#held

Maybe the Merriam-Webster folk will get ahold of this post and help me to ease into the vernacular of our day the concept of “held.”  Much like, within the last few years, the word woke has been eased into the slang vernacular of this 21st century.  A cursory study of the origin and meaning of woke, according to Merriam-Webster’s “Words We’re Watching,” reveals that woke originated from some vernacular of a dialect called African American Vernacular English (AAVE), as in “we need to stay angry, stay woke,” or “alert to injustice in society, especially racial injustice or racism.”  It is a word that has become entwined with the Black Lives Matter movement and calls its followers to be woke.

So, what does woke have to do with held?  Well, we who are committed to Biblical principles, to life styles ordered by our faith in Christ and obedience to His Word, would do well to have #held as our call to action.  We need to hold fast to the things which have been committed to us.

  • Paul exhorts young Timothy to “hold fast the form of sound doctrine which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Tim. 1:13)
  • We are all urged to “hold the traditions which (ye) have been taught, whether by word or by our epistle.” (2Thess. 2:15)  Traditions have been badly bashed in our world today.  Cancel culture is turning upside down good traditions—truth-based traditions—and uprooting them like the statues of historical men, movements and moments that have recklessly been toppled by mobs some of which knew nothing of the history they were sitting in judgment of, monuments to historical milestones that have shaped our lives and our nation’s history.  Not all traditions are bad.  To recite the pledge of allegiance, stand for the national anthem, put a hand over one’s heart when the flag is raised—none of these are bad traditions and most all of them have a biblical basis.
  • In Hebrews 3:6 believers are “holding fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope (we have) to the end.”
  • And, in Hebrews 4:14:  “Let us hold fast our profession,” and the same exhortation is repeated in Hebrews 10:23.
  • Jesus, writing to the church in Thyatira in the first century, exhorts “But that which ye have, hold fast till I come,” (Rev. 2:15) and to the Philadelphian church He says, “Behold, I come quickly; hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.” (Rev. 3:11)

Now, to be sure, Paul instructs the Thessalonian church to “prove all things, hold fast that which is good.” (I Thess. 5:21)  It is not a bad exercise to examine our traditions and discard traditions that are unbiblical, hurtful or outdated.  When I was a child, I remember that it was a commonly practiced tradition for women to wear a hat to church on Sunday.  Not anymore.  It might have been a good thing to do at one time, but eventually it ceased being a commonly practiced tradition amongst church going women on Sundays, and I dare say, not many people miss it.

Sometimes culture dictates traditions.  When I visited Russia (the former Soviet Union) in 1989, I was instructed not to cross legs when sitting in a chair. Also, someone told me that I should stop whistling when walking down the street as it might be perceived as calling up demons.  I did not understand those traditions but was surely happy to respect them.  There was one tradition I had no little difficulty with though. I soon learned by observation that at the close of a church service men were wont to kiss other men, not cheek to cheek, but on the lips. I had to whisper some quick and, on the spot, heartfelt prayers for grace to cope with that tradition!

But I want to be a believer who will be known and remembered as one who #held!  Held to the truths of God’s Word, held to the founding principles of our nation:  liberty and justice for all and “one nation under God.”  Held to the belief “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with the certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” held to the conviction that the United States is a government of the people, by the people and for the people; held to the truth that there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the Man, Christ Jesus, (I Tim. 2:5), and that He, the God-man, is the Way, the Truth and the Life and that all men are condemned and estranged from God by sin and are by nature sinners; but that though the wages of sin is death, God commended His love toward us in that while we were sinners, Christ died for us; and held to the belief that “being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” (Romans 5:1) and held that as He promised, Jesus is coming back first for the Church (Rapture) and 2nd, with the Church (Revelation) and after a 7-year world-wide tribulation that will have unprecedented devastation, Jesus will establish His literal Kingdom with its capitol in Jerusalem and for 1000 years will reign “where e’er the sun doth its successive journeys run,” and held that there is a place where the redeemed of all ages will be with God and His Son, Jesus, for all eternity (Heaven), and held that there is a place where unrepentant and unbelieving Christ rejectors will be separated from God and from His Son, Jesus Christ, forever (Hell).

So #held.  That’s Me.  It should become a movement.  And should anyone wonder what would be a fitting epitaph when I have laid down my time worn tools and have preached my last sermon and have breathed my last breath, how about just #held?  Nothing would be more coveted to this wayfaring pilgrim having journeyed with Jesus here below than #held.

God help us all to hold!

Behold I come quickly:  hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.” (Rev. 3:11)

Knowing and Doing the Will of God, Part 2

It’s a question that has stymied many believers who, having trusted Christ for salvation, obeyed Him in Baptism and surrendered to Him for service, have wondered how they can know for certain what God’s perfect will for their life is in their daily walk and work for their Lord and Savior.  They have a heart that is obedient, a will that is surrendered and a mind that is spiritual, yet the nagging question remains, “Can I know for sure that I am right now in the center of God’s perfect will for my life?”  In our previous installment of “You and God” (3/11/21) I suggested that knowing the will of God is not the issue so much as doing the will of God is.  The Psalmist cried, “Teach me to do thy will, O God,” (Ps. 143:10) and affirmed “I delight to do Thy will, O my God.” (Ps. 40:8)  In each case it was the doing, not the knowing, of God’s will that was on the Psalmist’s mind as he wrote his inspired pleas and praises.  I want to tell you what God says about doing His will, the prerequisite of which is to know His will.  First, though, let me enumerate several ways which will guarantee that you will neither know nor do His blessed will:

  1.  You will not know God’s will if you are doing something contrary to His Word.
  2. You will not know God’s will if you plan to do something and then set out to ask God to bless your plan after you have already set in motion your devices.
  3. You cannot find God’s will by asking counsel from people who either do not know God or who are not living obedient, godly lives.
  4. You cannot discern God’s will by merely evaluating the circumstances and then proceeding on your way on the basis of what you see or feel.
  5. You will not find God’s will by testing the majority opinion.
  6. You cannot find God’s will if you are living in sin.
  7. You will not know and do God’s will if you are trusting anything or anyone other than God to lead you.

(I will be glad to offer verses and further scriptural insights on any of the above mentioned “cannots” to anyone who wishes more information; just reply with your questions and I will do my best to respond)

So, that being said, what is the positive side of the coin?  The key is found in Romans 12:1,2:“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is the will of God (which is) that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Note I have changed the word order of the last clause following “that ye may prove what is the will of God…”  This change of word order does no injustice to the original text and does, in fact, more accurately reflect the New Testament Greek text.  This change suggests that Paul was not describing God’s will as good and acceptable and perfect but that he was defining God’s will as being whatever was good and acceptable and perfect).

Paul states here that there are two qualifiers for knowing the will of God:  (1)  a body that is surrendered:  the method of surrender being that of yielding your members as instruments of righteousness (Rom.6:13), a daily moment by moment surrender; the manner of which is sanctification (holy/separated) and the motive of which is that it is our reasonable service to God. (2) A mind that is being renewed (v2), not conformed or poured into the mold of this world but rather one that is being transformed by daily renewal (2 Cor.3:18) which happens because of a supernatural power (God’s Word, a mirror) through a spiritual process (from glory to glory) resulting in a superseding purpose:  A changed life.

Having put one’s self into the place of meeting these qualifications, a yielded body and a renewed mind (note:  you do not have to attend a seminar or receive a diploma to get to that place:  it can happen at any time through an act of your will as you surrender) then you are ready to realize what it is to be in the perfect will of God.  Verse two says that at that point you will by every word and every deed be proving (demonstrating) what is the will of God, and the will of God will be whatever is good and whatever is acceptable and whatever is perfect.  God is not going to speak to you audibly, nor will He leave a note under your pillow spelling out your every move for the day, but as you walk and work through every moment of every day, surrendered in body and being renewed in mind through His Word, whatever you do will be a living demonstration of God’s will for you:  “He will direct your paths.” (Provs. 3:5,6).  And you will be doing whatever is good, i.e. whatever God puts His approval on as revealed in His Word; and whatever is acceptable, acceptable to God, i.e. whatever is kind, loving, merciful, just, etc., and you will be doing whatever is perfect, i.e. whatever lends itself to your spiritual maturity (that is what the word “perfect” in the New Testament connotes):  mature, complete; and the person in God’s will does whatever is characteristic of maturity as a believer who is growing in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Now, put the simple, yet profound, Biblical formula to practice in your life.  Instead of wrestling with the question “How can I know God’s will?” or “Am I doing God’s will?” just set out each day by surrendering your body a living sacrifice, emptied of self and filled with God’s Spirit and be being renewed in your mind by spending time in God’s Word so that you will be transformed from glory to glory (more like Christ with each passing day and more conformed to His image) and then living, doing whatever is good (by the standard of His Word) and whatever is acceptable (to God) and whatever is perfect (enabling you to mature as a believer) and everything you do that day will be without question God’s perfect will for you.

And, my friend, my prayer and heart’s desire for you is that the “God of peace that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,” will

Make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever.  Amen.” (Hebs.13:21)

Knowing and Doing the Will of God, Part 1

Ever wrestled with the question, “What does God want me to do in this situation?”  Maybe you are contemplating a career change or a move to another city or a decision about where to attend school and what course of studies to pursue.  Maybe it’s a friendship that is trending toward a relationship and you seriously would like to know God’s will in this matter because it is your desire to be in the center of His will, His perfect will not merely His permissive will; yet the issues can sometimes become complex and confusing, and the answers are not seemingly that easy in coming.

At the outset let me encourage you that every consecrated Christian should never have trouble knowing God’s will, but we may sometimes find it challenging to do God’s will.  That’s why the Psalmist pleaded “Teach me to do Thy will; for Thou art my God….” (Ps. 143:10)  I will give you in part 2 of this discussion a definite, Biblical formula for knowing that at any moment you are in God’s will, assuring, therefore, that you are doing God’s will.  When one is in the center of His will it is like being in the eye of a storm where, though surrounded on the outer edges by clouds, chaos and often confusion, there is a peace and calm. My friend, Ron White, said in one of his messages, “You don’t have to know God’s will for tomorrow, you just have to do God’s will today.”

But often the question is raised, “How do I know that I am doing God’s will today?”  A middle-aged farmer who had desired for some time to be an evangelist was busy working in his field one day when he decided to rest under a tree.  As he looked up into the sky, he was sure he saw in a cloud formation the letters P.C.  He was convinced it was a message from God telling him to Preach Christ, so he sold his farm believing without a doubt it was God’s leading. Because our farmer friend had his heart so set on preaching that he wanted a certain answer from God, he had failed to consider that the P.C. might have meant Plow Corn!  We sometimes mistakenly superimpose our will over what is God’s will.

Famed Bible teacher, pastor and author, Donald Barnhouse, was quoted as saying, “I can say from experience that 95% of knowing the will of God consists in being prepared to do it before you know what it is.”  When we are fully committed to doing the will of God, a confidence will be ours that characterized the extraordinary missionary man of God, David Livingstone, who said, “I am immortal until the will of God for me has been accomplished.”  Therefore, knowing, doing and being in the will of God is of crucial importance in living the Christian life.  Martin Luther:   “If it were in the will of God, I’d plant an oak tree today even if Christ were coming tomorrow.”

God often speaks in the “still small voice.”  In some of life’s settings the background noise is so distracting that we cannot discern that still, small voice.  We need, then, to get alone with God with the clamor of the crowds quieted so that we can hear His Word and learn His will.  “Be still and know that I am God.” (Ps. 46:10)  But yet, the question still may be nagging at one’s heart:  “How can I be sure that it was His voice and how can I be certain, 100% certain, that what I am doing is God’s perfect, not just permissive, will of God for me at this particular time in my life?

Miriam Booth, granddaughter of the founder of the Salvation Army, began her Christian walk and work with the promise of great success, but was in time sidelined by a life-threatening disease.  A well-meaning friend lamented for Miriam that someone with her gifts would be disabled in her service for the Lord.  Wisely Miriam replied, “It’s wonderful to do the work of God, but it is greater still to do the will of God.”

A theological (tongue-in-cheek) maxim:  “If it’s Monday and you want to know God’s will for Tuesday, just wait until Wednesday.”  And another pastor, now in glory: “You’ll never be able to discern the will of God until you lose your own will.”

So, I have opened up our discussion on how to know and do the will of God, with a promise to give you a Biblical formula for knowing what God’s perfect will for you is at any given juncture in your journey through life.  We have plucked some of the nectar of the sages of the ages wisdom, now let us hear from the mouth of God Himself, as revealed and recorded in His Word.  Join me, Lord willing, this coming Tuesday, for Part 2.

“For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication.” (I Thess. 4:3)

The Monk

To those of you who knew and loved Evangelist, Educator and Missions statesman, Dr. Monroe Parker, it will surprise you that the Thomasville, AL native has been with his Lord for 25 years now.  He impacted so many of our lives, directly or indirectly, through his teaching, preaching and mentoring, that his memory is lodged in our minds permanently.  When he was called to what we believe to be his “abundant entrance” into heaven on July 17, 1994, having served faithfully as General Director of Baptist World Mission, I was motivated to write the following tribute to my dear friend, and would like to share it with you in hopes of keeping our memories of “Monk,” (his nickname) alive.  His autobiography is entitled “Through Sunshine and Shadows-My First 77 Years,” and my tribute is entitled “The Shadow Lingers:”

The shadow of his life was long, He stood for what was right, not wrong.
	God’s grace was what he always preached, and many were the souls he reached.

In Alabama grew the boy, He brought to humble parents joy.
	And when the Monk became a man, A life of serving he began.

He was a mentor to the youth, who sought to know and love God’s truth.
	He was a leader of God’s men, to each his spirit was akin.

With humor he could bring a smile and ease our burdens for a while.
	To every child he was a friend, and on him countless did depend.

A man of missions he was known, he loved God’s servants as his own.
	He daily for their work did pray and loved them to his dying day.

God’s local church was in his heart; it was his pillar from the start.
	Its every work to him was dear, and on its truths his mind was clear.

For faith delivered he stood strong and fought the battles hard and long,
	To friend as well to foe was kind, with Christian grace he spoke his mind.

He loved his family as his life and in his youth had lovely wife.
	God took her and another gave, then took and gave one to the grave.

Ruby traveled by his side, was there when Dr. Parker died.
	With him she oft did sing and pray and journeyed with him night and day.

For their Lord their lives they gave, nothing for themselves did save.
	To the end they labored long, never ever lost their song.

All will miss this preacher’s friend!  With his passing came the end
	Of an era, that’s been known, by the guidance he has shown.

We will miss him ‘til we meet at our blessed Savior’s feet!
	There forever bliss we’ll share in that City over there.

In that City up above where we’ll bask in Jesus’ love.
	Where no shadows e’er shall be with the saints eternally.

“...the righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance.” (Psalm 112:6)

		Tribute to Dr. Monroe Parker
		              July 1994
		          Anthony Slutz

Two Gather

I’ve been thinking about the very biblical concept of “together.”  That word first occurs in the first chapter of the Bible, verse nine, when we are told that the waters under the heaven were gathered together.  It was in the order of creation, that some things be gathered together and were not made to exist alone.  Man, in fact, is that way.  The Bible says that God saw that it was not good for man to dwell alone, thus, He made him a helpmeet, Eve.  “Together” is a principle established from the dawn of civilization as ordered and ordained of God. “Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their labor.” (Eccl. 4:9)

That’s true in the home, society’s most basic unit.  We may not survive at all if we try to go it alone.  For sure, we will benefit from a “togetherness” as a family unity.  “For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow; but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.” (Eccl. 4:10)

It’s surely true in the church.  The church began as a  group of believers assembled together (Acts 1:4).  The last thing the Church will do will be when we are “caught up together with them (the dead in Christ who shall rise first) in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air….” (I Thess. 4:17)

And, in the meantime, we do everything we do as a church together!  Paul says we are perfectly joined together (I Cor. 1:10); and in Romans 1:2 he says we are comforted together.  We are “striving together for the faith of the gospel.” (Phi. 1:27)  We have been “knit together in love,” (Col. 2:2) and we have been “fitly joined together,” (Eph. 4:16) as a “building fitly framed together.” (Eph. 2:21)  Thus, we are helpers “together by prayer” (2 Cor. 1:11) and “workers together with Him.” (2 Cor.6:1)  Of course, we must remember to not “forsake the assembling of ourselves together.” (Hebs. 10:25)

Together is an idea you cannot escape.  When Jesus commissioned seventy disciples to go spread the Word of the Kingdom, He sent them out together, two by two.  He always ministered with a group of followers around Him.  He seldom did anything (except prayer) alone; it was always “together” with someone or with many others.

Can we learn a lesson from this?  You will not be as effective in serving Christ alone as you will with someone else.  Soul-winning is a “together” ministry, as is any other kind of visitation.  What would the choir be without folk who believe in practicing together?  What about any of our worship services?  The shutdown necessitated by Covid-19 has made it unquestionably apparent that even with advanced technology that enables us to work at home and to some degree worship at home, there is no substitute for in person interchanges believer to believer in corporate worship.  God ordained it that way, therefore, we should covet a harmonious, sweet, holy togetherness.  If we must live and work with others, it should be a priority that we learn how to live and work and worship with others in peace.  That goes for home life, school life, work life and church life.  Together can be and is, good!

An illustration from nature is appropriate here:  In east Africa’s grasslands the rhinoceros is feared for its speed, size and agility in the wilds so much so that few animals challenge its strength and superiority.  There is one little creature though, a bird, that is known to perch on the backs of these beasts pecking away with their beaks on the rhino’s back much like a woodpecker does on a tree.  Other buffalo birds fly about the horned behemoth of a beast while some light upon its huge ears pecking away.  The rhino has poor eyesight as well as a body covered with parasites which the birds feast upon.  And, if another danger appears in the area, the birds let out with a shrill sound, warning the large mammal.  So, it’s a “together” existence, the beast and the birds, all for the sake of survival.  They complement each other, serve and protect each other and are able to survive and prosper.  God ordained it so.  We ought to learn from the animal kingdom and prosper, too, as we live together.

Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet…and when they were come in, they went up into an upper room where abode Peter, and James, and John…These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus and with His brethren.” (Acts 1:12-14)

Pure Religion

True or False:  “What the world needs today is more religion.”  I suppose that most readers of “You and God” would answer that question with an unequivocal “False!”  But wait a minute, please.  James, in his New Testament epistle, says that there is a religion that is pure and undefiled.  (James 1:27)  He contrasts it with a religion that is self-deceived and defiled.  So, it depends on what kind of religion one is speaking of when you contemplate whether the world needs more religion.

Actually, there has never been a dearth of the deceived and defiled religion.  It reared its ugly head in Genesis 4 when Cain brought to God in an act of what he considered to be worship the fruit of his own labors and found that nothing he could do, in his own strength and in contradiction to God’s revealed Word, would please God.  It was false worship on the part of Cain, and as such sin; and sin, when it is finished brings forth death; and in this case it eventuated in Cain’s spiritual death and ultimately his physical death.   Religion that is deceiving and defiling leaves a path of ruined and wasted lives along life’s way. “…the end thereof are the ways of death.” (Proverbs 16:25)

“Depart from me, ye workers of iniquity, I never knew you,” Jesus said to the miracle working false prophets who He said would stand before Him in the day of judgment. Their false religion  though no doubt involving good works (“…and in thy name done many wonderful works” Matt. 7:22) will only merit at the great White Throne judgment God’s sentence of death. (Rev. 20:11-15)  To be self-deceived is to be self-destroyed when it comes to religion that is defiled.

Consider the men on Mars Hill in Athens, Greece, with whom Paul dialogued as recorded in Acts 17.  They were religious to the max, building altars to every conceivable god, even one to the “unknown God” in case they forgot one, yet Paul said, “Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, Him declare I unto you,” (Acts 17:23) and then Paul proceeded to preach to those ancient philosophers the resurrection of Jesus Christ, resulting in the salvation of some of them, including “Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman name Damaris and others with them.” (Acts 17:34) Athens was a mega center of false religion in the first century.

There are other Biblical citations of religion that defiles, one of the most graphic being the religionists of whom Jude, half-brother of Jesus, writes in his brief epistle.  Speaking of those who had gone the way of Cain and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, Jude says, “These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds, trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead,  plucked up by the roots, raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.” (Jude 12,13)

James does say that “pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this:  to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:27)

How striking!  What a contrast to those Pharisees of Jesus’ day who wore long robes and prayed even longer prayers in the most conspicuous places in town so they could be seen by men and considered to be religious!  Jesus described them and their religiosity in the most scathing of rebukes as recorded in Matthew 23 where He called them hypocrites, likened them to whited sepulchers which indeed appear beautiful out ward but are within full of dead men’s bones and of all uncleanness. (Matt. 23:27)

He said that these deceived religionists devoured widows houses! (Matt. 23:14)  They were indeed “blind guides,” “fools and blind,” and Jesus posed what must have been the most discomforting dilemma to them ever when He said, “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can you escape the damnation of hell?” (Matt. 23:33)

This world does not need any more of that kind of religion, but the hope that it will eventually die of inertia is a baseless hope.  It has been in this world since the first family sinned, and it will be with the world through the millennium as evidenced in Satan, the master deceiver leading a final post-millennial assault on Christ’s kingdom, having deceived peoples living in nations at that time “on the four quarters of the earth.” (Rev. 20:8,9)

But there is the pure religion and undefiled of which James, also half-brother of Jesus, spoke.  It is characterized by two key components:  (1)  Demonstration of one’s love for Christ and His Church by visiting the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and (2)  Keeping oneself  unspotted from the world. (James 1:27)

God has always shown special care and consideration for those who are the fatherless.  He is called “the helper of the fatherless” (Ps. 10:14; 68:5) and the Psalmist says, “the Lord relieveth the fatherless.” (Ps. 146:9).  He moved Paul to write to his protégé, Timothy, that the church should be careful to “honor them that are widows indeed,” (I Tim. 5:3) and then proceeds to give a specific definition of who would qualify as a “widow indeed.”

Finally, Paul says that one who embraces pure religion and undefiled is one who keeps himself “unspotted from the world.”  That is a full-time job and a life-long task!  John says that we must not “love the world, neither the things that are in the world.” (I John 2:15)  We are called to live a separated life.  The “world” does not refer to anything geographical but rather to all things wrapped up in what we know as the world system which opposes God’s will and Word, embryonically portrayed in the Tower of Babel experience (Genesis 11) and graphically epitomized in the great whore sitting upon many waters (Rev. 17:1).  To keep oneself unspotted from the anti-God, antichrist, anti-Bible world can only be achieved by His Grace, through His Spirit and in His Word.  God help the Church today, your church, my church to live and love “pure religion and undefiled.”

Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, Execute true judgment, and shew mercy and compassions every man to his brother:  and oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart.” (Zech.7:9,10)

An Incredible Missions Story

The story begins in the early 1960’s when Pete Weiss, a successful businessman in the Chicago area, trusted Christ as Savior at the age of 52, thus becoming instantaneously a “completed Jew,’ i.e., a Jew by birth and a Jewish convert to Christianity by the new birth through the Spirit.  Pete and his wife began nurturing a burden to honor God by serving missionaries who were traveling on either deputation to raise funds to go to their respective mission fields, or to report in to supporting churches when they returned to the states on furlough.

While they were praying about where, when and how their burden to assist God’s servants could be fulfilled, God led Pete and Marge to a woman in southern Indiana near West Baden Springs who had been wanting to sell 66 acres in this beautiful Orange County country as an investment.  When the Weiss’s told the woman that God had laid upon their hearts a desire to provide a haven for missionaries as a place to stay between meetings, the woman said she would sell the 66 acres to them for what she had paid for it 20 years earlier:  $4,000!  Pete and Marge, both in their early 60’s by then, sold their business and 10 room ranch home that sat on three suburban Chicago acres and moved into a trailer on what would become known as The Shepherd’s Bethel.  The woman who sold them the property, pleased that it would be used for the Lord’s work, also donated the first three trailers and paid to have them moved and situated at Shepherd’s Bethel.  In the next 10 years those first three trailers would be the beginning of what would become 10 trailers that were made available to missionaries free of charge, along with laundry facilities, a fashion store where they could get at no cost clothing, a playground for their children, storage buildings, a recreation room with ping pong tables and a pool table and a library which would eventually contain 3,000 of the finest of Christian books for study and reading enjoyment.  In 1980, Pete, mowing the campus grass, suffered a massive heart attack and, the tractor hitting a guywire, overturned upon him resulting in his death.  Marge continued on with the help of staff and volunteers operating the haven for the next 10 years while her Lord was at work, through His Spirit, on their adult alcoholic, drug-addicted son, Mike, who was when sober, holding down a good salaried job as associate food service director at Northwestern Memorial Hospital on Lake Shore Drive in downtown Chicago.  Mike did come to Christ and was delivered from drug addiction and set on his way to becoming addicted to the ministry, God speaking to his heart while attending Marquette Manor Baptist Church and a Sunday School revival meeting led by Leon Kilbreath.  Mike surrendered to God’s call and leading and was joined in that decision some days later by his wife Susan.  Mike and Susan began to soak up Bible teaching and it was not long after that God directed them to join Mrs. Marge Weiss at the Shepherd’s Bethel as Mike would become the operational manager of the mission, relieving his dear mother of the pursuit she had been engaged in as she tried to find a Christian group to give the mission to.

What God had done to that point was phenomenal and could only be to the praise of His glory.  What he has done in the past 30 years under the servant leadership of Mike and Susan would have to include the word miraculous somewhere in the saga!  Beginning in1997 a 100’ by 40’ metal framed fellowship hall was built which houses the library, exercise weight room, kitchen, storage and office area. Walk in freezers store ample deer meat and beef which the missionaries are the primary beneficiaries of.  Next the existing mobile homes, by then manifesting obvious deterioration due to age and use, were replaced with wood frame, two and three-bedroom homes, a project beginning in 1999.  The beautifully built and tastefully furnished duplexes were completed in 2014 with the completion of “Enoch’s Abode,” a two-bedroom duplex with a basement unfinished for use as a furniture storage room.  All of the furnishings for these modern duplex dwellings have been donated by individuals or churches and they are not only excellent in their attractiveness but durable, practical and beautiful.

In 2020 God supplied in a totally unexpected way money to construct a new shop and fashion center with an 80 X 40-foot building containing 12-foot garage doors allowing for a vehicle lift that enables maintenance of ministry trucks and missionary vehicles (oil changes and tire repair/replacement).  This year, 2021, a new “state of the art” playground will be constructed that will service the missionary children, centrally located for ease of adult supervision.  Long range vision includes a three-acre lake on the 30-acre bottom land owned by the Shepherd’s Bethel.

What is the greatest story about all of God’s miraculous work through Pete and Marge Weiss, whose philosophy of serving was “be willing to give to God something that costs you,” is the thousands of missionary servants who have been blessed, physically and spiritually, by being able to resort to this southern Indiana oasis dedicated to God’s active missionary work force—all free of charge for one, two or three years as needed!  That part of the story will have to remain untold until we get to heaven and hear missionary after missionary rehearse how God used the fruit of the total surrender of a “completed” Jew, his wife and their son and daughter-in-law to work out their own salvation.  Mike and Susan would be the first to quickly and emphatically say that but by the grace of God and without the assistance of hundreds of local churches, talented and sacrificially serving lay folk who gave their time and resources freely and fully, and pastors and church work teams who came at their own expense to serve and give, businesses who gave abundantly building materials, equipment and man-hours, none of what we now know as a 21st century “God thing,” located on the lovely rolling hills of southern Indiana would have been possible.  Yours truly has had the privilege and pleasure of serving as a board member of Shepherd’s Bethel for almost 30 years from a “front row” vantage position watching it all take place.  Samuel F.B. Morse’s’ first transmitted telegraphic message in 1844 is appropriate:  “What Hath God Wrought!”  (Numbers 23:23)

http://www.shepherdsbethel.org

“I Will Give Myself”

Missionary Ron White served his Savior faithfully and fervently in active duty for the best part of 60 years, mostly in Japan  where he and his wife, Odessa, headed to Japan as ambassadors of our Lord soon after graduation from college having raised a marginal amount of support to couple with their full load of faith, still both in their early 20’s.  Ron and Odessa would serve in Japan for four decades together until God chose to call Odessa to Himself for her reward and rest leaving Ron to continue serving solo as a “missionary to the world” encouraging young missionaries and especially missionaries to start Bible Institutes and plant churches while training national leaders.  As a pastor for forty years at Thompson Road Baptist Church in Indianapolis it was my privilege to invite Ron to lead in our annual faith-promise world mission conferences on several occasions and he never failed to leave us stronger in faith, sharper in vision and deeper in commitment to world missions than when he came.  Ron just recently suffered some physical setbacks that have sidelined him from his itinerant missions ministry, but his life, labors and legacy are written indelibly on the hearts of believers around the globe which benefited from his indominable spirit, his insightful, soul-stirring preaching and his singularly blessed skills on the keyboard through which God set souls singing wherever Ron was ministering. 

Though our church has supported the Whites since the late 60’s, it was, I believe, in a conference in the late 80’s or early 90’s when I first met him.  In our 10th annual faith-promise conference I discovered he could not only preach but he could also play the piano. Our church supported (and still does) a rescue mission ministry, Good News Ministries, that at that time had a family shelter for homeless families.  I remember arranging housing for Ron, who attended this particular conference without Odessa, in the homeless family shelter of Good News.  Little did I realized then that Ron White was to become one of my missionary heroes, but had I known then how highly I would come to esteem him for the Lord’s sake and for his selfless missionary endeavors, I would have done whatever I could have done to provide him with housing other than in a shelter for the homeless.  The shelter was clean and comfortable, and we were appreciative of their hospitality, and Ron was grateful for it, but as I look back, I marvel at the humble graciousness the man of God displayed as I assigned him housing for the week with the homeless.  That was Ron White.

He grew up in a humble, broken home in West Virginia and was for the most part reared by his grandmother.  His mother, overcome with the thought of having to care for a child she had not anticipated having at that juncture in her life, was not exactly overjoyed at his birth.  When asked what she wanted to name her baby boy, Ron’s mother in exasperation said “Oh, I don’t care, name him whatever you want to!”  The doctor who delivered her child had Ron as a first name, so he named the infant Ron White.

As a lad, someone invited Ron to church, and his first Sunday there happened to be the Pastor’s last Sunday there.  He had arrived in town about a year earlier, but after a year-long spiritual draught with no conversions and very few attendees, he was ready to “throw in the towel there.”  The discouraged pastor had just closed the door and walking down the steps saw a ten or eleven-year-old boy sitting on the steps, and asked “What do you want, son?”  Ron said, “I want to be saved.”  That pastor led the little boy to Christ and though then leaving his church  discouraged, will be “clipping coupons” through eternity.

Ron would grow up in another Baptist Church near his home, the church “coincidentally” where Odessa and her family attended.  Ron and Odessa became childhood sweethearts and would eventually attend Tennessee Temple Schools.  As a teenager Ron responded to a missionary message to support missions by going forward at the invitation and telling the preacher, “I don’t have anything to give, but I want to give myself.”  And now you know the rest of the story!

He fell in love with gospel music at the church and was captivated by the piano.  He never had a piano or lessons, but he would position himself so that he could see and study the techniques of the church pianist.  When eventually he had the opportunity to try playing on this beautiful musical machine, it was immediately apparent that he would make not just a good but a gifted pianist.  The church bought and had delivered a piano to the home of Ron where he lived at that time with his mother and stepfather.  When Ron saw it, he was thrilled, but his exuberance was short lived in as much as when the stepfather came home upon seeing the piano and learning that the church had bought it and had given it to Ron, he ordered it out of his house saying that there would be no piano in his home.  Not long after that, Ron and Odessa would find themselves as students at TTU where he would soon thereafter be regularly accompanying a university singing group that traveled with Dr. Lee Roberson, the school president and pastor of the Highland Park Baptist Church. Interestingly, Odessa was also a participant in the ensemble that sang.

Ron and Odessa and two or three other missionary couples were used of God to establish four churches in their first term in Japan as missionaries, a feat almost unheard of then or any time thereafter.  He would also found the Kansai Independent Baptist Bible Institute where Japanese young men and women were trained for ministry, all of them being required to learn to play the piano. That Institute has thrived and is thriving after more than 50 years doing what it was established to do.  Scores of its graduates serve not only in Japan but in several other countries as church planters and educators. 

In one of those churches planted on that first term in Japan a group of believers meeting in Osaka were overhead by a passerby business man hoping to learn some English singing “What a Wonderful Change in My Life Has Been Wrought Since Jesus Came into My heart.”  That dear soul stopped upon hearing that line and thought “I have never had any change in my life that was wonderful.”  He slipped into the service, was gloriously saved, later attended KBBI and was trained for ministry.  Ellen and I visited the church in Osaka that he founded and was pastoring when we were there in 2009, and it is one of the largest if not the largest church in Japan with beautiful modern facilities.  Pastor Ogawa’s sons serve alongside of him in this exciting work.

Ron White, teacher, church planter, missionary statesman, musician and man of God whose touch upon the hands and hearts of multitudes world-wide in the 20th and 21st century may not result in any biographies or books written about his wonderful works, but his memory has been etched upon the minds of co-workers, converts and church members wherever he ministered.  We have read the book he is still writing, the living epistle, known and read as the life and labors of Ron White, with his loving wife, Odessa, faithful, fruitful follower of His Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, to whom Ron would humbly beg us to give all praise, honor and glory.  Amen.

“You can only do two things with your life:  give it away or throw it away, but you cannot keep it.” (Ron White, October 2003)

You’re the best Christian that somebody knows; if you don’t go, who will?” (Ron White)

The Pastor’s Wife

“None know how grateful I am to God for you.  In all I have ever done for Him, you have a large share, for making me so happy you have fitted me for service.  I have served the Lord far more and never less for your sweet companionship.”  (Charles Spurgeon, in a letter written to his wife dated 1871)

Incalculable is the God-given helpmeet to the man of God who occupies the office of pastor.  Her prayers with and for him, her unflinching support of him and his ministry, her watchful waiting with him for souls and for sheep who are suffering, straying or staggering under the weight of life’s cares is worth more than words are able to capture.  Happy is that under shepherd who labors with a godly, spiritual wife serving alongside of him, laboring mostly  without recognition or reward, but always with wisdom, grace, compassion and concern often in a way that her husband, loving as he may be, can never duplicate because of his peculiar and particular calling and constraints.

There is one person in our church,
Who knows our pastor’s life
Who weeps and smiles and prays with him,
And that’s the Pastor’s wife.
  
You tell your tales of prophets brave,
Who marched across the world,
And changed the course of history                            
By burning words they hurled.
  
And I will tell how back of each
Some woman lived her life,
Who wept with him and smiled with him—
She was the Pastor’s wife!
(Unknown) 

Another sage, whose name to me is unknown, praised these special gifts from God:

            “Her gifts and talents make you look good, or at least, better.  Your wife can stretch an ordinary Tater Tots casserole to feed six unexpected dinner guests; work full-time putting her husband through seminary; save her husband’s dignity by choosing his clothing; send out thank you notes in a timely fashion with his perfectly forged signature; spend forty hours in hard labor delivering your children then as much time in the doctor’s office wiping runny noses; never threaten to divorce you over that vacation at Ralph’s Fish Emporium, Kamp Ground and Cart-A-Rama; puts up with her mother-in-law’s helpful advice on child rearing and talks you out of resigning at least once a month.”

Years ago, I read a tribute to Pastor’s wives published in a Christian magazine.  It reads: 

I am the Preacher’s wife.  I am the woman who proudly sits in the shadows as her husband stands in the light.  I am the one who knows her husband is a gift from God, and so I give him back to my Lord through his full-time service.  Often times, I am so lonely for him because I share him with others.  But I am also pleased that he gives himself so unselfishly.

I am the one who encourages the preacher when others fail to.  I am the one who listens to his dreams for the church and helps him to look into the future and see his dreams become a reality.

And when others wonder if he really cares, I am the one who sees him on his knees, shedding tears for the future of the Lord’s church.

I am the woman who so often hears flattering phrases.  At times, I am treated with such loving kindness.  The kindness you show me makes it all worthwhile.  It keeps me going when I feel like quitting.  But I am also the woman who often hears unkind remarks.  My heart can be broken, just as yours can.  But I am the one who has to learn to smile at the ugly things that are said.  I have to pick up the broken pieces of my heart and forgive, even when forgiveness is not asked of me.

Yes, world!  I have my ups and downs, just as you do.  And there are times when I, too, feel like quitting.  I need your tenderness and your encouragement to keep on keeping on.  As I give my husband, my child, my home and myself to the Lord, I am the woman who is happy to sit back in the shadows.  I am the preacher’s wife.”

It has been this pastor’s privilege to have served local churches now for more than half a century, and, by the mercies of our great God, every day in service has been with the custom- made help meet by my side that God granted to me before I accepted the call to pastor that first congregation in Wichita, Kansas in 1971.  Her name is Ellen and her heart and hands have steadied me throughout this fabulous journey.  Some time ago Ellen put on paper reasons why she considered it a joyful privilege to be in ministry as a pastor’s wife.  Here they are:

  1. Because this is that which God has called me to do.
  2. Because I can be totally involved in work that the Lord thinks is important.  We know that He  died for the church, and it is the only institution He left to carry on His work.
  3. I can be intimately involved in the life of people.  I have many opportunities to share the gospel.
  4. I have been the recipient of many kind acts because we are in ministry.
  5. It has been my privilege to have shown hospitality to some of the greatest people in the world and many have become close friends.
  6. Fellow believers pray for me because we are in the ministry.
  7. I can share in the most important moments in a family’s life which is the birth or adoption of their children, marriages and deaths.
  8. My children were reared in a good environment.
  9. Because I am respected as a leader.
  10. Because I have the privilege of taking care of God’s servant.

Who can find virtuous woman?  For her price is far above rubies.  The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.”  (Proverbs 31:10,11)

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The Overseer of Your Church

Paul, with pastors gathered to hear his farewell message to them, said to the elders (pastors) of the Ephesian church, meeting at Paul’s request in Miletus on his way to Jerusalem, charged these men of God to take heed to themselves “and to all the flock over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseer, to feed the church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood.” (Acts 20:28)

The pastor in today’s world, as then, labors out of love, if he is called of God and anointed of the Spirit, to a world that is, for the most part, unfriendly and inattentive.  That does not lighten his responsibility or lessen his burden; to the contrary, he works in the Master’s vineyard as an ambassador, not as a diplomat; as an evangelist, not as an entertainer; as a deliverer, not as a delighter.  His main business is teaching and preaching; His only tool is the sword of the Spirit; his first and last goal is regeneration not reformation, resurrection not resuscitation, Christ not culture and theocracy not democracy.  He depends not on his power of persuasion but on his privileges of prayer.  He pleads with souls for Christ’s sake not with sources for currencies’ sake. His strength is in proclaiming “thus saith the Lord,” and his throne is the pulpit.  The stakes are eternal, not temporal, the sphere is spiritual, not natural and the issues are truths not traditions.  His allegiance is to no organization but only to the Head of the world’s greatest organism, the Church.  He succeeds only through humility and more often than not receives hate not help, rejection not reception and malignity rather than dignity.

That’s why Paul, when greeting Timothy and Titus, his “preacher boys,” in I and II Timothy and in Titus, departed from his typical greeting that he invariably employed in every church epistle that he penned using in those letters “Grace and Peace….”  But to these protégé pastors Paul’s greeting was “Grace, mercy and peace….”  Paul, though never having been a pastor himself having been called and commissioned to a church planting missionary ministry, knew that every God-called pastor would need not only grace and peace, but a heavy dose of mercy if he were to survive in this high calling.

A respectable source reported a few years ago that 1500 pastors leave the ministry every month; 50 % of pastors will be divorced by the time they leave the ministry; 80% of pastors and 84% of pastors’ wives feel discouraged or unqualified in their roles; 50 % are so discouraged they would leave the ministry if they had an alternative way to make a living; 40% experience extra marital affairs since they started in ministry and 70% acknowledged that the only time they consulted the Bible was when they were preparing a sermon!

There are ways you can help your pastor:  (1)  Keep him informed of your needs; he cannot know everything so let him know of your spiritual and physical status and something of what’s happening in your home and with your family; (2)  Attend services of your assembly regularly so that he will not have to “track you down” if you have been absent for an extended period of time; (3) Volunteer to help your pastor to carry the load; find a job that needs to be done and roll up your sleeve to do it; (4)  If a lesson or message proves to be a special blessing or meets a particular need in your life, don’t worry about giving your pastor the “big head” by telling him so—it will encourage him and work wonders for him; (5)  If you are troubled about something that you feel is amiss in the church body, feel free to share constructive criticism or concerns with him—God has equipped him with broad enough spiritual shoulders to be able to handle and carry that load; (6)  Pray daily for him, his wife, his family and ministry—he can only be as effective as his people are effectual in praying for him, his spiritual leadership and the church; (7) Be his friend yet not expecting an exclusive relationship with him as he can’t be “best buddies” with everyone though he might like to, but know that he treasures a friendship relationship with you so do not miss that opportunity; (8) Learn what he likes and dislikes and respect his individuality and try, as opportunity presents itself, to assist him in enjoying satisfaction as a person; (9) Decide to follow Jesus Christ sincerely and supremely and you will honor, reward, encourage and strengthen your pastor’s ministry in direct proportion to your obedience and love and loyalty to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the Word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.”  (Hebrews 13:7)

Obey them that have the rule over you and submit yourselves:  for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy and not with grief, for that is unprofitable for you.” (Hebrews 13:17)

Coming Soon:  “The Pastor’s Wife”