Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Update from Donna (Tom's wife)

We realize that, after Tom's last blog post, an update on his condition is long overdue. Many expressions of love and concern have been passed along to us and each one has been used by God to encourage us. This has been an interesting journey and our family still finds ourselves traveling uncharted territory.Since Tom's previous post, we have learned much more about the mysterious and unpredictable after-effects of being struck by lightning. Initially, following his lead, we all found a great deal of humor in the situation. Though the Lord has enabled us to continue to laugh, we now are coming to terms with the seriousness of what has happened.


In fact, as Tom and I have talked, we have agreed that he should apologize for any contribution his words have made to discount the seriousness of this type of injury. We understand more about the mysteries of the human body and how many people suffer from real symptoms that cannot be viewed by casual observers. Even as Tom struggled through the airport, I wondered how many travelers were aware of his struggle. I doubt that those who were frustrated by his slow gait and halting steps stopped to consider what might be going on inside of him. I pray that God would help me to be more compassionate to those who struggle internally.


I am happy to say that in many ways Tom is doing better than could be expected. His recovery has been a slow process (though in comparison to the recovery of others and in God's timetable, it has been more rapid than we deserve).


By God's grace, less than a week after the lightning strike, after undergoing some tests and consulting with doctors, Tom boarded a plane and flew to Michigan with our family. The trip itself was a challenge and a real test of faith. Because his nerves and sense of equilibrium were still severely affected, the noise, crowds, movement, jostling, etc. involved, not only with the plane ride but also with a bustling airport, were almost more than he could bear. Surprisingly, the escalator going down was the hardest challenge of the day. However, God helped him, and our family has been enjoying a much-needed time of rest and relaxation at some friends' home in Michigan.


During our time away, Tom has made great improvement in many of his symptoms. He can tolerate more and louder conversations (a real plus when you have six talkative children). His bouts of pain, which hit without warning in varying degrees and location, have lessened. He has more energy, is able to be more active and has had some meaningful conversations with all of us. He has led our family in some sweet times of worship. God is faithful.


His recovery is not complete though. Nights are still very hard. Sleep may or may not come. When it does come, Tom is visited with disturbing and disruptive nightmares that leave him tired and emotionally shaken. We are so grateful for the truths of the Gospel that ring true in the middle of the night, as well as the day.


Tom also continues to struggle with crowds and being easily startled. Walmart was a real challenge this past week (although it was a challenge PRIOR to the lightning strike!) :) If he had to give up Walmart for the rest of his life, he could live with that. We worshipped at Berean Baptist Church in Grand Blanc on Sunday and I am grateful that Tom experienced very little discomfort and was able to be fully engaged in the service.


However, he must still deal with crowds of people in general. We are trusting God to help him adjust to these and other disruptive side-effects of his encounter with lightning.


We have a few more days of R & R to enjoy and then we will head home to Cape Coral for a week before Tom and I, and our eldest daughter will be leaving for a conference in Alaska, Lord willing, where Tom will be preaching for the first time since the lightning strike. Believing that God is able to do exceedingly, abundantly, more than we are able to ask or even think, we are anticipating being able to make this trip and for Tom to be able to preach for the honor of Christ and for God's glory.


We are trusting God to perfect ALL that concerns us. He is able. His love for us knows no bounds. He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? (Romans 8:32)


Hard nights are often followed by hard days. Last night was a hard night. But God is still faithful. His mercies are new each morning. We are resting in His promises. Thank you for your prayers.


(Photos by Rebecca Ascol)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A display of divine greatness and mercy

Monday night will go down as one of the most unusual in the Ascol household. As those of you who have followed my twittering or facebook updates have read, last night I received the shock of my life. Literally. Here's the story.

It was a dark and stormy night. Again, literally. We were several hours into one of our famous Florida electrical storms. The skies looked similar to this photo, which was taken out our back window a couple of years ago.

Around 1:30 AM police were at our home investigating a possible burglary (in our garage--which is a whole 'nother story of its own!). After determining that if someone broke into our garage, he (or she) was gone, one of the officers strongly suggested that I lock the doors on our cars in the driveway, due to a rise in robberies from automobiles in the last year. He and his colleague suggested that we all go investigate whether anything was missing from the cars and to secure them.

It was still raining--by that time more than 2 inches had fallen in the previous 12 hours. And, the skies were still being illuminated by lightning and impressive thunder. I went out first, barefooted and wearing shorts and t-shirt, and walked up to our Buick Skylark. In a perfectly timed instant, the moment my right hand gripped the door handle the most brilliant flash of light and loudest crack of thunder I have ever witnessed provided a most electrifying experience.

Beginning at my right hand and traveling up my arm, down my side and right leg and foot, I got the shock of my life. I was thrown back several feet and on to the ground. The policemen let expletives fly and hovered over me, asking me questions that made no sense. Another bolt of ligtning struck nearby and they helped me up and back inside my house, as they called for paramedics. The ambulance arrived within minutes and 4 paramedics started checking me out by running various tests on me, including an ekg.

By God's grace I remained fully conscious and showed no signs of being burned. I declined their offer to go to the hospital. After giving me further instructions, they left, I changed clothes and futiley tried to go back to sleep. After getting up and quietly reflecting on the night's events for a couple of hours, I was able to wind down around 4:30 and get some sleep.

This afternoon my doctor helped me understand the nauseated and dizzy feelings that crept over me. My nerves, he said, have been "inflamed" and would take a while to calm down. The good news is that I never lost consciousness and there is no evidence of neurological damage (though some would probably challenge that). Basically, it is as if I am at my wit's end all the time. Noise, bright lights and too much movement are...well, nerve wracking! He gave me an injection and ordered some other medications and put me on 48 hours of bedrest. That is where I am as I blog this. In my pajamas. ;-)

The hope is that I will recover sufficiently to preach Sunday (though I have had to pull out of teaching Dads and Sons Wednesday and will miss a couple of days of our Pilgrim's Progress VBS) and then to travel to a board meeting for the Midwest Center on Monday, after which I will meet my family for several days of vacation. That will take me into the month of August which has been set aside for a brief sabbatical, part of which will be spent traveling.

What all of this together means is that I anticipate very little blogging over the next 6 weeks.

Though our family has been able to see some humor in all of this, we are also aware of its seriousness and are very grateful to the Lord for His mercy in these events. I recognize that His mercy and goodness would not have been diminished in the least had the lightning killed me. Nevertheless, His mercy has been manifested to me in that not only have I been spared serious injury, but also the frayed-nerves-feeling seems to be slowy improving.

Several friends have let me know of their prayers, and I am deeply grateful for these displays of grace and kindness to me.

The Lord reigns. As Elihu confesses, He sovereignly directs both thunder and lightning. By these heavenly displays He gives a clear witness of His greatness, in the words of Matthew Henry, "even to the most stupid and unthinking." Even I got that.

"At this also my heart trembles,
And leaps from its place.
Hear attentively the thunder of His voice,
And the rumbling that comes from His mouth.
He sends it forth under the whole heaven,
His lightning to the ends of the earth.
After it a voice roars;
He thunders with His majestic voice,
And He does not restrain them when His voice is heard.
God thunders marvelously with His voice;
He does great things which we cannot comprehend."
Job 37:1-5

Amen.

Founders Ministries Podcast

Founders has begun to podcast. Our goal is to average one Founders Podcast per week addressing topics related to recovering the Gospel and reforming local churches. The podcasts will feature interviews, lectures, sermons and discussions with pastors and church leaders who are praying and working toward this end to God’s glory.

In the first podcast Tim Brister interviews me on topics that include the 2008 National Founders Conference (held June 24 - 27 in Owasso, OK), church planting, church renewal, and Resolution #6 on Recovering Regenerate Church Membership and Church Discipline, that was passed this past June at the Southern Baptist Convention in Indianapolis.

You can access it at www.recoveringthegospel.net (click on "Go to Podcasts" on the Welcome page)

The Founders Ministries Podcast is also available on iTunes.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Spiritual Depression...for free

That is, the course is free. This Fall the Founders Study Center is offering the course, "Spiritual Depression" with lectures by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. You may audit it at no cost. All of our courses are made available at minimal costs (which do not nearly cover the expenses of providing them), but by God's grace we are able to offer this one to auditors for free.

If you have never read Lloyd-Jones' book that is based on the messages he delivers for this course, I strongly encourage you to do so. It is not merely for people who battle depression. It is for anyone who wants to understand the Gospel and how the Gospel works in the daily life of a believer.

For more information, click the banner on the right and visit the Founders Study Center. Registration for this and the other Fall courses is now open. For more information, contact the Study Center Director, Ken Puls.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Racism, the Gospel and Presidential Politics

I grew up in racially volatile times. Racial integration came to my elementary school in 1967. It was a confusing time for blacks and whites alike. My high school had race riots for six consecutive years before my senior year (1975) broke the cycle. Both my mind and body were scarred during those times.

In one particularly painful (and bloody) episode, while being admitted to the Emergency Room at the Baptist Hospital in Beaumont, Texas, the Lord gave me a glimpse into the perverse racism in my heart and exposed my superficial understanding of sin and grace.

That experience built upon an earlier one that came when, as a middle-schooler, I chose to read and write a report on John Howard Griffin's Black Like Me. Griffin helped me understand that I did not know what I did not know about racism.

I resolved then, as a young teenager, that I would forever stand against racial bigotry. I stood up for black friends who were threatened by white friends. I wept and burned with anger when my white pastor refused to baptize my black friend, Josey. At the principal's request, I gave a speech over the Public Adress system of South Park High School, pleading for racial harmony. I gave another one, after asking our coaches to leave, to my racially divided football teammates.

So, I thought I was racially sensitive and enlightened and free from bigotry, until that Christmas night in th ER. But the bitterness, hatred and rage that poured out of me against not just the black men who had beaten me but against a whole race of people shattered my self-righteous delusions about living above the fray of racial tensions that characterized so much of my context.

Since then, I have learned something about the doctrine of remaining sin and have come to understand that there are some things that I simply cannot understand about the insidious sin of racism. That is why I read Eric Redmond's post today with such interest and appreciation. It is entitled, "How Can Any Christian African American Vote for Obama? Throwing the Race Card on an All Black Table."

Eric, who served us very well in his Founders Breakfast address last month, thoughtfully analyzes this issue from an insider's perspective. You may not agree with the arguments that he highlights--indeed, he doesn't ask you to--but you can gain helpful insights into many of the racial issues that are woven into the fabric of American society. He gives several thoughtful reasons why sincere African American Christians will indeed vote for Obama. It is a very helpful read, especially for white folks.

I commend it to everyone who believes that Jesus Christ "is our peace who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity" (Ephesians 2:14-16). The same Gospel that reconciles sinners to God also reconciles sinners to each other and is able to build blacks and whites and every other race and ethnicity into the one body of Jesus Christ.

As that happens, God's wisdom and glory are put on display in His church.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

CT on Resolution #6

Christianity Today reports on the adoption of Resolution #6 at the Southern Baptist Convention in Indianapolis. The story has some interesting quotes and I am grateful to have been quoted accurately.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Radio Interview on "Iron Sharpens Iron"

Chris Arnzen will interview me today starting at 3:00 EST on the theological roots of the Southern Baptist Convention.

You can listen to the interview live in New York & Connecticut on WNYG-1440AM Radio or over the internet at www.sharpens.blogspot.com or www.wnygspiritofny.com. There will be opportunity to call in with questions at: 1-631-321-WNYG (9694)