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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Feeling Old, Vulnerable, & Very Grateful

You know how older folks often talk about young folks (teenagers usually) and how they seem to believe that "it will NEVER happen to them," therefore they do some of the craziest things. Well, today I feel like a teenager with a wake-up call.

I had the opportunity this week to attend Church Music Georgia 2007, sponsored by the Georgia Baptist Convention Music and Worship Department. It was very good. I especially enjoyed the sessions with Dr. Bill Green. I also had the opportunity to stay with my Uncle Billy and Aunt Tootsie overnight - thank you so much!!

On the way home today, I had to stop by my new church (sorry I haven't blogged about this, but I start at First Baptist Church, Jefferson, GA this coming Wednesday, August 1 - a very special day for those in the know) to pull some anthems to begin preparation for my first rehearsal with them. OK, if you don't know, it's my B-day - happy, happy! I have wondered today if I was going to make it. Anyway, I digress ...

Well, when I left the church, I came through Commerce and got on the Interstate. As I traveled, the rain got heavier and heavier - so heavy in fact, that I actually thought it prudent to begin to slow down. Obviously not soon enough ...

I hit some heavy water on a bridge and the car started going in a direction I hadn't intended. Up until now, I actually thought I was a pretty good driver. I did think to start trying to turn the steering wheel in the opposite direction, but my car and the water on the road had some strange ideas. First, I saw the guardrail on the right beginning to move closer to the car, then we suddenly shifted away, and I think I was looking back down the road I had just been out of my side window, then the median showed up and my car just headed down in the ditch and up the otherside toward the rails shielding the on-coming traffic. Of course, the car by this time was now facing in the opposite direction from which it had started, and just as the rail was looming up ... the car stopped.

The engine was still running, the lights were still on, the windshield wipers were still flapping their merry little tune, and the rain was pouring down.

And, I sat there.

OK, the airbags didn't deploy. No other cars were involved. I hadn't flipped like the vehicle we had seen a few months back (see prevous blog - God's Timing). I thought to turn the engine off. I knew I needed to get out and check for damage, but I sure didn't want to get out in that rain.

And what had been going through my mind? No, I don't believe I thought of imminent death. I thought "this is my best car" and "I wonder if the new tires are ruined" and "I thought I could drive better than that!"

So what did I do? I called Donna (of course, she decided that I needed her to come be with me) and then I called 911 (I supposed I needed a report in case there was any damage to the car). I did, finally, grab the umbrella in the car (of course, it was a small one) and get out to examine the exterior of the car. It actually looked fine. No apparent damage to the body and the tires were still intact and inflated - minus one screw-on valve stem cap. So ... the very wet me got back in the car to wait - for the sheriff and for Donna.

Well, the deputy finally arrived and make a visual inspection (very much like mine and with the same results). When he asked about a tow, I suggested - I had already thought about it, but decided I should stay put for the report - that I first trying driving out, if the car was driveable. It was and I had no problem going back through the ditch and with a little assistance watching for on-coming traffic, I was able to turn around and head back up the road.

I did begin "to hear" sounds so I did stop a couple of times to check them out, but didn't see anything out of the ordinary. I will have to make some decision about having it checked out for damage I couldn't see, but that's not for today. And, I did make it home. Donna also finally caught up with me at home.

So, now, let's review. I survived. The car survived and still looks good except for all the extra grass. I didn't flip - excellent. I didn't hit any of the impending guardrails - also excellent. There were no other cars involved - hallelujah - in fact, not one even stopped to check on me. The car was still driveable. I learned a very valuable lesson or two (or three).

So, now I feel older (even before B-day arrives) and I feel more vulnerable and ...

I feel very, very grateful. Whether there were angels pushing/pulling my car away from guardrails, holding off other traffic, holding the top to keep it from flipping, or if it was just God's gracious hand of mercy in a situation that could have been much more tragic, I am very grateful for the goodness He showed to me.

Thanks be to God for His matchless riches of mercy and grace to me!!

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Gist of Job

Nothing deep or heavy here, not even exactly studious. Just ...

as I've been reading through Job (that's the Bible book that rhymes with lobe, not that work related thing that rhymes with Bob), the thought came to me that ...

on a very basic level, this book is about ...

reconciling what we know about God with ...

the world that we experience every day.

In this back and forth of speeches given by Job and his "friends" there is always the argument of the character and nature of God and how that relates to the experience of loss and suffering that Job is facing.

This time through I've not yet reached God's speech, but it is comforting to know that regardless of my life's circumstances, God is still God.

Blessings,
Richard

Saturday, May 19, 2007

God's Timing

Of course we were running late.

We were to be in Covington for the Sons of Jubal rehearsal at 2:00 p.m. and it was at least a 2 hour drive (per MapQuest). We decided to venture down the Interstate per MapQuest's recommendation, as opposed to cutting across country.

We did swing through the Krystal drive-through at Banks Crossing and chose to eat as we continued down the Interstate - I don't particularly like the route from Commerce to Athens especially since they are in some phase of road work.

Somewhere near the Gwinnet county line (which side I'm not sure), I looked up to see a trailer rolling down the median in our direction. As good samaritans started pulling over to lend a hand, Donna's nurse heart kicked in, so we also pulled over. Now, I had visions of death, having watched that trailer as it tumbled over and over, flailing dirt and grass, and dragging the vehicle that thought it was in control.

As we approached the vehicle, we smelled gas, and heard someone call out about whether or not the engine was still running, while courageous hands reached in to help the driver who was already in the process of crawling out. He was the lone occupant of the vehicle and he was walking (probably not the best choice), blood running down his face, as we approached.

Then we saw the other vehicle - a car. It was just beyond the first vehicle/trailer which blocked our view of it until we got closer. Seeing that others were helping the first driver, Donna and I headed immediately to the second vehicle.

Others were also approaching, but Donna, as a nurse took charge. The driver was still in his car. As Donna reached him, she began to access his condition and tried to restrain any neck movement until the EMS workers arrived. Her initial assessment showed that he appeared to be OK, but she, with her training, was not taking any chances. We did notice right away how scared he was and Donna sought to calm him. She inquired and received a positive response about his spiritual condition, and he reached to grab and hold his nearby Bible as she prayed with him.

Of course, emergency personnel soon arrived and began their work, but we stayed nearby until the drivers were both loaded onto the ambulance. We did grab our cell phone and contact the boy's (yes, only 19) family, even allowing him to talk briefly with them as the EMS worked to restrain him on the backboard.

Through the day, we continued to have contact with the family discovering that everything seemed to be OK with the young man.

Now if we hadn't been running late, if we had chosen to go across country, if we hadn't pulled over in Commerce to grab a bite to eat, if we hadn't been headed to a SOJ concert in the first place, then we wouldn't have been in that place at the right time for ministry to occur.

It doesn't really matter how many other "ifs" one could come up with - and there would be many - because, after all, it was a matter of ... God's timing.

Blessings all - remember you just don't know what direction your life will take today!

Richard

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Good that Good Isn't Always Perfect

Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned in Jerusalem one and thirty years. And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the ways of David his father, and declined neither to the right hand, nor to the left. (2 Chronicles 34:1-2 )

Chronicles records that Josiah did many things right. The words above are just a synopsis of a life lived well.

However, it didn't keep Josiah from acting stupidly by needlessly meeting Neco of Egypt in battle, thus losing his life.

It also didn't protect him from failure in raising his children:

Jehoiakim was twenty and five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem: and he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord his God. (2 Chron. 36:5)

Jehoiachin [some translations indicate grandson others 18 years of age] was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned three months and ten days in Jerusalem: and he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord. (2 Chron. 36:9)

Zedekiah was one and twenty years old when he began to reign, and reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord his God, and humbled not himself before Jeremiah the prophet speaking from the mouth of the Lord. (2 Chron. 36:11-12)

It is good to know that when we blow it in our walk with God, even when we are trying to walk in His ways - when good isn't always perfect - that God's grace and mercy are sufficient.

Blessings,
Richard

Friday, March 09, 2007

Revival

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; (Psalm 19:7 ESV)

You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again. (Psalm 71:20 ESV)

Then we shall not turn back from You; Revive us, and we will call upon Your name. (Psalm 80:18 NASB-update)

Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? (Psalm 85:6 ESV)

"Revival"

Revival, revival
Comes only from the Lord.
Restore our hearts,
Renew our strength,
Give power from above.

Revival, revival
Comes only from the Lord.
Pour out Your grace,
Show us Your love,
Revive our hearts, O Lord!

Copyright © 2007 by Richard Dickson

{Revival chorus written for revival services of Hill Street Baptist Church, Toccoa, Georgia March 11-14, 2007 with Rev. Wayne Hamrick as the evangelist.}

Not As They Should Be

The worship leader had assembled one of the largest groups from near and far for one of the grandest worship services ever to be held. Oh, the music was beyond grand and everyone was celebrating and rejoicing in the goodness of God. It seemed that there had never been a worship service like this one.

However, things were not as they should be. Something was where it should not have been and someone did something he should not have done.

The ark was on a cart!

Suddenly, the great celebration - the marvelous worship experience - came crashing to an end. Uzzah reached out, helpfully, with good intentions, and he was struck dead by an angry God.

Now, I wonder, was God pleased by the worship? If the ox hadn't stumbled, would the journey have been completed with no one the wiser and God pleased, or at least OK, with the worship (even though the ark was on a cart)?

I wonder also, if Uzzah had just let it go and the ark had come crashing to the ground, bursting open for all to see the contents, what would have been the consequence.

Scripture clearly indicates that God's anger was directed at Uzzah for reaching out to steady the ark (the event is told in 1 Chronicles 13). In the passage, there is no indication that God's anger was because of the ark being on a cart, although Uzzah would never have been in the position he found himself in, if the ark had been where it should have been in the first place.

How is our worship?

Is God pleased with our worship? We get excited when there is a big crowd ... when there is a lot of excitement ... when the joy and celebration are running high - wow, we think, THAT is worship.

But what if the ark is on a cart? What if something is not where it should be? What if someone does something they should not? Has worship occured? Is God pleased with our worship?

I fear that our arks are frequently on carts. We are concerned with so many things that sometimes we do that which violates the good pleasure of God. I can only be grateful, so very grateful, in my own experience, that God has been gracious, shown mercy, extended His love, and at least been tolerant of my failures, that my place of worship has not been called "Perez-Richard" - that God has not broken out against me in His righteous anger.

OK, let's have a big crowd - or small. Let's celebrate the awesome greatness and goodness of our God. Let's have a grand worship experience. But ...

put the ark in the hands of Levites, not on a cart!!

[By the way, David, the worship leader, got it right the second time around - chapter 15 - and it was an even greater worship experience.]

Monday, March 05, 2007

To Know Him

"That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death" (Philippians 3:10)

Do you ever get the feeling that others know Christ more than you? That to them, He is more real, more personal?

Then there are others, who profess Christ, but yet seem more careless (or to care less) with their relationship.

Hopefully, to know Him better is to only want to know Him better. And to know Him is to feel that you haven't even begun to know Him.

May God give us all the desire, the longing, the starvation even, to know Him more!

Richard

Friday, March 02, 2007

Mechanics and Miracles

I have the privilege of singing in the Sons of Jubal - the Georgia Baptist Convention men's singing group (actually the oldest group of its kind in the country). Last night, Thursday, March 1, 2007, we joined with our sister group, the Jubalheirs (forming the Jubal Chorus) in a concert at the First Baptist Church, Snellville, GA.

My wife (she is a member of the Jubalheirs) and I drove approximately 75 miles from our home to Snellville for the rehearsal time and concert through an awful rain. As we approached the last traffic light before the church, I put on the brakes to stop for the light. The car rocked and had difficulty stopping. Obviously not a good thing. Now, we were not only late for the rehearsal, but I was concerned about getting home after the concert.

Since we were already at the church, I pulled into the parking lot, stopped, got out and looked at the tire/wheel to check it, and drove around the lot a little to see if the problem persisted. After I sent my wife on in for her rehearsal, I called our extended warranty service to check on my next move. After consulting with them, it was determined that the next step was to get the car to a mechanic (does seem a no-brainer doesn't it). However, we were in a town far from home. So, I went into the church, carrying my stuff for the evening - remember I didn't know where my car would end up. After depositing my stuff, I starting looking for help in locating a good garage/mechanic.

The helpful staff directed me to the Minister of Missions, Terry Hopkins. I found him to be a very pleasant and helpful gentleman. Of course, in his experience he had run across a similar problem and was willing to bet MY life on his solution - read on to see that he was actually pretty accurate in his assessment. In a few moments, he directed me to a garage just across the street from the church, Holdens Automotive, and the owner, Mike Holden, who he stated was a good Christian man.

Mike and his staff were very friendly, inviting, and easy to talk with. Mike took the time to drive my car to see if he could sense a problem. Of course, the car did not misbehave (I know you've had that experience). But, he dropped me off at the church, and promised to look into the problem further and get back with me later that day.

As promised, he called about an hour before his closing time with the news that his staff had removed all the brakes and examined them. They could find nothing wrong with the brakes to cause the problem and surmised that with all the rain, some water had gotten into the brakes and the ABS (automatic braking system) and made that one stop difficult. After all that time and effort I asked for the cost and I can only say that Mike was very good to me.

At the end of the rehearsal, just before supper (actually only minutes after Mike's call), a fellow Jubal drove me across the street (remember rain, 5 lanes of traffic, near Atlanta, after 5 p.m.) so that I could get the car.

After the concert, we drove the car home with no further incident.

Now I will spec out my praise to God:

1. Safe journey from home to Snellville.
2. Trouble occured right at our destination.
3. We did get stopped for the red light.
4. The helpful staff of FBC, Snellville, especially Minister of Missions Terry Hopkins.
5. Mike Holden and Holdens Automotive (wish I had a link, but if you are in Snellville, GA, I would encourage you to check them out).
6. Holdens was just across the road.
7. Mike was a Christian.
8. The time and effort Mike and his staff put into making sure my car was safe to drive.
9. The price was right (at least for me).
10. The meal and other hosting of FBC, Snellville was great.
11. The concert was great.
12. I understand that at least 2 people came into relationship with Christ because of the concert.
13. Safe journey home after the concert.

"Praise God from Whom all blessings flow."
"To God be the glory, great things He has done."

For Mechanics and Miracles: I'm praising God!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Good and Bad, or Vice Versa

The Good or Vice Versa

In the scheme of things, I find myself reading in the Bible books of Kings and Chronicles.

Recently, the pastor I serve with (supply/part-time) preached a sermon on one of the "good" kings - Joash. So many look to him as an inspiration especially regarding his care for God's house and his use of the "Joash box," "chest of Joash," or "Joash offering" as I have variously heard it called.

Joash as you may recall became king at the ripe age of 7. He did have the misfortune of being the grandson of Athaliah, daughter of wicked king Ahab of Israel, who killed all of his brothers and "reigned" as queen of Judah - the only sovereign of that nation who was not a descendant of David (other than Saul, the first king). She would have killed Joash, but he was rescued by his aunt who also was the wife of the priest. It is an interesting story, but for my purposes you will find it in 2 Kings 11 and 2 Chronicles 22.

Now, 2 Kings 12.2 records an interesting fact: "And Jehoash [Joash] did that which was right in the sight of the Lord all his days wherein Jehoiada the priest instructed him."

Yes, he was a "good" king as long as his uncle the priest was alive, but in the New Testament his most heinous act is recalled: "Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar." (Matthew 23:34-35)

No less than Jesus, Himself, uses this act of "good" king Joash to describe the closing verses of the Hebrew scripture. Interestingly enough, the book of Kings omits this event, which is found in 2 Chronicles 24.20-22.

The Bad or Vice Versa

Now, we move on to one of my more favorite kings - wicked king Manasseh.

Just a few generations after King Joash, we find Manasseh also taking the throne at a young age - 12. The book of 2 Kings wastes no time in describing his life: "And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, after the abominations of the heathen, whom the Lord cast out before the children of Israel." (2 Kings 21:2) The following verses go on to describe some of his wicked acts until he passes from the scene.

Now, why in the world do I like him. Just as Kings failed to record the "bad" of King Joash, it also fails to record the "good" of Manasseh. For the rest of the story, we have to again turn to 2 Chronicles: "And when he was in affliction, he besought the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, And prayed unto him: and he was intreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord he was God." (2 Chron. 33:12-13)

That's what I like, Manasseh, another story of God's grace. Why? Because I too am a story of God's grace.

Yes, of course, it's good to be "good" and it's bad to be "bad," but in the end the truly important thing is God's grace. So, whether you are "good" (and scripture reminds us that good is not good enough) or whether you are "bad" (enough even to be called "wicked"), do what Manasseh did - certainly not Joash - and "humble yourself greatly before God, pray to Him, and know that the Lord, He is God."