The Unquenchable Fire

“Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it.” (Song of Solomon, 8:7) The wise king had in his mind, no doubt, the love of his life, the beautiful bride known as the Shunamite woman, but his treatise on love causes any thoughtful heart to pause to ponder the love that surpasses all understanding.

Paul exhausts his mental, verbal and spiritual powers to extol the virtues of love in that majestic 13th chapter of First Corinthians, concluding with the exclamatory finale “Now abideth faith, hope and love, these three, but the greatest of these is love.”

The greatest of these is love!  How towering are the mountain peaks of faith where glimpses of glory shed light on the shadowy paths of our earthly pilgrimage.  And, what could be said of hope, the lifeline grasped by humankind swimming in the mire of these temporal miseries; and there is a strand of saving grace that when grasped by the desperate drowning soul yields hope and life and breath for another day.  Yet, “the greatest of these is love.”

Greatest because God is love, and the love of which both Solomon and the Apostle spake is divine and distinct from any earthly semblance of that which is often labeled, in common parlance, love.

Agape love, love that has its source and sphere in the heart of God and can only come from Him and then through us to others (I John 4:7-10).  It is love that is without deceitful dissimulation. (Romans 12:9) That is, it is genuine, because it is Godly.  It is without hypocrisy and without a vanishing veneer.  When one who possesses this kind of love says “I love you,” it is not simply a concluding conversational sign-off; it is a heartfelt, holy word of true devotion.

Love is without selfish motivation.  Much of what passes under the contemporary banner of love is motivated by personal pursuits and selfish interests.  Agape love does not wish another to succeed so that benefits will accrue to anyone other than the one loved.  If you love another unselfishly it will be with a true desire that your loved one will experience and enjoy the unimpeded, unparalleled, unmitigated goodness and grace of God just for His love’s sake.

Christlike love is without discrimination.  God so loved the world, an arid desert of sin in which there was “none righteous, no not one.”  His love is non-discriminatory.  He loves people of every tribe and tongue, every color and culture.  And, His love, shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, will cause us to love those who are at times unlovely and apparently unlovable, without discrimination.

His love, working through us, will also be without qualification.  We love our foes and friends, through Christ.  “He drew a circle that shut me out; heretic, rebel, a thing to flout; but Love and I had a will to win; we drew a circle that took him in.” (Edwin Markham)

And, love is without temporal termination.  “To the last syllable of recorded time.”  “To the depth, and breadth, and height my soul can reach.”  “Till death do us part.”  It is agape love.  It has no limitation, nor will it have in time any termination.  It cannot fail.

 Roy Croft said it well when he wrote:  “I love you, not only for what you are but for what I am when I am with you; not only for what you have made of yourself but for what you are making of me.  I love you for the part of me that you bring out…because you are making of the lumber of my life not a tavern but a temple out of the works of my every day.  Not a reproach but a song.  You have done it without a touch, without a word, without a sign; you have done it by being yourself….”

That’s what His love, flowing through us, will do to those with whom, in His providences, we have to do.

But the greatest of these is love.”  (I Cor. 13:13)

The Believer’s Badge

The Apostle Peter echoed King Solomon’s words “…love covereth all sins” (Proverbs 10:12) when he said in his first New Testament epistle “And above all things have fervent charity (love) among yourselves:  for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.” (I Peter 4:8)

What a world of difference that would make were it to be the rule of everyday living for those who know something of the “love of God…shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given to us.” (Romans 5:5)

When a person identified with the covenant promises made to Abraham, he did so by being circumcised; the badge that identified one as a follower of Moses and as an adherent to the law that Moses received on Mt. Sinai was the keeping of the Sabbath; then when the forerunner of Jesus, John the Baptist, preached that the kingdom of Heaven was at hand, people identified with his message by submitting to his baptism; and the Lord Jesus Christ affirmed to his disciples in his Upper Room Discourse on His way to Calvary that “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”  (John 13:35). 

Some years ago, a large, growing church decided to buy a building adjacent to their property for future expansion, a building that they purposed to have demolished in preparation for their future development needs.  It was discussed and decided that a committee should be appointed to get the building torn down as soon as feasible, but the pastor said there was no need to appoint a committee as he would be glad to take care of it, so it was left in his hands to do.  

However, the pastor failed to give the demolition crew adequate information, evidently, and another building next to the recently purchased building was demolished instead of the intended structure.

When the deacons met next, the pastor broke an awkward silence by saying, “I just wanted to tell you, I love you.”  One deacon said, “Out with it.”  So, the pastor told them what he had done and the huge mistake that he had made, to which another deacon said, “We don’t pay you much so we should not expect much.”  Another voiced, “Be careful, he’ll get your house tonight.”  And yet another, “That’s OK, he’d get the wrong one!”

Then one after another of those deacons stood to testify how the pastor had led them and many of their family members to Christ and how he had baptized them and visited them when they were sick and welcomed their newborns into the world with a prayer while the baby was still in the hospital with Mom and how he had conducted funerals for their parents and had officiated weddings for their sons and daughters.  It was soon evident that in that room that night, love did cover a multitude of sins and deacon after deacon assured the embarrassed pastor that they loved him no matter what and that now they owned an extra building, simple as that!

The ending is not always as comforting as that though.  Sometimes those we love (or should love) the most we inflict the most severe pain upon.  Some poet opined, “Look at the roses, saluting each other; look at the herds all at peace on the plains.  Man, only man, makes war on his brother, and laughs in his heart at his peril and pain.” (Unknown).

Let us not forget what the world will identify us by, that is, our love one for another.  It comes through our hearts from the heart of God and flows to others in the world around us.  It is a treasure that multiplies by division and when given as a gift it simply comes back bigger and greater.  “You can give it away, throw it away, empty your pockets, shake the basket, turn the glass upside down; and tomorrow you will have more than ever.”

A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” (John 13:34)

On Using the Ordinary to do the Extraordinary

It was a rod in Moses’ hand that God told the prophet to cast onto the ground, and an ordinary rod became a serpent.  That same rod was lifted up in Moses’ hand over the Red Sea to call the waters to stand at attention while two million Israelites marched through the sea on dry ground.

God used an ordinary beast to do the extraordinary when the ass opened its mouth to confront a backslidden prophet, Balaam.

God used the ordinary lunch of an ordinary lad to feed an extraordinary crowd of thousands of people; it was an ordinary lunch of five loaves and a few fishes.

When God chose twelve men to become the building blocks of the greatest organism that has ever breathed life, it was ordinary men from common walks of life, men who would become His apostles and do the extraordinary.

Gideon was an ordinary person that God used in an uncommon way.  No one was more surprised when, as he was threshing wheat by the winepress to hide from the Midianites, the angel of the Lord appeared to him and called him a “mighty man of valor.”  Extraordinary!  And, God would do some amazing things through this ordinary young man.

Paul put it into the written Word of God this way:  “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many mighty, not many noble, are called:  but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty, and the base things, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and the things which are not to bring to pass things which are.  That no flesh should glory in His presence.”  (I Cor. 1:26-29)

So, there’s a place in the purposes of God for you!  Most who read these lines are ordinary people.  I’m sure you have some extraordinary characteristics.  Each of us is unique in our own particular, God-given, way; but in the over-all scheme of things, each of us is, no doubt, pretty ordinary.

But, it’s the ordinary folk, like Moses (who had a speech impediment) and Gideon and Samson and Elijah and so many, many others that our Heavenly Father deigns to use.  Jesus, who favored the designation of Himself as “the Son of Man,” was considered by those who did not understand His incarnation, pretty ordinary: “Is not this the carpenter’s son?”  A young man was He who lived and worked a fairly common life for thirty years in a less than ordinary town, Nazareth.  But, Jesus, employing twelve quite ordinary men, turned the then known world upside down and left a legacy that will out-live time.

And, so could you and a few other ordinary folks who are willing to live consecrated lives for Him.  Are you ready to allow God to do something extraordinary through you today?

Thus saith the Lord, let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches:  but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me….” (Jer. 9:23,24)

Racial Unrest in America?

After mankind’s futile attempt at a one-world government and a world-wide rallying post known as the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11), God judged the then known world’s humanistic, godless attempt to create a man-made religion by scattering their peoples to the four-winds and by confounding their languages.  From the three sons of Noah, following the universal flood, the multiplicity of races and diversity of nationalities with differing tongues took shape.  The world has had natural and national boundaries ever since, a by-product of sinful mankind’s darkened mind, deadened will and depraved heart.  (Romans 1).  Sadly, racism is a fruit of the universality of this rebellion to and against the rule and Word of God which the Apostle depicts in his letter to the believers in Rome.

Racism in any guise is ungodly and leads to that which is inhumane.  Whereas the Apostle Paul reminded his ancient Athenian audience that the creator God “hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell upon the face of the earth….”(Acts 17:26) man, in his degenerate state has violated God’s purpose for creating differing nationalities (i.e. “that they should seek the Lord” Acts 17:27), and has promoted godless racism that has given rise to all sorts of offspring sins including slavery, injustice, abortion, wars, genocide and a myriad of other satanic isms.

Having said that, and embracing biblical truths that clearly forbid judging any person by the color of his or her skin or by their national identity, the current nationwide wave of violence, lawlessness, rage and riots, perpetrated under the guise of “racial injustices,” is nothing more than a Marxist movement designed to destroy the America that has since its inception been the “land of the free, home of the brave.”  Looters, arsonists, lawless haters of all that represent authority including our courageous police, are not burning down buildings because of racial injustice; they hate America, law and order and any government that allows its people to pursue life and liberty in both their work and worship as they deem fit.

Recently, some NBA players refused to take the floor to play in some of the NBA play-off games, as a supposed protest to racial injustices and inequalities.  These players, most of them being multi-millionaires, play in a professional basketball league comprised of 80.7 percent players of color with 33 percent of the league’s coaches being persons of color.

The National Football League (NFL), whose players now are often seen locking arms and refusing to stand for the National Anthem, is made up of 70 percent players of color with 27.7 percent of the players being white.

Racial injustice?  The facts betray that charge.  The problem facing America at this present moment in time is not racism but atheism on the march under the banners of socialism and Marxism.  These are antichrist and unchristian movements and God-fearing people, striving to live out in this age the teachings of Jesus, are neither racist nor riotous.

They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.  Their throat is an open sepulcher; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips:  whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness:  Their feet are swift to shed blood:  Destruction and misery are in their ways:  And the way of peace have they not known:  There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:12-18)

Death Be Not Proud

Death is every man’s enemy from the time of our birth until we draw our last breath as it stalks us, hunts and hounds us doggedly and at last raises its white flag of “victory” over our fallen frame with lips and limbs that have taken up residency in the city of the silent.

American writer William Saroyan, before his death in 1981 telephoned the Associated Press, it was reported, with a final observation: “Everybody has got to die, but I have always believed an exception would be made in my case.  Now What?”

Another Oxford University professor, Sir Isaiah Berlin, eulogized in Newsweek upon his death in 1997, known for his extraordinary academic achievements, was quoted in the Newsweek issue as saying, “I am afraid of dying, for it is painful.  But I find death a nuisance.  I object to it…I am terribly curious.  I’d like to live forever.”

Michael Faraday, brilliant scientist whose mind never allowed him to present suppositions as facts, when he was dying was asked how he viewed death and what he supposed would happen to him after dying.  He is said to have affirmed: “At the hour of death, no suppositions are admissible.  No experiences are permitted.  Only certainties give the peace one needs at the hour of death, and the certainty is that having found Jesus Christ as my Savior, I am going to be with Him when I die.”

John Bacon, eminent 18th century English sculptor, was quoted as saying on his deathbed, “What I was as an artist seemed to be of some importance while I lived, but what I really am as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ is the only thing of importance to me now.”

Samuel Rutherford, 17th century theologian, said when he was about to step into eternity, “Mine eye shall see my Redeemer.  He has pardoned, loved and washed me, and given me joy unspeakable and full of glory.  Glory shines in Immanuel’s land!”

Poet John Donne wrote beautifully, “Death be not proud though some have called thee Mighty and Dreadful… for those whom thou thinkest thou dost overthrow die not, poor Death.  Nor yet canst thou kill me.”

We have agonized with many these past months; some family, some friends, some fellow sojourners on the journey called Life, have bid farewell to their dearest earthly loved ones.  Because of the dire Covid 19 restrictions, some saw and said a final farewell to their beloved as they were checked into a hospital.  Services and memorials were private or postposed.  Death has been heavy on the minds of all in an uncommon sort of way these past six months or so.

How do you view your final embarkment?  When your “crossing over” comes will you be at peace?  In his book “The Best is Yet to Be” Henry Durbanville recalled how, when he was a child, his mother would call “Henry, it’s bed time.”  Like most small boys, he said he resisted the idea of leaving his toys and going to his room for the night; yet, deep within he knew it was necessary to get the needed sleep.  Durbanville drew the analogy for believers: “Death is both affectionate and stern.  When the right moment comes, she says to us, ‘It’s your bedtime.’  Oh, we may protest a little, but we know very well that the hour for rest has come, and in our hearts, we are actually longing for it.”

On the other hand, if you are not a believer and have not accepted God’s saving grace and gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ, you might do well to heed the Chinese proverb: “If we do not change our direction, we will end up where we’re going.”  A good question then to ask yourself is “Where will I be when I get to where I am going?”

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”  (Romans 10:13)

“O death, where is thy sting?  O grave, where is thy victory?  The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Cor. 15:57,58)

How to Handle Hurt

So, you are an ardent believer in Christ Jesus as Lord and an earnest follower of His, reading and heeding His words.  You are, therefore, immune from being hurt; that is mental, emotional or spiritual suffering because of how some other person, even another believer, wronged you either intentionally or unintentionally, through ignorance or through ingenuity.  Right?  Wrong!

Some supposed friend lied about you, spreading an untruth that was given off as a fact.

Some friend betrayed a confidence that you had entrusted to them.

Someone for whom you have done things for, things for which you had to make personal sacrifices to do—someone fails to acknowledge with even the slightest sign of gratitude your labors of love for them.

A friend borrows something from you and forgets to ever bring it back.

Someone fails to keep a promise and deeply disappoints those who were counting on his or her help.

A highly esteemed person loses his/her temper and gives a strong tongue lashing to another and all in the presence of some younger Christians.  It both hurts and disappoints.

So, what to do?  Here are five guidelines:  (1) Forgive the offender for God commands is:  “…forgiving one another even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you “ (Eph. 4:32); (2) Forgive those who offend as often as they ask, even 70×7 (Luke 17:1-6; Matt. 18:21ff.); (3) Look past the offence to the spiritual need of the offender(Acts16:16-18); (4) Commit the offence and the offender to God so that His purposes in both of your lives can be worked out (Romans 12:17-21) and (5) Look upon the offender as an instrument in the hands of God (2 Sam. 16:11)  As David fled Jerusalem because of Absalom’s rebellion Shimei cursed King David and threw clods of dirt at him to which David responded, “Let him alone and let him curse, for the Lord hath bidden him….”

Leonardo da Vinci, as he was working on his masterpiece “The Last Supper,” lost his temper and was so upset he could not paint.  Leaving his work, he sought out the person that he had become angry with and apologized; then, he was able to return to his work and finish painting the face of Christ.  

What to do?  In a word, “Forgive!” 

To whom ye forgive anything, I forgive also:  for if I forgave anything, to who I forgave it, for your sakes I forgave it in the person of Christ:  Lest Satan should get an advantage of us:  for we are not ignorant of his devices.”  (2 Cor. 2:10,11)

America, Idolatry and Covid-19

Written in Latin and signed in 1215, the English Magna Carta was a document specifying the relationship between the governed and the governing in mid-evil English history and became a crucial document in the history of that nation and in time our own.  In a similar fashion, three months after the nation of Israel left Egypt with its bondage God drew up a document that would govern the relationship between Himself and His people whom He desired to be “unto me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation.”  These are commonly called the 10 Commandments and form the basis of the Old Testament Law and were a preamble to the 615 ceremonial commands which dictated every aspect of the daily lives of this “holy nation.”  The 10 Commandments have a universal dimension and consist of decrees based upon principles true for all peoples in all nations for all times.  The first of these bedrock beliefs is that God alone is to be worshipped and that people who in His sight are “holy” are to have no other gods before God. (Exodus 20:2,3)

When our nation became a nation with its founding documents the Declaration of Independence and our U.S. Constitution, a cursory reading of these would reveal that as a nation we were from the beginning “One nation under God,” as the Pledge of Allegiance to our Flag states.  That God is the Lord who says in His Word that “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.”  (Psalm 33:12)  He did not say “perfect” is the nation whose God is the Lord, but He did promise a special blessing to that nation and, doubtless, America has been blessed beyond measure because of the faith of founding fathers who acknowledged the universal truth that God alone is worthy of worship and we should have no other gods before Him.

21st century America, much like the ancient Israelite nation, seems to have forgotten that spiritual axiom warning us against idolatry.  It was just months into the Israelites’ march to their “promised land” that they made a molten image, a golden calf, worshipping it and attributing their deliverance from 400 plus years of bondage in Egypt to the inanimate calf.  A nation that, until God scattered all their twelve tribes eventually into captivity and bondage again, never could get past its proclivity to idolatry. They violated time and time again the first pillar of Israel’s “magna carta” concerning idol worship.  America has not learned apparently from those history lessons inscripturated into the Word of God for “our learning and admonition.  (I Cor. 10:11)  We have so many gods, not golden calves and not always inanimate objects, but no less “gods” that we worship:  Pleasure, Money, Sports, Man’s Wisdom, Fame, Success, and on and on; things that we have allowed to come between a holy God and ourselves, personally, individually and nationally.  The “In God We Trust” has become words that we speak with our lips rather than with our lives, too, too often.

God did not allow idolatry to go on without His intervening chastisement upon those people whom He desired to be His “holy nation.”  (Ex. 19:6)   He allowed them to be ruled over by oppressive and wicked kings; He allowed them to suffer famine at times and other incredible hardships, and, finally, captivity by the Syrians and later the Babylonians.  

He allows us to be chastened also.  Believers who name His name and call themselves His followers are not immune to this pervasive sin; thus, John warns, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” (I John 5:21).  A fair case, too, could be made for the thesis that God is chastening America, whose God was once the Lord, by taking from us, almost overnight, so many of our “idols,” nationally.  Our economy, a few months ago the envy of the world, suddenly was turned literally upside down.  Sports, drawing hundreds of thousands to its weekend altars, has been pretty much shut down.  Pleasure, entertainment (anyone thought of going to a Broadway musical lately?) all of these and just about every “god” that America has spent itself on in this 21st century, have been smitten to smithereens at least for the time being, much like Moses crushed the golden calf Israel made for itself when Moses was on the mount with God. 

So, we need to get back to God and learn to live without these 21st century golden calves in our lives.  Could it be that’s what the prolonged “shut down” due to Covid 19 is really all about? 

Turn us again, O Lord God of hosts, cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.” (Ps.80:3,7,19).

The Unpardonable Sin and the Sin unto Death

No one in their right mind should want to commit the “Unpardonable Sin.”  Jesus identified that sin in Matthew 12 when the Pharisees, the leaders of Israel, accused Him of casting out devils by the power of Beelzebub, the prince of devils. (Matt. 12:24)   Jesus reasoned in response to their unbelief that Satan would be divided against himself if “Satan cast out Satan.” In this context, Jesus declared that attributing to Satan the works of the Holy Ghost was the sin for which there would be no forgiveness “neither in this world nor in the world to come.” (Matt. 12:32)   When the Pharisees, acting on behalf of the nation, officially rejected Jesus as Messiah, that was, for Israel, crossing the point of no return, nationally, and it was for the nation at that time the “Unpardonable Sin.”

In Matthew 13, therefore, in order to graciously shield the unbelieving nation from more severe judgment in the day when all whose names are not written in the Book of Life will be cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:15), Jesus began to employ parables because “seeing they see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.” (Matt. 13:13)   This statement answered the disciples’ question, “Why speakest thou in parables?” (v.10)   Jesus had already taught them that it would be more tolerable for cities such as Sodom and Gomorrah, Tyre and Sidon, than it would be for the cities to which He had come preaching the gospel of the kingdom only to be rejected. (Matt. 10:15; 11:20-24)   These cities, Chorazin, Bethsaida and others in Jesus’ day had received and rejected more light, therefore, in the judgment day (Rev.20:11-15) there would be more severe punishment meted out; so, in the light of that, Jesus graciously withheld more light from the people that had officially said “No!” to His offer of the kingdom. They, as a nation, had already committed the “Unpardonable Sin.”

The sin unto death is a different matter, and it is mentioned specifically by the Apostle John in his first epistle, chapter five.  It is sin that can be committed by believers, and the “death” that is mentioned by John is not the second death, or eternal damnation, but a physical, pre-mature death divinely meted out to wayward believers who, having lapsed into sin and having been admonished and rebuked spiritually (Gal.6:1,2; Matt. 18:15-20) continue to go on sinning so that God administers the ultimate chastening upon them, physical death, so as not to allow them to cause others to stumble over their harmful testimony.  Paul, in his first letter to the church in Corinth, says that many had ignored God’s convicting Spirit and were still partaking of the Lord’s Table with known, unconfessed sin in their lives, drinking damnation (judgment) to “himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.” (I Cor. 11:29)   Paul concluded that “for this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.”  (I Cor. 11:30)   The sleep here mentioned is the sleep of (physical) death, and it was a warning to believers that each should “examine himself and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.”  (I Cor. 11:29)

It should be noted that in the passage in I John where John speaks of a brother who is observed sinning “a sin which is not unto death,” (v.16) the definite article does not appear in the Greek text so that the brother is not sinning one certain sin, he is, however, sinning sin which has not yet resulted in sinning unto death.  This brother should be, as the Spirit of God leads, the object of our prayers.  In fact, James in his epistle, tells us that if a brother errs from the truth and one of us gets him turned around (converted, but not in the sense of soul salvation), then “he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death….” (James 5:19,20) We can, then, as concerned, loving brothers in Christ, be used of God to rescue an erring brother or sister in Christ from sinning sin that eventuates in death, sin unto death.

So, the Unpardonable Sin was committed in about 29 or 30 A.D. by the nation of Israel.  People can reject God’s simple plan of salvation and be cast into the lake of fire from whence there is no return and for which there is no “2nd chance,” and in that sense a lost person can commit a sin for which there will never be forgiveness in eternity; but that, technically and scripturally speaking, is not the Unpardonable Sin:  it was committed by the nation of Israel in its rejection of their Messiah.  Sin unto death can be and is being committed by brethren who have been overcome by sin and who refuse to repent and be restored to fellowship with their Lord and with His church.  It is a grave sin for which there are serious consequences; but it is not a sin that will send a person to hell.

Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men:  but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.” (Matt.12:31)

Fifty-five Years Later

That’s how long it has been since Ellen and I sealed our love with sacred vows and at a humble altar promised ourselves each to the other.  The memory of that night in North Carolina in that white steepled church where we joined hands and hearts in a lifetime journey is etched into the deepest recesses of mind, head and heart and will be with me as long as I am able to think conscious thoughts.  So I cherish every opportunity to reflect upon that day and all the days that have ensued since, with births, marriages, birthdays, Christmases and, yes, sadly so, even some funerals:  all part and parcel of a life adventure that started with youthful love and longings, matured into a full-bloomed, nurturing love one for the other, and is now, fifty-five years later, a love that is still with pleasure yet not without pain, drawing our souls, minds and hearts ever more tightly together into that perfect bond of “oneness.”  As we stood hand in hand at that white chapel altar in August of 1965, I shared with those witnesses present some verses that I had penned and whispered to Ellen while we were falling in love.  I share those verses today with you hoping that you too can rejoice in God’s graciousness to us in giving us the life-mate of His choice though we are so undeserving of such grace:

Following the recitation of those verses, we both knelt at the altar while the pastor prayed over us asking God to bless this holy union of twain into one.  When the prayer was over, and the “Amen” said, we stood to our feet and were startled to find that a black cat had wandered into the church, the doors being opened because there was no air-conditioning and the building was packed with family and friends for this special occasion.  The uninvited guest had made its way, unbeknown to most everyone whose heads were bowed and eyes closed for prayer, down the red-carpeted aisle to the front of the church to join the “wedding party!”  Well, we are not given to superstition so we all had a good chuckle out of this and the pastor went on to pronounce us “husband and wife,” and we have lived happily for the fifty-five years following that beautiful August evening in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge mountains.

We are here today to give God hearty praise and heartfelt glory!

When Faith Falters

Read Matthew 14:22-33

Jesus had “constrained” His disciples to cross the sea in a boat assuring them that He would catch up with them.  He had, with the disciples, fed thousands of hungry folks, having taught them and having healed many of their sick.  He was exhausted and needed to retreat into a mountain place to rest and pray.

The disciples, before reaching the other side of the sea, were suddenly overwhelmed by a tempestuous storm of the variety that often comes upon seamen in bodies of water in that part of the world.  These sailors, because of the boisterous storm, felt their lives were in jeopardy.  Then something happened they could not have believed had they not experienced it personally.  They saw someone walking on the sea!  And that someone looked like, yes, was, Jesus!  The Lord called out to them, “Be of good cheer, it is I, be not afraid.”  Peter said that if it was indeed Jesus, he wanted to walk with Him, and to that Jesus simply said, “Come.”  All went well for a brief time until Peter “saw the wind,” and taking his eyes off Jesus began to sink, hollering as he went down, “Lord, save me!”  Jesus did save him and getting into the boat calmed the storm, asking the disciples, “O thou of little faith, wherefore did you doubt?”

Why do you doubt?  When do we “look at the wind” and begin to faint?  In the coronavirus pandemic of 2020 that swept every continent but Antarctica, people all over the world, including followers of the risen Lord, began to focus on the “wind,” i.e. the dire circumstances, the daily rising number of deaths, the bleak economic downturn of once robust economies.  The question that Jesus raised when He said, “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” still rings through the halls of time.  When we abandon our faith, all that is left is fear.  The result was that the disciples worshipped Jesus confessing anew “Thou art the Son of God.”  May we do likewise.

When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee…For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Savior….” (Isaiah 43:2,3)