Monday, December 27, 2004

First Baptist Church is a place that prays. It has been that for the nearly 23 years that they have allowed me to be called “Pastor Ron.” But we need to pray more. We need to target our prayers. If they have not noticed, the door on the prayer room (from the inside hallway) is now unlocked during church services and office hours. That’s a very good thing. Because this would be a very good time to pray.

Untold thousands of people were killed yesterday as we were eating our Christmas turkeys and enjoying the company of friends and family. It all happened on the other side of the world when some rocks on the bottom of the ocean shifted against each other and caused an almost unheard of 9.0 earthquake. As if that were not bad enough the quake caused a tsunami. This massive wall of water moved at roughly 300 miles per hour. Vacationers on the beaches were enjoying a sunny day with no idea of the devastation that was about to strike. The pictures on television are reminiscent of the falling of the twin towers after the terrorist attack in 2001. But this time the cause was “natural” instead of “man inflicted.” And many, many more human beings died. They say that the entire planet vibrated. Even the rotation of the earth was affected. I don't really know what that means but it is scary.

God indicates in His Word that earthquakes will increase in the last days of our planets history. Matthew 24: 7 is just one place that you can read about it. I am not a prophet of doom. I know that the good guys win. The book of Revelation makes that fact abundantly clear. God will wrap this world up His way … and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Still, it has been a sobering day. Reggie White, a former NFL superstar died at the age of 43. He helped Green Bay go to the Super Bowl two times and win one of them. He was a key reason “The Pack Is Back.” They called him “The Minister of Defense” because he was a world-class defensive end and a world class ordained minister. And now Reggie is absent from the body but at home with the Lord.

As if that was not enough, pain has struck in our own hometown. The senior pastor of the Bethalto Church of God, Jessie Wiggins, passed away this morning shortly before their scheduled worship service. Pastor Wiggins had just put the finishing touches on his morning sermon. He reached for his coat to walk from his office in his home over to the main church building. He never made it to the door. The coroner said he never knew what hit him. Jessie blinked … and saw Jesus. His wife found him minutes later. Tonight the Church of God is dealing with their devastating loss. We have much in common with this church. They are a part of the Body of Christ in Bethalto. We are a part of the Body of Christ in Bethalto. The scripture clearly teaches that when one part of the body hurts, ALL parts of the body hurt. We need to feel their pain tonight. If the Church of God is crying the First Baptist Church needs to taste salt. Jessie Wiggins was my friend. He emailed me a sermon recently by mistake. I thought it odd when I received it but I emailed him back a “thank you.” He responded within minutes with another email. The subject line said “URGENT!” I read the email and he warned me that he had accidentally placed my name on a mailing list that was meant for Church of God pastors. He said, “Ron, that is a Pentecostal sermon! Be careful with that!” I mailed him back and laughingly told him that it was ok. First Baptist might need a good Pentecostal shock every now and then. Jessie knew I was kidding. I remained on his sermon email list until the day he died. I never used one. But I might. This evening I embraced one of their staff pastor's and felt his body wracked with sobs as he mourned the loss of his mentor. I felt ... I FEEL his pain. I need to feel his pain. I need to share it. There is nothing worse than hurting alone. It is the loneliest feeling in the world. We cannot let that happen. I will not let that happen. No way. When a Godly man in a pulpit one mile from our pulpit falls we must help pick-up their flag. It is the way First Baptist Church worked. It is the way First Baptist Church must work again.

Thousands of people died within the last day that I do not know. One died that I do know. And this mighty God of ours loves them all equally. Pastor’s and pagan’s alike. “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still SINNERS, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5: 8) I am totally convinced that Reggie and Jessie are with Jesus tonight. I am also convinced that the vast majority of the thousands who died are not. How sad.

We need to pray. We need to pray that God would anoint our missionaries that are in far off lands telling the good news where it is seldom heard. We need to pray for our sister churches in our community. They aid us in our mission of reaching our local villages for Christ. And we need to pray for ourselves. We need to ask God to empower us with His vast, unlimited love. We need “Jesus glasses” on. By that I mean that we need to look at our world the way Jesus looks at our world. We need to recognize that they are desperately needy … just like we were when we were rescued by the love of God. There is no room for politics or piety. There is plenty of room for prayer.

If we don't spend much of this week on our knees … God forgive us.