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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!

Thanksgiving 1964

Before I was married August 14, 1965, I penned the following Thanksgiving “card” to my fiancée, Ellen Martisha Beshears, and, having recently come upon it again, I thought it still apropos for Thanksgiving, 2020.  It was a 2-phase poem, a prayer and a promise:

A Prayer:
 
O thank You, Lord, for every gift
That life affords to me.
With voice to Thee my praise I lift
To show my thanks to Thee.
 
I thank You for the gift of life,
For health and strength and breath,
For hope in loss and strength in strife,
For victory over death.
 
I thank You, Lord, for Mom and Dad—
They’ve been so good to me.
For when I was but just a lad
They pointed me to Thee.
 
And thank You for a Pastor true,
Who preached the Word of God;
Who always said, “What e’re you do,
Only believe!  Trust God!”
 
And for salvation full and free,
With tongue I cannot say,
The joy it is to blood-bought be,
With sins all washed away.
 
And, God, as long as I can pray,
I’ll say a prayer each night,
To thank You for that blessed day
My Love came to my sight.
 
I’ll love her, Lord, I’ll love her true
‘Til Thou shalt call us home!
And from the time I say, “I do,”
She’ll never be alone.
 
For though the miles may part us some,
We’ll always love in heart,
Until our life on earth is done
Our love will never part.
 
A Promise:
 
My Love, on this Thanksgiving Day,
I pause to thank our Lord,
For all the love you’ve shown my way
In smile, in deed and word.
 
And I shall love you, Ellen Dear,
With body and with soul,
On every day of every year
To love you is my goal.
 
   Tony Slutz
   Thanksgiving 1964

“Not old, just older!”

She was one of those rare individuals that cross the pages of one’s life, making you and all others who were known by her richer for having been touched by a woman not cut from common cloth as it were but from a fabric both beautiful and resilient and life enriching.

Effie was what we all called her.  She was employed by a factory here in Indianapolis until she retired, Link-Belt, after which she moved to Florida for a few years before returning to her home in the Circle City.  She was before she moved and after she moved back a member of our church and though we never knew her to drive we likewise never knew her to miss any of our regular church services.  She was well past retirement age when I first met her and by then she had become a bit hard of hearing, but we soon found out that her hearing loss was never much of a handicap.  She heard what she wanted to hear, and she heard enough to learn the names of all of our children and grandchildren and could recite to anyone interested their birthdates and something of interest about each one.  And if a regular member happened to miss more than two services, Effie would make a point to find out why they were absent and whether they were sick.  She evidenced a genuine interest in all of our families, but we never knew much of anything about her family; she wanted always to talk about you and not about herself.  

She did have a niece that she communicated with regularly and with whom I became acquainted with via the phone, but that’s about the extent of any family members that were a current part of her life.  Her family assembled twice every Lord’s Day and midweek for prayer, and no one was more interested in our family than was this seasoned saint.

She loved my wife and often told her so, as well as all of our children and grandchildren.  Her residence was a basement one-bedroom apartment across from Manual High School on Indy’s near southside, a very humble dwelling place with a small kitchen and a room that had a couch and chair for any visitor who wanted to sit and talk awhile.  She welcomed that.  And, though she did not drive, she rode a bus anywhere she wanted to go in our city of a million plus souls.  On one occasion one of our church members found her surrounded by a group of teen boys in a part of the city that most people would be a bit concerned to find their aged grandmother navigating solo.  The church member stopped and interrupted the conversation Effie was having with the boys to ask if she did not want a ride home, to which our dear old friend promptly replied thanks but no thanks: “I am having a good conversation with these young men.”  She did make it home safely on the bus and it was just another day for Effie.

She loved church and I know she loved the preaching of the Word even though her hearing was not the best. She always sat second row from the front.  In Wednesday business meetings after a motion had been made and ballots were being passed out, Effie, first to receive a ballot from her almost front row vantage point, could not infrequently be heard from the back of the church asking the usher “WHAT ARE WE VOTING ON?”  Knowing Effie as I did, she wanted to make sure she voted on the side of the church leadership whatever the issue might be at hand.  As I said, she loved preaching and she loved her preacher.  On one occasion, after an evening message I had preached in a service that my parents were attending as they stopped over on their way back to Iowa from wintering in Florida, Effie make a beeline to my mother right after the prayer of dismissal and enthusiastically said, “Don’t you think he’s just about the best preacher you’ve ever heard?”  I am sure she was wanting to make a mother feel proud; but my Mom, never too quick to pass out any compliments, very stoically replied, “Well, I don’t know; I’ve heard a lot of good preachers.”  The humor of that whole exchange did not escape Effie as she told it to Ellen and to others, just having a good chuckle about how reticent a mother was to brag on her son.

I broke the rules that I always believed were excellent rules for preachers to keep, and often went to pick up Effie for Sunday School or for the evening service, thinking since she was well into her 90’s and I was past middle age myself that if we were seen in the same car together, I might draw a pass.  As far as I know it never was a problem, but one Sunday morning cruising down U.S. 31 toward Effie’s apartment on an almost deserted early Sunday morning street, a police car pulled me over and did not ticket me for speeding but for not having my seat belt buckled.  One of the few traffic violations I ever received but I never regretted it figuring the Lord’s forgiveness would be quickly forthcoming since it had been a good faith effort on my part to get Effie to Sunday School.  I never shared with her the excitement I had on the way to her apartment that Sunday morning.

Effie passed into her long-awaited eternal home at the age of 102.  She never would admit to being old, just “older.”  She was indeed old in body, but she never ceased being young at heart with a youthful spirit.  Her life ended when her body became so weak that doctors determined she needed a pacemaker and with her permission proceeded with the surgery knowing that there would be considerable risk at her age.  They lost her on the operating table, but I later heard that she awoke sometime before she passed, while doctors were still struggling to save her and, somehow sensing their dilemma, assured them verbally and emphatically that they should not fret because she would be with Jesus and there was no fear on her part.  How privileged were all of us, her family, to have known and to have been loved by such a saint!

In For the Long Haul!

Warning:  This post is of a personal nature; and, while I do not like to write about myself, I do want to glorify God by sharing with you and any interested readers something of His goodness to me and my family in allowing me to pastor fifty years.

A friend recently asked, “How could you pastor in one place for forty years?”  My immediate answer was, “I really don’t know, but I do know it was wholly of God and not me.”  I could take no credit if any credit were due.   l went on to explain to my friend that if I were ever tempted to move to another field of service, after having gotten moved I would surely discover that the same people with the same people problems were in the new place as were in the previous—just with different faces!  So, those thoughts which very seldom crossed my mind, soon faded; I have always felt honored and privileged to be a God-called under shepherd to flesh and blood folk who were subject to the same fears and frailties that I am and the more I have “hung” around them, the more I have learned to genuinely love them.

Years ago, during a particularly “dry” season of blessings in our church ministries, a leader of the church came to visit me in my office and said, “Pastor, don’t you think it’s time to move on,” then added a couple other hurtful remarks before waiting my response.  I replied, “Well, I haven’t gotten any indication from the Lord that He wants me to move on, but if He makes it plain to me that it’s time to move, then I will not hesitate to do so.  Thanks.”  That ended our conversation and we both, the “coach” and myself, stayed on for many years after that and in the course of time became the best of friends and served together until the Lord called my dear friend into His presence.  I learned from that, and from many similar incidents, to just “ride out” the storm until it passes, waiting for the sun to shine again as it most surely will.  Oh, yes, in 40 years you’ll have a book full of disappointing and discouraging experiences, but love covers a multitude of sins (both mine and theirs!) and love that survives tests, trials and tribulations becomes a shield of love that is impregnable to Satan’s darts of defeat.

Now, as a retired senior pastor, and currently serving as an interim pastor while living where we have lived for most of 40 years, I drive from place to place while on local errands, passing neighborhoods and houses where former flock members have lived but who are now ahead of me in glory.  It is such a blessing to see, in my memory bank, their godly, smiling faces, remembering conversations we had in their living room, sharing their burdens and blessings, praying and sometimes weeping together.  Those kinds of relationships are not built in a few years, so I am deeply grateful to God for allowing me to be a member of the family of so many families.

I am using the first-person pronoun, but I hope you know that any pastor who does anything that will count for eternity has done so because of a loving, loyal helpmeet that God brought into his life usually before he began his ministry.  Ellen has been by my side, sharing the weight of every spiritual load and basking in the blessings with me of every spiritual victory, these past 50 years in pastoral ministry.  We have prayed, pulled, plodded and persevered by His grace due to His goodness this past half-century and though we have never experienced a ministry that was glamorous, we have ever enjoyed a ministry that has been glorious.  When my final Lord’s day arrived at Thompson Road Baptist Church, 40 years to the day that I preached my first sermon there as their pastor (just months before Ronald Reagan took the oath of office as he was sworn into his first term as President—for some historical perspective) I shared this poem that God had given me for the occasion:

“Farewell, dear friends, it’s hard to say, ‘Good-bye.’

At times we want to laugh, at times to cry.

We’ve walked, we’ve talked, we’ve worked along life’s way.

Our love has grown, His grace He’s shown, From our first meeting 40 years ago today.

You’ve been a flock supreme,

A shepherd’s fondest dream;

You’ve heard and heeded truths and grown in grace;

You’ve made your goal in life to seek His face.

We part now, yet our sorrow it is sweet,

We’ll soon all cast our crowns at Jesus’ feet.

We know by then the victory will be won,

Our soul’s desire:  to hear Him say, ‘Well done.’

‘Come, enter child, enjoy eternal rest;

You are at home now, with His children blessed.

Your work on earth is done forever more,

Come, child, come boldly through the door.’

Oh!  Happy thought when time no more shall rush,

When sirens, guns and wailing will be hushed;

And with for eons in His precious love,

We’ll talk and laugh and share with all above.

The world that now is drear will then be past.

No more will weakness wear us down at last.

We shall be there, with Christ in Heav’n so fair,

Oh, blessed thought, His joy for e’er to share!”

Steady Does It!

An Italian envoy floated into a Stockholm port on an official visit and, observing a stately, ornate building at water’s edge, assumed they had found the palace whereupon they announced their arrival with a 21-gun salute.  One can only imagine the embarrassment when the visitors were informed that they were docked in front of what was actually an old folks’ home whose occupants were scared half out of their wits by this over the top greeting the Italians had incorrectly issued!

Well, nothing like pulling all the stops out!  We have a tendency at times to do that; whether it’s a hobby, a habit or a tenaciously held pet conviction that we’ve taken a stand on and declared to all, “Here I stand, I can do no less!”

New Testament Christianity is a life characterized by balance, at least, it ought to be.  Paul, writing his epistle to Titus, in chapter two gives specific instructions to older men, older women and younger men and women as to how they could live a “sober” life which was at any stage in life, balanced.  Too often, though, adherents of the “faith once delivered to the saints” grab hold of a truth, and blowing it all out of proportion by isolating it, elevating it and emphasizing it to the neglect of all other truth, become heretical in  their disproportionate application of a tenaciously held conviction.

For instance, God has promised to provide our needs “according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:19).  The health and wealth prosperity gospel adherents have blown that verse and many others out of proportion and out of context to preach that God intends all believers to be perpetually healthy and wealthy.  That is heresy.

Or, in another vein, most of my readers will identify as “dispensationalists,” that is, as students of Scripture who have concluded that God has dealt with people of faith through the ages past, present and (He will yet) future on the basis of differing responsibilities and varying levels of accountability depending on the truth revealed to people living at different times under different levels of unfolded revelation given.  Case in point, “the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17) New Testament believers do not live under the law (Mosaic) but under grace and therefore, we are free to eat differently, dress differently and we are not obligated to bring the animal sacrifices, etc. that those who were living in the old dispensation were commanded to bring.  So, in our day, there are those who take the teachings of dispensationalism and expand them to what has become known as “ultra-dispensationalism.”  These folks hold that the Great Commission given in Matt. 28:18-20 and baptism by immersion and other views commonly taught by sound Bible teachers do not apply to the church today.  They hold tenaciously to these aberrations of doctrine to the point that they are heretics; not heretics in the sense of denying the Bible but heretics in that they have misapplied truth or disproportionately held to a truth to the extent that their views are heretical.

We sometimes aim our guns and come out with a “big 21-gun” salute at the wrong place and wrong time, even in a doctrinal sense!

Here is a test you can give yourself: (1) Do you emphasize one doctrine disproportionately to the neglect of the whole counsel of God?  (2)  Do you have a “pet doctrine” that you constantly contend with others about, making it a test of fellowship?  (3)  Is your spirit right with others with whom you disagree on matters over which good men differ as to interpretation and application;  (4)  Do you conclude that God cannot bless or use others who have taken a stance that differs with your position on certain doctrinal issues?

Stephen Olford observed that a truth pushed can become an emphasis; pushed further it can become an extreme and pushed to the max it can become an error.  Heresy is not a belief that would necessarily involve denying the Word of God; it can be a Biblical teaching/truth blown out of proportion to the extent that it is a divisive test of faith or fellowship that it never should have become.

“Believe as I believe, no more, no less.

That I am right, and no one else confess; 

Feel as I feel, think as I think;

Eat what I eat and drink what I drink;

Look as I look, do always as I do;

And, then, and only then, I’ll fellowship with you.”

                (Unknown)

Study to shew thyself approved unto God…rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Tim. 2:15)

“Let not your good be evil spoken of:  For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.” (Romans 14:16,17)

Watch Yourself!

If there is one thing in the world that might destroy you, it is the pandemic germ common to mankind that took Adam and Eve out of the garden after it had forfeited Lucifer from his exalted angelic position over angels.  It is the sin of pride and it got Haman hanged and Pharaoh drowned, and Saul slain, and it will take you down too if you do not guard diligently against it.

The history of humanity has attested well to Solomon’s proverb: “A man’s pride shall bring him low….” (Prov. 29:23) He was the wise man who also said that “Before destruction the heart of man is haughty….” (Prov. 18:12), and “Pride goeth before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Prov. 16:18) C.S. Lewis said that it is the sin that we all loathe when observed in others but that we seldom imagine we are guilty of ourselves.  He called it the essential vice and posited that unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness and all are mere “fleabites” in comparison.  The Devil became the devil through pride, and it is “the complete anti-God state of mind.”

Chesterton said, “If I had only one sermon to preach, it would be a sermon against pride.”  A teacher of preachers said to his class: “I can think of no more deadly foe than self-esteem; I would hazard the guess that professional pride is the sin par excellence of the clergy.”

Napoleon could have boasted in his military prowess, but he knew the folly of such a thing.  He said of his own accomplishments: “I am doing now what will fill thousands of volumes in this generation; in the next, one volume will contain it all; in the third, a paragraph; in the fourth, a single line.”

J.P. Struthers spent his life ministering to a small Presbyterian church when, it was said, he could have occupied any pulpit in the Britain of his day for he was dearly loved by all who knew him and the more they knew him the more they loved him.   A friend said that because of all that Struthers had done he would surely have a front seat in heaven.  But another close friend of the great pastor offered the following: “Struthers would be miserable in a front seat anywhere.” 

We’re living in an age that promotes self-esteem.  Talk shows and books have been promoting self for decades.  It is easy to get caught up in this psychology that makes one feel good about one’s self.  Certainly, the redeemed child of God, heir of God and joint heir with His Son, can rejoice in his standing in Christ.  But let us never forget that the old man, with us to the end of our earthly journey, is just as corrupt as ever and in the flesh there dwelleth no good thing. (Romans 7:18) Next time the flesh begs to be stroked and puffed, watch out!  It’s that which more than anything else in the world will more likely bring to you personal, spiritual ruin.

“A rabbi, a cantor and a humble synagogue cleaner were preparing for the day of atonement,” shared Alan Paton in Instrument of Thy Peace, “when, beating his breast the rabbi said: ‘I am nothing; I am nothing.’  The cantor did likewise.  However, when the cleaner beat his breast and said, ‘I am nothing,’ the rabbi was overheard to say to the cantor: ‘Look who thinks he’s nothing.’”

During Sunday school a teacher taught the lesson from Luke 18 about the Pharisee who, praying to God, gave thanks that he was not like other people, while a tax collector said, “God be merciful to me a sinner.”  The teacher explained that the self-righteous Pharisee looked down, because of pride, on the tax collector.  At the end of the class, the teacher asked one of the students to close the class in prayer who, when he prayed, said “God, I thank you that I am not like that Pharisee.”

For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly….” (Romans 12:3)

Aker Blog

Here is an article written by my friend John Aker, former pastor and current Healthcare CEO, on Wednesday, following the Presidential election.  I think you will appreciate it, so I send it along with John’s permission.  You may contact him at jba@akerjba.com to comment or to receive future posts on his The Forward Edge of Battle Area installments:

Dear Friends on The Forward Edge of Battle…

Greetings in The Master’s Name!

And, in His Name be courageous…do not fret or fear…but take heart and be at peace… 

As of this writing, I know not who will sit in The White House, but I know personally That One Who sits on The Throne–and I choose to dwell in His Shelter and abide in His Shadow…

Scripture cautions us about singing glad songs to a heavy heart.  And while I truly wish to respect this admonition, for the many whose hearts are heavy these days I want to share some truths that I pray will gladden your hearts.

My window looks out on a world so very different from the one in which I enjoyed my childhood, young adulthood, and even my middle and later years.  America has changed and it seems to be at a place where the change may become even more noticeable and less bearable–unless you choose to dwell in the Shelter of The Most-High and to abide in the Shadow -of The Almighty.  And the choice, with all its attendant consequences is yours…

So, think of these truths…

If the foundations are destroyed,

What can the righteous do?

Psalm 11:3 

There can be no doubt that the anti-God squad is achieving its objectives and the good old boys of the Democratic Party are following these little girls around like adoring puppies at their heels. The Judeo-Christian principles upon which this once-great-nation was founded are offensive to the anti-God squad and The Left that is now lock-stepped with them.  The elimination of the phrase under God from the pledge of allegiance at the opening of The Democratic National Convention was neither an oversight, not a simple slip–and do not be fooled, it was no small thing.  They have evicted God from the schoolhouse, The House in Congress, and they want God, and anyone who would speak on His behalf, out of The White House.  They have nothing but lip service for Him–and they want nothing from His Word.

Help, LORD, for the godly disappear from among the sons of men…

Psalm 12:1

You might almost think David was walking down the Halls of Congress when he penned those words.  Please, do not be so narrow-minded as to think the swamp is only on one side of the aisle.  The AIDS syndrome is endemic throughout our Nation’s Capital–Acquired Integrity Deficiency Syndrome.  The credentials of many who sought political office in this last general election, as well as many currently holding office, reflected a serious deficiency of integrity and morality.  And for so many Americans this was just ho-hum.  Well, the sad thing about corruption is that it originates in a complacency that leads to compromise–and it is contagious!  And when good men like John James run for office, they are too often defeated by do-nothing politicians like Gary Peters who are backed by big-buck liberal politicos.

But Psalm 12 says more!

The words of The LORD are pure words,

As silver tried in a furnace on the earth,

Refined seven times…

Psalm 12:6

What are those words.  Well, here are just a few that offer comfort and strength to those who will believe them:

Why are the nations restless
And the peoples plotting in vain?

The kings of the earth take their stand
And the rulers conspire together
Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying,
Let’s tear their shackles apart
And throw their ropes away from us!

He who sits in the heavens laughs,
The Lord scoffs at them.
Then He will speak to them in His anger

And terrify them in His fury, saying,
But as for Me, I have installed My King
Upon Zion, My holy mountain…

Psalm 2:1-6

(The Lord has the last word…and the last laugh)

The LORD will accomplish what concerns me;

The promises of Thy love, O LORD, are everlasting;

Do not forsake the works of Thy Hands…

Psalm 138:8

(I am secure and safe in His Hands because His promises of love never fail)

Can a woman forget her nursing child,

And have no compassion on the son of her womb?

Well, even these may forget,

But I will never forget you.

Look, you are engraved on the palms of My hands…

Isaiah 49:15-16

(God will never forget His love and promises to me.

My person and His love for me is ever before His eyes

In the only man-made things in heaven–

The wounds in my Savior’s Hands!)

Wednesday morning, the day after Election Day, Joyce Kaufman of 850 AM Radio, Ft Lauderdale, Florida said words to this effect:

I really did not vote for a person…

I voted for the freedom to worship my God…

I voted for The Police and The Military…

I voted for The Unborn…

I voted for a country that would support Israel…

I voted for peace in The Mid-East…

I voted for secure borders

And for these reasons and many more,

I voted for the only politician who, in my lifetime,

Has kept his campaign promises!

And Greg Gutfeld of The Five, as I only briefly remember, and somewhat in my words, said:

Come On, get your face up off the floor!

We won!

Yes, we did, we won!

200 Federal Judges, Thee Supreme Court Justices,

Mid-East Peace Treaties,

A respected presence round the world…

And so much more…

We won!

   Do not, again, DO NOT, allow the unknowable, although unacceptable, to be unbearable.  What can the righteous do when the foundations are destroyed.  Three things:

VOTE

I did!

PRAY

I did…I do…and I shall continue!

TRUST

I do…because…

I know Whom I have believed,

and I am convinced that

He is able to guard that which I have entrusted to Him…

II Timothy 1:12

What have I entrusted to Him?  My treasures: Rose, my dear wife…our daughters, Laura Lynn, Natalie Anne, and Jana Marie…their husbands, Lance, Trent, and Matthew…our twenty-one grandchildren and twelve great-grandchildren.  And my own life, as unworthy as I am of His great love.  But it is that love that secures all I entrust to Him.  And I am at peace–even with the unknowable!

Some last thoughts:

Do not fear those who can kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul;

Rather fear Him Who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell…

Matthew 10:28

I will never desert you,

Nor will I ever forsake you,

So, we confidently say,

The LORD is my helper,

 I will not be afraid.

What shall man do to me?

Hebrews 13:5-6

And those who know Thy Name

Will put their trust in Thee;

For Thou, O LORD,

Hast not forsaken those who seek Thee!

Psalm 9:10

You voted…you have prayed, and you continue to pray.  Now trust…just trust…and keep on trusting…and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, shall guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus…

And that is my prayer for you personally, dear friend…

With you in His Great and Gracious Hands

John B.  Aker

Your Body and You

David said, “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made….” (Ps. 139:4).  The more we learn about these bodies given to us for “tabernacles” on our earthly pilgrimage, the more we appreciate just how truly wonderful they are!

Your heart is a perfect pump; the nervous system has never been equaled by any modern technological invention; our voice reproduces sound that no high tech medium can match in quality or definition; the eyes are cameras more precise than has been manufactured by man; the nose, lungs and skin are a ventilating system without equal in preciseness and effectiveness, and the spinal cord, serving up instant actions and reactions accompanied by appropriate and timely warnings to a complex city of nerves and nerve endings is in a class of its own.  No wonder the Psalmist exclaimed that we are wonderfully made!

God fashioned the man and the woman and said that everything was “very good.”  Because of sin, though, Adam’s descendants begin to die the day they are born.  Studies have shown that a person reaches his or her peak as far as learning and retention of knowledge at or about the ripe old age of 20.  I’ve always said that you could take a look at your high school graduation picture and see yourself at your very finest—at least physically.  For most it seems to be “down- hill” from then on!

But though our bodies often take merciless beatings from us, they somehow keep going usually for seventy or eighty years or more.  Death, because of sin, will ultimately overcome every one of us, except those who are taken up in the Rapture, sending us to the grave.  Thanks be to God, though, for victory over death.  Because Jesus Christ conquered the tomb, we too shall one day rise victorious.  Our bodies will then be changed, made like unto His glorious body (Phil. 3:21), reunited with our spirit and so shall we ever be with the Lord. (I Thess. 4:13-18) Amen.

As a believer, you can look forward to living without any possibility of death in a body not subject to sickness, decomposition, deterioration, pain, aging or change in any way, shape or form.  You will resemble your present, physical self but without any blemish.  You’ll have a “make over” that will be out of this world!  Glory!

There are some special considerations we ought to give our present “tabernacles”:  (1)  We are urged to present them as a living sacrifice daily to God, because it is our reasonable service to do so (Rom. 12:1,2); (2)  We should yield the members of our body as instruments of righteousness with which to serve God and not as instruments of unrighteousness with which to serve “self”;  (3)  We should know that our bodies have been claimed and purchased by Christ’s blood and, therefore, they do not belong to us (I Cor. 6:19, 20);  (4)  We should remember that the body in which we tabernacle is not given to us for fornication, but to use to bring glory to God (I Cor. 6:13); (5)  We should, knowing our body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, (2 Cor. 6:16) refrain from abusing it in any way, including the following:

  1. Tattooing 
  2. Eating disorders
  3. Sleep deprivation
  4. Drunkenness
  5. Gluttony
  6. Nakedness
  7. Drug addiction
  8. Self-mutilation
  9. Adultery, fornication, immorality
  10. Idolatry

May God give us a Biblical appreciation for this tabernacle of flesh, blood and bones specially made for our earthly journey and one day to be remade for our eternal habitation.

What?  Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?  For ye are bought with a price:  therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (I Cor. 6:19,20)

The Power of 1

“By the grace of God, I am what I am,” the Apostle Paul, church planting evangelist par excellence, said of himself, humbly, in I Cor. 15:10 just after confessing that he was least of all the apostles and not worthy to be called an apostle; yet, he was what he was!

And, so are you!  You have never been called or commanded to do the work of any other person:  you are your unique self, one person, and only able to do exactly what your Creator has planned for you to do today, one day at a time.

And, today just happens to be election day here in the USA, 2020.  The polls are open; hopefully you are registered to vote.  You have approximately ‘til sundown depending upon which state you live in, to get to a designated voting place to cast your ballot for the candidate of your choice.

The two major political parties, with their candidates, have made their cases to the American people.  Every office is important. You no doubt have heard it said that “all politics are local politics.”  At the grassroots level debates, deliberations and discussions have occurred that have shaped the direction of the party platform that will eventually impact the direction and destiny of a nation.  There is no inconsequential vote to be cast; no unimportant office to fill, and no candidate for any office that should be considered with indifference.  Today is an historic day in our nation’s history.

Today, America stands at a crossroads:  we will choose our leaders, lawmakers and executives, for another two, four or six years.  Every vote is hugely critical.  Each person who casts a ballot or pulls a lever will vote for life or death, morality or immorality, truth or tyranny, socialism or capitalism, freedom or oppression.

Yes, the contrast could not be more pronounced.  Long shadows are being cast over our nation’s horizon by little people.  Churches are being harassed by petty bureaucrats. Laws, customs, mores, history books, and monuments are being turned upside down to accommodate the “woke” world.  People who are dedicated to keeping neighborhoods, streets, malls and public squares safe places to congregate are having to dodge bricks, vile epithets and lawless mobs while the peace-keeping thin blue line of law enforcement is abjectly abandoned by city councils gone crazy.  It’s not the America most of us have known; it’s not the America most of us want to know.  You, friend, must vote.

Yes, you are only one, but you are one, and one vote has, and one vote can turn the course of history.  The Middleton, Massachusetts home page cites some elections won or lost by the narrowest of margins:  In 1800 Thomas Jefferson was elected President by one vote in the House of Representatives after a tie in the Electoral College; in 1824 Andrew Jackson won the presidential popular vote but lost to John Quincy Adams after an Electoral College deadlock; in 1845 the U.S. Senate passed the convention to annex Texas by just two votes, and more recently, in 2000, the Presidential election was decided by just 537 votes with more than six million voters having voted, so, yes, one vote, your vote, counts and is very important so do not let the huge early voting numbers discourage you from doing you civic duty:  get out and vote today.  You will not regret doing it, but you most certainly may regret not doing it.  See you at the polls!

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” (Edmund Burke)

“Therefore, to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”  James 4:17

See You Sunday!

A little girl whose family had just moved to a large city became lost.  She went to the corner policeman who began quizzing her but without success, trying to determine where she lived.  Finally, the child said, “If you will take me to church, Mister, I can find my way home.”

Church attendance has been on the wane in recent years, and the 2020 Covid-19 shut down has caused new patterns of church attendance that have not yet been subject to measurement.  Some church experts are projecting that when the pandemic is over, most churches will have 20% fewer people regularly attending Sunday mornings at one location than they had attending pre-corona virus days.  More people, it is assumed, will have adjusted to worshipping on-line and will not show up for on-site, in person worship.  But, church attendance has always been and ever will be for New Testament churches in line with the Biblical injunction to not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, and the promise of Jesus that “where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

A local lumber yard sign read:  “81% of your customers will be lost ten years from now; 1% will die; 3% will move away; 5% will give their business to a friend; 9% will be lost to competitors; 14% will quit due to dissatisfaction with a product and 68% will quit because of an attitude of indifference on the part of an employee.”  Could it be that those statistics will reflect church attendance patterns too?

But faithful, regular attendance is so very important.  Biblical commentator John Stott in one of his commentaries said that Christians are players in a “cosmic drama.”  The stage, he said, is the world; the actors are the church; the writer, producer and director, God; cosmic beings are rulers and authorities in heavenly places.  Stott said that through the old creation God reveals His glory to men, and through the new creation (the church) He reveals His glory and wisdom to the angels, principalities and powers (I Cor. 11:10).  Thus, how we look at our responsibilities regarding the church and our relationship to it, even in matters of attendance to its regular services, takes on a new and elevated significance:  by our faithfulness we can teach angels, both the fallen angels that chose to follow Satan’s coup against God, rebelling against His authority; and the unfallen angels who chose not to follow Satan, but remained unfallen and confirmed in holiness.  We teach the former lot of angelic demons that they made a mistake in believing Satan’s lie and in sinning against their Creator, leaving their “first estate,” (I Pet. 1:10-12; Jude 6).  We teach the latter lot, unfallen angels, that they made a wise choice in bowing to God’s sovereign authority; and we are demonstrating by our faithful attendance and obedience to His command that we are “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together” and that we have made the same choice.

So, if we are His disciples, it is incumbent upon us to “show up,” if at all possible, when the Body meets for regularly announced worship together.  Like Mrs. Ellen Craig, reported by the Nashville Banner, who had perfect attendance in Sunday School for 1,040 Sundays, or twenty years!   “Doesn’t Mrs. Craig ever have company drop in on Sunday?  Does she never have headaches, colds?  How about week-end trips, family reunions, or times she would sleep in, or stay at home because of rain or snow; or, has she never gotten her feelings hurt by someone in the church?”  (Richard DeHahn)

The reasons for not attending church regularly were once parodied by a clever wag: “I never wash because I was made to when I was a child; people who wash are hypocrites—they think they are cleaner than everyone else; there are so many different kinds of soap, I could never decide which one is right; I used to wash but got bored with it; I still wash on occasions:  Easter and Christmas; none of my friends wash and they seem to get along all right and after all, people who make soap are only after your money!”

How is it with you?  Do you treasure times together with His family, meeting as one Body?  Don’t forsake it!  Joyfully embrace it.

I leave you with a humorous story a pastor friend of mine shared with an adult Sunday School class he was teaching one Sunday, stressing the importance of faithfully attending Church and its services.  He said:  “In the Puritan  churches they dealt with absences from church in this way:  miss one Sunday and you get no meals on Monday; miss two Sundays and you receive a whipping; miss three Sundays and you go to jail; miss four Sundays…NO ONE MISSES FOUR SUNDAYS!

Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another; and so much the more as ye see the day approaching.”  (Hebs. 10:25)

I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord.” (Ps. 122:1)

All I Heard Was Go!

She and her husband have been serving on the mission field in the intermountain area of the United States for 31 of the 35 years they have been married.  We will call her Diane as that is her name.  She would have been, in her earliest years, the most unlikely candidate for a future missionary because of her home environment, but God!

Church bus workers knew how to draw children back week after week (with candy!) and Diane says she got hooked, but not only because of the candy but more importantly because of a loving church family that took her into their hearts and homes and nurtured her, after she became a child of God through her new birth following a gospel message at a Christmas Youth Group party.  Dr. Fred Moritz, then pastor of the church she was attending, baptized her and the rest is history.  She became the “adopted” child of a half dozen or more loving church families while cherishing Psalm 27:10: “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.”  

In ways that only a sovereign God could have engineered Diane was able to enroll as a student at Bob Jones University after a wise youth pastor and his wife took her on a trip to BJU where she for the first time in her life got to experience “a little bit of heaven on earth.”  She did not know what she wanted to do but through her first semester “it seemed all I heard in chapel, in my Bible classes, and in my devotions, the Lord kept pointing me to missions. That summer, my pastor, Anthony Slutz, preached on John 15:16.  All I heard was Go!  I didn’t know where the Lord wanted me to go, but I was willing to go wherever He led me!  I went back to school in the fall and changed my major to missions.”

Tony Miller, leader of a missions team to the Intermountain West, spoke in a missions chapel that semester on John 15:16. Diane says, “I went to the team meeting to learn more about it.  I really believed the Lord wanted me on this team, but I had no idea how I was going to return to school next year, let alone go on a mission team!  I told the Lord I was willing to go, but He would have to provide.  A few days later, I learned that my Dad had money in an account that no one knew about at the time of his death.  It was enough for me to go on the mission team, as well as return to school in the fall!  My heavenly Father knew that the money was there when I would need it.”

The trip west sealed Diane’s burden for the Intermountain Mission field and she testifies that on that trip was a handsome young man that she was drawn to: “We’ve been married for 35 years and have been serving the Lord with Northwest Baptist Missions for 31 of those years.  God has always been so faithful and good to us!”

Most of Diane’s family have never professed faith in her Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, though by her life, love, letters and prayers she has wept over them and waited with hope of hearing that her Savior had become theirs through faith.  She had little or no encouragement from anyone outside of her church family and Christian circle of friends, including a Christian school, to attend church, continue in church, attend a Christian college, or to become a missionary.

It is not a stretch to say that Diane’s story, like others, is one of the grace of God, the skillful guidance of His hand and the loving care for a child pretty much “on her own” who was found by some faithful bus workers, evangelized by a faithful youth pastor, nurtured by a faithful church family and mentored by teachers whose sole interest in Diane was a soul interest in Diane.  May their tribe increase.  The host of believers whose lives have been interwoven with Diane’s for the past forty plus years can rejoice, praising our great God for a child whose heart was open to and drawn to our home mission field and who, listening through messages, testimonies and lessons would later testify that “All I heard was Go!”

Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?  Then said I, Here am I; send me.  And He said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed….” (Isaiah 6:8,9a)