How to Become a Preacher

Ever wonder why or how a preacher became a preacher?  Some might think it one day dawned upon a particular person that he was a “natural” at public speaking; or that he had a winsome personality and was good-natured and a “people person.”  Some would guess that a certain man had a father or grandfather that was a minister and so, not disappointing his family, he followed in their steps in becoming a pastor/preacher.  I had a grandmother, and later a pastor, that laid a hand on me when I was but a child and said I was a “preacher boy” or something to that effect.  Why would a person choose to enter the ministry as a life’s vocation?  Good benefits?  Job security?  Cush job in which you can set your own hours and be your own boss?  

Well, of course, none of the above!  You might have heard it said, as have I, that, “if you can do anything else and be happy, do it!”  That is usually advice that a would-be pastor or minister is given by a well-meaning member of his ordination council just before hands are laid on the candidate and a commendation to the church from the council is read, following a prayer of dedication. But of course, by that time the one coming for ordination has (hopefully!) already been convinced in his own spirit and by the approval and encouragement of others that God has called him to ministry and that he could not be happy or fulfilled doing anything else.

Preachers are preachers and pastors are pastors and missionaries are missionaries and evangelists are evangelists because they are called and compelled of God to be such; at least that is the biblical pattern and precedent. 

Jeremiah was sanctified and ordained a prophet to the nations before he came out of his mother’s womb. (Jer.1:5)

Paul was separated from his mother’s womb and called by God’s grace to preach Christ among the heathen.  (Gal. 1:16).

Paul said he was called of God to be an apostle (Rom.1:1) and ordained a preacher and an apostle and a teacher of Gentiles (2 Tim. 1:11).

 It is both interesting and amazing that Paul was called by God in his mother’s womb to preach before he became a persecutor and tormentor unto death of believers in the Christ he would later preach.

I did receive a call to preach when I was in my first semester of college, away from home, family, my home church and just about everything familiar to me.  It was as I read those glorious, majestic passages of Isaiah that God seemed to say, “Tony, there are probably enough lawyers to handle things down there; what I need and want you to do is to preach these glorious passages from Isaiah that are stirring your soul like nothing you are learning in your pre-law courses.”  I made a public declaration of my surrender to that call of God during the Thanksgiving break under the ministry of evangelist Glen Schunk who was conducting a revival meeting in my home church that I attended while home for the break from college.

Believing that a call to serve is a call to prepare, I transferred to a Christian college for my second semester and entered a ten-year journey of preparation during which time God brought into my life the charming southern belle who would become in August of 1965 my beautiful bride.

I had thought my call to preach was a call to be an evangelist, but under the four-year pastoral tutelage of Dr. R.V. Clearwaters at Fourth Baptist Church in Minneapolis I became convinced of his conviction that God calls to serve and He will equip you, gift you and place you in His vineyard when and where He chooses after you are surrendered and prepared.  Consequently forty-nine years ago, following my last year of seminary, God placed me in a church in Wichita, Kansas where I pastored six years; then in a church in Newton, Kansas where it was my privilege to pastor for two and one-half years as their first pastor, then on to Indianapolis, Indiana to the Thompson Road Baptist Church where I finished last September my 40th year as pastor before resigning and then becoming interim pastor of the Coatesville Missionary Baptist Church in Coatesville, Indiana.  I am so glad that He called and equipped and placed this preacher/pastor into the ministry and has sustained me, led me, guided me and kept me in His service for this half-century.  I praise Him for His holy call! 

This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.” (I Tim. 3:1)

“Welcome Stranger!”

Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.” (Romans 12:13)

In one of the New Testament’s “general epistles,” the book of Hebrews (13:2), first-century believers are exhorted to remember to entertain strangers because in so doing they just might be entertaining “angels unawares.”  Many believers, due to intense persecution of the early church, were through no choice of their own “strangers,” dependent upon the goodness of God’s people to help them and to even at times house them.  Gaius, the recipient of John’s third epistle, was commended for faithfully and charitably succoring brethren who were displaced and in so doing he was labeled by “the elder” a “fellow helper” of the truth.

In this 21st century, with both modest and marvelous accommodations available to travelers at reasonable prices, hospitality is almost a lost art.  The word Paul employed in Romans 12:13 when he exhorted his readers to be “given” to hospitality means literally to “pursue” hospitality.  Who has known in recent times a person or family that ardently engages others in hospitable ways?

In her book Open Heart, Open Home Karen Mains says that “Entertaining says ‘I want to impress you with my home, my clever decorating, my cooking.’  Hospitality, seeking to minister, says ‘This home is a gift from my Master.  I use it as He desires.’  Hospitality aims to serve.  Entertaining puts things before people.  ‘As soon as I get the house finished, the living room decorated, my house cleaning done—then I will start inviting people.’  Hospitality puts people first.  ‘No furniture—we’ll eat on the floor!’  ‘The decorating may never get done—you come anyway.’  ‘The house is a mess—but you are friends—come home with us.’  Entertaining subtly declares ‘This house is mine, an expression of my personality.  Look, please, admire.’  Hospitality whispers, ‘What is mine is yours.’”

As a young, ministerial student, I was the recipient of both generous and humorous expressions of hospitality.  On many occasions as a traveler on our way to minister to youth on Roan Mountain in western North Carolina, an old couple, Ed and Vina Hipkins, took a buddy of mine and myself into their home and treated us as their own sons with delicious food and overnight lodging on our weary way from Greenville, SC, to Bakersville, NC. Many years (almost 60!) have come and gone since those sweet mountain folks took a couple of “Yankees” in to smother us with old-fashioned, southern hospitality, but I could never forget it!

When in seminary in Dallas, Texas, in the early 70’s, I would leave Ellen at home with three small children and head out early Sunday mornings to drive the 175 miles to minister to a church that was temporarily without a pastor, preaching both morning and evening services and getting back home late Sunday night for a few hours sleep before Monday morning classes followed by my regular 3-11 p.m. shift  job at the Dallas County Detention Center.  On one Sunday, the wife of one of the deacons, a man who filled a prominent position in the small town, invited us over for a “bologna” sandwich.  We were delighted, secretly imagining some delicious Sunday dinner was in store for us and not really a bologna sandwich.  After fifteen minutes or so visiting with the husband in their living room, the hostess invited us into the dining room, showing each of us where to sit.  Wouldn’t you know it:  She and her husband had juicy steaks on their plates while my friend and I had bologna sandwiches on ours!  I tried my best not to show any surprise or emotion so as not to give the hostess any pleasure in witnessing my disappointment, but inside I am sure I was “grinding!”  Now, looking back, that was one of the humorous incidents, but at the time I can’t remember my friend and I laughing too much as we talked about that on our three-hour trip back to Dallas.

At any rate, I have been privileged through these years to have enjoyed so much generous hospitality and have also been blessed to have been married to a wonderful woman who has only known how to be hospitable all her life.  It has proven to be so joyous.  I do believe, though, in our present day, it would be a fair assessment of “the Church” at large to say that we have lost the art of genuine hospitality and we have missed the opportunity of entertaining “angels unawares.”

Use hospitality one to another without grudging.” (I Peter 4:10)

What’s Your One Wish?

On September 29, 1978, less than two months into his papacy, Pope John Paul I was found dead in his bed with the book Imitation of Christ, by Thomas A. Kempis, opened and his reading light still on, probably having died of a heart attack.

Paul the Apostle wrote to some first century saints in Philippi that he desired to know his Lord and specifically the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings (Phil.3:10).  He not only wanted to imitate his Savior, Paul wanted to commune with Him in such a way that his life would be a shared life, even in the manner of suffering.

Most of us want to know Him and we surely want to live a life of resurrection power, but that suffering issue is another matter.  We have read what Paul said to young Timothy when he reminded him that all who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. (2 Tim. 3:12).  And, Peter has caused us to give serious consideration to the matter of adversity when he wrote to suffering, scattered saints that they were “called” to suffer because Christ had left us an example that “ye should follow in His steps.” (I Pet. 2:21).  It is easier to relegate those instructions to believers living in the early church age; but to the 21st century western world of Christ-followers, well, we’re not so quick to embrace that postulate.  Sure, we would love to know Him in a way that we’ve never known Him before; but to say “Amen” to Paul’s confession that “for whom I have suffered the loss of all things,” well, that would surely give us cause for pause.

But the “fellowship of His sufferings” entails such a work of grace in a believer’s heart that he/she will have a different mind-set about things past (reputation, comforts, respect, retirement, privileges, and possessions).  Paul affirms that he “suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in Him….” (Phil. 3:8,9).  That statement sums it all up for Paul, and becomes our mantra yet today.  To be found in Him, His will, His service, His fellowship, His blessing, so that He is the center and circumference of our being, our existence, means that Christ the Lord is our “All in all!”

What is your one wish today?  Riches, friends, success, security, fame, health?  Or, to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings?  There is no short-cut. We cannot pick and choose.  To have the resurrection power will not be realized apart from the fellowship of sufferings.  

That just may be the key to the timeless, perplexing puzzle: “Why do good people suffer?”  All of us know some “salt of the earth” folk who have been in and through the furnace of suffering to an unimaginable extent.  We can only wonder, sometimes, why.  Then Paul’s words echo in our heart’s chamber: “…and the fellowship of His suffering.”  We do not need to know more.  It is part of the knowing, showing and growing as we “reach forth unto those things which are before.” (Phil. 3:13).

Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect:  but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ.” (Phil. 3:12).

Cancel What?

Cancel Culture.  It’s become an obsession of the mob mentality that has captured the headlines in America’s media this “summer of love” 2020.

Historic statutes have been toppled.  Formal grammar has been revised to favor rap writ.  Halls of Congress are being purged of memorials to brave generals who, right or wrong, were a part of the historic fabric of our republic and fought with valor to death for a cause they believed to be just.  Military bases will be renamed, their former names being shuttered because the historic American figures for whom they were honored have been found to be flawed.  The national anthem, sung with pride before ball games and other important gatherings and special occasions will have to be altered to be inclusive to particular races of people rather than to the “one nation under God” peoples that we have always been proud to be identified by. 

Cancel culture?  You may as well set out to change the leopard’s spots.  Culture is who we are, what we have been, the pleasing and the putrid, the bad and the beautiful, the just and the unjust, all gathered up into one package around which has been wrapped a red, white and blue ribbon called Old Glory to which we unashamedly pledge allegiance because it represents America, the Beautiful, upon which God has without doubt shed His grace.  Culture, the marvelous mix of every nationality under the sun with distinct preferences and, yes, prejudices.  The nice and the nasty.  The beauty, the beast, and the best.  America, refuge for the disabled, displaced and disparaging.  Home to the lost, the last and the least.  Haven of hope, help, heritage and home for the masses yearning to be free.

That is culture.  It is our story with the greatest generation the object of our deepest gratitude for their selfless saving of the world.  It is the story of our fighting for freedom for lands to the farthest corner of the world where oppression ruled and men and women could not breathe free air for the ruthless totalitarians who ruled over them mercilessly and militarily with no form of justice or fear of judgment.  Never have we asked an acre of foreign soil for our freedom fighters except a six-foot deep plot to lay their war wearied fragment riddled frames to rest.  America, land of the free, home of the brave.

And you want to cancel us?  Delete our history, our heritage?  And replace it with hate, hollow phases, violence and destruction where lawlessness rules and where those who have the most wretched tongues and reckless ways dictate the boundaries.

God help us.  Blessed is that nation whose God is the Lord.  There is no biblical endorsement of any particular culture apart from that nation that seeks the favor of the Almighty, Creator God.  Cancel Culture is a devilish way of saying “cancel any semblance of absolutes, of truth, of history, of order, respect and decency.”

America, it’s time to take a good long look at ourselves in the mirror of history, in the mirror of truth, in the mirror of tomorrow.  Is this what you want to hand down to your grandchildren?  

It is well past the hour of late.  Prayer is the answer.  Revival with its attending repentance is the key.  People of every race, of every rank must “humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways….”  Nothing there about canceling culture.  God will though, “hear from heaven, and will forgive (our) sin and will heal (our) land.” (2 Chron. 7:14)

Blessed (happy) is the nation whose God is the Lord; and the people whom He hath chosen for His own inheritance.” (Ps. 33:12)

I Will Build My Church

“But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the pillar and ground of the truth.” (I Tim. 3:15)

If you are a Christian, church is an important part of your life.  You spend several hours each week attending church services and considerable time during the week involved in ministry that is related to your church.  Jesus Christ, the Captain of our Salvation, founded the Church, and there is no higher honor than to be actively involved in what He calls His Body.  

With that in mind, I once received through the mail a paper which included an article that caught my eye entitled “Why Do We Need the Church?”  I want to share, with permission, some of that article with you.  It was written by Matt Shrader and appeared in the May 2012 issue of Altheia.  Answering the question “Why Do We Need the Church?” here are some of the reasons Mr. Shrader gave: (1) Because of where the church fits into God’s plan with a distinct place within God’s overall historical plan.  It is not Israel, nor is it to be equated with the Kingdom of God.  God has a place for the church in this age which is distinct from any other entity; (2) The church is important because of whom the church is made up.  Followers of the God-Man Jesus Christ enjoy a special bond centered on the common head, Jesus Christ.  The church is both universal (all who have been saved in this age of grace) and local, a specific group of believers at a specific historical time in a specific geographical place who join together for specific reasons, namely to perpetuate the teaching of the Apostles doctrine.  (3)  The church is important because of what the Church does.  It carries out the Great Commission, promotes fellowship and prayer, and remembers Christ’s death through the Lord’s Table.” (Acts 2:42)  The local church obeys Christ’s great commission through the sending of missionaries to the world’s field to plant churches; it serves as a venue of worship to God; it exercises spiritual discipline when needed; it systematically teaches the faith and it serves as the “pillar and ground of the truth.” (I Tim. 3:15)

In the above -mentioned article, Matt Shrader goes on to offer some reasons why we may not need the church.  They can be instructive also, so here are some of them: (1) We don’t need the church if it functions as a social club. “Social Club Christianity uses the church for purely social means and thereby neglects the biblical reasons for the church;” (2) We don’t need the church if it falters in its purpose.  This could be a neglect, a confusion or a change of its purpose.  “A confusion or change of purpose is when the church tries to see itself as some of the things which it is not.  The church is not the family, nor a family of families, though a church needs and is the place for families.  Neither is the church the kingdom or Israel.  The Church has its definition and purposes presented in the New Testament.  Other problems here could be letting social causes inhabit an improper place in church activity, or letting the church be defined and determined by ‘seekers.’  We do well to let the church be the church.”

Shrader concludes, “Why do we need the church?  The answer is found when we understand that the church is part of God’s plan for the present age.  As we have seen in I Tim. 3:15 it is ‘the pillar and ground of truth.’  If we are followers of Christ and if we see the church as God’s current program; then we can readily see the reason why we need the church.  For the sake of obedience and love toward Christ, let us understand what we are, what the church is, what the church is to be doing, and then seek to embody that truth.”

I appreciate Mr. Shrader’s article.  We take for granted what we have in the local church.  We often do not appreciate who we are and what we are here for.  Our calling is the highest calling given to men.  Our mission is His mission, His commands are our orders.  We need to have a much higher view of the church, its place and purpose in God’s program today.  A proper view of the church would cause us to prioritize its place in our lives.  We would love its people, live its purpose and strive to forward its plan.  How’s your view of your church?  Of His Church?

And I say also unto thee, That…I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”  (Matt. 16:18)

Affirmations in Affliction

No one would choose to undergo a time of affliction, yet Paul bids us to be “patient in tribulation.” (Rom. 12:12) In the New Testament that word translated “tribulation” in Romans 12:12 is also translated persecution, trouble, and affliction (Acts 11:19; 2 Cor. 1:8; 6:4; 8:2).  Who would knowingly welcome such a state of affairs!

Yet David shares with us a personal testimony in Psalm 119:  A reading of his affirmations concerning affliction will shed light on Beecher’s insight:  “Affliction comes to us all not to make us sad, but sober; not to make us worry, but wise; not to make us despondent, but by its darkness to refresh us, as the night refreshes the day; not to impoverish, but to enrich us, as the plough enriches the field; to multiply our joy, as the seed, by planting, is multiplied a thousand-fold.”

Or, as Charles Haddon Spurgeon said, “The Lord’s mercy often rides to the door of our heart upon the black horse of affliction.”

David, sweet Psalmist of Israel, in his treatment of the subject of affliction, inspired by the Holy Spirit, was driven by the multiple troubles that he lived with most of his life to a basic premise:  “I know, O Lord, that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me.”  (Ps. 119:75)

Yet through the troubles was a hopeful prayer based upon God’s promises of goodness and mercy that would follow him all the days of his life: “I am afflicted very much:  quicken me, O Lord, according to Thy word.” (Ps. 119:103) His affirmation took the form of praise:  “Before I was afflicted I went astray; but now I have kept Thy word…It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.”(Ps. 119:67)  Finally, David was able to say that he had experienced positive benefits that could have only come through tribulations:  “This is my comfort in my affliction: for Thy word hath quickened me,” and “Unless Thy law had been my delights, I should then have perished in mine affliction.” (Ps. 119:50,92)

The story is told of Sir Malcolm Sargent, a 19th century composer who as a young person was afflicted with tuberculosis.  After he won his battle with TB, his thirteen-year-old daughter, Pamela, was stricken with polio.  One night, as the renowned conductor was about to conduct Handel’s Messiah, he was given a note informing him that his daughter was dying.  With tears Sir Malcolm directed the orchestra and choir through such soul-stirring passages as “Comfort ye, comfort ye, My people,” finding the grace needed from God’s Word to finish the concert, with strength spiritually and emotionally that seemed to flow through his conducting. (HGB, Our Daily Bread).

Susana Wesley, mother of 19, including a couple of well-known preachers, said “I believe there is scarce a man to be found upon the earth but, take the whole course of his life, hath more mercies than afflictions, and much more pleasure than pain.  I am sure it has been so in my case.  I have many years suffered much pain and great bodily infirmities; but I have likewise enjoyed great intervals of rest and peace.”

In conclusion, therefore, “Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation (trouble, affliction, persecution); continuing instant in prayer.” (Romans 12:12).

Hufhand Appreciation

Last week a pastor friend, Dr. Larry Hufhand, marked a ministry milestone when he reached his 10th anniversary as publisher of the weekly Hufhand Report (HR) that many of you probably subscribe to, and, if you do not, you should consider signing on as those of us who have read it weekly have been especially blessed.  Dr. Hufhand pastored the First Baptist Church of Tipton, Indiana, for 41 years and has been interim pastor of a Baptist Church in Noblesville, Indiana, for the past several years.  I thought I would share with you a tribute, followed by a poem, which I implored him to allow me to contribute to his 10th anniversary edition of the HR which was published last Friday:

On this 10th anniversary of the HR (Hufhand Report) on behalf of the multiplied thousands of readers who have been blessed by the 500 editions of this weekly posting of informational and inspirational literary smorgasbords, let me congratulate you, our friend, Dr. Larry Hufhand, on a job done with extraordinary diligence, discernment and dedication to the cause of freedom, truth, the local church and the kingdom of God.  We have been the recipients of the choicest of blessings as we have enjoyed, usually over a cup of brew, reading your weekly reports.  You have been generous with your consumers, gracious to your critics, and unyielding to the enemies of truth.  We appreciate you immeasurably, applaud you unashamedly and wish upon you the reward that only our Lord can mete out at His Bema Seat.  We will continue to need our “Friday Fix,” so please do not entertain the idea of discontinuing your good work.  And, while we are expressing heartfelt gratitude to you, let us give special appreciation to your wonderful wife, Marion, who has patiently persevered your productions week after week, giving approval or disapproval of your humor and all the while encouraging you to scratch your literary itch and go ahead with hitting the “send” button on the computer.  We have never been bored, nor have we been disappointed to have heard from your heart, head and hand what you have held and do hold as core beliefs.  God bless you and “may your tribe increase!”

L.D. Hufhand
Pungent with a pen,
            Loyal to a friend.
Valiant for the right,
            Faithful in the fight.
Careful with the Word,
            Yielded to his Lord.
Fruitful in his life,
            Loving to his wife;
Grounded on the Rock,
            Servant to his flock;
Preacher through and through,
            To the end was true.
To his critics kind,
            Time for all did find;
Man of God was he,
            Plain for all to see.
May his tribe increase,
            Nevermore to cease!
“Huff” stood straight and tall,
            We do love him all!

Speaking of Children

And He took them up in His arms, put His hands upon them, and blessed them.” (Mark 10:16) 

Speaking of children, like the little child that had been set in the midst of Him and His disciples, Jesus said that it “is not the will of your Father which is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” (Matt. 18:2,14). He spoke of offending “one of these little ones which believe in me,” warning that it would be better to die a tragic death than to offend one of these. It is impossible, therefore, to be too careful about the souls of children. Barna Research Group has demonstrated that thirty-two percent of all people who profess Christ as Savior do so by time they are thirteen years of age. Vacation Bible Schools, Sunday Schools and summer camps where Christ is exalted are prime-time years for reaching our youth for Christ. Decisions made in childhood are life-changing and the effort and expense to reach these “little ones” cannot be over-exaggerated. 

When I was a five-year old child growing up in Douds, Iowa, our family attended occasionally a main-line denominational church located a short distance from our house. My parents had both confessed Christ but found no help in spiritual growth from this spiritually dead church. In the summer of 1947, my eleven-year -old brother drowned while spending an overnight with a cousin who lived on a nearby farm. It was a tragedy that jolted the spiritual consciousness of my parents in that they began to search for answers and in so doing they sought to learn of God and His ways. This led them eventually to a Bible-preaching church where I as a young lad trusted Christ as Savior and would spend most of the rest of childhood growing up under the spiritual tutelage of Godly parents and Bible teaching and preaching in a doctrinally sound church. I am glad that when I as a five or six year old lad wanted to be saved and after that baptized, someone had time for me and no one told me that I was too young and needed to wait until I was “old enough” to make such an important decision. Seventy plus years later I still remember the Sunday evening service when I, sitting in the middle of a long row of “big” people, jumped onto the pew and skirted down the bench to the aisle and made my way forward at the invitation to receive Christ. Of course, I was already saved, God knowing my believing, child-like heart, before I hit the aisle, but I shook the Godly Pastor’s hand and he knelt and prayed with me and the memory is burned into my psyche forever. 

That is why it is always exciting to see another week of VBS come each summer (though sadly, many churches did not have them this summer due to the corona virus pandemic). It is so thrilling to see boys and girls, many of which will only visit your church during this special outreach, come to hear of God’s love for them, something many of them have never heard before. Through the years thousands have made decisions for Christ. When folk doubt whether a child, sometimes at the early age of six or seven, can really make such a momentous decision, I remember what C.H. Spurgeon said: “The best converts, the clearest, the most intelligent converts we have ever had have been the young ones.” Or, what the world’s 19th century evangelist, D.L. Moody said when asked by a host where he was staying how many converts he had following a particular service. The great preacher said, “We had two and one-half converts,” to which his host replied, “Oh, two adults and one child I suppose.” “No,” Moody replied, “We had two children and one adult respond. The children have their whole lives ahead of them to live for and serve Christ; the adult has only at best a half-life to give.” 

It behooves us all to learn the lesson Jesus taught in that brief exchange with a little child and His disciples at hand: (1) When a person gets saved, he must become as a child; (2) Children can and do believe in Jesus and we dare not offend them by turning them away from the Savior; (3) God does not want any child to perish (Matt. 18:14). Selah 

But Jesus called them unto Him, and said, Suffer little chidren to come unto me, and forbid them not: for us such is the kingdom of God.” (Luke 18:16) 

Old, Worn Bibles

On several book shelves in my both my home office and church office are stacks of worn Bibles.  Sadly, Bibles do wear out.  Some of the wonderful Bibles that I possessed when our children were very young fell into exploring hands with untamed fingers and those razor thin pages were detached from the Bible’s binding or else otherwise made useless for reading.  Others, because of daily use for several years, becoming so weakened, especially as the cover and back over time separated from the Bible’s body, had to be retired, usually after six or seven years.  Each Bible had its own special notations and markings and to permanently discard one of these old friends would be like walking an aged family member into the forest and then deserting them.  Impossible!  So, the stacks continue to build.  One of my favorite old Bibles is the one my father used, an Old Scofield study Bible, with his own peculiar yet precious notes.  Until I retired as senior pastor and even since I occasionally used Dad’s Bible as a reminder of how he loved it.  I read almost daily from a large print Bible that my father-in-law read and preached from, a book that he would have given his life for so great was his love for it.  Old Bibles have their own special place and who can discard any of them.  

Once, some years ago, our church youth group sponsored a silent auction and without much thought I pulled one of those old study Bibles from the shelf and donated it to the auction.  To my delight, and surprise, one person gave three hundred dollars for it.  It was probably a good deed as seen as an opportunity to help the teens raise money for going to summer camp.  A man in our church, hearing that I had donated a treasured Bible to the auction, thought he would in turn pay the person who got it in the silent auction the money she had given for it, retrieving it to give in turn to one of my grandchildren.  As I recall, the good man was refused the Bible and as far as I know it is still out there somewhere.  It’s good to see an old worn, shelf-abiding Bible become someone’s treasured keepsake!

If you have heard me preach often, no doubt you’ve heard it more than once, but it is a favorite of mine:

“Though its cover is worn, 
And its pages are torn, 
And though places bear traces of tears; 
Yet more precious than gold is this book, worn and old, 
That can shatter and scatter my fears;

This old book is my guide, 
‘Tis a friend by my side, 
It will lighten and brighten my way; 
And each promise I find, soothes and gladdens my mind, 
As I read it and heed it each day.

To this book will I cling, 
Of its worth will I sing, 
Though great losses and crosses be mine; 
For I cannot despair, though surrounded with care, 
While possessing this blessing divine.” (author unknown)

Martin Luther succinctly put it this way: “The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold on me.”

And, that’s true of an old Bible or a brand new one.  It is God’s Word and always will be “the world’s best seller, and man’s best buy!”

O how I love thy law!  It is my meditation all the day!  How sweet are thy words unto my taste! Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:97,103)

Truths That Transform

It has been the privilege of most of us to have heard profound preaching delivered by personalities that have left an indelible imprint upon our minds.  Some of them were pastors, some teachers, some wise friends, parents or just a voice we heard coming over a radio, through a book, in a lecture, seminar or Bible conference.  Like many others, I have written some of those nuggets in my Bible for safe-keeping and for future reflection.  I recently reviewed some of the transforming truths that I thought too good to let go of and therefore put them inside my Bible cover for future reference.  Here are a few:

“The world today doesn’t need to be convinced of anything.  They need. to be convicted of their sin, and they have to be convicted before they can ever be convinced.”  This from R.V. Clearwaters, Pastor of the 4th Baptist Church of Minneapolis and Founder of Central Baptist Theological Seminary, now with the Lord, under whose ministry I was privileged to sit for four years in the mid to late 60’s.

“There’s nothing dishonorable in attempting to do great things for God if you believe that God will supply all your needs.” (Dr. Arthur W. Allen, past president of the Minnesota Baptist Convention, who gave my newly wedded bride and me a room in the MBC attic the first night we arrived in Minneapolis in August of 1965 to attend Central Seminary, a homeless couple just finishing a two week honeymoon after our August 14th wedding in North Wilkesboro, NC).

“The wonderful thing about the Christian life is that one learns eternal truths in time.” (The late Dr. Charles MacDonald, professor, Central Baptist Theological Seminary who had pastored a church in the Detroit area for 18 years prior to coming to teach at CBTS).

“God guides the animals by instinct, but He leads intelligent human beings according to His Word.” (R.V. Clearwaters).

“I am determined that though people may leave because of my position, they shall never leave because of my disposition.” (Dr. David Cummins, at one time Deputation Director, Baptist World Mission, now with the Lord).

“Jesus had three habits:  He stood up to read, as was His custom; He went into the mount to pray; He taught them as was His custom.”(Luther Peak, a founder of Bible Baptist Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas, along with G.B. Vick and J. Frank Norris, all mid-20th century fundamentalists)

“One should not rationalize in the mind what you should reason in the faith.” (Pfaffe).

“I believe in going to places to pray and I believe in praying in going to places.” (Luther Peak, Pastor of Buckner Boulevard Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, where Ellen and I attended when I was a student at DTS, 1970-71).

‘If there ever was a myth, evolution is that myth.  Belief in creation is a faith based upon evidence.” (Dr. Charles MacDonald)

“God throws the heavy hand of grace on you and says, ‘You’re under arrest.’  You’re convicted of your sins; Jesus Christ is your judge and also your ransom.” (R.V. Clearwaters).

These are a few of the choice quotes I have saved in the cover of the Bible my parents gave me fifty-six years ago.  It is good to save important quotes and to read them once in a while to remind yourself of the wisdom your teachers have tried to instill into you.  Most if not all of the pastors quoted above are with the Lord in glory now, but their input into my life lives on and someday when I am at Home with my teachers I hope the wisdom they put into me will live on because of what I have been able by God’s grace to pass on to you.  May God bless these truths to your life 

And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:2)