about 245. To put it into more manageable terms, I have spent 8 months of my life attending TSF Board meetings!

And then, on the way home, I started to calculate how many miles of driving I’ve done simply to attend these meetings. That number is in excess of 6,100 miles – which is like driving to El Salvador and back.

But you might say to me, “Randy, that is your job; stop complaining!”

Well, first of all, I’m not complaining. I’ve had the opportunity to work with wonderful men who want to serve God.

And secondly, I’m not writing this to talk about myself, but rather to put the service of someone else into perspective – Tim Thorpe.

Tim joined the Elder Board during my first year in Maryland, and has been a part of it ever since. And in that he is essentially my neighbor – who lives the same distance from church as do I – Tim has been to nearly as many meetings and driven as many miles. And his rewards are not here, but over there!

Tim is going to take a leave of absence from the Board of Elders. Do you think he has earned it? All of you who know him know that he goes through life about 100 miles per hour. The guy has earned a break! But we know he’ll be back again before too awfully long.

Tim Thorpe stories abound. Here is one: In his first year as an elder, Tim did what most of the other elders did that year – speak on a Sunday morning. This was a new experience for him! I have no memory of what he actually talked about, but I remember the coke can. He walked up front (at Northern Middle School – before our building was completed) with a coke can in this hand, and never let go – gesturing with it for 30-40 minutes without realizing he had it. During the sermon he told the story of how he was riding his bicycle one day near Interstate 70, and how he was deep, deep in thought that day. It was a mile or so down the Interstate when it dawned on him that he had absent-mindedly gone right up the ramp and onto the shoulder without even realizing it!

There is only one Tim Thorpe in the world! And I am thankful for his years of service and friendship.