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Bro. Ray Newcomb, a Tribute

This afternoon I got the word from my dad. Bro. Ray had entered into his heavenly rest, had gone to be with the Jesus to whom he had introduced so many. My dad had had the privilege of sitting with him during part of his stay in the hospital, and my dad was glad to do it because of how much Bro. Ray has meant to our family.

I am very grateful to have been a recipient of Ray Newcomb’s ministry. As I’ve visited various churches around West Tennessee over the last 30 years, I have been proud to say that I came from First Baptist Church in Millington and was one of Bro. Ray’s boys. As I consider what I received from Bro. Ray, I am particularly grateful for several things.

First, I received a bedrock certainty in the absolute truthfulness of God’s word. My family showed up at FBC Millington believing this truth and then Bro. Ray hammered this point home. When I went on to college I realized what a gift it is to have been nurtured in confident reliance on the Word of God as I encountered others who lacked such confidence. Bro. Ray told us the Bible was inerrant, showed us how it proved true and then preached and lived like it was true.

Second, I learned the absolute necessity of evangelism. Bro. Ray faithfully stressed that all people are lost and under the judgement of God apart from Jesus and that it is our responsibility to share the gospel with them. Thus, I grew up knowing clearly that we are sinful and that God is willing to save. These are basic truths that too many people today do not realize. In this sort of ministry we teenagers were taught how to share the gospel and were given regular opportunities to do so. I am so grateful for being taken as a group to various subdivisons and being dropped off at one end of the street in order to go door to door at each house endeavoring to share the gospel. There is no better way to learn. At that time I had no idea there were countless people in churches who had never been taught to share the gospel and had never taken the opportunity to do so. I am grateful to have been brought up in a setting where we were taught and sent out.

I am grateful to have heard the saving message of the gospel on a regular basis. Years later I met a friend who grew up in another church nearby. He shared how although he grew up in the church and attended regularly he had never heard the gospel until he went to a Fellowship of Christian Athletes meeting at his high school one day. Thankfully, he did hear the gospel, and he was converted. I remember how shocked I was to hear his story, and how grateful I was that the gospel had been the center of the preaching I had heard.

Third, Bro. Ray preached through the Bible. After I went to college and then on to seminary I was in countless settings where other preachers would say to me or to a group I was in, “I bet you’ve never heard a sermon on ____.” Every time- every time- I had to spoil the point by saying, “Yes, I actually have.” Once while I was serving at a church during college the visiting preacher for our revival said he was going to preach on the unpardonable sin. Then he looked at me and a fellow college student and said, “I bet you’ve never heard anyone preach on that before have you!” I felt bad for him to have to say, “Yes, sir, I have and I remember the sermon well.” Others would say, “When was the last time you heard a sermon on hell?” Quite recently. Bro. Ray hit all these points. It really was later as I listened to others that I realized what a rare introduction to the Bible I had received by sitting under his preaching three times a week.

Lastly, Bro. Ray loved people. That, of course, is why he spent so much time on Navy Road talking to whomever he could in order to share the gospel with them. It is also why he called my mom, my dad, or my grandmother at various times to check on them. It is why he took the time to come have dinner with us the last time my parents, brother and our families all gathered at Pickwick and why he lingered around the table to talk to and share wisdom with two of us who’d surrendered to ministry under him. I remember him telling us about a turning point in his ministry early on in dealing with criticism. Rather than taking offense when people came to tell him what they were dissatisfied with, he began taking out a pad of paper and asking them in all genuineness to tell him everything they felt he was doing wrong. He would not interrupt or defend himself. Once they were finished he would say, “Thank you for sharing these with me. I will work on them. Will you pray with me now and pray for me to improve in these areas.” He said this made all the difference, and I can imagine it did.

No man and no ministry is perfect. Bro. Ray would be the first to say that. But I am deeply grateful I had the privilege of growing up under the ministry of Ray Newcomb. I count myself among the many who were richly blessed by God through him.

Resources for Luther Sites in Germany

Those with whom I am connected on Facebook saw my photos and updates from my recent Luther and Bach Germany tour with the Union University Singers. It was great to visit these key places about which I have read and thought so much. I was surprised that so many places were not yet completely ready for visitors. With the famed German efficiency I figured everything would have been ready last year. Nonetheless they are in full swing to be ready by this summer.

I hope to post some further reflections, but here I want to acknowledge two main books which served as travel guide sources for me. First and most helpful to me was a children’s book by Douglas Bond- Mr. Pipes and Psalms and Hymns of the Reformation. Bond weaves a compelling story around a visit through Germany as well as Geneva and other Reformation sites. Since the story draws on Bond’s own experience visiting these places, this was very valuable.

Secondly, Martin Luther’s Travel Guide: 500 Years of the 95 Theses: On the Trail of the Reformation in Germany, edited by Cornelia Dömer, was quite helpful. The introduction by respected Lutheran church historian, Robert Kolb, is itself a great resource as he reflects on the value and importance of place. The guide lists key sites in each city with historic information as well as contact information and travel directions.

These are great books on their own and will be helpful if you get to make a visit.

“Arise, My Soul, Arise”

Some of the best summaries of Reformation teaching are Wesley hymns. My poem of the week this week is Charles Wesley’s “Arise, My Soul, Arise.” We sang this grand hymn this past Sunday in church and I was reminded of what a wonderful summary of gospel truth it is.

Arise, My Soul, Arise

Arise, my soul, arise; shake off thy guilty fears;
The bleeding sacrifice in my behalf appears:
Before the throne my surety stands,
Before the throne my surety stands,
My name is written on His hands.

He ever lives above, for me to intercede;
His all redeeming love, His precious blood, to plead:
His blood atoned for all our race,
His blood atoned for all our race,
And sprinkles now the throne of grace.

Five bleeding wounds He bears; received on Calvary;
They pour effectual prayers; they strongly plead for me:
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,
“Nor let that ransomed sinner die!”

The Father hears Him pray, His dear anointed One;
He cannot turn away, the presence of His Son;
His Spirit answers to the blood,
His Spirit answers to the blood,
And tells me I am born of God.

My God is reconciled; His pardoning voice I hear;
He owns me for His child; I can no longer fear:
With confidence I now draw nigh,
With confidence I now draw nigh,
And “Father, Abba, Father,” cry.

- Charles Wesley

A Marriage Poem by Edgar Guest

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people standing and weddingI’ve drawn my poem of the week this week from Edgar Guest, one of my favorite poets. Since this week marks my 25th wedding anniversary, I have chosen Guest’s marriage poem, “Chums.” Although I would not suggest changing the language of the “marriage rite” as he alludes, his sentiment is exactly right. (And, Guest says “fourteen years,” which I have changed for my purposes to “twenty-five years.”)

Chums

HUSBAND and wife for twenty-five years!
And just like children now,
As fond of one another as
The day they took their vow.
Where he goes she goes, hand in hand,
And thus their record sums,
Through all those years of joy and strife
They really have been chums.

Husband and wife. No, more than that,
For husbands oft are known,
In search of pleasure now and then,
To journey off alone;
And wives have clubs and other things
That interest them more
Than business plans their husbands make,
When honeymooning’s o’er.

Not so with them — through weal or woe,
Through sunshine and through rain,
Together they have journeyed on;
She cheered when all seemed vain.
His greatest joys have always been
The ones that she could share,
We knew that when we saw the one,
The other must be there.

If I could change the marriage rite
That binds a pair for life,
‘T would be to drop that stilted phrase,
‘You ‘re husband, now, and wife.’
For just one little word, I think,
The knot far more becomes;
I ‘d like to hear the parson say:
‘Beloved, now you ‘re chums.’

- Edgar Guest

On this date 453 years ago (Feb 6, 1564), John Calvin preached his last sermon, after being carried to the church because he was too ill to get there any other way.

Perhaps it is fitting then that today hard copies of the new edition of Calvin’s sermons on 1 Timothy (updated language and spelling) became available on Amazon. I have commented on these sermons at various times along the way, particularly when the Kindle version went live. I found these sermons to be very challenging and edifying. They also demonstrate Calvin’s pastoral and evangelistic heart.

 

REF500 on Dialogue with Steve Bowers

I recently had the opportunity to talk about the Reformation and our festival celebrating it’s 500th anniversary on a local television show. Steve Bowers kindly invited me on his show Dialogue which airs on JEA’s EPlus TV 6 here in Jackson. The 30 minute segment will be shown several times over the next month or so and can be found on YouTube as shown below.

I hope the segment introduces more people to this important event in history and lets people know about our REF500 event coming up in March.

Latest REF500 Video

We have just updated the video at our REF500 homepage. Scott Lancaster has worked his magic once again to produce this video detailing the various aspects of our festival coming up in March. I am excited about the breadth and depth of the various events associated with our festival. Come and participate in the Scripture Reading Marathon as we publicly read the entirety of Scripture. We need over 400 volunteers, so come on! Join us for the free Festival of Preaching as five preachers expound each of the Solas of the Reformation. And join us for the centerpiece of the festival, our conference featuring Timothy George, Carl Trueman, Peter Leithart and David Lyle Jeffrey. We also have a great line up of speakers for parallel sessions, a concert, theater, film showing, and art exhibit.

 

New REF500 video

The REF500 event, celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, is now only about 2 months away! This new video gave me an opportunity to describe the wide array of events and activities that will take place as a part of this celebration at Union University. You can get all the details at our website. I hope you will join us.

 

“More About Jesus”

Last night at church we sang this simple, old hymn, and it struck me that it too is a wonderful prayer for a new year. Indeed, may I in this year know more of Jesus, grow deeper in “communion with my Lord,” taking His word deep into my heart that I might obey Him more faithfully and speak of Him more consistently to others.

 

More about Jesus would I know,
More of His grace to others show;
More of His saving fullness see,
More of His love Who died for me.

Refrain

More, more about Jesus,
More, more about Jesus;
More of His saving fullness see,
More of His love Who died for me.

More about Jesus let me learn,
More of His holy will discern;
Spirit of God, my teacher be,
Showing the things of Christ to me.

Refrain

More about Jesus; in His Word,
Holding communion with my Lord;
Hearing His voice in every line,
Making each faithful saying mine.

Refrain

More about Jesus; on His throne,
Riches in glory all His own;
More of His kingdom’s sure increase;
More of His coming, Prince of Peace.

Refrain

TAKE MY LIFE AND LET IT BE

For this first week of a New Year, I have chosen this great hymn as the poem of the week. I don’t remember hearing this sung as I grew up, but I heard it beautifully sung while I was in college and it has been a favorite ever since.

This is a fitting prayer for a New Year.

TAKE MY LIFE AND LET IT BE
Take my life, and let it be
consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days;
let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Take my hands, and let them move
at the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet, and let them be
swift and beautiful for Thee.

Take my voice, and let me sing
always, only, for my King.
Take my lips, and let them be
filled with messages from Thee.
Take my silver and my gold;
not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect, and use
every power as Thou shalt choose.

Take my will, and make it Thine;
it shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own;
it shall be Thy royal throne.
Take my love, my Lord, I pour at
Thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself, and I will be
ever, only, all for Thee.

- Frances R. Havergal, February 1874.