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I cannot keep silent, nor would it be proper…

With all of the hype and misguided nonsense taking place today, might I offer the words of Patrick, missionary to Ireland. Recalling the captivity of his youth, he proclaimed in his Confession:

“And there the Lord opened my mind to an awareness of my unbelief, in order that, even so late, I might remember my transgressions and turn with all my heart to the Lord my God, who had regard for my insignificance and pitied my youth and ignorance. And he watched over me before I knew him, and before I learned sense or even distinguished between good and evil, and he protected me, and consoled me as a father would his son.
Therefore, indeed, I cannot keep silent, nor would it be proper, so many favours and graces has the Lord deigned to bestow on me in the land of my captivity.”

May each of us who have received salvation through Jesus Christ feel that same burden to share with others what God has done for us. May we never be silent about His wonderful grace and transforming power.

To God be the glory, great things He has done.

His Life for Mine

NPP_Chernobyl_incl_memorial_lTwenty-nine years ago, a massive power surge led to explosions in the core of a nuclear reactor in Chernobyl, Ukraine. The resulting fire released an enormous plume of highly radioactive material into the atmosphere which then spread across a vast area of that region. The effects were devastating to the environment and human life. Perhaps you haven’t heard the stories of great courage and sacrifice that occurred in the days that followed. None were more moving than that of 3 Chernobyl divers.

After the initial explosion, the risks continued to grow with each passing day until workers became aware of an even greater disaster looming just around the corner. Initially the firefighters had attempted to quench the fire by smothering it with sand, clay, and boron and spraying it with water. As this combination of ingredients pooled beneath the reactor core, it morphed into something like lava, which then began to burn through the floor of the reactor. If it had reached the water below, it would have surely created a massive thermal explosion that would have impacted most of Europe.

Three workers (two engineers and a common laborer) volunteered to put on SCUBA gear and dive into this pool to release the safety valves and drain the water. Even though they lost their lamp during their descent, they successfully opened the valves and returned to the surface to see their fellow workers celebrating their victory.

However, the damage had been done. When they volunteered, they understood that the radiation levels under the main reactor would be lethal. Within a few weeks they had all succumbed to the terrible effects of radiation poisoning and died. It is estimated that their heroic efforts saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of Europeans. These three heard the warnings of scientists and engineers and understood the consequences. Yet, they volunteered their lives to save others.

In history there are many noble acts performed by incredible people who, despite the inevitable outcomes, do what is required of them. However, there has never been a sacrifice like the divine one which provided our redemption. God sent His own Son to die for our sins. The righteous in place of the wicked. The Creator in place of His creation. Hallelujah, what a Savior!

1 Timothy 2:5–6 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.

Offer that good news to someone this week by sharing the Word of God and your personal testimony. Introduce them to the One who died in their place and allow the Holy Spirit to do His work in their life.

Remembering a Man of the Word

Last week, one of God’s choice servants entered the presence of His Savior. Today many paid respect Dr_Steele_Dr_Spottsto Norman Spotts, a true man of the Word. Being able to say that about someone these days is no light matter.

He served many years as Bible professor, chaplain, and dean of students at Clearwater Christian College. That is why I have always referred to him as “Dean” Spotts (which many thought was his first name). Most of us remember him as dignified and reserved. Friendly and even-tempered. Drolly humorous with a signature smirk. His mind a vast resource of biblical knowledge.

Pursuing my bachelor’s degree in Bible, I had the opportunity to sit under his instruction in Old Testament Survey, Doctrines, and other courses in that department. Perhaps even more importantly, I sat at times on the other side of his desk in his office in Dambach as he offered godly counsel. One time in particular stands out. While still a student I felt that I had been slighted and unappreciated in a ministry opportunity. My pride had been stepped on, and I saw nothing but greener pastures serving elsewhere. With patience and perspective, he explained the right thing to do and the right way to do it. How to approach the situation biblically. How to respond to adversity appropriately. How to deal with people in general. Of course, his counsel was always drawn from and liberally seasoned with Scripture.

He was the instructor for the PMT class (Pastoral Ministry Training). He told us how to make the Bible the focal point of our preaching…how to safeguard our personal lives and ministries against temptation…how to perform a wedding…how to do a funeral (“Be careful that you don’t fall in the hole at a graveside service”). There were only a few of us in the class that semester; John Jackson, JC Nixon, Mike Mrkall. Occasionally, we would preach to each other in class and critique each other afterward. Each of us would stand behind a lectern and present our sermon as the others, including Dean Spotts, would take notes. In that small classroom on the side of the Easter Library, there was nowhere to hide if you made a mistake. During one of my attempts, I vividly remember my eyes, brain, and mouth refusing to cooperate with each other. I repeatedly mentioned the Apostle Paul throughout the sermon, when I clearly meant to say Peter instead. When I finished and it was their turn to weigh in, each of my classmates pointed out the obvious mistake – even counting how many times I had made it in just one short sermon. Truthfully, I would have done the same in their shoes. However, Dean Spotts, while acknowledging my gaffes, chose to focus on the biblical text and the content of my message. What gracious encouragement for a 21-year-old with extremely limited preaching experience.

Soon after I entered into ministry at New Testament Baptist Church, Pastor Ramsey invited a group from the college to sing in one of our services. He also invited Dean Spotts to preach. I remember being proud to say that I had been his student as he delivered a message about “The Man Who Picked Up Sticks” from Numbers 15. Although I have no notes from that morning, I have never forgotten the message. Within a year or two, we hosted another musical group from Clearwater Christian, and Dean Spotts would again be there to represent the college. However, this time Pastor Ramsey asked me to preach that morning. Equal parts of anxiety and anticipation filled my mind as I stood behind the pulpit that day. As much as I wanted to minister the Word to the congregation, I also wanted to see a look of approval on Dean Spotts’ face as he nodded his head in agreement. I wanted to make sure he knew I had listened and learned in his classes and was doing my best to rightly divide the Word of truth.

That was because I knew he was a man most familiar with the Word of God. Someone who understood its value. Who treasured it rightly. Who studied it diligently. Who preached it with sincerity and conviction, knowing that it was the power of God in the lives of those who would hear it. As his pastor shared several verses today from Psalm 119 about a love for Scripture, he noted the similarities between the psalmist and Dean Spotts. Pastor Haney summarized, “He was a man devoted to the Word of God and was blessed throughout his life because of it.”

The older I get, the more I have come to appreciate men who are more concerned with genuine substance than temporary style. More devoted to the Word of God than the trends of society. More concerned with the Lord’s approval than man’s applause. Men like Dean Spotts.

I can almost hear him closing a public prayer with these words from Ephesian 3:20-21, “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”