Friday, February 15, 2019

Don Forrester CV (Curriculum Vitae)

Dr. Don C. Forrester

            AHS Class of 1968 classmate Don Forrester became totally blind at age nine, the result of detached retinas.  After learning Braille and other alternative methods, he returned to sighted classes for the remainder of his education.

            Don attended Amarillo College, Tennessee Temple University, and West Texas A&M University.  He graduated from WTA&M in 1970 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Secondary Education.  For the next five years, he taught history and English in high schools in Amarillo and in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

            In 1971, Don and his wife Shirley moved to Chattanooga to attend Temple Baptist Seminary.  He received the Master of Religious Education degree in 1973, the Doctor of Religious Education degree in 1975, and the Doctor of Education degree in 1994.

            In the fall of 1974, Dr. Forrester and his family moved to Fredericksburg, Virginia, to start a new church.  Faith Baptist Church was organized in January of 1975 and has experienced substantial growth over the years.  Today it has an active program and specializes in educational ministries.  The church sponsors Faith Baptist Schools, enrolling students from preschool through grade twelve, and Virginia Baptist College, offering undergraduate and graduate degrees in ministry related fields.

            In March 2011, after serving as Senior Pastor of Faith Baptist Church for 36 years, Dr. Forrester stepped down from that position in order to function full time as president of Virginia Baptist College.  In August of 2014, he retired as president and became Chancellor of Virginia Baptist College.  He currently serves as Pastor Emeritus of Faith Baptist Church and has an active ministry as a teacher and conference speaker.

            In addition to his duties as pastor and college president, Dr. Forrester has also served as moderator of the Virginia Assembly of Independent Baptists, president of the Atlantic Independent Baptist Fellowship, and seventeen years as president of the Old Dominion Association of Church Schools.

            Dr. Forrester has actively served within his community.  Residing in an area rich in colonial and Civil War history, he served eight years on the Spotsylvania County Historic Preservation Commission.  He was appointed by the Governor to the Virginia Board for the Blind and Vision Impaired on which he served four years, holding several offices including Chairman.

            Dr. Forrester is the recipient of many awards including the Muhlenberg Award from Concerned Women for America and the Roberson-Faulker Leadership Award from his alma mater.

Don Forrester Sermon - October 7, 2018

What Do We Do Now?

Presented by Don Forrester at the AHS Class of 1968 October 7, 2018 Worship Service

I truly appreciate having been given the privilege of delivering the message for our AHS 50th Reunion Worship Service.  I have so many wonderful memories of our high school years.  I suppose that for every young student the teen years have the potential for being a lonely and frustrating experience.  And when you add to the equation my issue of blindness, those high school years were certainly a formidable challenge.  However, with your acceptance and friendship, those years for me are treasured memories.  But with the passage of 50 years, many of us are again approaching a time in life which can be highly intimidating.  Most of us would sincerely appreciate some competent guidance for the years ahead.  Thus, our theme passage: 

      Prov. 3:5-6   Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine    own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. 
     Ps. 37:23   The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way.

A high school graduate taking his future very seriously applied for a summer job with an architectural firm where he had always wanted to work.  The application was processed, and a job interview was scheduled.  The young man arrived early at the employer’s office determined to make the best impression possible.  In the ensuing conversation, the employer began to ask the young man questions about his plans and goals.

The boss casually asked, “What is it you want to do?”

The young man said, “I’ve always admired this firm for the work they do, and I would love to have a job here this summer.  I would gladly do whatever needs to be done.  I just want to get a feel for what it’s like to work within a business like this.”

The pleased employer asked, “What then?”

The answer came quickly, “In the fall, I am beginning my studies in college working toward an architectural degree.  I hope that I could keep a part time job here, so I could keep a foot in the door for the future.” 

The boss said, “What then?”

The young man eagerly replied, “When I finish my degree, I would love to go to work right here.  I know I would be inexperienced, but I would count it a privilege to work with your best architects and have an opportunity to learn and help them with their projects.”

“What then?” said the employer.

“When the time is right, I would like to have my own place at the table and develop my own projects.”

“Then what?”

“By then I ought to be making a decent living, and I certainly want to marry and begin my own family.”

“What then?”

“As my career progresses, I want to become your best architect.  I want to design and build beautiful buildings.”

“Then what?”

“Well, I suppose I should start preparing for future family and personal needs, lay aside something for the children to go to college, provide for a good retirement for my later years.”

“What then?”

“Well sir, to be honest, before I finish my most productive years, I want to build something of genuinely lasting value, a building, a complex, or a neighborhood that would be both beautiful in design and truly useful in function, a legacy to my life and work.”

“What then?”

“Well, I suppose there will come a time that I will retire and enjoy the fruit of my labors.  I would want to spend time with my wife, my children, and my grandchildren.  Maybe do some traveling and see the country or even the world.”

“What then?”

Now in unfamiliar territory the young man’s enthusiasm began to wane.  “I guess at some point I will slow down and live out my years.”

The employer looked the young man straight in the eye and simply and soberly asked the question, “And, what then?”

The young man looked down at his hands and hesitantly began to answer, “Well!... well?...”

Since our graduation in 1968, we all have lived our lives fully and pursued our dreams.  Our generation has lived through times that have always been interesting and often truly exciting.  According to Tom Brokaw’s book, 1968 (the year of our graduation) was the year that changed the world.  I’m sure we are all better and wiser for those years of experience.  But, most of us are beginning to arrive at that time in life where we ask ourselves, “What do we do now?  How do we constructively, confidently finish life’s journey?”  We find ourselves sincerely looking for reliable guidance. 

The good news is---the Bible is full of divine guidance.  God gives to His children many clear expressions of His desire to guide them.  Proverbs 3:5-6 is one of the clearest and most exciting of all these promises.  Let me share three important thoughts drawn from this familiar yet precious passage. 

The pathway: Each Person’s Journey

I read about a newspaper cartoon that shows an automobile balancing precariously over the edge of a cliff, with an embarrassed husband at the wheel and his disgusted wife sitting next to him.  Meekly, he says to his wife, “Honey, there’s got to be a lesson here somewhere.”

There’s a lesson there, all right, and it’s this: The only way to end up at the right destination is to choose the right road.  If you’ve ever made a wrong turn in a strange place and found yourself lost, then you know how important that lesson is.

The metaphor of life as a journey is a familiar one; it is found in the Bible as well as in classical literature.  The Odyssey of Homer describes Ulysses’ ten-year journey from Troy to his home in Ithaca, and Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress is an account of a Christian’s journey from the City of Destruction to the heavenly city.  (Here’s where we discover who did their homework in high school and who did not!)  The Bible frequently exhorts us to choose the right path, but the contemporary world thinks there are “many ways to God” and any path you sincerely follow will eventually take you there.

Jesus made it clear that in this life we can take only one of two ways, and each of them leads to a different destination.  Everybody must choose either the crowded road that leads to destruction or the narrow road that leads to life (Matt. 7:13-14).  There’s no middle way.  The entrance to that path is none other than Jesus Christ himself.  “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).  Peter declared, “Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

In the book of Proverbs, the words “path” and “way” are found nearly one hundred times.  Wisdom is portrayed not only as a person to love, but Wisdom is also pictured as a path to walk.  When we put the promise of Proverbs 3:5-6 into its context, we discover that Solomon’s emphasis in Proverbs chapters 2, 3, and 4 is on the blessings God’s people enjoy when they walk on Wisdom’s path.

In Proverbs 2, Wisdom protects our path.  The key verse in chapter 2 is verse 8: “He keepeth (guards) the paths of judgment, and preserveth the way of His saints.”  The repetition of the phrases “my son” and “my children” reminds us that the book of Proverbs records a loving father’s wise counsel to his family.

In Proverbs 3, Wisdom directs our path.  Of course, the key verses in this chapter are verses 5-6, “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”  God’s people have often claimed this promise as they have sought the Lord’s direction for their lives. 

In Proverbs 4, Wisdom perfects our path.   The key verse in chapter 4 is verse 18: “But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.”  As we learn and apply God’s wisdom, our steps are taken with greater certainty.  The Psalmist proclaimed, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Ps. 119:105).  The lamp of the word surrounds us with a pool of light that allows us to take the next step in confidence rather than fear.

I have a bit of personal experience when it comes to rough trails and difficult pathways.  My wife and I love to hike.  We particularly enjoy the trails in the mountains and canyons of the national parks.  In earlier years, we relished the challenge of the more difficult trails.  However, things have changed in recent years.  We now seek out the scenic but less strenuous paths.

A couple of years ago, we visited the Guadalupe Mountains National Park located in the Chihuahuan Desert of western Texas.  Guadalupe Peak is the highest point in Texas at 8,751 feet.  I wanted to go to the top.  The trail to the summit is 8.4 miles (not impossible), but the rise in elevation is 3,000 feet (more than a bit daunting).  Portions of the trail are virtually straight up.  If you have taken this hike after reaching age 60, I want to shake your hand!  You are a true Texas hero!  Shirley and I chose not to do it.  We asked the park ranger to recommend a more age appropriate trail for us.  She recommended the McKittrick Canyon Trail.  It is 4.8 miles with only a small elevation increase.  This sounded good!  We took the hike.  What she didn’t mention was that the small elevation increase was repeated continuously over the course of the trail.  In my view, we actually climbed Guadalupe Peak!

Let me pause in my telling of the McKittrick Canyon experience to talk about the perils of hiking for me.  This detour will lead to the actual point of my story.

Let’s change scenes to a beautiful, sunny fall day in the Blue Ridge Mountains in the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.  Shirley and I, with a group of friends, were climbing Mary’s Rock, a prominent peak in that area of the Blue Ridge.  The elevation is 3,514 feet which seems insignificant in comparison to the Rockies, but keep in mind, that the Blue Ridge begins only a few hundred feet above sea level.  It’s a nice climb.  Portions are very steep with many jagged, irregular steps along the edge of the mountain.  The trail was built in the 1930’s by the CCC.  Because of the rigor of the climb, we were all looking forward to the trip down the mountain expecting that portion of the trail to be faster and easier.  And, for some this may have been true, but for me it was just the opposite.  Going up the mountain, I could plant one foot solidly where I stood and with the other find my footing and shift my weight confidently to the next rock.  To my peril, coming down the mountain was just the opposite.  Think this through from my point of view as a blind person!  Coming down, I would begin each step with both feet planted confidently where I stood.  A friend below tells me to step out about 3 feet, a little to the right, and about 18 inches to 2 feet down.  The hiker on my right says to ignore that because the friend below is facing me, making the direction of travel his right but my left.  The hiker to the left says that he thinks the distance should be 4 feet, that from his point of view if I step only 3 feet, I will go off the side of the mountain.  Four feet!  My legs aren’t that long!  Honestly, I was terrified!  I didn’t know where to step.  I had zero confidence.  My situation was dangerous and unbelievably scary.  I was getting information and counsel from well intentioned people, but everyone had different advice.  These were my friends, but their instructions were conflicting and even contradictory.  By the time I got to the bottom of the trail, I was absolutely exhausted with the constitution of a jellyfish.  There had to be a better way!

And, of course, there was a better way.  Over time I learned two very important lessons.  The first lesson was that in difficult hikes I did much better if I was with a strong hiker with a longer stride than mine.  I learned if I simply stepped across with my trusted guide, I could confidently make the most treacherous step.  As to the other lesson, we must return to McKittrick Canyon in the Guadalupes.

From time to time various people had suggested that we use walking sticks when we hiked.  I had always dismissed the idea considering walking sticks as an aid for old people.  But, in the Guadalupes we had already conceded that we were too old for the strenuous hike to the peak.  We stopped at Walmart to pick up supplies for our McKittrick Canyon excursion.  We came across a display of walking sticks and bought a matching pair.  Accepting this one good piece of advice changed my life!  The canyon trail was not particularly difficult or dangerous with one exception.  The fast creek which flowed along the canyon floor had to be crossed four times on the hike.  There were no footbridges.  The creek had to be crossed by stepping from one strategically placed rock to another.  At the first crossing, we resorted to the old frustrating system of trying to explain where I was to step.  Shirley is a very cautious person and is uncomfortable with this responsibility.  But, to our delight, in the process of negotiating the first crossing, we discovered that she could simply direct the tip of my walking stick to the very point where I was supposed to step.  This very simple maneuver gave me all the information I needed to step confidently, naturally, and instinctively across the rocks.  I was elated!  But, my joy was tempered by the realization that I had unnecessarily struggled for years and literally put myself in peril rather than heeding the advice of experienced hikers.  We went on to have a wonderful day in the McKittrick Canyon, at least in my view.  Shirley has always referred to it as the “death march.”

So, what’s the point?  On the pathway of life we can handle the dangers and hazards we encounter along the way if we have a strong and competent guide as well as wise, accurate instructions for every area of life---guidance we can absolutely count on.  And, we have both in abundance!  Every Christian has the promise of Christ’s continual presence.  Jesus said, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28:20).  And, we have the all-encompassing wisdom of the word to accurately, reliably instruct us in the details of Christian living.  So, through prayer and the Word we have what we need to confidently finish our journey.  James encourages, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.  But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering” (James 1:5-6).  God will truly order our steps.

As we shall see, these truths are clearly seen in our text.

The problem: Every Man’s Plight

     Jer. 10:23     O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in
      man that walketh to direct his steps.

There is not greater need in life than the need for sure and safe guidance.  The reason for this is that---

Life is full of choices.

At every turn we have to make a decision, and we simply do not know what is the right way to go unless we turn to the Lord and ask for his help.

We truly need God to guide us!

The Promise: Extraordinary Guidance

If you look at this promise, you will see that it is conditional.  In other words, there are two parts to this promise---God’s part and our part.

God’s Part

God’s part is His promise of divine guidance.  “He shall direct thy paths” (Prov. 3:6b).  What an amazing thing it is that God Himself actually desires and offers to lead us through our lives.  The promise God makes to every one of His children is that He is willing to guide them concerning every detail of their lives, and they can trust His guidance completely.

Our Part
What do we have to do to secure God’s guidance?  “In all thy ways acknowledge him.”  What does this mean?  1. Negatively---“Lean not unto thine own understanding” (Prov. 3:5).  “Be not wise in thineown eyes” (3:7).  2. Positively---“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart” (3:5).  “Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established” (16:3).  Then, He will give us the needed guidance.  We can live in confidence if our lives are guided by the Lord.

I draw great comfort from the poetry of this beautiful hymn:

Day by Day
Caroline V. Sandell-Berg

Day by day and with each passing moment, Strength I find to meet my trials here.
Trusting in m Fathers wise bestowment, I’ve no cause for worry or for fear.
He whose heart is kind beyond all measure Gives unto each day what He deems best,
Lovingly its part of pain and pleasure, Mingling toil with peace and rest.

Every day the Lord Himself is near me with a special mercy for each hour.
All my cares He fain would bear and cheer me, He whose name is Counselor and Pow’r.
The protection of His child and treasure Is a charge that on Himself He laid.
“As your days, your strength shall be in measure,” This the pledge to me He made.

Help me then in every tribulation So to trust Your promises, O Lord,
That I lose not faith’s sweet consolation Offered me within Your holy Word.
Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting, E’er to take, as from a Father’s hand,
One by one, the days, the moments fleeting, Till I reach the Promised Land.

So, what do we do now?
Let’s take stock of where we are.  From my heart to yours, let me recommend a threefold attitude toward our journey.

As to the past: BE GRATEFUL.  Be thankful for life, lessons learned, family, friends, victories, and troubles.  Our path has brought us to where we are today.  “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (Phil. 1:6).

As to the present, BE FAITHFUL.  Stay in the Word, pray, share, love one another.  The Lord Himself will enable us.  “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).

As to the future, BE HOPEFUL.  We can be confident as to our destiny.  The question is, “How do we confidently prepare for the life to come?”  Jesus said, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved” (John 10:9); “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1John 5:12).  “But, you may ask, “How do we trust Him and receive His gift of eternal life?”

Admit our sinfulness.  On this matter the Bible and our own experience agree: “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).

Acknowledge the consequences.  Tragically, the penalty of sin is death.  “… sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Rom. 5:12); “The wages of sin is death…”  (Rom. 6:23b).

Appreciate Christ’s sacrifice.  Jesus paid the price as our substitute.  “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8); “The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23b).

Accept Christ’s salvation.  Becoming a child of God is as simple as John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

God’s gift of eternal life is received by believing (trusting, accepting) what Jesus did for us when he died on the cross for our sins and was raised from the dead.  “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.  … For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”  (Rom. 10:9,13).

Jesus stands today at the right hand of God ready to hear your prayer.  If you are not certain of your destiny, consider a sincere prayer such as this:  Dear Father, I know I’m a sinner.  I understand that the penalty of my sin is physical and spiritual death.  But, I do sincerely believe the message of the Gospel - that Jesus died in my place for my sin and You raised Him from the dead.  The best I know how, I’m trusting His work on the cross for my salvation.  I’m receiving your free gift of eternal life.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Our salvation is the gift of God.  We cannot earn it, we can only receive it.

“But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, … That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.  For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God; Not of works, lest any man should boast.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:4,7-10).

Let’s make these next years count.  Let’s use them for His purposes.

Don Forrester

Larry Morris Testimony - October 7, 2018


Presented by Larry Morris at the AHS Class of 1968 October 7, 2018 Worship Service

Dear Friends,
I have the privilege today to tell you why I love Jesus…and I do!  I humbly stand before you and unashamedly profess Jesus is my best friend.  I believe in Father God, our Creator.  I Believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit.  I Believe Jesus was crucified, died, buried and He rose again.

There’s a popular Emmy awarded television series running each week entitled: “This is us”.  Poor grammar (I’m certain Mrs. Schoen would have some choice comments about it) but a great series.  Have you seen it?  Week by week it portrays a saga of family missteps, ups, downs, tears of sorrow and joy, mess-ups and tragedies…much like my own life. 

I started off seemingly well.  Third grade I remember fire drills and while living in the Cold War, we had periodic drills for what to do should nuclear war break out.  Those drills created a fear in me.  Living near Pantex, I was convinced we were doomed!!!  About that time, I observed Peggy Test and some other church peers who professed Faith in Jesus and were baptized.  That put me to thinking…this must be the Way!

It culminated one night in an outdoor revival that Baptists held near Palo Duro Canyon.  All week there was preaching about Jesus, the Bible and God by a colorful evangelist named Angel Martinez.  Nothing moved me particularly until the last night.  It was do or die.  The evangelist dressed in a flashy pink suit, which back then was even more an oddity, began telling the audience that we had a choice to make about our eternal destination.  Would it be Heaven or Hell?  Well, I made my choice then and there and asked Jesus to save me. 

The days after I sensed greater peace in my life, but as I got to high school, like most high schoolers, I seriously struggled with peer pressure, being height challenged (REALLY challenged!) along with fears and insecurities.  At age 16 I remember something or Someone called me to become a medical missionary to Africa, and that became my life goal. 

Fast forward to my college days and a switch went off in me that wasn’t good.  I entered into a life of partying, rebellion, rejection of my old values and faith, and my old friend FEAR came rumbling into my life along with 3 other friends – SHAME, GUILT, and CONDEMNATION.  I recall one Sunday afternoon that my parents phoned me to inform that AHS burned down.  That was in March of 1970, and I thought to myself, “I’m burning down, too”.  I felt extreme guilt and heard a lying voice tell me I was no longer any good for GOD.  Med school took a heave ho, and I cried out to God for a new beginning.  So it was law school for me and I started over.  By God’s grace, I got through, started a law practice and met the most BRILLIANT answer to my prayers (other than salvation) when God brought Sara into my life.  Hallelujah!  She’s been my wife for almost 42 years.  It was then I began to get hold of my senses, turned around, and started a new search for God.  I would do anything and everything I could trying to win back His favor. 

After all these years, I never read the Bible completely through; so, I got started.  I was completely mesmerized by the scriptures, couldn’t put God’s Word down, and I remember quite well when I first read Proverbs 3:5-6.  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.  Lean not on your own understanding.  Acknowledge Him in all your ways and He will direct your path”.

As I continued to read through the Bible, I was overwhelmed by the love of God for me, for His unconditional love and multiple opportunities for “do-overs”.  Not long after that, Sara and I travelled to Kenya, Africa on a mission endeavor.  Peering out at the beautiful Africa plains, and with tears of regret, I remembered that early calling on my life.  While there, I had an intense reunion with Jesus, that started a relationship - quite real and personal - that continues today.  And a few days later I heard His call to join Billy Graham’s team on a crusade going to Moscow, Russia in October 1992.  It was as if I had been impregnated by the Holy Spirit to go.  I made the cut, and can truthfully say it served lots of purposes to demonstrate to me that God still loved me, could use me for His purposes, that I COULD survive the Iowa winters having spent a month in Russia and in Siberia, that He loved the Russian people, the ones I feared during the Cold War days, and that He had a new plan for my life and for the Russian people.

Suffice it to say, God in His wonderful Love for me and for the world, gave me a great new beginning once again.  I don’t want to mislead you.  I still don’t know everything about Jesus and God and I don’t have it all together.  But I know this fact with absolute certainty: Jesus loves you and me and every single one of His creation.  THIS IS US!  I’ve given Him all my fears and found an amazing inner peace that continues today with great confidence and hope for my future. 

So why do I share this with you today?  As I look around my hope is that each of you, too, will join me in that heavenly destination, whenever time’s up.  We don’t know what awaits us.  This week while reading His Word, God highlighted this passage in Romans 13 for all of us to ponder…  “This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out.  Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.  The night is almost gone, the day of salvation will soon be here.”

I hope you, too, know the joy of new beginnings with Christ Jesus.  I love you and want to see you at more Amarillo reunions, and, for sure, many, many more in HEAVEN!

Larry Morris