Sweet Land of Liberty!

He was born October 21, 1808, in Boston, Massachusetts, and attended the first public school in America, the Boston Latin School.  He was a good student and became proficient in foreign languages, becoming eventually a translator and thereby earning money to pay for his Harvard college education.

Called to the ministry, he would enter Andover Theological Seminary.  While a student there, he honed his writing skills and also further mastered languages.  Studying in Germany in the early 1830’s he was moved to write a poem for German school children who began each day by reciting a poem.  He put words to the English hymn “God Save the Queen,” and adapted it for American schools.

Returning to America, he became a professor of modern languages and a prominent Baptist pastor in Maine.  By the end of the 19th century, he had worn the hats of pastor, editor, professor, translator, hymnist and secretary of the Baptist Missionary Union.

However, none of the above is what we remember this early American for.  His classmate at Harvard, Oliver Wendell Holmes, described in verse what happens to many a poet’s lines:

Full many a poet’s labored lines, A century’s creeping waves shall hide.  The verse of people’s love enshrines, stands like a rock that breasts the tide.

Time wrecks the proudest piles we raise, the towers, the dome, the temples fall.  The fortress crumbles and decays, when breath of spring outlasts them all.”

And the classroom hymn, first performed July 4, 1832, at Boston’s Park Street Church has outlasted most.  Boston paid special tribute to its author in 1895, and on November 16, 1895, when Samuel Francis Smith died, “America” was sung in his honor, and it is still sung, not only by school children but by freedom-loving Americans in every state of this great Union.  Let us never forget that we live in the “Sweet Land of Liberty.”.:  And, let us always remember that Almighty God is the author of liberty.

“My Country ‘tis of thee,

Sweet land of liberty,

Of thee I sing:

Land where my fathers died,

Land of the Pilgrims’ pride,

From every mountain side

Let freedom ring!

My native country, thee,

Land of the noble free,

Thy name I love:

I love thy rocks and rills,

Thy woods and templed hills;

My heart with rapture fills

Like that above.

Let music swell the breeze,

And ring from all the trees

Sweet freedom’s song;

Let mortal tongues awake,

Let all that breathe partake,

Let rocks their silence break,

The sound prolong.

Our fathers’ God, to Thee,

Author of liberty,

To Thee we sing;

Long may our land be bright

With freedom’s holy light;

Protect us by Thy might,

Great God, our King!”

***************************

Samuel Francis Smith, 1808-1895

(Copied, public domain)

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.” (Ps.33:12)

The Mystery of Iniquity

The Scriptures are replete with mysteries.  A Biblical mystery is some truth that is knowable only by special revelation or illumination from a supernatural source; in this case, from God through His Spirit by His Word.  Mysteries include the mysteries of which Jesus spoke when, in Matthew 13, he related a series of parables He labeled “mysteries of the kingdom,” outlining for His disciples what was going to happen in the kingdom program in light of Israel’s rejection of Him (Matt. 12) as their King.  Jesus, in these parables, revealed Church-age truths even before His Apostles had an inkling of an idea of the Church that He would build. (Matt.16) There are several other “mysteries” in the Bible, most of which are unveiled in the New Testament, but the “mystery of iniquity” (2 Thess. 2) is in a category all by itself.

This mystery, mentioned by Paul in the eschatological context of 2 Thessalonians where the Apostle is expanding his instruction on “the day of Christ,” (2:2) also called the Day of the Lord referring to that day “when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels.  (2 Thess. 1:7) Jesus spoke solely of that day, and the Great Tribulation week of seven years that would precede it, in Matthew 24, 25 and it is commonly referred to as the “Second Coming.”  Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 2 that the great Day of Christ (2nd Coming) will not come until there is first a “falling away,” (v.3) which could well refer to the rapture or catching up of the Church-age saints, and then the unmasking of “that man of sin,” known also as “the son of perdition,” (v.3) or plainly as “the Anti-Christ,” (Rev. 13:1 ff.)

Then, Paul in this discussion says that the “mystery of iniquity” is already (then) at work only “he who will let (hinder, restrain) will let until he be taken out of the way.” (v.7) This speaks of the restraining, hindering ministry of the Holy Spirit’s work in the world today, convicting of sin, of righteousness and of judgement (John 16:8-11) without which unbridled sin, corruption and violence would be even more rampant, blatant and destructive that it already is!

So, back to the “mystery of iniquity,” which Paul says was already at work then, and apparently is still at work today.  It has been, in fact, at work since Man’s Garden of Eden plunge into disobedience.  Every thing about sin is inexplicable.  Why would Adam and Eve, with a lush garden at their fingertips, feel compelled to believe the Tempter’s lie that they would be even wiser and happier if they would only eat of that one tree that God forbade them to eat of, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil?  There is no reasonable explanation.  It is the “mystery of iniquity.”

Why did the Israelites, fresh out of 400 years of bondage in Egypt as slaves, wish they could return to those Egyptian leeks and garlic just days into their journey toward God’s land of promise?  No one can explain why they built a golden calf that they could fall down before while acclaiming it as their god not long after they had witnessed God’s dramatic and miraculous parting of the sea so they could walk across it on dry ground, then when the last Israelite was through, God’s bringing the walls of water down upon the heads of Pharoah’s army as they were instantly buried at sea!  Who would have the nerve, the audacity, the spiritual ignorance to want to worship an inanimate object, attributing to it God’s power, after having witnessed that and scores of other definite, divine interventions on behalf of these ex-slaves?  Who can give any objective explanation for this “mystery of iniquity?”

Sin is that way, isn’t it?  We do not know why we want to return as a dog to its vomit, knowing full well we are, in our strength, no match for it.  Promise to ourselves as earnestly and as often as we will that we will never do it again, we seem sometimes doomed to experience the bitter bite of “the mystery of iniquity!”

Alexander Pope must have contemplated this mystery when he penned: “Sin is a monster of such hideous mien that to be hated is but to be seen; but seen too oft, familiar with her face, we first endure, then pity, then embrace.”

Why would men love darkness rather than light?  Yes, because their deeds are evil, but when light and love are so much more liberating and life-giving, why?  The “mystery of iniquity.”

Why would a woman buy into Satan’s deception that her “body is her own,” and, therefore, an unwanted baby due to an unexpected pregnancy is expendable and can nicely and neatly be terminated through the murdering of her own flesh and blood?  The “mystery of iniquity.”

Why would a God-blessed, freedom founded people, living in union as 50 United States, choose communism, totalitarianism, socialism where a few godless power brokers determine what is best for the bourgeoise employing, if necessary, genocide to establish their atheistic regime?  “The mystery of iniquity.”

Why, when God came to earth in infant flesh, wrapped in our humanity yet without our sin nature, so that He could offer Himself to His own as their King and to the world as its Savior, would this Son of God be totally and tragically rejected and crucified by those He had come to save?  “The mystery of iniquity.”

Why do men still refuse His light?  His love?  His life?  “The mystery of iniquity.”  Paul said in 60 A.D. that it was already at work, and it has been at work since earth’s earliest days.  It will intensify when the Day of Christ arrives, when the Church has been raptured, when the man of sin has been revealed and when the Anti-Christ energized by Satan and accompanied by the false prophet works signs and wonders on a Christ-less world where the Holy Spirit is no longer restraining through His convicting work.

What is the solution to the “mystery of iniquity?”  Jesus: “I am come that men might have life and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10).  Look and live!  It is the ONLY way to escape, for time and eternity, the ubiquitous “mystery of iniquity!”

Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” (I Cor. 15:51)

When Jesus Groaned

Jesus, in His dying hour, cried out “I thirst.” (John. 19:28) And, in another hour of darkness, having fasted 40 days and 40 nights, tempted of the Devil, it was said of the God man that He was hungry. (Matt. 4:2) Reading through the gospel accounts of the life and labors of God who had taken on flesh, having been made (Gal. 4:4) in the likeness of men (Phil. 2:7), one observes that He was at times weary, angry, troubled and always in “all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebs. 4:15)

On one occasion, at the grave side of His deceased friend, Lazarus, Jesus was stirred in His spirit when he beheld the grief of the sisters of Lazarus, intimate friends all of the Lord Jesus as He ministered so selflessly to so many during those short-lived final three years of His earthly embodiment in flesh.  The humble house in Bethany where Lazarus lived with his sisters, Mary and Martha, was a haven for Him and therefore often frequented by Jesus where He would enjoy many a sumptuous meal and limitless near-Eastern hospitality.

It had to have come as a shock to Jesus’ disciples when news came that Lazarus was sick and in fact dying.  Even greater must have been their consternation when Jesus did not immediately leave for Bethany so that He might speak the healing words that He had so often spoken to raise so many off beds of affliction.  Now, for one of His dearest earthly friends, Lazarus, brother to two women who had devotedly served Him, followed Him, and learned at His feet, Jesus tarried two days and when He and the disciples finally did arrive, Lazarus had been in the grave, as was the Jewish custom, since the day he had passed, four days (or any part of a day), by this time.

Moving toward the tomb, it was Mary who seeing Jesus, fell at His feet, crying, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.” (John 11:32) Jesus, knowing the answer before He asked, but communicating with these grieving souls on their level, asked, “Where have ye laid Him?” (v.34) But, before that question, John records that Jesus, seeing Mary weeping, “groaned in the spirit and was troubled.” (John 11:33)

Have you ever paused in wonder at that scene?  Jesus, who knew Lazarus before He was born, nearing his grave, with his grief-stricken family and friends, was stirred in His spirit!

That speaks volumes to those of us who know that our High Priest, seated at the right hand of God the Father, takes note of our frame, remembering we are but dust, and in so doing, is moved by our suffering, our losses, our farewells to family and friends who have been claimed by the clammy claws of death.

Jesus was stirred, even to weeping (v. 35) because He had loved Lazarus and could remember the fellowship around his well spread table in the humble, hospitable home in Bethany.

He knew well the sacrifices Lazarus and Mary and Martha had made to invest in the itinerant ministry of this Prophet of Galilee.

He knew also, just at the moment of the weeping on the way to the wake, Lazarus was in the “bosom of Abraham,” safe, comfortable and free of pain, victor over the ravages of death, free from the struggles of this world, waiting the cross, crucifixion and resurrection of his Friend and Savior, Jesus, so that from Abraham’s bosom he could be led to glory as Jesus would descend to Hades (paradise) and deliver those Old Testament saints by His resurrected power to Heaven above.  Knowing the sorrow and sadness that the mourners were experiencing, and knowing and understanding what He knew and understood, Jesus groaned in His spirit, no doubt aching in His spirit because of the clouded understanding those suffering, sorrowing saints had of the hope and eternal happiness that awaited those who, like Lazarus, were believers who had bowed the knee before Jesus as Messiah.

Yes, Jesus groaned and even wept possibly for a myriad of reasons.  He knew that the death of Lazarus, as with all of humanity, was because of the sin of disobedience, the wages of which are death. (Rom.6:23) He groaned no doubt over the thought of the horrendous human toll that sin had taken from earth’s earliest ages and would continue to take until the last syllable of recorded time as we know it.  He groaned because of the innumerable families, friends and fellow human beings that had been and would be utterly devastated emotionally, spiritually and often physically by the separation death mandates and the utter feeling of despair that often accompanies it, especially to those who have not the hope of David, Paul the Apostle and all believers who have had the sting taken out of death because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, first fruits of them that sleep. (I Cor. 15:20)

Oh, how Jesus must have groaned when, thinking of the “Lazarus, Come Forth” command that He was about to utter, knowing that His dear friend, for the sake of bringing many to belief, would come from that “bosom of Abraham” to awake again to this world of cruelty, crime and unbelief.

So, as you contemplate those wonderful words ”‘He groaned in the spirit,” just pause with me today and give thanks for our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who, “being in the form of God…made Himself of no reputation…and was made in the likeness of men.” (Phil. 2;7)

Thank God the Father, through the Spirit, that we have in the heavenlies, making intercession for us, a God that can and does groan!

Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16) 

Life in a Glass House

My children experienced something I never experienced—that is, growing up in a manse:  they were part of that often wonderful, and always special and unique group of individuals known as “pks” or “mks”—preachers’ or missionaries’ kids!  Being a pastor and having a family is a two-fold privilege, but the combination of the two is not without its peculiar challenges (sometimes aptly called “burdens”) as well as special blessings (benefits).

There are certain burdens connected with being a pastor’s family that deserve special consideration.  First, there is the burden of living constantly under the scrutinizing gaze of the public’s eye.  Pastors, their wives and children are usually held by the saved and by the unsaved alike more accountable for their actions than others are.  They are, in a very real sense, public servants.  For them a good rule to live by is “others may, I cannot.”

Second, there is sometimes placed upon pastors’ children by their well-meaning parents the burden of unrealistic expectations.  Pastors who expect their sons to be preachers because they are preachers, or their daughters to be missionaries or to marry a pastor because they grew up as a pastor’s daughter, place a burden upon their children that is unfair.  Every pastor should be delighted to see his daughter or son surrender to “full-time” Christian service, but to expect that they will because you did is misguided.  As a father, I should be as excited to see my child in any other honorable vocation if he or she is yielded to the will of God.

A third burden that needs to be addressed is one of the most serious of all:  that of ministering to every other family in the church to the neglect of your own.  Pastors easily can become so busy meeting others’ needs that they forget the needs of their family; so unreservedly active in the building of their church that they neglect the more important building of their home.  Pastor, missionary, beware!  Special care must be given to your own wife and to your own children.  Make a conscious and consistent effort to spend time with your family each week. (By the way, this counsel is appropriate for any father/husband, whether a pastor or office worker or laborer in any field!)  While your children are small, spend as much time with them as you possibly can.  Play with them, read to them, tell stories to them (ask Sandra, Marti or Theo about my Sammy and Sally stories).  There will be a day when they are not any longer at home and you will be able to do other things that you had to forego in deference to meeting their needs.  Give them yourself when they need you and before it is too late.

I must mention a final “burden,” one that is perhaps the most subtle and snaring of all—that of not demanding of yourself consistency in your Christian walk before your own family at home.  Hypocrisy will ruin families of those in ministry faster than criticism, coldness or callousness in and from the local assembly.  Your children know what you preach and they also know how you live, both in public and in private.  They can see your faith as well as your flaws.  Every preacher is subject to the weakness of the flesh. Your family will know and understand that you are human.  What is imperative is that they see in you a sincere desire to do right and a sensitivity to God’s Word and God’s Spirit, evidenced by a willingness to acknowledge sin and to repent of it.

Now, may I mention some blessings that are realized by faithful pastors, missionaries and their families.  First, our family has a larger circle of friends and family than we ever would have were I not a pastor.  Missionaries, evangelists, Christian educators and other pastors are a part of the wider family that we have been given.  Because of our ministry, my wife and I have been separated of necessity by many miles from our blood relatives all of our married life.  Getting into the family car and driving over to see the grandparents or cousins on a Sunday afternoon was never a luxury we were able to enjoy when our children were still at home.  But God gave us a larger family circle and in many instances one with more closely knit ties which have bound us together with many for decades, ties that are often more enduring than bonds which unite families physically.

A second blessing inherent in the pastor’s home is its atmosphere which is saturated with Christian influences constantly.  Revival meetings, missions conferences, college ensembles, summer Bible Times (VBS), summer camps along with regular weekly church activities, provide an atmosphere that is unique to the pastor’s family.

A third and final blessing known to those in the pastorate/mission ministry is intangible but no less real.  That of which I speak is the knowledge that God has placed you and your family in a privileged place to lead by example and to encourage other families in a godly, authentic Christian walk.  That God has counted you faithful, putting you into the ministry, along with your wife and children in this particular place for such a time, is a humbling thought.  This certainly must be counted as a blessing!

By far then, the blessings of being part of a family in the pastorate far outweigh the burdens.  No vocation can be more fulfilling, though at times frustrating or, in truth, crushing.  No occupation could be more rewarding, though at times it will provide the maximum in testing.  Being aware of the burdens and possible pit falls is the first step in being armed against them.  No unit in our society receives any fiercer onslaught by Satanic forces than does the pastor’s family.  Pastors, because of the blessedness of our position in God’s economy, let us determine, aware of the possible dangers and willing to accept without complaint the burdens, to stand steadfast with our wives and with our children, and, having done all, to stand.

Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain who build it….” (Ps. 127:1)

I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way…I will walk within my house with a perfect heart.” (Ps. 101:2)

As the Hart Panteth…

If you read “You and God” regularly, you know that it is usually Tuesday and Thursday that it will show up in your inbox; but on this Father’s Day 2021 my heart is telling me to share with those who read these posts some reflections about a grandson whose absence from our family gathering today, especially as we gather around a well spread dinner table with our dearest on earth, will not go unnoticed.  His name is David.  At the age of eleven God called him to Himself, and though we will never get “past” the loss of his sweet smile and quiet presence we have learned to rejoice that he is being spared the ominously dark clouds that all of us who are still earth-bound have come to of necessity co-exist with as we await His return or our departure.

David was the shadow of his dad, Dale Nye.  He looked like him, thought like him, ate like him and as much as an eleven-year-old boy could, worked like him.  If you had seen David, you had seen Dale and pretty much vice-verse with an age adjustment. Dale builds custom homes and about the time of David’s death he was building a home for the Nye family to move into.  It was a beautiful home and David was, as much as possible, at his dad’s side helping, fetching, holding, turning and whatever instruction Dale would issue.

David liked knives and always tried to have one on his person.  That was one thing his dad forbade him to carry though, so David had to be “discreet” in how and when he brandished his hardware.  But it was generally known that he probably could come up with one if needed.  At times, Dale would be in a particular pinch discovering that any tool he could put his hands on was not one that would do the job.  David, his shadow, was in reach and on one especially exasperating situation, Dale having tried in vain every way he could try to accomplish the task, in total frustration uttered the directive loud and clear: “David, give me your knife!”  Pronto, the lad’s pocket knife came forth, job was completed and nothing was said by the dad as to where the knife came from.  Case closed!

David loved children and played with them and entertained them with his boyish antics.  He would have loved to have held and hugged the precious little sister that his mother gave birth to just weeks after David lost his battle to live longer here.  

As a youngster, David loved the Lord and had vowed to serve and please him.  Though he was quiet by nature, he was not bashful about singing songs in praise to God.  A few weeks before he was finally and fully laid to rest, he mounted a chair behind the TRBC pulpit so he could see those to whom he was singing and offered to God the vocal tribute, “As the hart panteth.”  It would be his last public way to thank God for his salvation, and it was touching and inspiring to hear his testimony in song, originally sung by another David at another time:  (Ps. 42:1) In my imagination I can picture God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit taking note of David’s singing, with his heart, that Psalm about his heart panting after God, and the Godhead, after a brief discussion, agreeing that David need pant no more, the order being issued to make preparations for David’s abundant entrance into the glorious heavenlies.

In those wrenching hours between David’s death at Riley Hospital in Indianapolis and the time that family and friends would gather in a worship service to acknowledge that our God gives and He takes away and His name is surely to be blessed, the Lord put these brief lines upon my heart and they are written in stone on David’s grave today:

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 heart,

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.”

I know that many a family circle will be broken today as loved ones, once with us laughing, living and loving are now gone and every father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, brother, sister friend will be momentarily pained in their heart as they remember lovingly the soul that once filled that empty chair.  I hope that each of you will be buoyed by the hope that David’s Dad, and Mom and family and extended circle of loved ones who know the one whose heart David panted after will have that resurrection promise tucked deeply into your heart: “Let not your heart be troubled… I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself that where I am there ye may be also.” (John 14:1,3)

As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after Thee, O God.” (Ps. 42:1)

And Ye Fathers

Another opportunity looms near this coming Lord’s Day, June 20, which has been designated “Father’s Day,” to reflect upon our fathers and find cause to thank God again for loving fathers who cherished us, taught us by example and exhortation, and disciplined us in faithfulness to God’s will, way and Word.  It was my privilege to have known and loved such a man of God who took his responsibilities as a father seriously.  A few years ago, contemplating some of the Biblical injunctions concerning fatherhood, I put on paper the following lines having meditated upon Paul’s Spirit inspired words directed to dads in Ephesians 6:4 where he begins “And, ye fathers….”  I share this with all on this Father’s Day weekend with heartfelt wishes that a memorable day will be enjoyed by all this coming Lord’s Day, Father’s Day:

           “And Ye Fathers”

	To fathers one and all
		His Word demands an ear;
	Take to yourself this child from God
		And hold him ever near.

	He is God’s gift you know,
		To teach and train each day;
	Lead him by your life and lips
		And walk with him the way.

	He has on him God’s image sure
		And Christ for him did die;
	Show him his need to trust in Christ,
		And to the cross draw nigh.

	Pray for his soul and agonize:
		Upon His mercies fall;
	Trust God to save them one by one
		As on His name they call.

	Then bring them up to love and serve
		The God who loves them each;
	With patience, skill and wisdom then
		Find time each day to teach.

	Pray over them always in love,
		 And never do despair;
	Commit each child to God above,
		Yes, trust His loving care.

	A father’s place in humble home,
		Reflects the Father’s grace;
	A privilege greater is unknown
		Than is the father’s place.

	And so “Ye Fathers,” God’s Word says,
		Take this my child for yours;
	And do not fail your holy task
		To meet on Heaven’s shores.

	To meet that child and others too
		Where parting ne’er will be;
	To sit complete at Jesus’ feet
		Through all eternity.

	With family circle there above
		Unbroken evermore;
	With children all around His Throne,
		And, safe forevermore!

And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath:  but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” (Eph. 6:4)

Brother Marvin

That was what he was known by most people in Wilkes County, NC, where he grew up and lived his 87 years. He was one of nine children and he and his brothers and sisters learned early in life the meaning of hard work and values that would stand them in good stead.  Marvin would never experience the benefits of more than an 8th grade education, but he worked hard with his hands farming, painting and making furniture so that any of his five children could receive the formal education that he was not able to receive in the post-depression era of his time.

He was drafted into the Army in World War II but, because of a heart condition discovered by a physician during his military physical, a condition that prompted the examining physician to opine that he probably would not make it back home, he did not pass the physical; so, he went to the Virginia Shipyards to paint war ships and it was there that he heard Charles E. Fuller’s Old-Fashion Gospel Hour and the renowned pastor radio preacher pleading with sailor boys to accept Jesus before they were to ship out to the battle fronts of Europe and Asia.  Many did so, and though Bro. Marvin was not going to be shipped out to the battle areas of the War, he bowed his head and heart at the preacher’s appeal and made a spot in the shipyards for an altar where he accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior. It was a decision that would change his life and the lives of countless others forever.

Though Bro. Marvin never attended Bible College or seminary, he was a man of one book, studying with diligence the Word of God, preaching wherever he could find listeners including prisons, nursing homes and on the radio with a broadcast ministry that reached the Carolinas on over five stations weekly.  And, he fed his precious flock of folk who assembled at a little white chapel in the community of Cricket in North Wilkesboro, pastoring them continuously until his health would no longer permit for fifty plus years. His reputation throughout the community of Wilkesboro was that he was a man of faith and a man of prayer, and both the Christian and non-Christian community respected him as a man of the Word and a man of his word.  Bankers sealed their dealings with him in those days with a hand-shake knowing that Brother Marvin was as good as his word.

When the day of his departure from his labors and life here neared, the day he had so longed for on which he would see face to face His Savior, his wife and the hundreds he had pointed to Christ, a man, who as a child grew up in the neighborhood where Bro. Marvin lived, came by to visit him in the healthcare center from whence he would soon take his leave of absence to meet his Savior.  The once young boy, neighbor of Bro. Marvin, now a man, shared that as a five-year old lad he would come to the woods adjacent to Bro. Marvin’s property where he would play.  On one such occasion he heard an adult voice and, carefully tiptoeing closer to where the voice was coming from, he saw a tall, lean form of a man who was kneeling down beseeching God.  It so impressed this young heart, he made it a point to come every day to hear this man of God, at a makeshift altar in the woods, crying out to God in prayer.  It was a scene he would never forget, and in his words, it was the “highlight” of his childhood days.  He would himself in time become a preacher and the early impression that Bro. Marvin made upon him never left him and so, a week before the passing of this man of God to glory, the once small child who had learned the power of prayer from a teacher that lived what he believed stopped by the nursing home to share the story with him.

In a small foot-hills town about 30 minutes from Wilkesboro, West Jefferson, when the news of Bro. Marvin’s homegoing reached the radio station in that western North Carolina community, the station’s regular programming was interrupted so that the announcement of this local legend ‘s final flight could be shared with its listeners.

Not many who are called to preach, especially in our day, will ever command that kind of respect of the population at large in which we minister.  Not many of those who are pastors will lead and feed the same congregation for 55 years.  Not many will live the consistent life that Bro. Marvin lived which elicited from people both saved and unsaved, universal respect for integrity and fidelity to one’s mission.  But he did.  And it has been my privilege since August of 1965, when at front of that white, steepled church in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountain community of North Wilkesboro, NC, where one of Bro. Marvin’s three daughters, Ellen, covenanted with me in holy matrimony, to have had the unspeakable privilege of calling this good man my father-in-law. He set the bar high!  Through no special credit to myself, I did have the opportunity of receiving a formal education.  But though I may have had more facts crammed into the cranial space between my ears, Bro. Marvin, through a daily, authentic personal walk with God had more truth crammed into what we call “the heart,” where true wisdom is stored than this preacher ever hoped to have.  On this Father’s Day week, I share this salute to my father-in-law, my mentor in faith matters, “Brother Marvin.”  May his “tribe” increase!

Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.  Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.” (I Cor. 4:1,2)

The Missionary that Almost Wasn’t

In the late 40’s, a young mother learned that she was expecting her third child, while she was desperately trying to nurture two small boys. Her second son had contracted tetanus at 18 months of age, but that diagnosis was “missed,” resulting in his condition digressing to the point that, in the hospital, he stopped breathing and was pronounced “dead.” (CPR was not part of medical practice in that era).  After six minutes without oxygen, he had spontaneously started breathing again.  The prognosis given her by the hospital staff was that her second son would now likely spend his life in a “vegetative state.”  Overwhelmed at the prospects of having another baby to feed and care for, the young mother petitioned her obstetrician for assistance in arranging an abortion for her.  The good doctor denied her request but assured her that he would provide free medical care, assistance with food and clothing and other necessities for her through this difficult time.  Six months into this third pregnancy, without forewarning, she spontaneously started hemorrhaging, and while on the OR table, during the efforts to save her life, the baby made an early entrance into the world, weighing in at one pound, fifteen ounces!  By God’s grace the little one lived (even before neonatal hospital units were in existence!) , and that miracle baby boy grew up in Flint, Michigan where, in time, he would meet and eventually marry another Flint native, Martha Cook, and Steve and Martha Anderson, in 1979 were appointed as missionaries to Togo, West Africa where they would serve three terms following an initial deputation period of about two years and a 10-month stint in Quebec, Canada, learning the French language.

The Andersons, before following their Lord’s leadership to return to the states in order to guide their three children through their later teen and early college/adulthood years, were involved in the planting of three indigenous Baptist Churches (independent) in Togo, leaving those churches with their own Togolese pastors when they returned back to the states.  

When Steve and Martha arrived in Togo in 1982 their children, Rebecca, Sarah and Ben were 8, 6 and 4 years of age.  When they answered God’s directive to return to the states in 1991, Steve would in time be called as the Music and Discipleship pastor of their sending church, Faith Baptist Church in Davison, Michigan.  Both he and Martha would also teach in the Christian Day School of Faith Baptist Church.

It was in 1997 that the Andersons joined the missions family of Baptist World Mission (Decatur, AL, Dr. Bud Steadman, Executive Director) as Furlough Replacement Church Planters.  Steve is now also BWM’s Field Administrator for the African continent, and European and Middle East countries.  As Field Administrator, Steve, with his helpmeet, Martha, gives loving and wise counsel, watch care and encouragement to 25 missionary couples and one single lady.  This ministry also provides for the sending churches and supporting churches of these missionaries an avenue of accountability, protecting both the churches and the missionaries.  The Andersons have demonstrated an unwavering love for and interest in the lives and ministries of each of these 51 missionaries.  Then, as Furlough Replacement Church Planters Steve and Martha have been used by the Lord for twenty-one furlough coverages in Quebec (3x), Ontario (2x), Uruguay, Scotland, British Colombia, New Zealand (5x), Italy, South Korea, South Africa (4x) and Kenya (2x). Steve is also a registered nurse by training and assisted in medical missions when in Togo and also serves now with Baptist World Mission as its Medical Officer.

This writer has known and has served with the Andersons for almost 25 years since their joining the ministry of Baptist World Mission.  First hand, I have witnessed their charity, wisdom, patience, kindness and Christ likeness that is both authentic and infectious.  They exude the Joy of the Lord and have, without doubt, been adopted by not a few missionaries as “role models.”

Martha accepted the Lord as her personal Savior with her mother at her bedside at the age of five.  Steve, as a nine-year-old boy, convicted of his sin, responded to an invitation in a Wednesday night service, putting his faith and trust in Jesus Christ as Savior.

So, that blessed mother, weighed down with the cares of life–and the prospect of her second son being severely handicapped, was tempted to abort a third baby when she learned of his presence in her womb. She had, of course, no idea at that time of all the care that her second son might entail (events over which she would have little or no control), but she now was expecting yet another baby. And, this third baby boy started out life by coming way “too soon,” weighing barely enough to register on the scales. But that baby boy would live…and live to be a man… and a man of God, an ambassador of the gospel of Jesus Christ to many nations, a husband of now almost 50 years and a father of three and grandfather of five, and brother of a once dimly diagnosed baby who at best was thought to be destined to live in a vegetative state if he survived but who retired eventually after 35 years in the postal service, all to the praise of His glory!  Who knew?  Who could have known?  Only our great God!  What God hath wrought!  One life.  One missionary couple.  One missionary that almost wasn’t!

Only fear the LORD, and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider how great things He hath  done for you.” (I Sam. 12:24–Steve and Martha’s life verse)

(The Andersons have made their home in Huntsville, Alabama, since 2006, and attend Calvary Baptist Church in Huntsville which is their home church)

Abandoned Baby

Recently, I read a story about a person who found a baby in an open field, a newly born infant, abandoned and helpless, still covered with birth-blood, unwashed and unclothed.

This kind person stopped, took up the baby, washed it and clothed and cared for it, and over the course of years nourished, fed and reared it with lovingkindness.

Then, a most unusual thing happened.  The once helpless, abandoned baby grew up to be a beautiful woman, and the man who had brought it from the field to flourishing took her to be his very own wife.  He lavished upon her love and tender affection so that she lacked nothing.

Yet an even more unusual twist of events occurred.  The young wife, lifted up with pride because of her beauty, became unfaithful to her husband, committed adultery with not one but many lovers and finally became nothing more than a tramp.  She was not the typical harlot though.  Instead of hiring her body out to men, she hired men to commit adultery with her!

Deeper depths of sin have women rarely fallen to than this wretched woman did!  What was the outcome of it all?  Well, the woman finally became so miserable that her illicit lovers despised her.  In her outcast state, rejected by her former companions in sin, she went back to her husband.   Her lover, remembering the covenant that he had entered into with his sin-wrecked wife, received her back with compassion and care that was beyond what naturally could have ever been hoped for. What was in many respects a tragic story turned out to have an impossibly predictable end!

Have you heard the story before? If you have read Ezekiel 16 you have.  It’s a parable told by God about His dealings with the nation of Israel.  In many ways, it has striking applications to us who are called the Bride of Christ, members of His body, the Church.

In the Ezekiel account of Israel’s apostacy, we read of her genealogy in verse 3.  Her (Israel’s) birth in the land of Canaan, to an Amorite and Hittite, non-Semitic pagans.  Then in the following verses the account of her discovery as an abandoned infant is related:  she was found unwashed, uncovered, helpless and hopeless.  Taken up by a loving benefactor, she was cleansed, covered, and cared for and nourished and in time betrothed as a beautiful, washed (v.9) clothed (10) and adorned (11-14) bride.  Then, Ezekiel’s parable relates how that in pride the once abandoned baby betrayed the One with whom she had covenanted in marriage and she became an adulteress.  The cause, course, consequence and character (fornication) of her betrayal are all enumerated in verses 15-30.  Then, in a picture that defies words, her brokenness is portrayed as a harlot scorned by her former lovers. (vss. 35-52) Her sins had finally come down upon her head.  In this pathetic state, she, once beautiful, cherished but now broken and despised, brought low by pride and its attendant sins, returns to her longsuffering benefactor who remembers the covenant between them (v. 61) and receives her back and reinstates her to a privileged status.  What grace!  What mercy!  What love!

That is the parable of the Abandoned Baby and the interpretation of it; now some obvious applications for us in this church-age.  We, the Church, have been “espoused to one Husband.” (Christ, 2 Cor. 11:2) God found us when we were without strength, without hope.  We were still in the mess of our natural birth—unclean and covered with sins and transgressions.  The Devil was our father and we were children of darkness and could not boast about our genealogy.

But God’s grace found us!  He washed us in His own blood. He made us clean, white as snow; He clothed us in a garment of white linen, a robe of His righteousness.  He put a ring upon our finger, the shoes of the gospel upon our feet and we took on His likeness and beauty!

But, in pride, we began to leave our first love.  More and more the friendship of the world allured us.  We began to love the world and, before long, we began to commit adultery with the world…not with one friend, but with many:  our lovers were pleasure, leisure, entertainment, sports, sex, gambling and many others.  James says that we, friends of the world, become adulterers and adulteresses. (James 4:4)  Instead of our lovers hiring us, we began to hire them, paying a dear price for the sin which we enjoy.  After our companions in sin have used us and abused us, we are despised by them.

Going to the very bottom, we remembered that there was one person who really did love us!  We turned back to Him, and He was there to receive us with outstretched arms!  “Behold I stand at the door and knock:  if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him and sup with him and he with me.” (Rev. 3:20)  

Where are you on this line of love today?  Have you been born again?  Are you betrothed to Christ?  Have you or are you betraying His love?  Isn’t it time to remember Him and, yes, even in your state of brokenness, return to your Benefactor?  There is mercy in His loving embrace.  There is grace that is measureless!  Flee to Him in repentance today if you are “out there” abandoned, broken.

That He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” (Eph. 5:27)

From Ellen’s Corner

Yesterday was my wife’s birthday and though I will not broadcast the number of birthdays she has celebrated; I will share this key clue:  in August of this year, we will have been married fifty-six years!  She was a young bride.  I think I have written in an earlier post about the value to a pastor’s ministry the support of his God-given helpmeet is.  It is inestimable.  It is incalculable.  Without a loyal, spiritual, empathetic, committed wife, a pastor is doomed to defeat.  I thank God that though Ellen enrolled in the school of business with no intent to marry a “preacher-boy,” God brought our paths to cross early in my junior year when she was a freshman, and having eaten in the Dixon-McKenzie dinning common three meals a day for three weeks at Table T-1, where Ellen was also assigned for that period, I was smitten and though no other young lady had interested me up to that time at BJU or elsewhere, I fell head over heels for Ellen and now, a lifetime later, I can simply thank God for His grace and His sovereign purposes in directing the paths of those who “lean not” to their own understanding.  I was not smart enough to choose Ellen, but God with His unseen hand directed both of us to that first meeting and I give him unmitigated praise and daily heartfelt thanks.

For twenty or so of the forty years we labored in God’s vineyard at Thompson Road Baptist Church in Indianapolis, we published a monthly “TRBC Times,” and in each issue I wrote a Pastor’s Pen article and Ellen shared a “From Ellen’s Corner” piece. Since I am speaking of her on her birthday celebration of 2021, I am going to share with you one of her articles written twenty years ago entitled, “A Friend Loveth at all Times.” (Proverbs 17:17):

I’m not sure how they came into our life or when the relationship began, but for as long as I can remember, the Lowe family has been friends of my family.  They often dropped by as relatives did, on a hot summer evening (in North Wilkesboro, NC) just to sit on the front porch and visit.  They were members of my dad’s church, so they were my Sunday School teachers and mentors.  On many Sunday afternoons, they would invite me over for dinner and a drive in the country.  They encouraged me when I went to college and were proud that I married a preacher. In the intervening years, when my parents had no children around, they and their daughter looked in on my parents.  They planned celebrations for their birthdays and Christmas.  They brought in meals when my mom was sick, and almost every week since my mother passed away, they have brought my dad a good meal.  

My life has been so much richer because of the Lowes and also because of some wonderful people He brought into my life since we’ve been in the ministry.  Here at TRBC, many ladies have been dear friends. Three ladies who were especially kind to me, however, have passed away this year. I miss them sorely.  Mrs. Davee, Mrs. Tyra and Effie Scott (at age 102) were ladies who encouraged me when I was a young pastor’s wife and always treated me as if I were a special person.  No matter when I visited, they acted as if it were a privilege to have me in their home.

As I remember my old friends and thank the Lord for the new ones, I think of a poem entitled “New and Old Friends:”

“Make new friends, but keep the old; those are silver, these are gold.

            New-made friendships, like new wine, age will mellow and refine.

Friendships that have stood the test—time and change—are surely best;

Brow may wrinkle, hair grow gray; friendship never knows decay.

            For ‘mid old friends, tried and true, once more we our youth renew.

But old friends, alas! may die; new friends must their place supply.

            Cherish friendship in your breast—new is good, but old is best;

Make new friends, but keep the old; those are silver, these are gold.”

A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly:  and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” (Provs. 18:24)