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No, Never alone

Greetings All:  This is my first attempt at sending my friends and anyone else that I may not even know yet a brief message.  I hope you will see fit to respond.  We are all forging ahead through unchartered waters through this Covid crisis, and I thought it might be appropriate to remind ourselves of a foundational truth.  In my next installment I want to send you a poem that I penned for this past Easter; though it will arrive to you after Easter, I hope you can file it away for future use if you ever need an Easter poem.  Easter poems are not as easy to find as are Christmas poems or poems for other special days, but I feel like this is a good one and so wanted to share it with others. But the poem will come later.

No, Never alone

“Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have:  for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” (Hebrews 13:5)

Recently, while all of us were “sheltering in place” in individual efforts to keep the COVID 19 virus from spreading, my sister and I were exchanging text messages and in one of them she was reflecting on what the health mandated isolation meant to her.  She lives alone, an octogenarian grandmother, on top of a mountain in Georgia, separated by miles from any family, but supported by them through loving constant communication, and buoyed by neighbors and friends who look in after her.

During the conversation she mentioned our grandmother, who, having lost her husband in death when she was a young mother of three, expecting her fourth, children lived in a small rural community in southeastern Iowa, in our nation’s post-depression.  She eked out a living by doing housework for people in the community, supporting herself and children by a meager income sometimes of a dollar per day.  We never heard her complain.  Hers was a difficult life; she was not given to many lighthearted moments and the few times that I remember being around her she seemed austere and not very “warm” like most grandmothers might appear to be.  It would be years later, when I became a parent, and later a grandparent, and had some perspective on life and on history that I would be able to somewhat appreciate the austerity of the times through which grandmother Moore had lived and had provided, without any governmental assistance, for her four children.  My sister in our texts back and forth made this observation about grandmother: “She explained to me how she felt about living 55 years as a widow:  ‘I am never alone.  The Lord is always with me.’”  My sister followed that up by saying, “I have had the opportunity to prove that fact to be absolutely true, and I never feel alone.”  Nor should any of us who can sincerely affirm “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…I will fear no evil for thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” No, we are, with Him, never alone!

Stand Up for Freedom!

Dear Mr. Irsay: Dear Mr. Reich:

As owner and as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, I address you on behalf of the multitude of people whose lives are impacted every day by what “The Blue” does, not only on Sundays when game time rolls around but on every day of the year when, having eaten at a local restaurant we pay the bill which most often includes a “stadium” (Lucas Oil) tax or pick up the tab for an out of town friend staying at a local motel which adds on another tax for the three-quarter billion dollar stadium built for Colts games which only a few of us ever have the opportunity to attend.

We live here and we are glad that over the years, since the Colts moved here from Baltimore, we have been able to boast of a fine, competitive team that not only won the Super Bowl but has demonstrated, through the likes of Coach Dungy, Peyton Manning and others, class citizenship in community endeavors, representing well your organization as one that cares for our city and its citizens and contributes in many ways to our pride and progress.  For that, we are grateful.

That’s why, in your first game this year, when it was time for the National Anthem, typically signaling the beginning of the game’s play action, it was terribly disappointing, even disgusting, to see the entire team of players standing behind you, Coach Reich, while you put one knee to the ground and refused to respect “old glory” and our national song of appreciation for all men and women, past and present, who have sacrificed their own pursuits to serve in our armed forces to protect, preserve and to pass on to the next generation the freedoms that have been so unique to our great nation since those 56 brave colonial Constitution framers signed the Declaration of Independence pledging their lives and fortunes so that our republic could be one where “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” could be enjoyed by every American.  Most of those valiant men lost everything:  their lives, families, possessions because of their courage in signing that historic document; and from the inception of our nation, millions of mostly young, heroic, barely out of the stage of boyhood men have sacrificed their lives on foreign soil so that we could breathe free air today, choose our vocation and place of worship and rear our children and establish our homes in a country where there has been from our nation’s inception the opportunity to live free.  The ultimate price for this freedom has been paid by generations of patriotic men and women who freely forfeited their own dreams and desires so that we could, as we do today, enjoy this experiment of republican government, now 244 years old and counting, which has been unlike any ever known in mankind’s history, and which is the envy of the world’s masses most of which are still “yearning to be free.”

That’s why, sirs, when the Colts took the field for its season opener and our coach, with the approval of the team standing behind him, refused to stand in respect for our flag during the National Anthem, we were so smitten with disbelief, disappointment and disgust.  It is a football game.  We follow the news and agonize over what our great nation is now enduring.  We pray, we contribute in legitimate endeavors to make our city one where each person is treated fairly, equally and with dignity absent discrimination in the work a day world or in the halls of justice.  We get it.  We as a people can do better.  We protest with all our might any movement that is bent on destroying buildings, businesses and bodies because there has been an aberration of justice in our city, state or nation.  But when we go to a football game or watch our hometown team play on any given day, we expect the coaches and players to show respect for our country, its historic symbols of freedom and its men and women serving to preserve our freedoms.  You, sirs, have done your many fans and well-wishers a monumental disservice; we beg of you to find a respectable way, a patriotic way, an inoffensive way, to show your support of the United States, its citizens of all persuasions who are trying to obey the laws of our land and striving to live in peace with every fellow-American regardless of race or religion.

Please, stand in respect for the flag and all that it represents and for the millions of men and women now serving and who have in wars past or present served and shed their precious blood ensuring that you have a place to play your football games where there is life and liberty guaranteed for all.

Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.”  (Provs. 22:28)

“Righteousness exalteth a nation:  but sin is a reproach to any people.” (Provs. 14:34)

What’s Your One Wish?

On September 29, 1978, less than two months into his papacy, Pope John Paul I was found dead in his bed with the book Imitation of Christ, by Thomas A. Kempis, opened and his reading light still on, probably having died of a heart attack.

Paul the Apostle wrote to some first century saints in Philippi that he desired to know his Lord and specifically the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings (Phil.3:10).  He not only wanted to imitate his Savior, Paul wanted to commune with Him in such a way that his life would be a shared life, even in the manner of suffering.

Most of us want to know Him and we surely want to live a life of resurrection power, but that suffering issue is another matter.  We have read what Paul said to young Timothy when he reminded him that all who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. (2 Tim. 3:12).  And, Peter has caused us to give serious consideration to the matter of adversity when he wrote to suffering, scattered saints that they were “called” to suffer because Christ had left us an example that “ye should follow in His steps.” (I Pet. 2:21).  It is easier to relegate those instructions to believers living in the early church age; but to the 21st century western world of Christ-followers, well, we’re not so quick to embrace that postulate.  Sure, we would love to know Him in a way that we’ve never known Him before; but to say “Amen” to Paul’s confession that “for whom I have suffered the loss of all things,” well, that would surely give us cause for pause.

But the “fellowship of His sufferings” entails such a work of grace in a believer’s heart that he/she will have a different mind-set about things past (reputation, comforts, respect, retirement, privileges, and possessions).  Paul affirms that he “suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in Him….” (Phil. 3:8,9).  That statement sums it all up for Paul, and becomes our mantra yet today.  To be found in Him, His will, His service, His fellowship, His blessing, so that He is the center and circumference of our being, our existence, means that Christ the Lord is our “All in all!”

What is your one wish today?  Riches, friends, success, security, fame, health?  Or, to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings?  There is no short-cut. We cannot pick and choose.  To have the resurrection power will not be realized apart from the fellowship of sufferings.  

That just may be the key to the timeless, perplexing puzzle: “Why do good people suffer?”  All of us know some “salt of the earth” folk who have been in and through the furnace of suffering to an unimaginable extent.  We can only wonder, sometimes, why.  Then Paul’s words echo in our heart’s chamber: “…and the fellowship of His sufferings.”  We do not need to know more.  It is part of the knowing, showing and growing as we “reach forth unto those things which are before.” (Phil. 3:13).

Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect:  but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ.” (Phil. 3:12).

Strangers and Sojourners

A few days ago, “You and God” addressed the subject of riches and the dangers of trusting in them; the sheer vanity of doing so as expressed by the very wealthy King Solomon who suffered from what some have called “destination sickness,” defined as a person “arriving” only to discover he is “nowhere.” (H.B. London)

Today, please consider the question “What are you doing with that with which you’ve been entrusted?”  We’ve already established the fact that Americans are a wealthy lot of people.  For example, one news outlet reported that in a recent Christmas season the average American family spent nearly 300 dollars per child on holiday gifts.  Some families in some countries do not make that in an entire year.  So, yes, we are “wealthy” by the standards of the world measured in dollars and cents.

Howard Hendricks once stated that “materialism has nothing to do with amount, but with attitude.”  So, let us ask ourselves, “Am I materialistic?”  Do you feel like you have “arrived” financially?  As someone put it, if an enemy took over your town and led you out of the city with nothing in your possession, would you say that you had “left everything behind?”

Readers Digest told of an anonymous writer who wrote that an American tourist visited a well-known 19thcentury Polish rabbi.  The visitor was surprised that the rabbi’s house contained only a few books, a table, a chair and a bed.  The visitor asked, “Where’s your furniture, rabbi?”

“Where’s yours?” the rabbi replied.  “Mine?” asked the puzzled American.  “But I’m a visitor here—just passing through.”

“So am I,” replied the rabbi.

David had that attitude in his psalm of praise when he said, “For we are strangers before thee, and sojourners, as were all our fathers; our days on the earth are as a shadow and there is nothing abiding.” (I Chr. 29:15)

John Stott: “It is not that Christianity pleads for poverty.  There is no virtue in being poor…Christianity pleads that it is never in the power of things to bring happiness; happiness comes from personal relationships; and (2) it pleads for concentration on things permanent; things that a man can take with him when he dies:  himself and his relationship with God.”

Jesus exhorted His disciples to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and “all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matt. 6:33)

In Haiti, an elderly woman who was living in poverty had walked miles for a meal to share with a young girl.  A veteran missionary, learning of this kindness commented: “The very poor are more generous than the rich.”

A businessman gave away millions of dollars anonymously to several non-profit institutions.  When someone discovered his identity and pressed him as to why he divested himself of so much of his wealth, he simply said, “I decided I had enough money.”

So, assuming you are a believer and follower of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, how is it with you concerning stewardship?  Do you have a right attitude toward possessions?  Are you investing in Kingdom endeavors?  Are you a generous person?  Have you put to work the “talents” God uniquely equipped you with?  Every one of us will give an account of our stewardship.  The issue?  Faithfulness.  “In this world it is not what we take up, but what we give up that makes us rich.”  (Beecher)

Missionaries are prepared and planning to go with the life-changing gospel to the whitened harvest fields of the world.  Could you set aside a portion of your income to invest in the eternally rewarding work of world missions?  No one ever cast his “bread” upon waters but what it came back many-fold.  “There was a man they called him mad; the more he gave the more he had.”  Or, as Lonial Wire, now home with the Lord, would testify at our missions conferences: “I shovel it out and God shovels it back to me; but His shovel is a lot bigger than mine.”

A pompous lawyer, in a room filled with anxious relatives waiting to hear the will of a deceased family member read, opened the document up and read, “I, John Jones, being of sound mind and able body, SPENT IT ALL.”

How about spending it for the kingdom and laying up treasures where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt and where thieves do not break through and steal?  

The Kelvinator

When doctors discovered a cranial tumor in Kelvin before he was five years old, they did not give him much hope to live out a normal childhood.  His parents, trusting God and hoping help would come, transported their little boy to Mercy Medical Center where an extensive brain surgery would be undertaken, praying God would spare his life, yet doubtful that he would ever enjoy “normal motor skills.”  Even at this young age, Kelvin harbored hopes in his heart that he would one day be a missionary.  Those dreams seemed to be worlds away at the time the trip was made to Children’s Hospital in Boston, but Mom and Dad and many others were praying.  The surgery not only spared Kelvin’s life, but in time he would be able to walk, talk, eventually drive, attend college and live quite like anyone else.  

Kelvin graduated from college, still with a heartbeat for world missions.  He acquired a “dummy” he called Zeke and honed his ventriloquist skills well enough that he could entertain folks with his routine with Zeke.  He served for some time in New Zealand before coming back to America for further medical attention.

I met Kelvin when he appeared before Baptist World Mission for appointment to serve on the field of South Africa.  There was an instant bond between us when I heard his testimony and saw his heart for God’s mission field, and in a short time I had the privilege of becoming his sending pastor after his internship with us for several months at Thompson Road Baptist Church.  I gave him the nickname Kelvinator.  He drove his own car, lived independently, worked diligently, displayed a commitment to ministry with a love especially for children, and his time at TRBC was an encouraging time for all of us.  We learned that people who from birth have labored with serious physical handicaps cannot be sidelined from serving.  Kelvin was faithful in our choir ministry, our bus ministry, our children’s ministries including VBS and was always ready to serve.  I have no doubt we (I) learned more about ministry in those few months that Kelvin served alongside of our staff and members than Kelvin learned.  He was an inspiration every day of the world to all of us.

On September 26, 2010, we had a commissioning service for Kelvin, and he was ready to go to South Africa. His loving and devoted parents accompanied Kelvin to Johannesburg, SA, and helped him to get set up in an apartment and in necessities, then left him there to serve His Savior.  Kelvin made an adjustment or two concerning what church/pastor he would end up serving alongside, then began a faithful ministry of soul-winning, serving and visiting weekly an orphanage where dozens of wheel-chair bound boys and girls looked forward to his visits to cheer them and to tell them about Jesus.

In 2015, as Kelvin was serving and faithfully discharging his duties as a servant of our Lord, he suffered a disabling stroke.  He was flown home to the states and has since been not only fighting for life but learning to do basic movements in a rehab program.  Unless God would miraculously intervene, Kelvin will never be able to function again independently so his time as a “foreign” missionary has ended; but he will always have that missionary heart that beat in his boyhood breast compelling him, as a child with an incredible disability, to desire to serve as a missionary on God’s field, the world.

Some weeks ago, I wrote about a little girl who had the same heart for world missions who now serves in Africa as a missionary with her family.  What she did, as a single gal, crisscrossing America raising support to go, was an incredible story that was summarized in a single question she raised when told the field she originally wanted to serve on was closed.  She simply said, “Where Can I Go Then?”  

Kelvin’s story is not dissimilar.  When faced with herculean obstacles that would discourage most anyone from thinking of going to a foreign field as a missionary, Kelvin said, “What Can I Do Then?”  Well, it would have been easier to answer Kelvin with this question, “What Can You Not Do Then?”  He gave God his all, with impairments and crippled limbs, and he served well as one of God’s choice emissaries.  He is one of my heroes today.  He is on “R & R” now, wounded in the line of duty, as it were.  He’s the Kelvinator.  He enriches every life he touches.

As a tribute to TRBC’s missionary to South Africa, I wrote this poem in his honor for his commissioning service; it is entitled “Farewell, Dear Kelvin.”

“To ripe fields we send you, with our prayers you’ll go;
Telling folks of Jesus so His love they’ll know.
 
We’ve grown so to love you, love you in the Lord;
For your love of children, teaching them His Word.
 
You have served amongst us with a servant’s heart;
We are kindred spirits, have been from the start.
 
You’ve shown us Christ’s spirit by your words and deeds;
We have seen Him in you, meeting others’ needs.
 
You’ve taught us His virtues by your godly talk;
He has loved us through you by your humble walk.
 
So, to the field you go now, Africa the south;
Your words will be mighty—as if from God’s mouth.
 
You will reach His littlest, lovingly bring them in;
Their lives will be salvaged from a life of sin.
 
And when at the Bema we lay our worn tools down,
There’ll be great rejoicing when you get your crown!

Wings as an Eagle

Any preacher on any given Sunday in America could address his Sunday morning audience as a “gathering of people who might be considered rich.”  I did this recently to a small auditorium of several rural congregants yet folk who represented various professions and varying age groups.  To prove my thesis, I merely recited some readily available statistics which demonstrate that two out of five people of the world live on less than three dollars a day.  One of four children have to drop out of school to work and of the more than two billion children in our world today, half of them live in poverty.

So, I think it safe to say that in the USA even the most underprivileged, compared to other world citizens, are “rich.”  The average annual income of the world’s working man/woman is less than $10,000.  How about it?  Are you wealthy or not?

Now, Jesus warned that it is extremely difficult for a rich person to enter into the kingdom of God, because a rich person trusts riches.  He even used the “absurd” illustration of a camel getting through the eye of a needle, warning that it would be easier for a camel to accomplish that seemingly impossible feat, than for a rich person to enter into the kingdom of God.  The eye of the needle in Jesus’ day was a very small opening in the city wall that, when the main gates of the city would close at dusk, a man only with great difficulty could crawl through.  It was about as unthinkable to imagine a camel going through this very small opening as it would be to believe that a rich person, trusting his wealth, would get into the kingdom of God.  (Mark 10: 17-25)

So, here in America, awash in wealth, it is conceivable to think the average dinner table on any weeknight in a middle-class household is set more abundantly than one that would have been set for regents of ancient kingdoms.  Little wonder then that we ought to give diligent attention to Paul’s instructions to Timothy:  “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God who giveth us richly all things to enjoy.” (I Tim. 6:16) The most desperate pauper can enjoy the chirping of a bird or the frolicking of cats or the brilliance of a sunset.  What riches!  How relevant the wise man’s query: “Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not?  For riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.” (Provs. 23:5) And, Solomon ought to know.  He tells us in Ecclesiastes that he amassed an incalculable amount of material wealth and possessions, including silver, gold and “peculiar treasure…more than all that were before me…and whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them…then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought…and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.”  (Eccl. 2:8-11)

I read what Andrew Carnegie once said about riches.  “I was born in poverty and would not exchange its sacred memories with the richest millionaire’s son who ever lived.  Some men think that poverty is a dreadful burden and that wealth leads to happiness.  What do they know about it?  They know only one side—they imagine the other.  I have lived both and I know there is very little wealth that can lead to happiness.  Millionaires who laugh are rare.”

So, “godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.  And having food and raiment, let us be therewith content.”  (I Tim. 6:6-8)

But they that would be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.”  (I Tim. 6:9)

Debate or Debacle

debate, di bat, an argument or reasonings between persons of differing opinions; dispute; controversy; quarrel; strife; contention.

debacle, di bak l, to break up. A sudden breaking up of ice in a river; the complete collapse of an enterprise.

Take your choice.  Parts of either of the above definitions would aptly characterize what the nation was subjected to in the much-anticipated Cleveland Clinic inaugural presidential debate of the 2020 presidential campaign.  No matter your party affiliation or your presidential preference, it was a disgusting, disappointing and depressing display of raw rudeness on the part of both principals.  The name calling, ceaseless interruptions, total disregard for the pleas of the muted moderator was an embarrassment to peoples of either corner of the ring, revealing a new low in what more accurately might be called a “free-for-all,” or the raucous rantings of two men vying to win the November 3, 2020, presidential election.

Civility was out the window as the President of the United States, leader of the free world, was called a racist, a liar, a clown and was told impolitely by his opponent to “shut up, man!”

Manners were checked in at the door as evidenced by incessant interruptions on the part of the incumbent; and redundant repetitions that squandered valuable time that could have been used to recite factual achievements or in skillfully rehearsing the glaring inconsistencies and inadequacies of his challenger.

Managers of the President boasted before the debate that he had not spent much time being coached or in preparations for the big night since he had been fielding tough questions in news conferences for months.  His lack of preparation became apparent minutes into the hour and a half event, and he tried to compensate by dominating the time and overcoming the pleas of the moderator with his volume and disregard for debate decorum.

And, the President’s debate opponent and his team should be celebrating that there were no instant fact-checkers allowed to participate!  The only time he seemed not to misspeak, misrepresent or mischaracterize were the times he was not speaking or muttering something not so under his breath!  Has he not been on the record as supporting the Green New Deal; and does he really think Antifa is simply an idea rather than an organized movement of radicals majoring on burning buildings and hurling rocks at police?

But, all the important issues aside (abortion was barely mentioned), the general bad behavior of both principal parties was the saddest and surely most disheartening part of the 90 minute “debate” charade.  With probably millions of our nation’s young people watching the big event Tuesday night, two men, representing the major political parties of our great nation, were not able to maintain control of their minds, mouths and manners for a few minutes in order to have a meaningful exchange of ideas, visions, paths for America’s present dilemma and future direction.  

Our youth must have gone to bed Tuesday night troubled if not traumatized by a public demonstration of vitriolic, venomous outbreaks by two old men who will soon be exiting the stage of life, having played their parts, if they live what is the average lifespan of today’s American male.  They leave behind a clouded legacy, put on public display September 29, 2020, of anger, disrespect and at times dishonesty absent any gracious, humble and deferring gentleness, viewed by untold millions of their hopeful, fellow Americans.  Both men would, I suppose, rather be labeled under the “Christian” banner as opposed to the “Non-Christian,” so I bid them, and all who read these lines to heed the words of a man who said of himself that at one time in his life he was a “blasphemer, persecutor and injurious…in unbelief,” but found that “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus…” because “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners….” (I Tim. 1:13-15).  He had earlier written to fellow believers living in the first century center of world power, Rome:

“Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another…dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath:  for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” (Romans 12:10,19)

David’s Band

Our 25th annual faith-promise world missions conference at Thompson Road Baptist Church, October 1-8, 2006, with Pastor Larry Hufhand as our keynote speaker and featuring Ben and Becca Sinclair (Cameroon), Kevin and Mary Brunner (Philippines), Saundra Smith (South Africa), and Jodie Clark (Australia) among others was a blessed week, our conference theme being “Let the nations be glad.” (Ps. 67:4)  It was during that week for world missions that our 11 year-old grandson, David, would be stirred in his soul with a vision for missions, but little did any of us know then that when our 26th annual faith-promise world missions conference would commence a year later David would be in heaven.

As in every conference, missionaries like Ben and Becca Sinclair, who with co-laborers Matt and Susan Yeiter, would lay the foundation for the establishment of two churches in Cameroon while serving their first term in Africa, and, on that first furlough, visiting churches like ours, would light a fire in the hearts of young people for serving as missionaries on the field, the world.

David’s first “job” was helping his older brother, Tim, mow yards in the lawn business that Tim had launched when he was eight years old.  David made a meager income as a helper and by the second week of October in ’06 the grass cutting season was winding down; but David got the ear of his grandmother who at that time was working in the church office and he asked her how he could give to faith-promise, wanting to give $2 per week but not knowing the logistics of it.  Of course, grandmother got him set up with a set of giving envelopes and explained to him how to get involved in giving to faith-promise regularly.  David gave what he could that fall and when mowing season was gearing up for the spring of 2007, David was ready to be a regular participant in faith giving, having covenanted with God to give $2 per week to world missions which he did faithfully.

Our hearts were especially touched a few weeks before David was called home to heaven when one Sunday night in a TRBC service, propped up on a chair behind the pulpit so that he could see and be seen and heard, David sang the beautiful song “As a Deer,” offering in his own tenderhearted way a sacrifice of praise to God.  God was preparing David and us, family and church family, for David’s upcoming move to higher ground and we will be ever grateful for the memory that is hallowed in our hearts of that night, just a short while before we would all be called upon to suffer the shock of David’s sudden departure from us.

He was graduated to glory March 2, 2007, after a brief illness, having suffered a ruptured appendix.  Some of us begged God to let us trade places with David as he fought for his life at Riley hospital, but “He makes no mistakes,” and though we may have wanted to hold on grudgingly for a while, we all knew that He who sees from the beginning to the end and beyond has a will that is perfect and a plan that is best, with compassions and mercies that are new every morning, and we were and are content that we can “Rejoice in the Lord….”

After David’s brief endeavor to give $2 a week of his earnings to world missions, I challenged anyone who wanted to join “David’s Band” in giving $2 a week above and beyond to world missions to indicate that on their faith-promise giving commitment form.  Many did and from that 26th missions conference in 2007 until the present a host of people gave and are still giving to perpetuate the memory of a child whose heart was moved for missions and missionaries.  Thousands of dollars have been set apart through David’s band for the cause of Christ through faith-promise giving, and to all who have so faithfully participated I want to say “Thank you,” and “To God be the glory,” and we truly do, “Rejoice in the Lord, He makes no mistakes.”

David
You were ours these precious years;
            We give you back to God with tears.
You made our life bright with your smile,
            You were God’s gift for just a while.
You’ll ever be within our hearts,
            And, those in Christ are not apart.
You’re only “there” and we are here,
            But in our Savior, you’re so near.
Thanks for your love, your kindness true.
            And ever, David, we’ll love you.

 Grandpa Slutz  2007

When Pastors Retire

It was recently reported that Dr. Charles Stanley stepped down as senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Atlanta after a 50-year tenure at that post.  It was also clarified on the same news page that the good pastor was not retiring because he could not find retirement in the Bible, but that he was going to still be Pastor as long as the church would have him, and his health would permit, or something to that effect.  May God raise up more faithful ministers who year after year stay by the stuff, through thick and thin, through the good times and the bad, and in 50 years you will have your share of both!

Reading of Dr. Stanley’s retirement, it brought to mind my own, just one year ago now.  I too at one time recoiled against the concept of retirement, and, like the famous southern shepherd, I probably invoked scripture, or lack thereof, as grounds to stand upon.  However, sometime well into my 70’s, I came to the realization that I had come to expect and accept the government’s monthly social security deposit into my bank account even though I could not find social security in the Bible.  So, yes, I am “retired.”  Not that I am ready to pack it all up.  I did sell several hundred of my dear old friends, a library collection of half a century, keeping a few dozen that it was unbearable to part with.  Through the generosity of the Thompson Road Baptist Church and its pastor, Joel Stevens, I am able to maintain an office at the church I pastored 40 years; and I am serving the 150 year-old Coatesville Missionary Baptist Church in Coatesville, Indiana, as interim pastor; but I do not carry the load, the burdens, the responsibilities and the accountability that I did twenty or even ten years ago.  I miss the personal daily interaction very much with my church family, many of whom have been a part of our (Ellen and I) lives for 40 years.  I miss visiting folk in the hospital and in their homes as pastor, and I miss being able to serve them in their darkest and deepest hours; yet, I am very happy that a young and well-qualified man, Pastor Stevens, is able to do what it became apparent that I was not able to do any longer with the strength and vigor, physically, mentally, and emotionally that the job in all honesty requires.

I enjoy immensely the new life that is mine now, seeing more of Ellen, whom I could never get enough of, and family and spending more time meditating and musing over messages, most of which I have already preached at least once or twice, instead of merely “mastering” them for a 35 minute delivery on Sunday morning or evening.  It is a great season of life!

I am enjoying the interim pastorate very much; and appreciate the arm of Gospel Fellowship Association which is facilitating the placing of available retired pastors in meeting pulpit committees of churches of like faith which are seeking God’s will for an under shepherd to lead them.  The folk at Coatesville Missionary Baptist Church, located 40 miles west of Indianapolis, remains true to its original vision and mission of holding forth the Word of Life and of taking Christ to the world through a world missionary ministry.  They are easy people to love and a joy to share God’s Word with.  Interestingly, 57 years ago as a single, ministerial student in Bible college I accepted the opportunity and challenge of being summer youth and camp director in Coatesville Missionary Baptist Church.  The then pastor and his wife, Malcolm and Ruby Neier,  treated me like a son for the two summers of my junior and senior college years; and then, on a warm summer August evening in a white-steepled church in North Wilkesboro, NC, Pastor Neier led Ellen and myself in the repeating of our wedding vows, 55 years ago this past month.  Malcolm has been with the Lord several years now, but Ruby, in her mid-nineties, still attends church (or has until Covid-19 temporarily grounded her from coming) at this little rural community Baptist Church.  So, we have come full-circle and we are loving it yet praying earnestly that the Lord will give this historic church a full-time pastor to lead and feed them now.

I tell you, it’s good to be “retired!”  

And moreover, because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out and set in order, many proverbs.”  (Eccl. 12:9)

Your Sin Will Find You Out

The late Paul Harvey used to close his daily news program with a “For What It’s Worth” story.  On one particular day, he told of a man in New Zealand, a gas thief, who was siphoning gas from a car at 2:00 A.M.  As I recall, Paul Harvey reported that for illumination, since it was in the middle of the night and on that particular night very dark, the thief “flipped his Bic.”  This “For What It’s Worth” segment followed a long series of news stories detailing catastrophes caused by hurricane Katrina.  When Harvey ended his program with the story about the thief who flipped his Bic, I spontaneously broke out in a chuckle.

I know I should not have laughed, and immediately I lectured myself for doing so.  After all, I soon realized the thief was probably lost and the instant he flipped his Bic he was catapulted into Hell.  That is no laughing matter.  But, with all the disasters so many thousands of people were facing through no wrong doing necessarily of their own, when my mind conjured up a mental snapshot of the thief flipping his Bic as he siphoned stolen gas, I just lost it (driving on I-465).  I guess it was “relief humor.”

More soberly that afternoon back in my office, I thought of some Biblical lessons that might be drawn from the story that initially struck me as humorous.  I suppose there are many, but here is one:

Paul says in I Tim. 5:24: “Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment….”  Boy, was his sin open beforehand!  Evidently as he was in the act of stealing gas, he did not think of facing up to that sin.  But the whole world heard about it via Paul Harvey.

And, he did not have to wait for Judgment Day to face it.  He was immediately thrust into eternity as he was in the very act.  That is a dramatic illustration of what Paul said in I Tim. 5:24: his sin was open (exposed to all) beforehand (before the day of judgment).  What a striking demonstration of how that sometimes works out!

Most will never siphon gas from anyone’s car, and, thankfully, most will never die in the very act of sinning.  But some will face their sins in the here and now, and some will face them in the hereafter, as the latter part of I Tim. 5:24 says: “…and some men they do follow after.”

If you are a believer your sins were dealt with at Calvary.  You will stand at the Judgment Seat of Christ and the issue there will not be sins, but service.  That does not mean sin committed as a believer will not yield negative consequences, for it does and it will, including most of all an interrupted fellowship with our Lord and Savior and unanswered prayer plus chastisement which will be unpleasant according to Hebrews 10.  But at the future Judgement Seat of Christ before which all believers will one day stand, what you have done for Him since you were saved, including your motives and methods, your works or lack thereof, will determine your receiving commendation and rewards or not receiving His “well done.”

If you are not one who has accepted Christ by faith for salvation then you will appear before God at the Great White Throne Judgment to answer for your sins.  First, the sin of unbelief if your name is not found in the Book of Life (Rev. 20:15).  Then, as the “books” are opened, you will answer for the sins you have committed and punishment will be meted out in degrees of severity on the basis of light you have been exposed to having rejected.  You will face your sins, for they will follow you.

Bottom line:  Don’t flip your Bic around fuel ever!   And, don’t leave this world without having put your trust in Jesus unless you plan to meet up with Him at the Judgment Bar of God where there will be no second chance.

Thanks Paul Harvey for the food for thought.

“And I saw the dead, small and great stand before God:  and the books were opened:  and another book was opened, which is the book of life:  and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books according to their works…And whosoever was not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Rev. 20:15) 

Where Can I Go Then?

A girl that grew up in a church I pastored wanted from childhood to be a missionary.  That desire never left her through her school years and she attended a local Bible college in order to be prepared to serve God.  At one point, she applied to be a “Mapper,” a missionary apprentice, but the field that she applied to serve on closed as an open door at the last moment and when advised by the board under which she was serving ,the single would-be missionary lady asked, “Where can I go then?”  She learned that there was a need for her help in a certain central African country and she accepted that as God’s leading and today, twenty years later, she is serving there with her husband and three children, her dreams having come true.

“Where can I go then?”  What a yielded spirit!  Of the approximately 276 countries in the world today, some 100 or so are “restricted” or “closed” to foreign missionaries.  There are more than 24,000 people groups in the world, 10,000 of which have not yet been evangelized.  The field is the world, Jesus said.  There is a place to go!

David Livingstone was poised to go to China when the Opium Wars broke out and was told that it was not possible for an Englishman to go to China at that time so he would have to wait until the wars were over there.  Livingstone reasoned that there was no need to wait to go; he would go to Africa instead.  And, the world now knows the rest of the story!

Well-meaning friends of Livingstone, fearing for his health, safety and well-being, tried to persuade him not to go to Africa, to which he responded with His Savior’s words, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  Livingstone concluded, “That, my friends, is the word of a gentleman, so, let’s be going.”

Oswald J. Smith told of a little girl named Grace who was saved in the Dale Presbyterian church when he was in his twenties.  Her heart was in India.  One day her mother announced she would buy Grace a new coat to replace the worn-out, six-year-old coat that she was then wearing.  Grace pleaded with her mother to let her wear the coat one more year and to give her, instead, the money she was prepared to spend on the new coat so that she could send it to her missionaries in India.  Pastor Smith said that before he left Dale, Grace became gravely ill. On her death bed she made her mother promise to sell all her clothes, such as they were, and send whatever she got for them to India to the missionaries she loved and prayed for.  With tears in her eyes, her mother promised to fulfill her wish.  Oswald J. Smith said, “I would like to be standing somewhere near the throne when Grace gets her reward.”  Her heart was in India and her money followed her heart.

Where is your heart?  A leading U.S. oil company wanted to open up a division of their operations in a far eastern nation.  They searched for the person best qualified to oversee the day to day operations and their search led them to a man who was a missionary.  They approached him with the job description and then offered a lucrative salary if he would accept, but he declined the offer.  They raised their salary offer and again he refused.  Finally, the company asked, “Is the salary not big enough; you tell us what you want and it’s yours.”  “Oh, no,” replied the man of God.  “The salary is big enough, but the job isn’t.”

Where could you go?  What could you give?  What might you do?

“Our task is not to bring the whole World to Christ; our task is to take Christ to the whole world.” (A.J. Gordon, 1889)

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. 28:19)