Saturday, May 24, 2014

Hello, It's Been A While; Not Much How 'Bout You?

I stumbled across my own blog tonight.  It has been well over a year since I've updated it.  Shame.  Those in the know will tell you regular (at least twice weekly) blog updates are necessary to keep readers returning to your site.

So is it about merely getting return traffic?  Or having something to say?  I have no product to sell, other than my Christian faith, which is not a tangible product and costs nothing monetarily.

Or is it about expression?  Blogging is a great outlet for "unkempt thoughts," random ideas, and even rants.

I have been busy with another hobby- antique radio.  I absolutely love it.  I now have over 100 of the little fellows (old radios) in my collection.  Most do not work and are in various shades of disrepair.  I have been busy sorting out and setting up the various items I have acquired these few months.

It is true- one can acquire many things requiring much more storage space.  Jesus had something to say about this, but it is disturbing. (Luke 12:13-21)

I have outgrown the garage, the store room and soon a storage building.  But it sure has been fun.

Other than that, being shorthanded at the church has kept me busy.  It seems that during this era, we have had to have more meetings than since I have been at First Baptist, Sulphur, LA.

Good thing to have a hobby.  It provides such satisfaction that I can actually look back and see something fixed and finished- something I don't often see as person who works with people and their problems.

It has been a while.  Perhaps it is time to keep the silence broken and resume blogging.  A friend suggested I blog on my radio hobby.  Perhaps.  Then I could enjoy two pastimes at the same time.

Stay tuned.  More to come.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

"A Giant Oak In God's Forest Has Fallen"


"I see the handiwork of God which is beauty; people who are oppressed and in need of things physical and spiritual."

These are the words of my favorite professor, scholar, and mentor, Dr. Donald Potts. He was a kind man, a wise man, and seemed to have almost infinite patience with his students. Even up to the very end, he continued to read, study, and write.

The last few years of his life he struggled with physical disease and limitations. But that didn't keep him from serving the Lord. He kept teaching and mentoring those who would stop by to visit him.

A few years ago, I was preparing to teach a seminary course on preaching. Dr. Potts always had thorough notes and well developed outlines. In fact, one of the greatest things he taught me was to think logically and outline those thoughts in a logical progression. I stopped by his home to get a copy of his preaching lectures. As I expected, he was gracious and generous with his materials. I enjoyed visiting with him and using the opportunity to "pick his brain" on numerous subjects.

I can recall that as a student,we called his Pastoral Ministries class "Story time." He had some dillies of stories to tell. It seemed that Dr. Potts as a pastor had one amazing adventure after another.

I recall him entering the classroom on test day with a stack of tests in his hand, chuckling with a somewhat sinister tone. Every test I took from him, no matter what the class, seemed to follow the same format: 1st Page- True/False, fill in the blank; 2ne Page- Matching and short answer; 3rd Page- Essay. His tests weren' that hard but they were thorough. When he came back to class with the graded papers, he always graded on a curve. He would show the scores on the board, sometimes reaching waaay down to get some students on the passing side. He liked to say, "Grace did abound!" In his class, it did.

I recall he was a walking library of knowledge. You could ask a question about Bible, theology, or just about any other subject and he would reply with a thoughtful, well-reasoned answer. He never got very excited or emotional. He remained calm and steady, even in times of test debates with students who thought they knew more than he did. One in particular incident I recall was when a student was arguing with him over some fine point of theology. After some discussion, with time running out for class time, he said, "Well, we'll just let you be wrong if you want to be." Sometimes I found myself cheering inside when he would with his typical flawless logic refute a student who was half cocked in their thinking.

Not only did he have a library in his head, his personal library was huge. The few times I conferred with him at his college office, I was impressed with the hundreds of volumes on his shelf. I daydreamed about having a library like that. When asked if he had read them all, he with typical understatement say, "Well I know what's in them!"

I recall that in his former life in the world of work, he had been a nuclear physicist. His engineering background certainly showed in his carefully organized notes, outlines, and thinking. He once told us that for people to say that a man would enter the ministry strictly for the money was being foolish. He said that before he entered ministry, he made more money in a week than in a whole month as a pastor.

I recall that when I first began preaching and teaching that I found myself using phrases and thoughts he first put forth in the classroom. I applied his pastoral wisdom to several situations I have faced in my ministry.

Once he told us that we should learn parlaimentary procedure. It kept him from being fired by a church. By knowing what was out of order, a business meeting where some were going to try to get rid of him was over before it got started. I've never forgotten that lesson.

I recall a few years ago visiting with he and his wife in the hospital as she was dying. His wife, Jean, was a mentor to minister's wives herself. When I entered college, my wife met with her to learn how to be my helpmeet in the ministry. Mrs. Potts could tell some good stories herself!

When I visited with them, Dr. Potts asked me to pray. It was clear that the end was near and Dr. Potts loved his wife dearly. It was a reverent and tender moment, for which I was glad a shared.

When his beloved Jean died, Dr. Potts preached her funeral service. I don't know that I could do that myself. But I remember being lifted up, encouraged, and leaving with even more admiration and respect for this man.

Dr. Dane Fowlkes, a classmate of mine at ETBU, had the honor of preaching Dr. Potts' funeral message. Dr. Potts, ever meticulous and prepared, had chosen for the text Philippians 4:1-7, which emphasizes "Rejoice the Lord always." It was a fitting text.

As he concluded his message, Dr. Fowlkes told a story that I have been pondering ever since. He said that last Saturday, the day he died, Dr. Potts did something rather uncharacteristic for him. He closed the curtains looking out on the patio, locked the front door, and then wheeled his scooter chair into the hallway of his home. He backed his scooter against the wall to face the pictures of his family lined up down the wall. There he was later found, slumped over, asleep in Jesus. It was as though he knew that it was his time to "go the way of all flesh." He died quietly and peacefully among pictures of the people he loved most.

The picture above shows me, a young man who surrendered to ministry under my ministry, and Dr. Potts at an awards event some years ago at East Texas Baptist University. Someone told me they could tell it was an old picture because I looked younger and thinner. Today, I treasure that picture- me with my mentor, and my mentoree, all in one shot. Three generations of ministers. The work and heritage goes on!

Countless ministers, students, and congregations have had the privilege to sit under his deep scholarship and sense his reverence for God and his word. I have sat under many teachers, but he remained my favorite. I count myself most blessed to have been a student of his. I hope I can pass on just a portion of what he gave me. In both knowledge and character, he was a "giant oak in God's forest."

So long for now, Dr. Potts. "Well done, thou good and faithful servant!"

Note:  I was looking through my archives and found this one.  I don't know why it was never published; Dr. Potts died a couple of years ago.  But I still want to pay tribute to a man who taught me much about the word of God and ministry.

What Is Our Business?


Leaders of organizations are often advised to ask two questions:

"What is our business?"
"How's business?"

My church is not a "business" per se, but we do have a business.  Churches are easily distracted and can lose focus.  Preachers can forget to keep the main thing the main thing: preaching the gospel of Christ.

In preparation for a recent sermon, I ran across this story from a Charles Spurgeon sermon.  Apparently he considered the issue of sounding like a broken record in his preaching.  He knew he was addressing an old subject, the blood of Christ, and he told why.

I used it in my message last Sunday.  ( Yes, R.W., I quoted Spurgeon!)  It reminds me in my preaching and teaching to keep the main thing the main thing and to stay in the business of preaching the gospel:

Do I hear some one say, that I am now coming to an old subject? This thought struck me when I was preparing for preaching, that I should have to tell you an old story over again; and just as I was thinking of that, happening to turn over a book, I met with an anecdote of Judson the missionary to Burmah.     He had passed through unheard-of hardships, and had performed dangerous exploits for his Master. He returned, after thirty years' absence, to America. "Announced to address an assembly in a provincial town, and a vast concourse having gathered from great distances to hear him, he rose at the close of the usual service, and, as all eyes were fixed and every year attent, he spoke for about fifteen minutes, with much pathos, of the precious Saviour, of what he had done for us, and of what we owed to him; and he sat down, visibly affected. "The people are very much disappointed," said a friend to him on their way home; "they wonder you did not talk of something else." "Why what did they want?" he replied: "I presented, to the best of my ability, the most interesting subject in the world." "But they wanted something different—a story" "Well, I am sure I gave them a story—the most thrilling one that can be conceived of." "But they had beard it before. They wanted something new of a man who had just come from the antipodes." "Then I am glad they have it to say, that a man coming from the antipodes had nothing better to tell than the wondrous story of the dying love of Jesus. My business is to preach the gospel of Christ; and when I can speak at all, I dare not trifle with my commission. When I looked upon those people to-day, and remembering where I should next meet them, how could I stand up and furnish food to vain curiosity—tickle their fancy with amusing stories, however decently strung together on a thread of religion? 

That is not what Christ meant by preaching the gospel. And then how could I hereafter meet the fearful charge, 'I gave you one opportunity to tell them of ME; you spent it in describing your own adventures!'" So I thought. Well, if Judson told the old story after he had been thirty years away, and could not find anything better, I will just go back to this old subject, which is always new and always fresh to us—the precious blood of Christ, by which we are saved.

I shudder.  One opportunity to speak to others.  Of whom do I speak?  Myself or Christ?  

The answer is clear.


Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Old Is New Again

Spend some time observing and you will find that "vintage" is cool.  There are vintage pieces of furniture, cars, and so on.  Is there something about the simplicity and workmanship of items from the past that makes us long for the "good old days."

In part because of my own love of "vintage," I have taken up a hobby that connects my past, the past, and vintage technology.

I attempt to restore old tube type radios.  That word attempt is key.  At this point in my career, I am not always successful.

Not much in the way of equipment is necessary.  A few hand tools, solder, some electronic parts, a little know-how, and a VERY sympathetic spouse is required.  My garage is getting smaller due to all the vintage gear it now holds.

My hobby connects my past because in high school, I took Radio-TV repair.  I wanted to be a TV man. Those were the final days before solid state televisions, and certainly big screen LED's. I enjoyed tinkering with those big metal chassis and orange glowing vacuum tubes.  I really planned a career in electronics- but God had another plan for my life.  That's another story.

My hobby connects the past, because I am dealing with vintage technology.  Look at some old radios- wooden cabinets, metal cabinets, bakelite, and even plastic and you can see artistry, style, and taste.  Somehow the electronic devices of today often look drab and similar.  Each of those old radios had individual character.  What's more- they were made to be fixed- unlike so much of today's electronic items which are just tossed when they cease to operate.

Vintage technology is part of the mix because vacuum tubes just sound different.  Ask any guitar player today who knows his stuff, and he or she will likely tell you that they think tube amps sound so much better, warmer, and real than modern solid state stuff.

Real radios glow in the dark.  That's romantic....

So imagine my thrill when I read this article recently: http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2012/05/return-of-the-vacuum-tube.html.  It reports that seemingly obsolete vacuum tube technology is finding use in space exploration.

The old is new....again.

That just warms my heart.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Anything Wrong With This Picture?

Tattoo artist Drew Blaisdell, 46, tattoos Pastor Steve Bentley at Serentity Tattoo that is located in Bentley's church, The Bridge, in Flint Mich. (RNS PHOTO/Mandi Wright/USA Today)