by Douglas Melton

Summer of ’75 (I think); I know it was summer, August, to be exact. My older brother and sisters having already grown and left home, I was with my folks high in the backwoods of Colorado, escaping the heat of Oklahoma. We had met the pastor of the local Southern Baptist church in Crested Butte, and he had offered to take us on a jeep ride across one of the highest, 4-wheel drive-only passes in the area. The name of the pass is fuzzy to me, but the name of the pastor and the church are indelibly marked: in order, Pearl Pass (I think); Rev Ray; OH-BE-JOYFUL Baptist Church. (Quick side note: if I had to pick the two best names ever for a church, that would be one; the other is right here in Oklahoma: Last Chance Baptist Church.)

We took off mid-morning and all was well. Typical Colorado day: unbelievable sky, clean air, sunshine, probably going to rain sometime in the afternoon. The drive was beautiful, although the road/trail/path, at times, seemed like it was barely wide enough to keep all four tires of the jeep on somewhat solid ground. We had nearly reached the summit of the pass when I saw something I had never seen before: a snow bank . . . in August. Now this was not your ordinary run-of-the-mill snow bank. As a 14-year-old, it seemed a mile across. Thinking back, it was probably only about 25-30 yards. Regardless, it was too wide to go around, too long to run the risk of the jeep starting to slide and too deep to not get stuck.

Option one: you somehow try to turn around and go back down the pass. That is really discouraged, because if you meet someone on his way up, you (the one coming downhill) have to get out of the way. No small task considering the narrowness of the road. Option two: you figure out a way to get across the snow bank. I’ll never forget what Rev Ray said: “We’re above the tree line, so that won’t work. We’ve got to find a rock, a boulder we can tie on to with the jeep’s winch line. That’s going to be the only way through.”

Later, in recounting this story back in town, someone asked, “so, you had to drag yourselves across a snow bank, huh?” “Well, kind of; really, if it hadn’t been for the rock, we would have never made it through.”

Boy, isn’t that the truth. If it hadn’t been for the rock, we would have never made it through. We know that rock is Jesus Christ. “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” (Psalm 18:2)

As we begin this new convention year together, I want my brothers and sisters in Christ across our great state to know that, first of all, I thank the Lord for the opportunity to get to be used by Him in this service role and, second, the only way forward is through Jesus Christ.

Verses such as, “I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me,” (Phil 4:13) will take on a whole new meaning. “Cast all your cares on Him, for He cares for you.” (I Peter 5:7) “Call unto Me and I will answer thee and show thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not.” (Jer. 33:3) “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, Who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to Him.” (James 1:5) “The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord.” (Prov. 9:10)

I believe, with all my heart, that our best days, as God’s people, are ahead of us. Where do I get that assurance? Two thoughts: first, every day we live is one more day closer to the Lord’s return. For the Christian, our assurance is always that our best days lie ahead. Second, “being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil 1:6)

The Lord has laid on my heart that this coming year be built around that overarching thought of hope and fleshed out through these four objectives:

1. Exalt Christ in all we do. Let us continually proclaim the message to the people with whom we come in contact that the only way to be in a right relationship with God is through Jesus Christ. The only way forward in life is through Jesus Christ. The only way to salvage a marriage, to rebuild a home, to strengthen our churches is through Jesus Christ.

2. Stand firm on the Word of God. May we “always be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks us to give the reason for the hope we have.” Unbelievers have good questions, but believers have great answers! Those answers are found in the Bible. When asked a question that opens the door for witnessing, don’t give people your opinion, point them to the Word of God.

3. Emphasize the church, the Body of Christ, as God’s plan for proclaiming salvation and making disciples. I’m thankful for other organizations and clubs and sports teams and activities with which we can be involved, but I need to save priority time in my week for worship with and service with the Body of Christ.

4. Do all for the glory of God and the growing of His Kingdom.

I thank the Lord for His grace that saved me, called me and covers me. I will pray for you; please pray for me. Just a few days ago, the Lord jumped this passage out at me during a time of private worship. I’ll close with this:

“May God be gracious to us and bless us and make His face shine upon us, that Your ways may be known on Earth, Your salvation among all nations.
May the peoples praise You, O God; may all the peoples praise You.
May the nations be glad and sing for joy; for You rule the peoples justly and guide the nations of the Earth.
May the peoples praise You, O God; may all the peoples praise You.
Then the land will yield its harvest, and God, our God, will bless us.
God will bless us, and all the ends of the Earth will fear Him.”
(Psalm 67)

Douglas Melton is president of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma and senior pastor of Oklahoma City, Southern Hills.