Nelle Reeves Shuler

One of the great pleasures of pastoring fifty years was the joy of entertaining evangelists in our church and home as they held meetings with us or when they were crisscrossing the U.S. from one meeting to another and needed a place to stay for a night or two.  I could mention many such as Jerry Sivnksty, Gary Gillmore, Joe Mark, Monroe Parker and others, but one of our favorites was Evangelist Phil Shuler and his beautiful wife, Marie.  I had seen Phil from a distance and made the mistake of judging him and Marie, an off the charts talented pianist, as more “glitz” than glory. That was a terrible miscall!  Then I learned that Phil, a Marine who landed at Bob Jones University just after an amphibian tour of the far east in World War II,  with some other GI’s going to school on the GI bill, just about rattled BJU off its solid foundations with their shenanigans, kept twelve weeks a year open so that he could hold revival meetings in churches of 50 or less, churches that were afraid to call an evangelist for help for fear they could not afford to pay their expenses and give them a love offering.  Well, Phil Shuler made it a point to go to such churches at his own expense and when I heard that I figured he had to have been a man of rare character caliber, and I was right.  More about Phil and Marie in a later post, but in lieu of Mother’s Day coming next Sunday, I want to share with you an article Phil wrote about his mother which he posted in one of his newsletters about 40 years ago. It read:

On August the 4th, my mother, Nelle Reeves Shuler, went home to be with Christ.  She was 96 and passed away in her sleep. If I live to be a hundred I will never, in this world, meet another woman like her!  Mother was reared in a well-to-do home in Jonesboro, Tennessee, went to ‘finishing school,’ and married my dad when she was 20.  Out of the state of Tennessee dad got the ‘pick of the litter!’  Those who remember her as a young lady remark about that ‘beautiful Nelle Reeves!’  Mom took her place beside her raw bones, fiery preacher husband, and never once let him down!  She was his mainstay!  Dad got the credit for great exploits for Christ, but it was Mom who stood firmly by him, and steadied him along the path.  She supplied him with most of his sermon texts and proof-read all his articles in THE METHODIST CHALLENGE.  You never saw mother in the foreground, but quietly she would be off in the shadow, supporting her husband and his work.  Her kind come along just now and then.

Mother raised seven children.  She lost Dick at the age of 9 months.  All seven of her children are bound for the Promised Land because of a mother who refused to see it otherwise and stayed on her knees nightly to so convince her God!  I can remember walking by her room on more than one occasion to hear her mention my name to God in prayer!  She lived to see three of her boys enter the ministry, and one of those enter heaven!  I can’t remember the number of her grandchildren; it keeps changing all the time. And great-grandchildren….forget it!  But what a joy it was for mother to entertain them on visits!  She was quite a lady!

God occasionally sends along a preacher like my dad, but never without a wife like my mother!  As I reflect upon their influence on me, I determine in my heart to do my dead-level best to carry on the tradition.  I certainly have the wife for it!  And the opportunity is there! God give me strength!  Yours for souls, Phil Shuler.” 

Ellen and I could never forget one of those times that Phil and Marie were house guests and, while we were relaxing in our living room, Phil broke out into one of the lull-a-byes that he used to hear his mother sing when he sat at her knee as a toddler.  He sang as only Phil could in his “sweet” tenor voice, and he must have sung those childhood lull-a-byes for a half-hour one after another; most of them were new to us but all of them had been tucked away in Phil’s heart and now as an older man himself those sweet verses sung from his mother’s heart through her holy lips came back to Phil like a flood and we just sat there listening “in another world!”  We have kicked ourselves a hundred times for not having turned on something that would have recorded those musical masterpieces, but alas! we had no cell phones, and the recording equipment was not handy at that moment.  It was one of those unforgettable moments that one would love to have frozen in time.

I hope you will enjoy this memory of Phil and Marie, one of many I could share if time permitted, such as the time Phil reenacted the funeral service at his Dad’s church in LA when his 9-month-old brother, Dick, had died and Nelle, in the middle of her husband’s message, broke out singing “Safe in the Arms of Jesus.”

I hope you all, especially Mothers, will have a blessed day this 2nd Sunday of May, Mother’s Day.

Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.”  (Provs.31:28 )

Are You a Christian?

That question can be answered with a “Yes” or “No,” but along with those brief answers there should be an accompanying spoken or unspoken reason for such an assertion.

The label “Christian” is pretty common in today’s world.  Some will assume that if one is not a Jew or Muslim then he is a Christian, assuming he were not an atheist, cultist, Hindu or Buddhist.  In that definition, all sorts of varieties would exist including Protestants, Catholics, Baptists, Lutherans and many others.  But, back to the question, “Are You a Christian?”

My concern by posing this query is whether or not you have a relationship with Jesus Christ.  Many Americans, if not most, would answer in the affirmative to the question.  In fact, a research group determined in one of its studies a few years into this new millennium/century that 80% of the adults in America considered themselves Christians and that six out of ten adults in America said their main purpose in life was to “love God with all their heart, mind, strength and soul.”  The research team concluded that though most Americans enjoyed the “security” of being known as “Christian,” most were not anxious to own up to the responsibilities incumbent upon those who are known by that name.

Followers of Jesus Christ were not always called “Christians,” or “Christ folk.”  First there were Apostles, then a wider group known as followers, then disciples and finally, about the time the converted Christian killer, Saul of Tarsus, later known as Paul, the Apostle, fell at Jesus’ feet on the Road to Damascus and instantly put his trust in the risen Lord, the writer of the book of Acts, Luke, tells us that Jesus’ followers were first called “Christians” at Antioch.  Stott, in his commentary on the book of Acts, notes that the term “Christians,”  was a term of derision, used as a sort of nickname tagged onto those people who confessed their allegiance to Jesus Christ.  (Acts 11:26)  The word is used again in Acts 26:28 where King Agrippa, having heard Paul’s personal testimony and his appeal to the King to accept Jesus as his own Savior, responded to the missionary/evangelist with the words, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” And, in I Peter 4:16 the word Christian occurs a third and final time in the New Testament where Peter admonishes his readers that no one should be ashamed for suffering as a Christian.

So, a Christian, or Christians (“Christ folk”) are those who are disciples or followers of Jesus Christ.  They have acknowledged that He is God and Savior, have believed in Him and called upon Him in repentance for salvation, and are committed to living the Christian life.  The immediate instance that a person becomes a believer he or she may not understand the theology of it all—that will come later with growth—but the convert at least knows that he is a sinner, and that Jesus is the Savior so that by faith and repentance, the sinner in some fashion forms the plea “Lord, save me!”  Unknown to him, no doubt, at that moment he is spiritually baptized into the Body of Christ (the Church) and sealed by the Holy Spirit, a seal that assures him of redemption, now and forever, and he is immediately, instantly, made a son (child) of God with all the spiritual blessings attendant thereunto, including being indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God.  Glory!

A first-century observer described these Christians thusly:  “Christians inhabit the lands of their birth but as temporary residents thereof; they take their share of all responsibilities as citizens and endure all disabilities as aliens.  They pass their days upon earth, but their citizenship is in Heaven.”

That first century historian hit the nail on the head!  Paul said that “our conversation is in heaven,” (Phil. 3:20) and that we are “fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God,” (Eph.2:19) and that “God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Christ.” (Eph. 1:3)  That is why Paul could exhort us to “set your affections on things above, and not on things of the earth.” (Col.3:2)

A.W. Tozer aptly spoke of Christ folks when he described them this way:  “He feels supreme love for One whom he has never seen.  He talks familiarly every day to someone he cannot see, expects to go to Heaven on virtue of another; empties himself in order that he might be full; admits he is wrong so that he can be declared right, goes down in order to get up.”

A pilot was flying over the Arabian dessert when he had to land at an oasis for fuel.  Upon taking off again he began hearing a scratching, gnawing sound from the fuselage area.  Fearing it might be a rodent that had crept on board during his refueling, the pilot instinctively began to fly the plane at an higher altitude.  Higher and higher he ascended until the scratching and gnawing eventually ceased altogether.  When he landed the plane, sure enough he found the dead rodent which was unable to survive in the heights far above the dessert floor that he was accustomed to.  That is a lesson that Christians learn when realizing that our life is “hid with Christ in God.” (Col.3:3)  We live on a higher plane, yet it is not us but Christ living in us (Gal.2:20).  We cannot survive as believers living on the floor of the dessert of this world’s sin.  We survive, yes, thrive appropriating the truth that God “…hath raised us up together, and  made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” (Eph.2:6)

So, back to the original question, “Are You a Christian?”  “Yes,” or “No?”  If you answer “Yes,” it is because you are “accepted in the Beloved,” (Eph.1:6), that is, you have experienced justification by faith through the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1). “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not on the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.” (John 3:36)  The question is, then, do you have the Son in your heart, by faith? “But as many as received Him to them gave He the power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.” (John 1:12)  Are you, then, a Christian?  Do you have the Son (in your heart)?  The decision is personal, the consequences are eternal.  If you are not now a Christian, receive Him today.  You will never regret becoming one of the Christ folks!

And he (the jailor) brought them out, and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’  And they said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.’” (Acts 16:30,31)

Making A Difference Around the World

We said farewell to our friend Bertha a few days ago who, on the third Lord’s Day of March in 2021, was escorted through the heavens to her home on high where she has an irrevocable deed to a dwelling place where Jesus lives and where she will live with Him and His forevermore.  Her final flight was on short notice as she had indicated no special physical problems and was active and enjoying serving God in her prime time of life.  Her stated purpose for living was that she would be “making a difference in peoples’ lives around the world.  By attending a Bible college, I will be able to learn in depth the foundation, the history of missions in detail and this will strengthen me spiritually to serve God and not please people.  Missionaries can be found in many countries around the world….”  But, at 59 years of age Bertha’s time to transition from this land of shadows to the eternal glory of that City, where neither moon nor sun doth shine for Jesus is the Light of it, came and we were shocked, then saddened but soon filled with exceeding joy knowing that her labors are over and she is now enjoying the eternal rest that Bertha dreamed of, desired and is now delighting in, worshipping at her blessed Savior’s feet.

Bertha migrated here solo from her country of birth probably twenty-five or thirty years ago.  She grew up in a prosperous African nation, but when Zimbabwe became an “independent” nation in the early 1980’s she could “read the tea leaves” and what she anticipated she and her fellow countrymen soon experienced when leaders soon occupied positions of authority who were driven more by their thirst for power than by prosperity for their people.  Bertha came to America with resourcefulness, intelligence, industriousness and faith that would stand her in good stead while working toward the goal of bringing her family to this land where they, too, could enjoy the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness.  In time her daughter joined her here as well as two sons.  She found the Thompson Road Baptist Church as a place where the Word of God was preached in a way that God would use as He led and fed her in her daily walk with Him.  Her son Arthur, a child when he first arrived here, would one day attend Bob Jones University where he would master the art of cinema and media matters. 

Bertha had come to America for freedom and for opportunity and she found those things while growing in grace and in the knowledge of her Lord and Savior through His Word.  As was her heart’s desire, she was able to serve others and in time became affiliated with a movement of women, especially Zimbabwean women, who wanted to bind themselves together as a godly group of believing women serving their God under the banner of faith, hope and love.  It was not hard to love and admire Bertha for what she accomplished living in a foreign country with those nearest and dearest to her a half world away, but she worked and worshipped with dignity, joy, quietness of spirit and a loving, caring attention to the needs of souls amongst whom she lived.

Pursuing her desire to attend Bible college so she could learn more about world missions with the goal of becoming a missionary, she was required to submit to some physical examinations hoping, as part of her training, to serve as a foster parent.  It was through one of the exams that  Bertha learned she had stage 2 cancer, the news coming to her “as a death sentence.”   But by God’s grace and with the skilled health care that she found in caring doctors and nurses, she eventually, after two surgeries and weeks of radiation, was pronounced “cancer free!”  Having come from a “third world country” Bertha was used to the realization that few diagnosed with the cancer that she had would survive.  But with a Christian and caring surgeon and “through the grace of God” survive she did!  “To many people I was a young, healthy mother, working for her children.  There is power in prayer.  It has taken me long to answer my calling because of other circumstances but my conscience all this time is that I should serve God through His people.  Being a missionary will enable me to share the Word of God, to share my experiences, to share trials and still have faith in the Lord.”

Sometimes someone very special comes into your life who touches you deeply and lifts your spirit, whose life bears witness of authenticity and who, having spent moments with you, leaves you spiritually strengthened and thirsty for a deeper knowledge of and closer walk with your Lord and Savior.  Such a presence was Bertha.  Her faith, her quiet spirit, her caring smile, her determination to press forward– when drawing back at times must have been severely tempting, left a mark ineffaceable upon all who knew her.

People were drawn to Bertha, fellowshipped with her and worshipped alongside of her as if they had known her for a lifetime.  She never did realize her “goal” of becoming a missionary in the sense that we think of when speaking of vocational missionaries, but as her friend, my wife and I, and others who knew her well, would be quick to affirm that Bertha was a missionary indeed, having been sent to America from Zimbabwe, third world to the world’s most powerful, affluent nation, as a missionary to teach us by her life and love for Jesus, her sweet spirit, her humbleness, her fidelity to God’s Word, Work and Will lessons written not with the ink of a pen but upon our hearts indelibly for a lifetime.  Thank you, Lord!  Thank you, Bertha.  Farewell.

Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.” (Prov. 31:31)

A Child’s Prayer Answered

This story has been in the making more than 55 years and I will share with you the exciting continuing saga as up to date as this day, but first a bit of background.

When I was a junior at Bob Jones University, preparing for ministry, a call came to Dr. Stenholm, the director of the “Preacher Boys’ class” from a pastor in Coatesville, Indiana, Malcolm Neier of Coatesville Missionary Baptist Church, for a Bible major who wanted to work through the summer “directing” a youth camp the Pastor Neier had started on part of his farm property with a small lake for swimming,  a shelter for meetings and some modest cabins.  This was, of course, in the mid-60’s before the Cadillac camps begun to spring up around the various regions, so church camps were pretty simple by today’s standards, but Pastor Neier loved children and had a burden to provide a week of camp in the summer for area boys and girls where they could have fun, enjoy some good farm food (cooked by his wife, Ruby Neier) and learn Bible lessons with life applications.  I heard about the opportunity, enquired and pronto was accepted as “Camp Director” of Camp Winmore (win more boys and girls for Christ) though I had never directed anything in my life!  I was excited for the opportunity and could never forget the first time I drove my new ’64 Volkswagen bug, complete with a “GOLDWATER FOR PRESIDENT” bumper sticker on the rear bumper, into the farmhouse driveway to meet Malcom, Ruby and their three teenage children, Noble, Russ and Ann Neier would would become my family for about 10 weeks before going back to BJU for my senior year.

It was a wonderful summer with several weeks of camping, lots of good times, opportunities to preach a time for two in the Coatesville Missionary Baptist Church, special times in the Word with junior-age boys and girls from area churches, delicious home cooking served up by Mrs. Neier who was like a “Mom” to me for the summer, keeping my laundry done and making me feel like I was indeed “family.”  I returned to BJU with a purpose and desire to serve the next summer if needed before my wedding day in mid-August of 1965 to the most beautiful girl on the face of God’s earth, a Blue-Ridge Mountain Beauty named Ellen Beshears.

I did return the next summer and we all had another good 10 weeks or so welcoming campers to the Winmore campground where there was great fun, great food and Indianapolis 500 reruns before bedtime on Friday nights.  Pastor Neier wore many hats.  He was a farmer, sold Royal (electric!) type writers in Indianapolis, gave Supervision of the camp ministry, pastored the Coatesville Church and enjoyed watching reruns of the Indy 500!  I was not a big race fan, but I did listen to it when returning home from school which, back in those days, was usually the last of May, and in the mid-60’s the 500 Indy race was always run-on Memorial Day, and in that era, it was always on Monday.  So, I forged a life-long friendship with Malcom and Ruby Neier and family.  In fact, when Ellen and I were married August 14, 1965, Malcom and Ruby made the trip to North Wilkesboro, NC, and Pastor Neier officiated at our beautiful white chapel summer wedding at the foot of the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains.  That first summer working at Camp Winmore enabled me to earn enough money to purchase, with the generous discount my jeweler brother-in-law, Tom Wilson, was able to arrange for me, a dazzling engagement ring!

Well, after graduation, I spent another half-dozen years studying for ministry in two seminaries before becoming a pastor in Wichita, Kansas, then eventually assuming the senior pastorate of the Thompson Road Baptist Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.  I pretty much lost touch with the Neiers, though we did bump into each other at conferences or meetings, but both they and we were intensely involved in our ministries and just were not close because of other demands upon our time.

I resigned the Thompson Road Baptist Church pastorate in the fall of 2019 completing a 40-year tenure there and enlisted with Gospel Fellowship Association of Greenville, SC in their Interim Pastor Ministry while remaining at Thompson Road Baptist Church as Pastor Emeritus with an office there in an out of the way place where I could still study and write.  It was about that time that Ellen was diagnosed with gall-bladder cancer and within an 18-month span underwent three surgeries, requiring quite a lot of time to recoup her strength necessitating that I stay fairly close to Indianapolis should an interim pastorate opportunity open up.  And it did open up!  The Coatesville Missionary Baptist Church, located about 45 minutes due west of our home in Indianapolis, was seeking God’s will about a man to serve as an interim pastor following the 26-year ministry of Pastor Kevin Gaughler who, with his wife, needed to move to northern Indiana to be closed to aging parents who needed some assistance.  I heard of the need, enquired and was extended a call from the CMBC to serve as interim pastor while they continued their search for a full-time pastor.  They had several inquiries but had not yet found a match so, since I could make the drive to and from the church without wearing out my surgery-weakened wife unduly, I accepted.  That was in May of 2020.  We had to “lock down” everything because of Covid-19 but as soon as possible we opened back up for services, and our faithful God has kept the doors open, the lights shining brightly, and heated and cooled air as needed in the 150-year-old church in the middle of this small farming community town.

A week or so before Christmas in 2020 a pastor and his wife visited our Sunday morning service at Coatesville.  I recognized the pastor immediately because he had been a teenager in a church, I pastored in Kansas 45 years ago.  Brian Harr married a girl from the Coatesville area, and it so happened that this girl, saved as a child in our CMBC church, baptized, joined in marriage in this little historic church to Brian Harr with Pastor Malcolm Neier officiating, had come home to visit her family with her pastor-husband over the Christmas holidays.  Brian and I had a happy reunion reminiscing briefly about our days in Newton, Kansas where, in the Liberty Baptist Church, a new church plant that I was pastoring, his father was an elder and his mother the pianist.  Before we parted that day I said, casually, “Brian, this church needs a full-time pastor.  Pray about it,” thinking I would probably never hear back from him about that!  But, about six weeks later, unexpectedly, Brian Harr called and said, “Julie and I have been praying about the church in Coatesville and its need of a pastor, and we feel the Lord may be leading us there.”  Well, after more prayed and counsel, Brian made it known that he and his wife were convinced that God was in it and he was prepared to “candidate” for the pulpit, which he did and whereupon the church extended to him a call to come as pastor by a unanimous vote.  It was about that time that I heard that Mrs. Harr, Julie, had prayed as a child in the Coatesville Church that God would allow her to marry a pastor and that if possible he would one day pastor the Coatesville Missionary Baptist Church!  God answers prayer!  God answers the simple, sweet prayers of children who love Him and want to serve him.

Two weeks ago, Ruby Neier, a mom to me for two summers when I was “Camp Director” at Winmore on the Neier’s farm on the edge of Coatesville, at the age of 96, was in our morning service, looking much like she did 55 years ago with a broad smile and beautiful Godly countenance and God graciously permitted me the opportunity to minister to her that day, and to Ann and her husband.  Pastor Harr will assume his responsibilities at the Coatesville Missionary Baptist Church Sunday, May 16.  Only God could have engineered all of this and I share the story with you for your encouragement and rejoicing with us!

“If We Did Not Go, Who Would Go?”

A  young man who had lived on the southside of Indianapolis, ending up for help at Lester Roloff’s Lighthouse for men from whence he would migrate to Tennessee Temple College in the early 1970’s, and a quiet, shy young lady from Prosperity, West Virginia, also a student at TTC at that same time, met, fell in love and married in 1973 with the purpose and plan to serve God somewhere on this circle called Earth as missionaries.  Their first choice was to go to Trinidad and Tobago, so having raised necessary support, they applied for visas to those gospel-thirsty islands, only to discover that their visas were not readily forthcoming; so, they went instead to work with missionaries in St. Thomas while waiting for the visa green light to be granted.  They served faithfully there, helping in a Christian camp and in the Blue Water Bible College, and welcomed while there their youngest (of three) son into the world.  With visas finally in hand, they shipped a 55-gallon drum, containing their “earthly belongings” to Trinidad where they immediately were thrust into the leadership of a local church but, having been there only a year, were forced to leave because of unrest generated there following the Jim Jones incident.

“Where to go?”  Well, upon the counsel of their mission board, Steve and Treasa Fox accepted the challenge of moving to the Philippines to assist in the ministry of five mission churches their first two years there, and then for the next two years planting a church themselves.  During those years of serving in missions in the Far East, God began to stir Steve and Treasa’s hearts about the need to take the gospel to Native American Indians in the southwest United States.

Having announced their desire to follow God’s leading to work with Native Americans, Steve and Treasa met with some well-meaning warnings about the slow, trying and tedious work they would find in working on this mission field, and they were warned about the discouragement and difficulties.  Treasa said, “When God called us to work among the Native Americans, we knew little about the ministry other than it was slow and discouraging work.  Many…thought the Lord could use us much more effectively somewhere else.  However, if we did not go, who would?” This couple who from their earliest days of marriage had abandoned themselves to doing God’s will whatever or where ever that would entail assuredly believed that their previous training in God’s prep school on the islands and in the Philippines had been on purpose to prepare them for this ministry which would indeed in the beginning seem almost “useless” and fruitless.

But God reminded the Fox duo that He had called them, had directed them and was fully able to sustain them.  Many of the people on the Salt Indian Reservation where they began their Native American evangelization were alcoholics or drug addicts.  It was a work that would demand patient perseverance, purposeful plodding and plowing while friendships with the tribal residents were being forged through Steve and Treasa’s serving their neighbors and helping them with basic life skills.  Steve donned his work belt and repaired roofs and broken-down autos and anything mechanical, over the course of time winning the confidence and trust of those amongst whom he and his faithful helpmeet lived.  It was as “slow as molasses” but in time would yield dividends not measured in substance but in souls.  Steve often said what he was doing was “love in work clothes.”  

After earnestly and faithfully plowing and planting with good gospel seed for 22 years, Steve was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2007, but his work was not finished; in fact, as he battled cancer and endured life draining treatments for the next eight years, Steve intensified his efforts resulting in many people trusting Christ as Savior and enrolling as disciples in Bible courses Steve would teach so they would be grounded in truth. In a handwritten note he sent to his sending church in October of 2012 Steve wrote, “God has used this cancer to minister in so many ways.  I don’t even pray that God would heal us anymore.  I just pray for His will in the whole situation.  Some people don’t understand that, but if God can be glorified, I’m cool with it.”   On June 12, 2015, Steve Fox, the once troubled teen who grew up in his Dad’s roller-skating rink on the near southside of Indianapolis, was graduated to glory.  He and his steady helpmeet of 42 years had faithfully labored through the ups and downs, dreams and disappointments, victories and defeats, thick and thin, for better and for worse, in sickness and in health, never forgetting that initial question that they answered positively before God:  “If we don’t go, who will?” They did go and the value of their steadfast perseverance on a challenging mission field, loving and laboring with and for our Native Americans, can be aptly and succinctly summarized in the words of a teenager whose life, one of many, Steve and Treasa touched indelibly:  “Pastor and Mrs. Fox have played an enormous role in my spiritual growth…,” and in the words of another who said, “I am honored to have learned and served under the Christian teachings of Pastor and Mrs. Fox.  They modeled faithfulness, commitment, service and love for the Lord.”

We can only thank God, as Steve, now with His Savior, and Treasa would want us to do, that the Holy Spirit hunted, hounded and hauled into the Good Ship Grace a troubled youth who was guided and guarded by His skillful hand to the Lighthouse in Corpus Christi and then on to Tennessee Temple College, and that the same Holy Spirit took a young lady from Prosperity, West Virginia, who marveled at the thought that God would do anything through her, to a place where their paths would merge one day, eventuating in the two becoming one with each other and one in the single-hearted desire to take the Good News to peoples who had never before heard it.  We can all rejoice that God preserved forever on the hearts of this young couple those words, “If we don’t go, who will go?”

Go ye therefore, and teach all  nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.  Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”  (Matt. 28:18-20)  

P.S.  Treasa has recently accepted a proposal of marriage and by God’s grace and in His will, she  will soon open a new chapter in the journal of her walk with God.

Two Kinds of Wisdom, Pt. 2

Our focus today is that wisdom from above, and our text book is the New Testament epistle of James, chapter three, verses 13-18.  James has identified two kinds of wisdom:  (1)  One that is earthly, sensual, devilish and, therefore, destructive, divisive and demonic; and (2) One that is from above which can be identified in a person by their good conversation, with accompanying works all which are labeled by James as “meekness of wisdom.” (3:13)  Having spoken about the “wisdom” that produces bitter envying and strife, I want to list what James enumerates as characteristics of the “wisdom that is from above.” (3:17)  So, each of us can inventory our own hearts (James did pin point this as a heart issue, 3:14) to see which of the two kinds of wisdom we possess.  Would you join me in this critically important spiritual exercise, with a view to answering the question, “Which of the two kinds of wisdom is in my heart?”  Here are the earmarks of that wisdom which is from above: (James 3:17)

  •  It is “first” pure, i.e., clean; that is, it is the core being of those who have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ, for the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from all unrighteousness (I John 1:7).  A cleansed person enjoys the positional cleansing when, at conversion, the Holy Spirit of God immerses him into the Body of Christ and from that instant, positionally, he will be forever as clean as Jesus is clean; and practically he will enjoy daily cleansing from sin, renewing the fellowship between God and himself that sin in daily practice inhibits until we “confess our sin” and experience when we do that the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, keeps on cleansing us from all sin.  John says in I John 3:3 that the hope that being the sons of God and knowing that one day He is coming back for us causes us to want to live pure lives in our daily walk, “for we shall see Him as He is”. (I John 3:3)  God’s wisdom, working in and through us, is first pure.
  • Then, it is peaceable.  Sons of God have peace with God, having been justified by faith through our Lord Jesus Christ, and this peace with God (Romans 5:1), assuring us that we are not under God’s condemnation and that His wrath will never be meted out to us because of our sin, gives us the peace of God which “passeth all understanding”.  (Phil. 4:7)  We live pure and peaceable lives, even in the midst of the swirling cultural wars around us because wisdom produces a peace ableness in our lives.
  • It is also gentle, that is, it behaves itself properly to those under our authority.  Parents have authority, teachers have authority, supervisors have authority.  A saved parent, teacher or supervisor or anyone else who exercises some measure of authority over others, in God’s wisdom, is gentle toward those who answer to him/her. That is, he is not an unreasonable boss and does not use the position of authority as an excuse to take advantage of those he is over.  Paul says, “Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal,” (Col.4:1) and “Masters…forbear threatening….” (Eph. 6:9)
  •  Wisdom from above is also easy to be entreated.  This is the other side of the authority coin.  If you are the student, the child, the employee, as a believer God’s wisdom will enable you to not begrudge those who are over you.  You will endeavor to be the best employee, the best student “with fear and trembling in singleness of heart as unto Christ;” (Eph.6:5) and “not with eyeservice as men pleasers, but in singleness of heart fearing God;” (Col.3:22) “pleasing them well in all things not answering again.” (Tit. 2:9)  So, when your superior comes to you with a distasteful assignment at the close of the day asking that you have it done pronto, you are “easy to be entreated.”
  • It is also “full of mercy.”  One who is governed by God’s wisdom responds to those around him who are in misery with mercy.  Paul calls our response one driven by “bowels of mercy.” (Col.3:12) We cannot see misery and shut up or turn off our feelings to those suffering summarily dismissing it as the result of someone’s “making their own bed so they will have to lie in it.”  We look past the possible causes and see a precious soul made in God’s image that will live somewhere forever and we must be “full of mercy.”
  • Full of good works, realizing that this is why God made us as His “workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Eph. 2:10)   Young men should be, wisely, “zealous of good works,” (Tit. 2:7) and every believer is commanded to be “zealous of good works,” (Tit. 2:14) and “ready to every good work,” (Tit.3:1) and careful to maintain good works (Tit.3:8) not in order to earn points with God, but to fulfill God’s purpose and plan for our being left in this world so that the unbelieving world around us might behold our good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven. (Matt. 5:16)
  • Finally, without partiality and hypocrisy.  James warned against these sins in chapter two when he faulted churches that favored visitors in their midst who were dressed as those who apparently were wealthy, giving them the best seats and obvious deference.  Wisdom that is from above is governed by equal treatment and respect to all people, regardless of their social, economic, racial or cultural orientation.

In closing, an illustration that I love.  It is said that the Duke of Wellington, after a worship service, lingered at the church altar to pray and as he was praying an old man, dressed as though he might be destitute, made his way to the altar and knelt close to the General in prayer.  One of the dignitary’s bodyguards eased his way up to the stranger and, putting a hand on his shoulder, motioned for him to move away from the honorable Duke.  With his eagle eye and keen awareness of his surroundings, the Duke placed his hand firmly on the hand of the old, apparently poor man, and whispered, “Don’t move.  We are all equal here.”

’God give us all a thirst for that wisdom which is from above!  Amen.”

Two Kinds of Wisdom

Job asked, “Where shall wisdom be found?”  James queries, “Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge?”  The quest for life’s age-old answers concerning wisdom, its source and substance, takes one ultimately to the Book of Wisdom, Solomon’s Proverbs:  “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” and on a similar theme, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” (Provs. 9:10; 1:7)  Therefore, no one has begun to attain unto wisdom or knowledge, in the absolute sense, until he has learned to fear God; that is, to have a reverential respect for Him.

Knowledge and wisdom do differ.  Knowledge has to do with the accumulation, assimilation and organization of facts.  It deals with science, scholarship, education, comprehension, perception, intelligence, laws and axioms.  Wisdom on the other hand is the proper application of knowledge in everyday life situations.  It has to do with judgment, prudence, common sense and discernment.

Knowledge will enable one to obtain a driver’s license, wisdom will ensure that you drive sensibly, sanely and safely.

Knowledge will enable you to get a license to marry, and wisdom will enable you to live so that  your marriage will be happy and lasting.

Knowledge will reward you with a diploma or a degree; wisdom will help you in applying what you have learned as you “spend your years as a tale that is told” so that you may achieve success.

“Wisdom is the principal thing,” Solomon admonishes, “therefore get wisdom and in all thy getting get understanding.” (Provs. 4:7)

Of course, Solomon is referring to the wisdom that comes from fearing the Lord.  James calls this the “wisdom that is from above.” (James 3:17)

There is another kind of “wisdom” and James refers to it as wisdom that “descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.” (James 3:15)  It is, therefore, in contrast to wisdom from above (heavenly) and is a wisdom that is worldly, earthly.  This wisdom is a counterfeit wisdom, and you can identify it by its fruit which is destructive (bitter envying), divisive (strife) and demonic (devilish).  It is the wisdom that most often rules the day in the cultural marketplaces, the great educational, political, social, economic and even religious arenas of not only the 21st century but of past ages also.  It is often alluring, appealing, attractive but always and ultimately anti-God and is at its very core humanistic and antithetical to true wisdom.

That wisdom, which is not from above, James warns, is characterized by bitter envying, which is a heart issue, (3:14)  confusion, and every evil work as by-products.  It often produces a zeal but one that is selfish, and Paul illustrates this kind of destructive wisdom citing the religious zealots of his day: “I bear them record that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.” (Romans 10:2)  History affords us multiple examples of this kind of destructive zeal, as in the person, for instance, of King Olaf of Norway who spread his particular brand of religion by a violent sword and justified it by saying “I had to defend the honor of God.”  This wisdom, James would attest, is not from above.

Worldly wisdom delights in that which is rational; Godly wisdom in that which is Biblical.

Worldly wisdom focuses wholly on the temporal; Godly wisdom is grounded in that which is eternal.

Worldly wisdom makes much of the physical, Godly wisdom the spiritual.

Worldly wisdom is at its core humanistic; Godly wisdom is first and foremost theistic.

Cain, in earth’s earliest days, illustrates for us a life that was designed and driven on the principles of worldly wisdom.  Cain disobeyed God’s instructions and then brought to God in what he considered worship the very best that his hands were able to produce through his own efforts; and he came to God doing worship his way.  Paul, indicting this whole class of humanity who “have gone the way of Cain” (Jude 11) said that the world by its wisdom knew not God, and that “professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.” (Rom. 1:22)

Possessing this worldly wisdom may catapult one to heights of extraordinary achievements and with it the applause and acclaim of the world, but James reminds us that no matter how much we gain on the world’s ladder of success we are lying against the truth (3:14).  Check your heart, for as the half-brother of Jesus indicates, it is all a heart matter and unless our wisdom has the earmarks of being from above, then what we have in our hearts is eventually going to be manifested as bitter envying and strife which will only lead to confusion. (3:16)

How do we know, one might ask, whether we have wisdom that is from above?  The answer to that question I will address in the second installment of “Two Kinds of Wisdom,” which will appear in the next post of “You And God,” Lord willing.  But, interestingly, you might, in preparation, read James 3:1-13, a torrid discussion of James about the powerful tongue, its uses and abuses.  It is that discussion on the tongue with which one can either “bless God the Father,” or “curse men, made after the similitude of God” (James 3:9)  with which James introduces this discourse about “who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? Let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.” (3:13)

For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.  Where is the wise?  Where is the scribe?  Where is the disputer of this world?  Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?”  (I Cor. 1:19,20)

The Taming of the Tongue

Solomon said, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” (Provs. 18:21)  Nobody has ever yet been able to measure the power of this small mouth member.  Man has harnessed energy and with a button can detonate bombs, yet he has not learned to control the tongue.  The courses of great ships on the seas and equally great air ships are controlled by tiny computer chips, but this tiny member of the mouth is still by and large untamable.

A Japanese proverb says it well:  “A tongue three inches long can kill a man six feet tall.”  Another sage said, “The most ferocious monster in the world  has his den just behind my teeth.”  Another journalist spoke wisely when advising:  “If your lips would keep from slips, four things you must observe with care:  to whom you speak, of whom you speak and how and when and where.”

King David weighed in:  “I will take heed to my ways that I sin not with my tongue.  I will keep my mouth with a bridle.” (Ps. 39:1)  Job spoke of being hid from the scourge of the tongue.  The Psalmist said of the unrighteous that their throats were an open sepulcher and that with their tongue they flatter.

Peter, in the New Testament, admonishes that he who would love life and see good days should refrain his tongue from evil.  Paul, the Apostle, indicts the human race in Romans saying that the tongue is an instrument of deceit:  “The poison of asps is under their lips whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.”

And, in Proverbs there are multiple warnings:  “A fool’s lips enter into contention and his mouth calleth for strokes…a fool’s mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul.  The words of a talebearer are as wounds and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.” (18:6-8)  And “In the multitude of words there wanteth no sin; but he that refraineth his lips is wise.  The tongue of the just is as choice silver,” (10:19,20); and “Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop, but a good word maketh is glad,” (12:25) and “He that hath knowledge spareth his words,” (17:27); and “seeth thou a man hasty in his words, there is more hope of a fool.” (29:20)

Of course, the classic scriptural dissertation on the believer’s speech is found in James, chapter three.  In this treatise, the half-brother of Jesus, speaking to the “twelve tribes which are scattered abroad,” (1:1) teaches about the “perfect” man as being one who has mastered the discipline of not offending with the tongue. (v. 2)  To be sure, “perfect” here as in most all other New Testament occurrences of this word means “mature,” or “in full bloom.”  Not only is the mature believer one who has learned how to skillfully use God’s Word (Hebs. 5:11-14), he is able also to not offend by ill-spoken words and therefore able to “bridle the whole body.”  These admirable traits are the ultimate levels of spiritual maturity to which every sincere follower of the Lord Jesus Christ strives.

Then, beginning in James 3:5, the writer turns his attention to specific problems that our tongues can be blamed for. First, an untamed tongue is a boaster of great things. (v.5)  The boaster talks of what he has done, what he could do, what he will do and what he might do.

A lion met a tiger, as they drew beside a pool. Said the tiger, ‘Tell me why you’re roaring like a fool.’  ‘That’s not foolish,’ said the lion, with a twinkle in his eyes, ‘They call me King of Beasts because I advertise.’  A rabbit heard them talking and ran home like a streak.  He thot he’d try the lion’s plan, but his roar was just a squeak.  A fox came to investigate, had luncheon in the woods.  So, when you advertise, my friend, be sure you’ve got the goods!”  (copied)

Next, James likens the tongue to a fire. (v.6)  It is raging, destructive, unpredictable, uncontrollable and fueled perpetually.  A lady justified the quick outbursts of her tongue by saying “It passes quickly,” to which Billy Sunday, the sawdust evangelist, replied, “So does a shot gun blast.”

James continues: It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison, i.e., the poison of gossip, slander, cursing, filthy speech and deceit.  Sadly, this little member can both praise God and curse men, to which James affirms “these things ought not to be.”

A.T. Peirson was in George Mueller’s study and he glanced through the Bible that the renowned orphanage director had open on his desk, stopping at Ps. 37:23: “The steps of a good man are ordered by Jehovah.”  He noticed that in the margin Mueller had written, “And the stops.” So, if your tongue knows when to go and when to stop, the whole body will know when and what to do!

One final quip:  “Says Gossip 1 to Gossip 2, while shopping in the town, ‘One Mr. Pry remarked to me, Smith bought his goods of Brown.’  Said Gossip 2 to Gossip 3, who cast his eyelids down, ‘I’ve heard it said today, my friend, Smith got his goods from Brown.’  Said Gossip 3 to Gossip 4 with something of a frown, ‘I’ve heard strange news, what do you think, Smith took his goods from Brown.’  Says Gossip 4 to Gossip 5, who blazed it round the town: ‘I’ve heard today such shocking news: ‘Smith stole his goods from Brown!’”

My brethren, be not many masters (teachers), knowing that we shall received the greater condemnation, for in many things we (all) offend.” (James 3:1,2a)

About Anxiety

“Be anxious for nothing” Paul the Apostle exhorts his Philippian brothers and sisters in Christ (Phil. 4:4) even as he awaited in prison what was certain to be for him a trip to the beheading block.  He was intensely involved in church planting, and the 1st century climate in which he was evangelizing was anything but friendly to his kind.  Yet, Paul commands: “Be careful (anxious) for nothing,” or “Don’t worry about anything!”

Through the ages others, in poetry and prose, have echoed Paul’s sentiments.  Victor Hugo opined, “Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones.  And when you have finished your daily tasks, go to sleep in peace.  God is awake!”  Another author, George McDonald, wrote that no man ever sank under the burdens of a day, but only when the burdens of tomorrow were added onto the burdens of today does the weight of the load become unbearable.  Beecher affirmed that work never killed anyone, but that worry is the killer.  “It is not the revolution that destroys the machinery but the friction.  Fear secretes acids but love and trust are sweet juices.”

We’ve not lacked for reasons during these past twelve pandemic months to worry.  Can we keep our house?  Will our job last?  Should I leave the house for fear of contracting the deadly Covid-19 virus?  Is the vaccine safe?  Will we ever get back to normal?  And worries ad infinitum!

At a time like this it is imperative that people of faith draw deeply on that faith, and it’s from God’s Word that we receive hope and help for the crisis.  Jesus reminded his followers that the very hairs of their head were numbered.  Consider: every one of the hairs of your head has a number and when one hair falls to the ground, that number is removed from the whole!  Again, our Lord said that two sparrows are sold for a farthing (how insignificant a creature!), yet not one of them shall fall to the ground without our heavenly Father taking note of it (Matt. 10: 29,30).  The implication:  if God is that minutely concerned about every small creature, does not his concern for you far exceed His concern for lesser creatures so that you need be anxious for nothing!

A soldier (WW I) decided it was futile to worry about his future.  He thusly reasoned:  “Of two things one is certain: either you are on the front lines, or you are behind the front lines.  If you are at the front, one of two things is certain, either you are exposed to danger or you are in a safe place; if you are exposed to danger, one of two things is certain, either you are wounded or you are not wounded; if you are wounded, one of two things is certain, either you will recover or you will die; if you recover there is no need to worry and if you die you cannot worry, so WHY WORRY?“ (copied)

There are some practical things one can do to lessen the probability of unprofitable fretting:  (1)  Cultivate relationships with friends with whom you may share your burdens and from whom you can solicit prayer support; (2)  Eat, sleep and exercise sensibly; (3)  Saturate your mind with Bible promises or principles such as Psalm 56:3: “What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee.”  (4) Allow good Christian music to flood your soul with its soothing and comforting assurances; (5)  Practice what Jesus taught when he urged us to “take no thought for tomorrow,” and (6)  attend to details avoiding procrastination so that your “things to worry about” list does not grow longer and longer.

Paul, in the Philippian passage that we started with in the greater context of that verse wherein he said that we should “Be careful (anxious) for nothing,” enumerates some key concepts that go with the “Be careful for nothing” admonition:

  •  He urges that we should not forget to rejoice (in the Lord and “always).”
  • He tells us that we should maintain a “non-combative” spirit.  The word translated “moderation” in verse 5 where it says immediately following the “Be anxious for nothing” command that we should let our moderation be known to all men is a word that means gentleness or kindness.  We are not out looking for trouble or living with a chip on our shoulder.
  • Paul, as he always does, exhorts us to pray often and about everything:  “…but in everything by prayer and supplication….” (Phil. 4:6)
  • And he declares that we should never abandon a grateful attitude:  “…with thanksgiving…” and, finally,
  • Paul assures us that the “peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

So again, why worry when you can pray?  A medical doctor, having examined studies, said that patients who would meditate and pray could expect to experience a significant drop in their blood pressure.

Said the robin to the sparrow, I should really like to know why these anxious human beings fret about and worry so.  Said the sparrow to the robin, I suppose that it must be that they have no Heavenly Father such as cares for you and me.”

Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in Him and He shall bring it to pass.” (Ps. 37:5)

Waiting the Call (An Easter Poem)

Nature blushed in reverence of God’s Son upon the tree,
	While the thirsty mob for death did yell.
Jesus died that day to set his killers free,
	But God refused to leave the Holy One in hell.

That is why He died though Satan’s worst at Him was hurled;
	That is why from heav’n to earth He came;
There His blood was shed, the Savior of the world,
	Even as in death He suffered shame.

He would die indeed, then in the grave would lie,
	Fragrances of death would fill the tomb;
Followers outside the cave would in mourning cry,
	Some had traced His life from Mary’s womb.

But from Friday Good to Sunday’s fate,
	Jesus went to hell to gather up his own;
Captives in the bosom of Abraham did wait,
	To follow Christ through space to their new home.

We who trust Him now by faith do also wait,
	Listening for the trumpet and the shout;
Waiting for our entrance through His open gate,
	This our blessed hope, without a doubt!

Even so “Come Quickly” is our daily prayer,
	Nothing here could make us miss His call;
Surely Heaven’s glories we will gladly share
	Falling on our knees before Him all.

Anthony Slutz
Easter 2021

And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold two men stood by them in white apparel which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from  you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:10,11)