Crown of Glory Candidate

A faithful pastor who gave his life serving others was graduated to glory a couple of days before Christmas.  He pastored two church plant churches early in his ministry, then pastored Grace Baptist Church of Muncie, Indiana, for 45 years, and if that were not enough, he rounded out his ministry by pastoring Temple Baptist Church in Dunkirk, Indiana, for the past eight years.  You may not have known pastor Collins Glenn whom this post features, but as a tribute to him and to an unnumbered, unsung and unseen host of pastors like him, I share this tribute with you today:

Just a little over two years ago, we met here to bid farewell to a wonderful pastor’s wife, Duriene Glenn, who had labored in ministry by her husband’s side for 64 years; now we meet in God’s good providences to bid farewell to the pastor-husband whose faithful helpmeet and companion in ministry she was, who has been joined with that heavenly band of believers gone on before us to Home in Heaven.  Dr. Collins Glenn, a pastor’s pastor, an under shepherd whose decades long ministry has been characterized by a passion for souls and for the shepherding of sheep, the planting of New Testament churches and the propagation of world-wide missionary endeavors.  His retirement in 2012 as senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church concluding a 45-year pastorate there, established for decades to come an unwritten 21st century criterion for those desiring the office of a bishop, for those striving to preach God’s word with clarity and compassion and for those who would embrace pastor Glenn’s stated life’s goal: “Be faithfully consistent and consistently faithful.”  

Writing to friends and followers as recently as December 4 from his hospital bed pastor Glenn shared that his conviction was that God’s will for all of us is to (a)  Stay close to God in faith; (b) Stay obedient to God in lifestyle and service; (c) Remember that He will never leave nor forsake you; (d) Remember that you have a home in Heaven; (e) Present the gospel to every person possible and (f) Be faithful in all areas of duty remembering that circumstances must not be allowed to cause us to forsake His Church or our responsibilities in such things as prayer, giving, study, missions.

Pastor Glenn had a heart for missions and missionaries.  He served 45 years on the Baptist World Mission board, a mission agency that services 300 missionaries undergirding the ministries of their respective local, sending churches.  At the time of his homegoing, no other active BWM board member had served as long as pastor Glenn.  Under his leadership many New Testament churches were planted.  His first pastorate in Arkansas was a church-plant ministry.  He loved the church and devoted himself to fulfilling in his own unique way the Great Commission.  He shared with me and with others that He built Grace Baptist Church in Muncie on his Dispensational Home Bible classes.

Under Pastor Glenn’s leadership, scores of Christian young people caught his vision and shared his passion, heeding God’s call and following the Holy Spirit’s direction as He separated them to the ministry to which they were called.  Upon his retirement long-time co-laborer and colleague of Pastor Glenn, Denis Ice said so aptly, “Hundreds, even thousands of Christian servants are still serving today because of your faithfulness.  You have put your hand to the plow and not looked back.”

Pastor Glenn was a state and national leader in the cause of Christian Education serving under the auspices of the Indiana Association of Christian Schools and with its national counterpart.  He led in the Christian Education movement founding and guiding Heritage Hall Christian School of GBC, setting the standard for Church-schools in our state and surrounding states for excellence in quality in the training and in the education of Christian young people.

He was also a leader in the Indiana Fundamental Baptist Fellowship of churches, hosting many of our meetings and serving in various capacities through the years as President and as one of the IFBF directors.  His leadership was impeccable and characterized by fidelity to God’s Word and Work.  He was humble, godly and authentic in both his personal and public life and labors.

The Lord called Collins Glenn to service when he was successfully engaged in business as a young man, and, answering that call he prepared himself through disciplined training and then in time was uniquely used of God until the time of his homegoing, pastoring following his 45-year pastorate at Grace Baptist, another eight years at Temple Baptist Church in Dunkirk.  I submit to you that most men, upon stepping down from that many years in full-time pastoring would have considered, being in their mid-seventies, looking for a less rigorous schedule to keep than weekly commitments that the demands of a pastor entail.  Not Collins Glenn: but then most men, even men in ministry, are not cut of the same kind of cloth as he:

Few men could pastor the same church for 45 years; few men could lead a large church staff year after year without experiencing some form of burn-out at some time; few men could persuade a Georgia born beauty to leave the warmth of Dixie land to spend scores of winters in Indiana; few men could listen to the multiple roastings and toasting of his dear friend Dr. Larry Hufhand and still call him “friend,” few men would have the expertise and wisdom to build a vibrant New Testament church on dispensational home Bible studies; few men pastor a lifetime and finish their work with the unqualified praise of peer pastors and the admiration statewide and nationally of Christian leaders for integrity, fidelity and excellence in the discharging of their ministry before God and men.  

Years ago, William Allen White, a Kansas newspaper editor, attended a funeral procession of a pastor in his hometown of Emporia, Kansas. The widely read and award-winning editor described that funeral in words that I think are especially applicable and appropriate in our celebration today of the Life of our beloved friend, mentor, co-laborer and fellow Soldier of the Cross.  I quote: 

“Now a funeral procession of a pastor may mean little or much.  When a rich and powerful man dies, the people may play politics and attend his funeral for various reasons.  But here was the body of a meek, gentle old man—a man without purse or scrip.  It won’t take twenty minutes to settle his estate in probate court.  He was a preacher of the Gospel, but preachers have been buried before in Emporia without much show of sorrow.  The reason so many people lined up behind the hearse that held the kind old man’s mortality was simple:  They loved him. He devoted his life to helping people.  In a very simple way, without money or worldly power, he gave of the gentleness of his heart to all around him. We are apt to say that money talks, but it speaks a broken, poverty-stricken language.  Hearts talk better, clearer and with a wider intelligence.  The old man, with the soft voice and kindly manners, knew the language of the heart and spoke it.  He was infinitely patient and brave.  He held a simple, old-fashioned faith in God and in His lovingkindness.  When others gave money out of their store, he gave prayers and hard work and an inspiring courage.  He helped.  In his sphere he was a power.  And so, when he lay down to sleep, hundreds of friends trudged out to bid him good-bye with moist eyes and with cramped throats to wish him an abundant entrance into heaven.

And, so, we too have come here today to bid farewell and to say “thank you, dear Brother.  You have impacted our lives for good; your mark upon us is indelible. Your standard of excellence a benchmark for generations to come.  You have fought a good fight, you have finished the course, you have kept the faith. Yours surely will be the reward of which Peter spake when he said that when the chief Shepherd would appear faithful pastors would receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.”   “And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth:  Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them.” (Rev. 14:13)

O Holy Night

There is, after all the hustle and bustle of preparing for another Christmas day, an amazing aura about Christmas Eve.  Stores begin to close mid to late afternoon, traffic slows considerably, darkness sets in highlighting all the brightly beaming lights on lawns and houses, and a stillness grips the air that seems to be uncommon.  It is, finally, Christmas Eve.

Wood for the special fire has been gathered for the fireplace.  Packages mostly have been wrapped and either placed with care under the evergreen Christmas tree or stowed away secretly for a surprise Christmas morning.  Soup, a special velvety blend, simmers on the stove; all sorts of goodies are everywhere, and the kitchen keepers are busy with last minute recipes, mixes and mouth-watering dishes soon to be enjoyed both on this special eve and then again, the day called Christmas.  It is excitement in its purest form.  Loved ones may still be traveling to arrive in time for that Christmas Eve service that has become a treasured tradition when, in the warmth of a well-lighted and gayly decorated building, a family of faith gathers to commemorate, sometimes with the glorious glow of only candles lit, to sing, recite scripture, worship and adore in sacred, hallowed moments God’s Christ, our Lord, who came as prophesied and who will come again as promised.

I always, as a teen, envied those churches that featured special choir presentations of music such as Handel’s Messiah.  Years later, when living in Dallas, Ellen and I heard of a small Bible College in Ft. Worth that was featuring a Sunday afternoon rendition of this Christmas classic, so with three small children in tow, we made our way there, arriving in time for an almost back row seat, but enjoying for a couple hours, the Christ exalting, heavenly strains, Scripture set to music by the maestro George Frideric Handel, a composition originally intended for Easter that was completed from its inception in a matter of a very few weeks, a rendering of the Biblical accounts of His birth, His death and His resurrection that has thrilled hearts worldwide for almost three hundred years.  It was the first time we had heard the heart-rending oratorio live and it is an experience that we never could forget. A small Bible college with limited facilities and probably few in number musicians honored Christ that Christmas in a way that choirs and churches and schools have been doing for centuries as the glorious story is perpetuated with sounds that universally stir the heart strings of believers year after year.

So, after all the gathering peoples have bedded down awaiting another glad Christmas morning, it has been my pleasure to tune in to some television feed of a “high church” usually locally and listen in as they sing the grand themes of the Christian Church, filling nooks and crannies of often high ceiled cathedrals with musical tributes celebrating the first Advent of God the Son.  It is becoming increasingly difficult in our secular society to find sacred streamings of soul-stirring seasonal sounds that exalt Christ, the Savior of the world.  But, thus far, the effort has paid off and it is worth it, even if one wonders whether those dedicated musicians, talented to the core, know Him of Whom they so beautifully sing.

Finally, with the stockings all hung in care, and the tree hunkered down for a quiet night before a busy, bustling early Christmas morning soon arrives, with sounds all silenced and doors safely secured, I quietly slip into bed thinking of the dreams on Christmas Eves past when as a child if you would hold your breath you could hear, at least you were sure you could hear, something on the roof astir.  You drifted off, finally, with sugar plums dancing in your head, muffled sounds coming from downstairs where Mom and Dad’s bedroom was not realizing that they were sneaking around doing some last-minute preparations for another very merry Christmas Day, following a most wondrous Christmas Eve.  May it never cease to send hallowed shivers through your soul as your reflect with joy upon Christmas Eves past; and may Christmas Eve 2020 be sanctified by His presence in your home and in your heart. 

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.’” (Luke 2:13,14)  

Christmas 2020

Hush!  The angels’ songs we hear,
Through time’s centuries year by year.
Peace on earth, good will toward men
Christ has come to bear our sin.
 
Wrapped in flesh the God man came.
Jesus is His holy name.
Came to live and came to die,
“It is finished” was His cry.
 
Herod’s temple veil was rent.
Then a quake from heav’n was sent.
Borrowed tomb became His grave,
He for sinners died to save.
 
From the tomb God’s Christ did rise;
Then ascended through the skies.
He one day will come again,
Life with Him will never end!
 
Year of years this 2020!
All mankind has suffered plenty;
You, my friend, can live forever,
Nothing from His love will sever.
 
Trust in Him, believe today!
He will wash your sins away;
Then on Christmas day you’ll sing,
Glory to the newborn King
 

Night of Wonders, Christmas Eve, 1970

In a recent installment of You and God I shared with you a favorite classic Christmas story; in this post I want to tell you of a very special Christmas for the Slutz family, one that occurred 50 years ago this coming Christmas Eve.

We were living in Dallas, Texas, where I was pursuing studies at Dallas Seminary.  Our girls, Sandra and Marti, were four and two years of age and our son, Teddy, was about six months old.  We were driving home to spend Christmas with Ellen’s family who lived where she had grown up, in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina.  It was a trip of just a bit over 1,000 miles and sixteen hours, and we packed our suitcases and a few gifts that we were able to take to exchange into the front (under the hood) of our tiny ’64 Volkswagen bug with the children in the back seat (seat belts were unheard of then) and headed out sometime after I got home from work the afternoon of Christmas Eve.  We were young (still in our 20’s) and never gave a second thought as to how tough a trip like that might be through several states (Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee and then into northwestern North Carolina) with three children, none of them yet five years of age, stuffed into the back seat of a car that by today’s standards looked like a toy!

But we were excited to go, for the first time since we’d been married, to the beautiful Blue Ridge North Carolina mountains where Ellen had grown up and where, since we had exchanged our wedding vows in August of 1965 in the little white-steepled church her daddy pastored, in the community of Cricket.  We had not been there since that wondrous wedding night, and the thought of seeing Mom, Dad, a younger brother (one was in Viet Nam) and sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends, was exciting, so much so that any thought of how far that trip was never crossed our minds.  With whatever map we could get our hands on, we started out to spend Christmas Eve under the stars headed for our destination far to the east. 

Thankfully, the trip was pretty uneventful.  The car ran like a true “bug,” and the mountains were no challenge for our little foreign made built for the autobahn vehicle.  We had packed some food to eat as stopping for fast foods, especially on a long trip through mostly small towns, was unheard of.  The children, with the coming of darkness, fell asleep, and the excitement of the journey was enough to keep Ellen and myself wide-awake having spent the day before in preparation for the journey.

It was a quiet Christmas Eve.  Most people were already at their Christmas gatherings, and the farther along we got, the less traffic we were required to deal with.  All went really well.  We had an AM only radio in our little beetle, but going through any country miles, much less mountain miles, one did not expect to find any “reception” on the radio.  We were totally surprised though when scrolling through the dial, somewhere in Tennessee in the wee hours of the morning, we heard with crystal clarity the beautiful strains of Handel’s’ Messiah coming out of that little dashboard box and we immediately fixed the dial onto that station and for the most part of two hours, until dawn came on Christmas morning, unveiling a beautiful scene of a light skiff of snow covering the mountain sides, we enjoyed that wonderful classic Christmas oratorio.  It seemed like it was just for us!  The reception, through mountains, amazingly did not waver.  The children slept soundly.  We listened with silent rapture as our Messiah was exalted through musical offerings of Old Testament prophecies and New Testament Gospels as what seemed like a choir of a thousand angel-like voices came sweetly yet powerfully out of that little radio stirring our hearts, shaking our souls in awe and wonder not only at the grace of God in giving us His only begotten Son but also in His mercies in wafting to us through invisible ether waves that early Christmas morn sacred wonders of His unspeakable gift to the world and to us on what would be a Christmas Eve/Christmas Day gift that would be etched deeply into the recesses of our memories for decades to come.

About breakfast time the music ended, and we were amazed to find a little country café somewhere in eastern Tennessee that was open for breakfast and so we joyfully disembarked from our close car quarters and our little family enjoyed some hot food that would take us on a few more hours to home and to what would seem like “heaven” for a very few days as we humbly, gratefully celebrated Christmas.  The exchange of gifts would seem meager in comparison to what we will probably do again this year on Christmas morning, but the giving and receiving of love, the singing of timeless Christmas carols in that same little church where Ellen’s Dad would years later retire after 50 years as pastor would be all the gifts we would want and more than we would dare ask for on a Christmas Eve and Christmas Day 50 years ago this Christmas, forever sanctified in our memories as a treasured Christmas, produced by God the Father, starring God the Son and directed by God the Spirit, Christmas 1970.

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” (Isa. 9:6)

On the Keeping of Christmas

My childhood memories of Christmas are treasured pictures of times precious yet contrasting to what we have become accustomed to in this 21st century.  My folks lived in post-depression years and with five small children to feed and clothe, Christmas was family, some good food with what Mom could put a meal together (and she was at the top of her class in that department), and some few gifts including, and maybe most importantly, special Christmas candies that Grandma helped to get on her meager income.  But it was a warm, welcomed day and as I grew a bit older, after Dad landed a job at John Deere with a regular, respectable living wage, the yuletide celebrations became more festive, with a fully decorated tree complete with brightly and beautifully wrapped packages beneath the once live boughs.  We did not have many relatives living in Ottumwa where I grew up from five years of age until I left for college, an aunt and uncle, but we had each other, some friends and two grandmothers, only one of which was able to be with us for most Christmas days, and that only once in a while because of her age and travel limitations due to health.  She would, however, always send a big box that arrived several days before Christmas, with individually wrapped gifts for each of us, along with some homemade candy (divinity was my favorite).  

On Christmas Eve we would gather around the delightfully decorated tree and open gifts; then, while we were still young, we would go to bed waiting for an early morning stirring when we would scurry down the stairs from our unheated second story bedrooms (whatever heat would make it through a small vent in  the kitchen is what heat we had in that southeastern Iowa town known back then for some pretty ice cold winters) with unbounding excitement hoping to receive some bigger, better special gift and we were never disappointed.

One Christmas that is etched forever in my memory is when, coming down the chilly steps from my bedroom, I was greeted in the living room with a bright, red bicycle!  It was a dream bike and I had to wait some while before I could test ride it, but I loved it and eventually rode the wheels off it.

On another Christmas when I was six or seven years of age, I received a doll!  Wait now, please, and withhold judgment until I explain.  I never knew what motivated my parents to buy me a doll, but Joe (that’s the name I gave this half-life sized boy doll) and I became inseparable friends.  I did not have any other neighborhood boys that were friends during those few years, so Joe and I became very close.  In fact, it was Joe that suffered through some of my earliest preaching experiences.  I would put two or three chairs up in a bedroom off the beaten path, and set Joe in one of them, often in the back row, and I would then conduct a “church service” while he always listened attentively.  My text was most often Genesis 1:1 and I waxed as eloquent as a six-year-old could, not having had the benefit of a seminary training at that early age.  My only convert, in those “closed circuit” services, was, you guessed it, Joe.  So, Joe and I were buddies until his stuffing’s began to come out at the seams and not any too soon as I was out growing my need for his constant companionship.

So, we had some memorable Christmas days and wonderful times together until I was about 15 years of age. My dear mother, a serious student of history, began to read about what she perceived to be the origins of modern-day Christmas celebrations, and in time it became her conviction that it would be best to keep Christ out of Christmas, at least the way it had come to be kept.  It became a conviction that she would staunchly stand upon for the last probably 40 years of her life, and without Mom in the Christmas “spirit” most all of the rest of us struggled to make the necessary adjustments to honor her convictions, so Christmas Day became pretty much just another day for the remainder of my years at home.

I had finally become accustomed to a “No Christmas” December 25 and then I met the love of my life Ellen. She grew up in a godly home and her father was a pastor and he and his household always enjoyed what was a Christ-honoring celebration of His birth.  Their Christmas Days were not extravagant, but they were blessed times of singing carols and exchanging gifts and having a few treasured moments around the person of our Lord with family.  So, when our first Christmas as a new family came for Ellen and myself, as we were living in Minneapolis where I attended Central Seminary, I had to somewhat struggle again to learn how to keep Christmas in a way that would accommodate her wishes to have a meaningful Christ-centered day.  It took a few Christmases, but my patient helpmeet indulged my hesitations and reservations and brought me along to the place of once again enjoying an “old-fashioned” Christmas day, with all the trimmings.  We, like many who may be reading this, are conflicted about the raw materialism that has for many years permeated so much of what is done at Christmas time now, but we continue to try to find meaningful ways of celebrating His miracle birth and first advent with joy, anticipation, exhilaration and godly humility and thanksgiving for His Unspeakable gift.  We join together today in wishing you all a very blessed Christmas Day in whatever way you choose to commemorate it.

One man esteemeth one day above another:  another esteemeth every day alike.  Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.  He that regardeth the day regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it….” (Romans 14:5,6a)

Stories Forever Loved

Do you have a favorite Christmas story?  (Other than the best of all as told in Luke 2) Maybe yours is the timeless “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens; or is it “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry, or maybe “The Nutcracker” or perhaps “The Greatest Gift,” the story that was the basis for the all-time favorite Christmas movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

It’s a tough decision, isn’t it?  I know there are many other stories that could be mentioned, and the re-telling of these old-time favorites to this generation and the next assures the perpetuation of them for the years to come.  So, in keeping with my desire that my grandchildren and hopefully theirs will pass these delightful seasonal narratives on, I want to share with you one of my favorites, a story originally written by Leo Tolstoy under the title “Where Love Is,” and adapted by one of America’s great poets, Edwin Markham and told by him under the title “The Shoemaker’s Dream.”  It is about a Shoemaker, Martin, who suffered a devastating series of tragedies, including the loss of his wife and several children.  During this time a missionary visited Martin and encouraged him to devote himself to seeking God, leaving with him a copy of the New Testament.  One ensuing night, Martin fell asleep reading the gospel of Matthew.  Here’s what happened:

“One night the cobbler dreamed that the next day Jesus was coming to visit him.  The dream seemed so real that he got up early the next morning and hurried to the woods, where he gathered green boughs to decorate his shop for the arrival of so great a Guest.

He waited all morning, but to his disappointment, his shop remained quiet, except for an old man who limped up to the door asking to come in for a few minutes of warmth.  While the man was resting, the cobbler noticed that the old fellow’s shoes were worn through.  Touched, the cobbler took a new pair from his shelves and saw to it that the stranger was wearing them as he went on his way.

Throughout the afternoon the cobbler waited, but his only visitor was an elderly woman.  He had seen her struggling under a heavy load of firewood, and he invited her, too, into his shop to rest.  Then he discovered that for two days she had had nothing to eat; he saw to it that she had a nourishing meal before she went on her way.

As the night began to fall, the cobbler heard a child crying outside the door.  The child was lost and afraid.  The cobbler went out, soothed the youngster’s tears, and with the little hand in his, took the child home.

When he returned, the cobbler was sad.  He was convinced that while he had been away, he had missed the visit of his Lord. Now he lived through the moments as he had imagined them:  the knock, the latch lifted, the radiant face, the offered cup.  He would have kissed the hands where the nails had been, washed the feet where the spikes had entered.  Then the Lord would have sat and talked with him.

In his anguish, the cobbler cried out, ‘Why is it Lord, that your feet delay?  Have you forgotten that this was the day?’  Then, soft in the silence a voice was heard:

Lift up your heart for I kept My word.  Three times I came to your friendly door; Three times My shadow was on your floor.  I was the man with the bruised feet; I was the woman you gave to eat; I was the child on the homeless street.’”

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matt. 25.40)

They Twain Shall Be One

“Are you saved?”  That three-word query, posed by a fellow warehouse worker, changed the course of Ed’s life and ultimately resulted in his being sent out as a missionary by a local Bible-preaching church that he had visited shortly after his friend asked him that soul-searching question. Hearing the gospel convincingly presented he responded at the invitation to the salvation message, experiencing the New Birth!  It was not that Ed had not attended church; he had, and he had a long string of attendance awards to prove it.  But in the main-line denominational church that he had grown up in and attended, with his family, week after week, he had never heard God’s Simple Plan of Salvation made simple until that life-changing Sunday morning.

How different was Sylvia’s childhood!  Her father, a pastor, preached the Bible every Sunday and at the early age of five, Sylvia acknowledged her sin and need of a Savior and she too experienced the same New Birth! experience that her future husband would years later realize!  Sylvia would surrender, at the age of ten, while attending a week of summer Christian Camp, to serve as a volunteer in the Lord’s vineyard where-ever He would choose to place her, and she set out on a path to prepare for that service.   Having graduated from high school, God directed her to Bob Jones University where she pursued and graduated with a degree in nursing, but not before she would experience mission trips to Haiti and the Philippines as God began to call and confirm to her His will for Sylvia to serve on some mission field at some appointed time and place.

In the meantime, Ed responded to God’s call to prepare for full-time vocational ministry too, so following his salvation he enrolled in Tennessee Temple University, receiving from TTU a degree in secondary education.  He then enrolled and eventually graduated from San Francisco Baptist Theological Seminary (Arno and Archer Weniger) with an M.Div. degree and from there enrolled in the Ph.D. course at Bob Jones University majoring in Old Testament Studies.

It was at that time in Ed’s life that Ellen and I became better acquainted with Ed Christy.  We were impressed with his single-mindedness to serve His Savior and to respond to the need for the gospel to be shared with the multitudes in France who either had never heard of salvation by grace through faith or at least had never accepted His free offer, as only one per-cent of the population in that great nation were known to be professing, practicing Christians.  Ed was as fully prepared to serve as he could be, and he was unquestionably willing to go; but we sensed there was a major, major component missing is his life:  a helpmeet!  It was not that Ed was unwilling or disinterested.  He had dated several fine young ladies, but to that point none had “clicked.”  He had a list of qualifications that the prospective 1st lady of the Ed Christy household would have to meet, and humanly speaking it seemed he might have put himself into a box (just big enough for one)!

But God!  Somewhere along their life’s journey Ed Christy met Sylvia Carr and it was immediately apparent that the two were a match!  Only God in His grace could have done it, but He did and as is so true with God, Ed got better than he knew how to choose had it been left up to him.  Sylvia had a heart for God, met and exceeded every qualification on Ed’s stringent list and in God’s perfect timing and by His sovereign goodness and grace, “the twain” did become one.

They left for France, settling in the Bordeaux area where they have been planting churches now for 30 years.  Ed uses his knowledge and credentials in Old Testament studies to teach block courses in a Bible Institute that is training people in France to be discipling disciples.  Sylvia is the perfect missionary wife, teaching, playing the piano, giving loving nourishment to the ladies to whom she ministers.  It has proven to be a “Match Made in Heaven.”

What a great testimony is Ed and Sylvia Christy’s!  Ellen and I visited them a few years ago and were so pleased to observe how they serve selflessly in that part of His vineyard that He has placed them.  Their children are grown, and both live not far from the Christys. 

It all became a true story because on a typical day at work, in an Indy warehouse a fellow worker posed to Ed the question, “Are you saved?

Might you ask someone that same question?  You can never anticipate where it may lead someone, such as Ed and Sylvia, career missionaries to France for 30 years now and counting. 

And how shall they preach, except they be sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!”  (Romans 10:15)

Satan’s Masterpiece

When Jesus visited His hometown to proclaim the good news of His Kingdom offer to His own, Mark says in his gospel that Jesus “could there do no mighty work…and He marveled because of their unbelief.”  (Mark 6:5,6) That’s a staggering thought:  that those who had watched Jesus grow from childhood to adulthood, the extraordinary son of Mary and Joseph, would reject His Messianic claims in spite of the fact that in Galilee He had already demonstrated His Godhead through mighty messages and miracles.

Little wonder then, when Mary Magdalene, the formerly demon-possessed woman whose life had been transformed when Jesus freed her casting seven devils out of her demon devastated body, would on the Sunday after His Friday crucifixion tell the eleven apostles that His tomb was empty, they would not believe her; nor would they believe the two men who gave witness that they had seen Jesus, talked and walked with Him as He appeared to them as they walked on their way to Emmaus.  Like those in His hometown in the beginning of His ministry, Jesus had to upbraid the disciples “with their unbelief and hardness of heart….” (Mark 16:14) 

Unbelief has been labeled “Satan’s Masterpiece.”  He plied his perverse skills using the twin fiery darts of unbelief and pride when he deceived our first parents, plunging them and all of the human race into this morass of universal unbelief.  One pulpiteer proclaimed, “Could you roll all sins into one mass:  could you take murder and blasphemy and lust and adultery and fornication and everything that is vile and unite them into one vast glob of black corruption—they would not even then equal the sin of unbelief.  This is the monarch sin, the quintessence of guilt, the mixture of the venom of all crimes—the dregs of the wine of Gomorrah.  It is the A-1 sin, the masterpiece of Satan, the chief work of the Devil.”

It was the sin that caused two million redeemed Jews to forfeit their passports into the Promised Land where awaited them cities they would not have to build and lush vineyards they would not have to plant after wandering in the Negev wilderness for 40 years.  A land flowing with milk and honey was in their sights but “we see they could not enter in because of unbelief.” (Hebs. 3:19). The “they” in verse 19 refers to “Your fathers (who) tempted me, proved me, saw my works forty years.  Wherefore was I grieved with that generation, and said, they do always err in their heart…take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief.” (Hebs. 3:9-12)

When the 19th century “Great Agnostic,” Robert Ingersoll said, “Life is a dark barren vale between the ice-clad peaks of two cold eternities,” he was not bewailing an atheistic despair that had suddenly overcome him.  Unbelief was gradual, beginning perhaps, as it most often does, as an “innocent” questioning of restraints to one’s baser appetites; a bothersome, spiritual nuisance that serves at first as a check on one’s conscience; then in time unbelief unfolds in the recesses of one’s soul as a pronounced dislike of truth; it then comes to a fixed hatred of the truth and finally a total disdain of it followed soon by a final despair that Ingersoll and others would verbalize in utter hopelessness:  “We wail and cry in the dark.  Faith tries to see a star and hear the rustle of a wind, but the only sound we hear is the echo of our own voice.”

We can only by faith in the substance of things hoped for and in the evidence of things not seen heed the admonition of Hebrews 4:11: “Let us labor therefore, to enter into that rest (of faith) lest any fall after the same example of unbelief.”

But exhort one another daily, while it is called To Day, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” (Hebs. 3:13)

Divine Healing

Every one of us has walked up to the valley of the shadow of death with a loved one, hoping, praying, trusting God to deliver our cherished friend or family member from death’s domain, believing assuredly that God can do whatever He chooses; that God answers prayer; that all matters including life and death are in His hands which do His sovereign bidding, and that death can only claim anyone when and if it is in His plan and purpose for that soul.  This we believe if we believe His Holy Word.

We have, through prayer, seen people snatched from the very jaws of death, people whom the doctors had given little if any hope for and had discontinued any medical intervention except to keep the suffering soul as comfortable as possible.  And, contrary to any and every scientific or medical explanation the subject not only revived but lived many years following that dread diagnosis.

We have, on the other hand, been aware of persons who were sick, but responding to prescribed treatments, making progress with every promise of recovery, take a sudden and serious turn for the worse that proved to be tragic and terminal bringing almost unbearable sadness and shock to a hopeful waiting cadre of praying loved ones, friends and family.

God has His purposes.  Not all sickness is unto death, but every human being will ultimately die, save those living at the time Christ’s Church is raptured because death entered into the world as a consequence of sin, and the last enemy of human-kind to be destroyed will be death, and death is often accompanied by sometimes painful and prolonged sickness.

We lost an eleven-year-old grandson to death from a ruptured appendix, a pretty uncommon cause of death in children.  It was in 2007 during the month of February when the flu was rampant, and his siblings were suffering with it.  Doctors and nurses opined that what David was suffering from was the flu also; but discovered too late that it was not the flu and that what he was suffering from was lethal by the time medical personnel were able to determine what the real cause was.  We begged God to spare David’s life.  I asked God to take mine and let David live.  A memory that I will go to the grave with is our daughter, David’s mother, crawling up into what would be David’s death bed to lie beside her suffering boy as he was departing from this world.  We knew God could have saved him from dying; but He had a master plan for David’s life and His ways are perfect so we, with sorrow that was not without hope, trusted our great God in His perfect wisdom, knowing He makes no mistakes.

In the summer of 2019, my wife underwent a surgery that revealed she had a rare cancer, requiring another surgery to see if it had spread and ultimately a third surgery within the span of a year.  Before the second surgery Ellen requested that our deacons meet privately with us for the specific purpose of praying over her sick body.  It was a brief meeting following a regular evening service, with a few deacons, myself and the then Assistant Pastor Joel Stevens present.  We were claiming, with Ellen, James 5 :16 which says the “effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much,” and James 5 :15 which also says the “prayer of faith shall save the sick.”  We either prefaced or closed our prayer time with Jesus’s words, “Nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done,” ready to accept whatever God would choose to grant us.  The surgery revealed that her original cancer had not spread for which we were deeply grateful to God.  The skilled surgeon said, “This type of cancer usually comes back within a 24-month time frame if it does come back; and if it does reappear in that time period it is almost always terminal.”  Ellen just passed her 15-month check-up and remains cancer free. She attributes it to God’s answers to many prayers; and she also acknowledges that we have prayed the same prayers for many of our dearest family members who were not healed.  We can only conclude that “He is the Rock, His work is perfect:  for all His ways are judgment:  a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He.”  (Deut. 32:4)

In the midst of a world-wide flu pandemic with more than a quarter of a million U.S. deaths attributed to Covid-19 we have all interceded for loved ones who either have or have had the virus; most survive the deadly disease, but a good many do not.  We know that God’s purposes are pure; that our times are in His hands, (Ps. 31:15) and that none of us has the promise of another day.  We live in the light of His soon coming when “there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain:  for the former things are passed away.” (Rev. 21:4).  Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits:  Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who health all thy diseases:  Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies.”  (Ps. 103:3,4)

Thanksgiving 1964

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

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