Got Blessings?

“The blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it.” (Provs. 10:22) Every believer is indeed rich, “blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” (Eph. 1:3). Those blessings include such “unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph.3:8) as forgiveness of sins, freedom from condemnation, adoption into the family of God with Him as our Father, objects of His love and unconditional grace (favor), plus peace with God through Jesus and the presence always of His indwelling Holy Spirit. If you are a child of God, you are rich in blessings, period!

F.B. Meyer said that “whatever blessing is in our cup, it is sure to run over. With our Father, the calf is always the fatted calf, the robe is always the best robe, the joy is unspeakable, the peace passes understanding…there is no grudging in God’s benevolence.”

Sir Walter Raleigh was all the time submitting requests to Queen Elizabeth on behalf of convicts. On one occasion, the Queen asked Sir Walter when he would stop being a beggar, to which Sir Walter replied, “When your Majesty ceases to be a giver.” Our God has never, nor will He ever, stopped being a Giver!

Count your blessings, name them one by one: “Blessed is the man whose transgression is covered; blessed is the man who maketh the Lord his trust; blessed are they that dwell in Thy house; blessed is the man whose strength is in Thee; blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O Lord, in the light of Thy countenance.” (Ps.32:1; Ps. 40:4; Ps. 84:4,5; Ps.89:15)

Oswald Chambers struck a chord in hearts when he observed that “the great difficulty spiritually is to concentrate on God, and it is His blessings that make it difficult. Troubles nearly always make us look to God; His blessings are apt to make us look elsewhere.”

Troubles: we as individuals and as a nation and world are deep into them on almost any day. “Everything is going up.” (Inflation!) Yet, rain is still coming down; birds are still singing; joy still costs nothing, and love is never in short supply from the heart of our heavenly Father. A smile is no more costly today than ever; a kind word, a timely touch, or a caring presence.  Yes, everything material, it seems, is going up today, but those things of eternal value are still moving from heaven to earth, and on earth from heart to heart, home to home, and the supply chain is unbroken!

A child described an elevator thusly: “When I got into this little room, the upstairs came down.” (George Gardiner) And, so it is, “Heaven came down and glory filled my soul.”

My friend, Evangelist Leon Foote, once shared what he called, “The biggest blessing of the year!”  His words: On a trip to Texas, “I stopped to see my older brother, Joe. He is a Marine from WWII.  I have prayed for and witnessed to him for over 40 years. I have prayed at the altar in some of your churches. Joe has cancer, and this time he was willing to listen to me. There in his home on a Friday night, Nov. 5, he prayed and asked Jesus into his heart. Amen, Amen!”  Talk about blessings!

What have you received of late, today in fact, for which to “praise God from Whom all blessings flow?” The blessing of salvation always tops our list, Eph. 2:8,9; then sanctification, I Thess. 4:3; service, Luke 18:29,30; soul-winning; Ps.126:6, supplication, Matt.7:7; and stewardship, Luke 6:38, among a multitude of others.

So, yes, the blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich! Stop with me now and bow your heart, casting all your burdens on the Lord, and just thank Him for the riches of His grace. In Christ, the pauper is rich; without Christ, the prince is a pauper.

In the mid 1700s, Robert Robinson’s father died when he was 17. His mother sent him to London to learn a trade, but while there he fell into drinking and gangs. But Robert once heard the mega voice of Evangelist George Whitefield preaching on the subject “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee the wrath to come?” Robinson felt as though the message was directed right at him, and in faith he responded, calling upon and falling upon the grace of God for salvation. He would later write of God’s amazing grace and abundant blessings:

Come Thou Fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing Thy grace; Streams of mercy, never ceasing call for songs of loudest praise.” (Robert Robinson, 1735-1790)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” (Eph.1:3)

What Would You Have Done?

I hesitate to pen this post because it is about a personal experience, and I would rather talk about what happened to you or someone else than myself. But what I am about to share did happen and I am still trying to make some sense of it, so I am going to put it out there and, in so doing, would welcome your response if you have any thoughts to pass along.

One day in late April, I was alone in our driveway planting a few flowers in some flower boxes. My back was turned toward the street, and I was facing the house, when, though not aware of any other presence, I turned to face the street and discovered that a late model suburban vehicle had eased into our driveway and was parked a few feet from where I was standing.  The driver, when our eyes met, quickly said, “I am from Dubai and I have lost my billfold; I need help getting to California.”  He had a pretty thick accent, looked like he was from the Middle East, and he was well dressed.  Immediately, as I walked toward the car to talk with him, he held up a gold necklace and, on the necklace, a beautiful gold ring.  He said, “I need money to get to California. I lost my billfold.  Here, you take this (the gold jewelry), and when I get home, I will send you the money and you can send this back to me.”

I held both hands up, palms facing the stranger, indicating that I would not do what he had proposed. He rolled down the back passenger window and I saw a teenage girl with a phone or computer in her hand; there appeared to be others in the car, his family, though I did not carefully look at each person. The girl looked well dressed, never took her eyes off the phone or computer in her hand, and the man continued to plead. “Here,” he said, taking a gold Rolex watch off his wrist, “Take this; this is a $25,000 watch.” Again, I held both hands up, pushing back, saying as I did, “I cannot do that.” He said, “I need $300-400 dollars; you can give me that. I just need to get to California.” He continued “begging” me to give him some money, and if I understood him correctly, he even mentioned that I could give him a credit card to use.  I was adamant in refusing to touch the gold chain or watch. I have to admit, the man, in a beautiful late model suburban Yukon, looked every bit legitimate, and I really thought at that time that his story was real.

Of course, I have thought that on other occasions, such as the time I received a call one afternoon from a man who, in a dead earnest voice, and an Irish accent, said he was in the library of the University of Indianapolis (close to our church) reading the gospel of John, and he wanted to know if I could tell him how to be saved.  I made arrangements to pick him up, brought him to my church office, and explained the gospel to him. On our knees, he prayed, even with a tear or two, and I was sure he had accepted Christ as Savior.  He was well groomed, with a suit and tie. It was not until I was taking him back to the library that he told me he was a clock master, and the clock he had been working had taken him longer than he had anticipated. He was, consequently, in a bind for money as his rent was past due.  I asked him how much he needed, and it was $125.  This was probably 20 or 25 years ago and I did not usually have an extra $125 at the end of the month, but I did on that day. So I went to the bank, made the withdrawal, took him downtown where he said his landlord had an office, accompanied him to the 4th floor of the downtown Indy office building and then, acquiescing to his request that I let him talk to and pay his landlord alone, I waited. When he returned, I took him back to the library, got his home address and made arrangements to visit him that evening for a Bible Study. I had barely gotten back to my church office when it dawned upon my feeble mind that maybe I should drop by the address he gave me, also close to the University, just to confirm that I could find it.  A sick feeling began to take over my stomach when, yes, you are probably ahead of my story, I could not find the address.  I had been conned and what a slick job it was, compete with suit and tie and tears!   As most pastors have probably likewise experienced, that was not the first time that I had been taken, nor the last; but I think it hurt so badly because he was such a good actor.  It just hurt!  And, still does to think about it!

Back to the Dubai gentleman.  After prayer meeting the night before, Ellen had come home and we discussed the Pastor’s midweek Bible study. It was on the subject of love and how we can and should demonstrate Christ’s love to a needy world. I had not heard the lesson because of my semi-quarantine due to cancer chemo treatments, so she shared with me the essence of the lesson, and we had a good discussion.  How do you consistently, biblically, and in the spirit of Christ, demonstrate God’s love to a needy, hurting world?

So, the next morning, the aforementioned incident occurred. Was it a test? I have not doubted that for whatever purposes, known only to Him, it was ordained of God. It happened so suddenly. There was no way that I could have contemplated what I would do or what and how I should respond. It was split-second decision-making time. No friend, no counsellor, no wife to consult.  Bang. There he was, a foreigner in a strange land if one could believe his story, desperate, pleading for help.  I told him that to give him hundreds of dollars was not something I could do.  I also told him I was a preacher, and he said, “Jesus will help you.”

So, there you have it. You may be wondering about now, “OK, Pastor Slutz, what did you do?” Well, that’s what I wanted to ask you. What should I have done?  What would you have done, if you could somehow recreate in your mind the same circumstance?  A well-dressed, Middle Eastern man who said plainly as he pleaded, “I am a wealthy man,” and buttressed his claim with a supposed $25,000 wrist watch? You are a Christ one.  Do good to all men, Paul admonished.  This stranger knows you are a follower of Jesus.  You make the call. 

I do distinctly remember praying that morning, at the breakfast table before eating, asking God to guide us and to give us wisdom in all that we would do during the day.  I distinctly remember that because I do not usually ask God for wisdom at the breakfast table before eating!

So, what would you have done?  What should I have done?

For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.” (James 2:13)

Indy’s Great Awakening

The year was 1921. The place was downtown Indianapolis. The largest building of its kind at that time in the U.S., a religious center, had just been dedicated. Known as the Cadle Tabernacle, it could seat 10,000 guests along with a choir of 1,500. British evangelist Rodney “Gypsy” Smith preached the dedication service to a capacity crowd, while another 10,000 people were turned away.  Smith had, that same year, led a month-long revival meeting in the Circle City with 140 churches participating, which was estimated to be half of the city’s churches, the majority of which were Methodists.  There were 15,000 professions of faith recorded before Smith’s meeting concluded, and when he later returned to preach the dedication of the Tabernacle, one of the city’s leaders said it “has been a Great Awakening,” and “our city can never be the same again.”

From a human vantage point, the driving force behind what I have just recapped was an enigmatic figure, E. Howard Cadle, born to a praying Christian mother and an alcoholic father in a log cabin in Fredericksburg, Indiana, in 1884.  When Cadle was as young as twelve he took on his father’s wanton ways and continued in them, drinking and gambling with friends who were not a good influence, until, sick with Bright’s disease and pretty much “busted” financially and physically, he ended up back home on his parents farm in Fredericksburg in 1914 where, after much prayer and Bible reading by himself and with his mother of faith, he had what he considered a conversion experience that he later described as “All the beauty of heaven seemed to burst into the windows. The old, dead apple tree seemed to be in full bloom and I could hear the rustle of wings of angels of mercy. My sins were washed away!”

Cadle was a man of contradictions with a powerful personality–an entrepreneur par excellence, a salesman that could, as one friend said, talk you out of a pair of shoes that you were wearing if he wanted them, and a business man with an uncanny sense of timing coupled with a gargantuan vision. Through business exploits leading up to the early 1920’s Cadle became quite wealthy, building a chain of twenty or so shoe repair shops across several communities, and all the while speaking at church gatherings of his conversion experience.  Having built a 1,200-seat tabernacle in Louisville in 1920, Cadle moved his dream to downtown Indy in 1921 and built the worship center that would stand until wrecking crews would bring their bull-dozers onto its demolition site in 1968. 

Strangely, though, Cadle was not in control of the Tabernacle many of those intervening years. In fact, two years after the gala dedicatory service in 1921, he lost control of it and moved to Florida, resuming business ventures successfully (real estate) until coming back in the mid-thirties to revive the preaching center (thanks to the help of a local bank which then held the mortgage) and his evangelistic ministry. 

Unique about Cadle’s ministry at that point was his use of the air waves as a medium to get out his message.  Cincinnati’s WLW had a 500,000-watt signal in 1933 and the government estimated that WLW could be clearly heard by two-thirds of the then 90 million people who lived in the United States.  Cadle broadcast a daily fifteen-minute program over this powerful outlet at 6:00 a.m. each weekday, and in the many rural communities in southern Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee, when farmers were doing chores and eating breakfast, his program was a staple. In time, Cadle would place Crosby transistor radios, set on the WLW station, in pastor-less churches in these rural areas, and church folk would gather, if the roads were not muddy on Sunday, to hear the Cadle Tabernacle preacher, whether Cadle himself or another one of his many guest speakers. It was for its time a phenomenal strategy that made the Cadle name a household word and built a ministry that made the visionary a wealthy man. Hundreds of letters poured into the Tabernacle mailbox weekly from people in the “hinterlands” who listened religiously to the daily and Sunday broadcasts, attended the one-night rallies that he would have his son, Buford, fly him to on the plane bought for that purpose, and considered him their spiritual leader.

After Cadle’s passing in 1942, at the age of 58, the ministry fell onto hard times.  People were moving from the downtown to suburbs.  Cadle’s wife, Ola, continued to supervise the ministry and various pastors would try to keep it afloat. But in time, the once majestic building that teemed with spiritual fervor became abandoned until its final day of demolition in 1968.  The ministry did go on for a while but eventually, ending up in a small office on the north side, it ceased.

So, Indianapolis had experienced during the 20’s, the depression years, and into the ensuring two or three decades the unique impact of a compelling gospel witness, led by a “free-lance” evangelist who was skilled in communicative endeavors and gifted with a personality that was magnetic. But, alas, the city that “would never be the same again” became, in time, much the same again. Indianapolis, Indiana, with its rich heritage, has “backslidden” into a city full of crime, gambling that has been legalized, daily homicides and, like most large cities, a metropolis plagued with drugs.  This is not to say Indy does not have its appeal; conventions consider it an ideal place for their large gatherings, and it is known as the amateur sports capital of the world.

But the Cadle days, for better or worse, would not last.  Only He who judges the worth and works of those who labor in His name knows what the ministry accomplished.  From this pastor’s point of view, its eventual demise was built into its foundational structure.  God’s method has from the inception been administered in this church age by and through the local church.  Interestingly, when Cadle began conducting great Sunday afternoon meetings in the Tabernacle, churches begged him not to because of their concern that his meetings would infringe upon their local church ministries.

Indianapolis, in the decades following Cadle’s influence, was a place like many other Midwestern cities, ripe for post-war evangelism. Scores of independent Baptist churches were started, many of which still thrive today.  One national fellowship of Baptists had a goal in 1958 to start 408 local churches. Someone estimated that there are, or at one time were, 100 independent Baptist churches in the greater Indianapolis area.  Does Cadle’s impact live on today?  God is the judge.  But, one thing is certain: There is now today a need, a desperate need, not only in Indy but in America, for another “Great Awakening.”

Hold fast the form of sound words which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Tim. 1:13)

(Note: This post was written from information in an award-winning article written by my son, Theodore, published in TRACES, winter of 2005, by the Indiana Historical Society.  Ted is a free-lance writer, and at the time the article on Cadle appeared he was pursuing a doctorate in history at Yale University. He received a master’s degree in history from Indiana University and wrote his M.A. thesis about the Tabernacle. For further reading on this subject, see his article at https://images.indianahistory.org/digital/collection/p16797coll39/id/1253

But God Hath Chosen

Paul the Apostle, who himself had been before his conversion anything but weak, said that “not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen…the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.” (I Cor. 1:26,27)

Had anyone been able to peek into the mid-depression era to get a look at the life of the subject of this post, one would have concluded that of the four sons born to this western Pennsylvania wife and her alcoholic husband, none of them would stand anything but the slimmest of possibilities in amounting to anything that would contribute much to the needy world into which they had been born.

The years were deep depression years. Poverty, abject poverty, characterized the situation this little family found itself in. Whatever few nickels and dimes the father of the four boys and their sister, was able to scrape together, he spent propping up his addiction to alcohol.  His sweet wife and children felt the harsh blows of his beatings when he came home drunk. There was often no heat in the house, no food and little possibility of getting help except when a kind relative, knowing of the critical needs, would drop by with whatever assistance could be rendered.

Dr. Larry Hufhand, born in 1934 into that sin broken family circle, is the “weak” thing, along with another older brother, the late Rev. Leland Hufhand, that God reached down and with His mighty hand, lifting up two brothers out of the dire depression that had swallowed up a nation leaving hardly any household unscathed, to make of them, along with their two other brothers and eventually their mother and one-time drunkard dad, trophies of His grace.

Whenever rent came due, it seemed the family had to move again. The children were in so many different schools they lost track of the number.  Some were in Pennsylvania and some in New York State where their dad had moved them into a tin shed shanty to spend a cold winter while he returned to Pennsylvania to live in warmth with some of his family, with food and shelter.

It was a childhood with memories etched forever into one’s mind, soul and upon the body itself. But God! In His merciful grace, a loving heavenly Father built a hedge around those boys, and to a great extent, their sweet mother, so that they were able to reach adulthood in time to enlist in the armed forces as drumbeats of World War II, followed by the Korean War, were sounding through the nations.

Larry, as a high school student, in the summer of 1952, at the invitation of his older brother, Lee, who had come to know Christ as Savior and was, on a GI bill, living in a trailer court with his bride just off the campus of Bob Jones University where he was studying in preparation for ministry, accepted Lee’s invitation to pay them a visit.  Armed with maps of several states on the eastern seaboard, Larry set out to hitch-hike from western PA to Greenville, SC, where he would spend a few weeks with his brother before entering school for his senior year.  It was during that visit that Larry heard clearly for the first time the claims of Christ upon his life and the gospel invitation that “whosoever will may come.” He was gloriously converted and has never gotten over it. Finishing his senior year, he had enlisted in the Air Force, and while waiting on a call from them was employed at the Ford Stamping Plant in Buffalo, NY.  Someone suggested to Larry that he consider attending Bob Jones College, whereupon, without any means and nothing much more that a heart full of faith, he applied, was accepted and made his way to BJU in time for the opening revival services. While Dr. Bob Jones, Sr., preached as only he could, the Holy Spirit was speaking softly yet earnestly to Larry, and when the invitation for full-time service was given, from his seat in the back row of the balcony in Rodeheaver Auditorium the 18-year-old young man, whose life had been in large part a living night-mare, made his way as fast as he could to the front of the auditorium to surrender to God’s will whatever it would be.  That life-changing night made the difference not only in Larry’s life, but in thousands of lives his life would impact over the next 69 years to this present day.

Dr. Hufhand graduated from BJU, then attended Grace Seminary in Winona Lake, but not before marrying his sweetheart and life’s helpmeet, Marion Dinus.  The Hufhands would in time be the proud parents of four sons, all who know and serve their Lord and Savior.

Larry Hufhand, as a student at BJU, struggled with a severe speech impediment, that of stuttering. He was tutored in special speech classes by professors who were the best available, but after years of trying to help this handicapped would-be preacher, they advised him that his case was hopeless and that they could not help him. That did not deter a man who had the call of God upon his life, and Larry continued on with his ministerial training in Winona Lake, where, in a barber shop located across from the famed Billy Sunday tabernacle, Larry would hone his barbering skills on many of the well-known preachers attending the summer Bible conferences, including Myron Cedarholm, Alva McClain, John Whitcomb, Walter Wilson, Vance Havner and others.  He was able to support his family through this work, and, upon graduation, the Hufhands would move to Freeport, IL, to begin a church plant mothered by the historic First Baptist Church of Freeport in 1960. Five years later, accepting a call to pastor another historic church, First Baptist Church of Tipton, Indiana, Larry, Marion and family tearfully bid farewell to the thriving congregation of Calvary Baptist Church in Freeport to assume duties in Tipton where, on the Sunday that Pastor Hufhand candidated, Palm Sunday, 1965, tornadoes ripped across central Indiana leaving 350 people dead in their wake.

Pastor Hufhand, with Marion and the boys, accepted the new challenges before them and it was not until 41 years later that Dr. Larry Hufhand, known to most everyone in Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Ohio as the pastor of a vibrant, soul-winning church where revival was on-going, where young people went away to Christian colleges, such as the newly constituted Maranatha Baptist Bible College, founded by Dr. Myron Cedarholm in 1968, and where children could attend summer camp at Michiana Baptist Camp in Shipshewana, Indiana, where they would enjoy  fun, food and friends for a wonderful week. This writer volunteered to speak at one of those junior camp weeks and it was not yet lunch-time on Monday when I was assigned the job of counsellor in a cabin of eight-year-old boys.  When Larry Hufhand stepped onto the Michiana Camp grounds, it was as if a personality transformation had taken place.  He was all kids, all camp, all Christ all week and when it was over, everyone went home exhausted but exhilarated for having spent a week on a lake in northern Indiana with scores of other kids, all the while loved, fed, bedded and coached by a dedicated team of volunteers from First Baptist Church in Tipton.

Dr. Hufhand has been “retired” now since 2008, but in his retirement, he has accepted another call to pastor the Pleasant View Baptist Church in Noblesville, IN. He also publishes a weekly blog, the Hufhand Report, that reaches thousands with timely truths. At age 87 he is still promoting world missions and evangelism. When pastoring in Tipton, he was vitally involved in the forming of the Indiana Fundamental Baptist Fellowship of Churches, and often served as its president and later as its state representative.

All who have known this “weak thing” of this world have marveled at the grace of God and His ability to shape a once-stuttering young preacher-boy, who by the way was instantly and miraculously delivered by God from that affliction, into an under shepherd whose life would be used in the mentoring and molding of scores of others, young and old, into men and women who would in turn impact multitudes for Christ’s kingdom.

(Larry’s life story has been featured on Moody Radio’s “Unshackled” where this story of God’s amazing grace can be heard in a dramatized two-part version)

But by the grace of God I am what I am…and His grace was not bestowed upon me in vain….” (I Cor. 15:10)

Mother

Built for us in God’s own heart,
	She would love us from the start;
Watching o’er us like none other,
	We would cherish our dear Mother.

In her arms she drew us near
	There would chase away each fear.
Through her loving, soothing voice,
	We knew we were hers by choice.

From her eyes there shone rare grace,
	Love was written on her face.
With her hands she met each need,
	All our calls and cares did heed.

She was our first loving teacher,
	Doctor, nurse and even preacher;
Words of kindness she would say,
	Coaching us along life’s way.

Her wise lessons were our rule;
	Ere we set a foot in school.
She would teach us by her life
	How to cope with stress and strife.

One could see her angel eyes,
	When we called with coos or cries.
She was ever quick to come,
	Caring ‘til the day was done.

Lull-a-byes and sweetest song
	We could listen all day long.
Darkest room with heaven’s light,
	Mother’s presence would make bright.

With a word or touch we’d know,
	All was peaceful here below.
In her warm and caring arms,
	We were safe from fears and harms.

So, on this her special day,
	We would simply pause to say:
“Mother, Mother, Mother dear,
	You have brought to us such cheer!

We thank and praise you for your love,
	You’re a gift from heaven above!
From our earliest infant cry,
	To the day that we shall die,

We’ll thank God for you forever,
	Nothing from your heart will sever,
‘Til we draw our life’s last breath,
	We will cherish you ‘til death.”

We will honor our dear Mother,
	For she loved us like none other;
Built for us in God’s own heart,
	She has loved us from life’s start.

Anthony Slutz

Builder of Temples

With Mother’s Day coming, I would just like to use this opportunity to pay tribute to mothers and motherhood, quoting from various sources.  I hope it will be a blessing to all who read.

“They talk about a woman’s sphere as though it had a limit; there’s not a place in earth or heaven, there’s not a task to mankind given; there’s not a blessing nor a woe, there’s not a whispered “yes,” or “no;” there’s not a life or death or birth, there’s not a feather’s weight of worth, without a woman in it.” (unknown)

I did not have my mother long, but she cast over me an influence which has lasted all my life. The good effects of her early training I can never lose. If it had not been for her appreciation and her faith in me at a critical time in my experience, I should never likely have become an inventor.” (Thomas Edison)

The great preacher G. Campbell Morgan had four sons. They all became ministers. At a family gathering a friend asked one of the sons, “Which Morgan is the greatest preacher?” The son looked at his father and promptly replied, “Mother!”

Our church, Thompson Road Baptist Church in Indianapolis, has supported Bible Tracts, Inc., for decades, a ministry founded by the late evangelist Paul Levin who preached and traveled with his blind singer Bob Findley.  Paul eloquently wrote once about his darling mother: “My mother went home to glory March 21, 1959, at age 91. To this day it is impossible for me to adequately describe her godly life and all her memory means to me. She gave me to God before I was born, and as soon as I was able to understand the plan of salvation, she led me to the Savior. My mother never graduated from high school, but she taught me many things I could never have learned in our highest institutions of learning. She never sang in our choir, but at home—where it really counted—her life was a constant song. She was sweet, cheerful, and supremely happy in the Lord.”

Song writer John Peterson said of his mother, “I could always count on my mother’s prayers. When I was a small boy, she would take me by the hand and say, ‘Let’s pray,’ then she’d start—and I mean she would pray! Many times I’ve watched the tears stream down her face as she’d intercede for the salvation of her children. She loved the Bible…she wasn’t perfect. No human being is. I never heard her swear. She did not read dirty books or magazines. I heard her pray. I heard her feed on Scriptures. She took me to Sunday School and church and made me sit still. Mother took me to church Sunday nights, too, and also to the midweek prayer services…and when there were special meetings…while mother didn’t leave us a lot of worldly goods, she left behind something that all the bulging bank accounts of all the world couldn’t buy—faith in God as taught by a sweet, godly Christian mother.”

Some of these choice testimonies I have copied from sources probably 50 years or so ago, and am not sure of the credits; this one is from a publication that was known as “Back Country Evangelism.” I think you will find it interesting:

“Amazing Grace” was written by John Newton, who was known as “London’s sailor
preacher.” He reached Thomas Scott, a cultured scholarly, moral man, who through
his tongue and pen swayed thousands for Jesus. He in turn reached William Cowper, the reverse of Scott: young, dyspeptic, melancholy, —who wrote ‘A Fountain Filled with Blood.’ He in turn reached Wilberforce who inspired the empire to free its slaves. Wilberforce touched a man who was a vicar in the Church of England by the name of Richmond, who knew the story of a milkman’s daughter who had the unusual touch of the power of God. He wrote the book, “The Dairyman’s Daughter” which was translated into forty-odd foreign languages, reaching into peasant’s huts and king’s palaces. All of this came about because an old gray- haired, bent back washer woman prayed for her wayward son John’s safe return from the sea.

Well, there are many more special tributes that could and should be paid our mothers, but I will close this post with this one:

A builder builded a temple, He wrought it with grace and skill;
Pillars and groins and arches, all fashioned to work his will.
Men said, as they saw its beauty, “It shall never know decay;
Great is thy skill, O Builder! Thy fame shall endure for aye.”	
A mother builded a temple, with loving and infinite care,
Planning each arch with patience, laying each stone with prayer.
None praised her unceasing efforts, none knew of her wondrous plan,
For the temple the mother builded was unseen by the eyes of man.
Gone is the Builder’s temple, crumpled into the dust;
Low lies each stately pillar, food for consuming rust.
But the temple the mother builded
Will last while the ages roll, 
For that beautiful unseen temple 
Was a child’s immortal soul. 
Hattie Vose Hall              

Honor thy father and thy mother; (which is the first commandment with promise); that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.” (Eph.6:2,3)

Things to Leave Your Children

The ancient philosopher, Socrates, was quoted as once saying, “Fellow citizens, why do you turn and scrape every stone to gather wealth and take so little care of your children to whom one day you will leave it all.”

Abraham Lincoln said that “a child is a person who is going to carry on what you have started. He is going to sit where you are sitting, and when you are gone, attend to the things which you think are important…he is going to move in and take over your churches, schools, universities and corporations. All your books are going to be judged by him.”

Most loving parents would like to leave their children something; perhaps an inheritance or family heirloom. Because we love our children, we would like to pass on to them something the use of which would make their lives more comfortable and enjoyable.

I think the wise king Solomon must have had this on his mind when he wrote, “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold.” (Proverbs 22:1)

Think with me about somethings we might leave our children.  Let’s start with Solomon’s thought:

  • A Good name. Not necessarily a “big name.” Mordecai did for the best part of his life what was unknown to most, but he surely left behind a good name! Epaphras did not have a big name, but Paul said he labored fervently for the Colossian Christians in prayer. (Col.4:12) Whoever heard of Andronicus or Junia? Not many of us, but in Romans 16:7 Paul said they were “of note among the apostles.”

Not all will speak well of us, but we should strive to so live that our life will be “honest among the Gentiles that whereas they speak evil against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.” (I Peter 2:12)

  • A proper training, Provs. 22:6: “Train up a child in the way that he should go….” Training cannot come apart from correction, correction that at the time may not be appreciated for “no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous.” (Hebs.12:11) “If you want your children to turn out well, spend twice as much time with them and half as much money.” (Abigail Van Buren) Know that training is the job of a parent, their ultimate responsibility: not the State, nor the school, nor the church but the parent. “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.” (Provs. 22:15) The job will not be a pleasant one, and at times it will be annoying or even aggravating, but training up your children is a God-appointed task given to you.
  • A good work ethic: “The slothful man sayeth, there is a lion without, I shall be slain in the streets.” (Provs.22:13) We must be diligent and set a good example in our attitude toward work. Albert Schweitzer said that there are only three ways to teach a child. The first is by example. The second is by example, and the third is by example. And, with example, enthusiasm, remembering that the ground, not work, was cursed and work is the remedy! It is in fact, a blessing! One man, laid off from work after 45 years, said, “If I had known it was going to be temporary, I wouldn’t have taken it.”
  • A right view of finances. Again, quoting Solomon’s proverbs, 23:5: “Wilt thou set thine eyes on that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.” We need to teach our children that all that we have is from God and He is the owner of all and whatever He blesses us with materially should be considered as a stewardship on our part, and that Jacob’s vow to give back to God a tenth of all that God would entrust to his management is a universal, timeless wise decision. (Gen. 28:20) Our young people need to learn, by precept and by our example, the blessedness of giving generously and the wisdom of managing money wisely. “The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.” (Provs. 22:7) A former teenager once wrote, “Ten things I wish I had known before I was 21: That it was really important to be a Christian; What I was going to do for a living; That my health after 30 depended in a large degree on what I put into my stomach before I was 21; How to take care of money, that I was really a trustee of what I had; The asset of being neatly and sensibly dressed; That habits are mighty hard to change after your are 21; That worthwhile things require time, patience and hard work; that the world would give me just about what I deserved; That a thorough education is good, but a knowledge of God’s Word is better and that the value of absolute truthfulness is everything.” (unknown)
  • Finally (and there could be many more), A proper respect for a Godly heritage. “Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.” (Provs. 22:28). Some of those landmarks are “The inspiration and absolute authority of God’s Word for faith and practice; the landmark of separation from ungodliness; the landmark of love of God, of neighbors and of one another; the landmark of truth through a study of scriptures and the landmark of “Preach the Word.…” Then there is the landmark of a love for and involvement in world missions through God-appointed missionaries sent through another landmark, the local New Testament church. There are multitudinous other landmarks which our fathers have set before us and passed on to us as a Godly heritage that we must teach our children to respect properly. To do so will, of course, go directly again the current culture grain of popular thinking.

In summary, “Whatever you write on the heart of a child, no water can wash away. The sand may be shifted when billows are wild and the efforts of time may decay, but whatever you write on the heart of a child, no water can wash away.” (unknown)

Oliver B. Greene, evangelist and author of Bible commentaries, once said, “I will never live to be an old man because I did not obey and honor my parents.” We must, as parents and grandparents, live so that when we are gone, we will have left behind the legacy of a good name, faithful and loving discipline, a good work ethic, a right view of finances and a proper respect for a Godly heritage so that the generation after us will neither move nor remove the ancient landmarks.

We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and His strength, and His wonderful works that He hath done.” (Ps.78:4)

Always by Their Side

Unchurched Winter Haven, Florida, girl meets Christian teen boy. Girl is youngest of three daughters mother was left with due to the early death of her husband. Very poor. Rebelled in teen years and refused at one point to go to school having to wear same dress day after day as a high school student.

Boy asks her on a date. One dollar, late 40’s got them into a drive-in movie with 20 cents left for a soda drink. Friendship blooms in time to romance; girl attends his Bible-preaching church, trusts Christ as Savior, is baptized and in time they both graduate from high school and attend Bible college in Missouri, marrying after their first year there.

Lavon, his name, pastors a small church in Preston, Missouri, near their Bible college; Carolyn, her name, is pianist knowing and able to play only four hymns.  God blesses them, at age 21, with their first baby girl, Connie LaVonne, and two years later with another beautiful girl, Joy Jeanette. They feel called of God, upon graduation and after an “internship” in a Jacksonville, Fl, church, to apply as missionaries to Uruguay, again at the age of 21, and their mission board, whose policy was to appoint missionaries who were no younger than 25, made an exception, and appointed Lavon and Carolyn Waters, as missionaries to Uruguay in 1957 whereupon the young couple promptly set out to raise the standard amount of missionary monthly support of that day, $400 a month. After 29 days at sea on a Norwegian freighter, with two babies under 2, they arrived in Montevideo, Uruguay ready to do the work of the ministry.

In December of 1960, the Waters were expecting their third baby, Patricia Karen, who was born with a severe case of spina bifida and died at the age of four months. This tragic “loss” happened all while the Waters were busy under God’s guidance planting what soon became a growing church. In 1963 God gifted them with another healthy baby, a boy, David. In time, Lavon, sensed a restlessness in his spirit that God was leading them somewhere else in spite of a growing work in Uruguay after twelve years of faithful, fruitful service in works that they had been used to start. They had built a spacious and comfortable house and Carolyn was content to spend their lives there reaching people hungry for the gospel.

God had other plans and visiting missionary friends from Chile, Flay and Margaret Allen, challenged Lavon and Carolyn to pray about Spain, a field that they were surveying which had just opened up for foreign missionaries in about 1969. God nurtured that restlessness in Lavon’s heart and in a short time a family of five left behind twelve years, believers, friends, house, church to fly from Montevideo to Buenos Aires and on to America for a 10 month furlough reporting to churches before they would board a ship for Barcelona, Spain where, after just 10 days on the ocean, they would disembark with 27 pieces of luggage, heading for Madrid, with the missionary who had promised to meet them there, delayed due to his car needing repairs.

But they made it to Madrid where “more people lived…than in the entire country of Uruguay.” Settled into a house, after living in an apartment for two years, they continued their search for a building in which to gather folk for a church plant. That need was met, the building was bought, and their efforts to gather a people together around His Word took off, but to a snail’s pace of a start.  At that time, Spain was very closed to anything that was not Catholic, and it was difficult for these foreigners there to establish relationships with nationals.  Persistent evangelism efforts produced little results, but Lavon, Carolyn and their girls plus David worked diligently at it. Some twenty years later, a move to another city, smaller, nearby, Guadalajara, would eventually come and new efforts at church planting there would begin. Meeting places were difficult and expensive to come by, but God provided and a suitable location was discovered and bought after a year-long search.  The work they had begun in Madrid continued along with a Bible Institute that they had helped to start there.

Something that was going on South America shortly before Y2K served as a catalyst for new impetus to the Waters’ missionary efforts in Spain. There began to be an influx of people from some European countries and South American countries, suffering from economic hardships caused by repressive national economic policies prompting many people in some of those countries to migrate to Spain for jobs that were at that time plentiful in Spain. These folk were more open and for the most part receptive to evangelistic efforts and the church began to take off.

Lavon had a burden for a camp ministry for the youth to attend during the summer months and after prayer, patience and another intensive search for a site, they were able to locate a beautiful 18 acres not far from the outskirts of Guadalajara, and board by board, road by road, Lavon poured his sweat and skills into literally building a beautiful camp that in time with kitchen, dorms and large fellowship hall would accommodate 120 people.

Ellen and I had the privilege of visiting the Waters about 7 or 8 years ago and toured the camp, visited the Sunday services of a thriving church now under the leadership of a once teenage boy from Guadalajara who was trained in the Bible Institute and we were only able to exclaim, “What God hath wrought.”

But the price, in 65 years on the two mission fields, would have to be measured in toil, tears and trust. When their oldest daughter, Connie, was still pretty much a 21-year-old newlywed, enrolled in Bible college preparing with her husband to return to Spain as part of the Waters’ team, the Waters family was devastated when she contracted a viral pneumonia and died. God used that untimely death (our vantage point) to His glory and funds in memorial to their daughter began to pour in at a critical time enabling them to develop the campgrounds to where it could be a summer retreat for youth from all over Spain. What was a heart-breaking loss was turned into a triumphant gain for the glory of God and the furtherance of His missionary work through these faithful, steadfast servants.

Thompson Road Baptist Church has supported Lavon and Carolyn Waters most of those six decades and to the present. What an investment for eternity! What a testimony of faithfulness. Carolyn has suffered an inherited kidney disease for the past several years, but by the grace of God, even in her later years, was able to receive a kidney transplant.

The Waters are a sweet, humble, youthfully spirited couple who live, eat, sleep, breath missions in Spain. They will, I believe, choose to spend their last days there in their apartment in Guadalajara, not far from the church that Lavon’s protégé, Angel, pastors. It is truly a remarkable story. Their daughter, Joy and her husband, are close by ministering in Madrid and their son David now pastors, having served many years with his family in Spain alongside of his parents, then in Italy and California and now in Virginia.

In the past few weeks, I have been packing up books I have collected in 50 years of ministry.  One of those books is entitled Always by Our Side, the Waters’ life testimony as told by Carolyn Waters and published in 2015. I read it again, and turned almost every page with tear-soaked eyes to be reminded of what I have followed and read in prayer letters over the years from this humble yet vibrant couple. It is a book of surrender, suffering, steadfastness, stubbornness in staying strong; and my burden, now at the ripe old age of 80 this November, for world missions has only been heightened for having read it.  Truly, Carolyn and Lavon can testify and do testify that He, God, was “Always by Our Side.”

(Anyone interested in getting a copy of Always by Our Side may do so by visiting http://www.watersinspain.com)

I have set the Lord always before me: because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.” (Ps.16:8)

Trans What?

On the sixth day of the first week of the world, God “created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” (Gen.1:27). In the second chapter of Genesis, an expanded creation account, one learns that God created the man and then saw that “it is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a help meet for him.” (Gen.2:7,18) Having put Adam to sleep, God took one of Adam’s ribs, “And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, ‘this is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’” (Gen.2:22,23)

Male and female, man and woman are what God created in His own image. In case anyone missed it Jesus reiterated that distinction in Matthew 19:4 when He said “Have ye not read, that He which made them at the beginning made them male and female….”

So, why are social engineers and educators and others today trying to peddle that which is known as “transgender?” One’s gender, listed forever on his or her birth certificate is “boy” or “girl,” “male” or “female.” There is no in between; it’s a matter of biology, not psychology, nor sociology.  It has to do with genetics not emotions.

One wonders why the highly acclaimed newest member of the United States Supreme Court, in her Senate confirmation hearings, could not give an answer to the question asked her, “What is a woman?” She answered that she did not know. How about “A person who is of the female gender; opposite sex of a man.” Any junior high school student, at least in years past, could have answered that question; but now, on the most august judicial body of our land, appointed for life, we have a judge who was either unwilling or unable to answer the question, “What is a woman?”

Little wonder, it’s the current cultural twisting of universal truths. It is nothing new. Paul, the Apostle, writing in the 1st century New Testament, spoke of men who, having once known God but not wanting to glorify Him, “became vain in their Imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened….” (Romans 1:21-27)

So, from homosexuality which in our day has become so accepted that mayors of major cities proudly lead “Gay Pride” parades down Main Street; we have now come to where “transgender” is being pushed by some as healthy, normal and that which should be taught– even to the youngest of children in some schools. The Governor of Florida recently signed into law a bill that would restrict school teachers from indoctrinating very young children to matters of sexuality and sexual orientation for which he received no small amount of criticism along with a good amount of support.

Ramifications are all too obvious. So-called “transgender” (do I feel like a boy today or a girl?) athletes are competing in sports, often stronger boys/males in girls’ track and field and swimming events, and, guess what, they are winning! “Transgender” boys use girls’ restroom and locker room facilities. Recognizing the absurdity of this, the Indiana State Legislature, in the 2022 General Assembly, passed House Bill 1041 by an overwhelming majority, which would have banned biological boys from participating in girls’ sports in Indiana public schools; it would also keep biological boys out of girls’ restrooms and girls’ locker rooms. By a vote of 66-30 this common-sense bill passed the House and on March 1, 2022 the Indiana Senate ratified the same bill by a vote of 32-18. The Governor of Indiana vetoed the bill on March 3 of this year. His veto is expected to be overridden May 24th. Think though, how confusing this issue must be to some. Legislators, answering to their constituents and to their own sense of decency, voted to protect girls’ sports and girls’ privacy in Indiana public schools, yet the Governor vetoed the legislation that was designed to do just that!

When my children were not yet teen-agers, Bruce Jenner won the gold in the 1976 Montreal Olympics men’s decathlon. His face appeared shortly thereafter on Wheaties’ cereal boxes all across America. Neither Mom nor Dad, nor any of our children, had any difficulty recognizing Jenner as a male competitor and we were proud of his bringing home the gold. There was not a smidgen of doubt as to whether Jenner was a man or a woman!

So, what is happening? Well, again Paul, writing to his protégé, Timothy, says that in the last days there would come “perilous times.” One of the many earmarks of those last days would be “Men shall be without natural affection….” 2 Tim. 3:1ff. The last days actually began before the New Testament canon was closed, so 2022 is just a couple of millennia further DOWN the road toward the end! In the Romans passage I cited, Paul carefully depicts man’s “slouching toward Sodom” noting that God would eventually give men who have rejected Him “up to uncleanness,” and “up to vile affections,” and finally over to “a reprobate mind.” Romans 1:24,26,28

So, what we are witnessing is not new; it’s been around almost since the beginning of time. But when the “salt of the earth” loses its savor and the “light of the world” is dimmed, i.e., the testimony, witness and influence of Christians in and through the avenues of commerce and culture (Matt. 5:13-16) then there are no boundaries nor apparent limits as to what and where actions that were once universally recognized as unnatural in time become, apparently, accepted as normal. We can thank God for many believers and many ministries that are working tirelessly to protect our children from all sorts of aberrations from traditional, almost universally recognized, healthy hygiene and habits.

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” (Eph.6:12,13)

I Love the Church

In the recent past there have been pundits who have pronounced the church to be dead as they were saying their committals over it, believing that in this modern era the old-fashioned church would be irrelevant and thus replaced with that which is more up to date. Beginning in the spring of 2020 with the arrival of Covid-19, the traditional church gathering assemblies were put to the test. Some were wondering, during lock downs and following, if indeed the church as it had been known and as it had functioned for 20 centuries would come through unscathed. The conclusive evaluations have not yet been tallied, but by most observers and students of church history past and present, it must be concluded that the church, bruised a bit and battered some, will survive and in some instances be stronger.

One thing is certain, the Lord Jesus Christ’s death, burial and resurrection made certain the fulfillment of His promise to His disciples when He said, “I will build my church and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it,” thus it is certain that the church, as through persecution and peril, not only has survived but will beyond the end of time survive and thrive. It has been divinely guaranteed to do so. Which to leads me to affirm, I love the church and have since as a six-year-old lad I, with my family, put my foot for the first time into the place where a local church was meeting for praise, prayer and worship. That was 73 years ago and my love for the church has only deepened with the passing of every year. It has been an unspeakable privilege to have pastored three such churches for a total of 50 years. I love the church for many reasons, including:

  • It has a privileged place in God’s plan for the ages: What once had been a mystery (Romans 16:25,26) i.e. that God, in time would bring together into one body both Jew and Gentile, was beautifully fulfilled as recorded in unfolding of truths in the book of Acts, so that Paul, the Jew who at one time had a passion for shutting down the existence of those known as “Christians” would write “If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given to me to you ward: how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery…that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel.” Paul concluded by exclaiming at the end of the Ephesians 3 passage: “Unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.” (Eph. 3:21)
  • It has a pre-eminent person who is its Chief Cornerstone, High Priest, Bishop:

Jesus, as promised in Matt.16:18-20 when He announced to His twelve Jewish Apostles for the first time ever that there would be such an entity as a church, became not only its Founder by His crucifixion, burial, and resurrection from the dead; but also, its Head. (“And He is the Head of the body, the church…having made peace through the blood of His cross….) Col.1:18-20 He is “before all things, and by Him all things consist.” (Col.1:17) Jesus Christ, the image of the invisible and the first-born of every creature is, therefore, the pre-eminent person in the church as its Founder, its Head and its Controller by whom all things consist.

  • It is made up of a pure people, i.e., people who have been born-again, who are saved by grace through faith, redeemed with the precious blood of Christ, pilgrims here journeying through this world and life toward the eternal city, not built with hands, in the heavenlies where their citizenship has been made certain. They are, to be sure, a pure people, a royal kingdom of priests, but not a perfect people. They are “His workmanship” and they (we) are, as such, each of them a work in progress until that day when we shall “see Him and be like Him.”
  •  They are a people working together, as a body, each member in particular with a special Holy Spirit assigned gift to exercise for the building of His Body, the Church. (I Cor. 12) Ray Steadman: “God’s first concern is not what the church does, it is what the church is. Being must always precede doing, for what we do will be according to what we are.” We, therefore, work together as one, because we are all members of His Body.
  • They are a people walking together, walking “not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind,” (Eph.4:17) but walking worthy “in love,” and “in light,” and “circumspectly.” (Eph.5:2,8,15) A visitor to a leper colony observed that during the lunch time when residents gathered from all over to the dining common, two young men seemed to be “horsing around” as one rode on the other’s back. But further observation revealed to the visitor that the man who carried his friend was blind while the man on his back was lame. The one who could not see used his feet to walk, and the one who could not walk became for the two of them the eyes, and it was all done with great joy, a picture of the church working and walking together to make up an extraordinary body that moves forward for His kingdom.
  • They are a people worshipping together, regularly assembling, as did that first Jerusalem assembly, for hearing the “apostles’ doctrine and for fellowship and in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” (Acts 2:42) “The church is not a gallery for the exhibition of eminent Christians, but a school for the education of imperfect ones.”
  • They are a people witnessing together: “For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to Godward is spread abroad….” (I Thess.1:8) That is what our Lord commanded in His departing commission to the disciples: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” (Matt.28:18) And, to a watching, wondering group of followers as He was about to ascend to heaven: “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) Thus, our job is not yet, nor will it be in our lifetime, finished.  There are still multitudes who have never heard, so we must continue to be a witnessing people.

Those are some of the reasons I love the church. I commend it to every reader. It is alive and well. Some have advocated doing an “end run around the church.” But oh, the blessings one would miss in so doing. Blessings of being part of this Body which before the cross was a mystery but now, through revelation, a marvel, miracle and mighty force; blessings of being close to the pre-eminent person of the church, Jesus Christ, through daily fellowship with Him, and blessings of being united and knit together with this pure people, known as His Body, who are joyfully working together, walking together in harmony, worshipping together in the Spirit and witnessing together in obedience to His commands.

I love the church. I hope you do too. If not, meet its Founder and Head. To know Him is to love Him, and to love Him is to love His church.

But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” I Tim. 3:15