It’s Thanksgiving Day!

It’s Thanksgiving Day!
A blanket of snow spread lightly in traces,
A world moving fast to all the old places;
Cherished smiles on children’s sweet faces,
Can it be, Thanksgiving again?

Food in baskets, good things galore—
Food enough for twenty and more!
Cakes and pies, and who knew we were poor?
Say, can it be Thanksgiving again?

Friends and family, some from afar;
Horses and buggies and, look! There’s a car!
Over the miles with jam in a jar-
Now it must be Thanksgiving again!

Time to say grace—with bowed heads we pray;
Time to thank God for mercies each day;
Time with our voices, His praises to say—
Yes, it’s surely Thanksgiving Day

Let us then circle our table of fare;
Let us give thanks for the bounty we share;
Let us sing praises to God with great care—
Sure, once again, it’s Thanksgiving Day!
Sanctify God, therefore, in your heart,
He’s blessed our nation right from the start.
Evil has tried to pull us apart,
But here we are now, on Thanksgiving Day!

Day that is special, one of a kind:
Day when in love, our hearts gladly bind!
One with another, and all whom we find,
Oh, bless His name, it’s Thanksgiving again!
Anthony Slutz
Ellen and I wish you all a very special Thanksgiving Day!

"Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving." Colossians 4:2

He Would Not Be Silent

The Psalmist was so full of thankfulness for God’s mercies that he exclaimed in Psalm 30:12: “To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent, O Lord, my God, I will give thanks unto Thee forever.” He has so much for which to offer praise. He is thankful that death had not yet caught up with him, for “what profit is there in my blood when I go down to the pit? Shall the dust praise Thee?” (v.9) He acknowledges that the mercy of God has kept him alive and affirms that he will not be silent about God’s goodness and mercies—and that forever he will sing His praises!  That is what every child of God should believe and practice every day.  David’s testimony as recorded in part in Psalm 30—which begins with “I will extol Thee, O Lord…”—ought to be ours this Thanksgiving Day. And every day.

It is an old reading by an author that is unknown to me, and you have probably been blessed by it many times, as have I. But it never ceases to move the chords of thankfulness, love, and praise in my heart whenever I read it, so please let me share it with you again:

Today, upon a bus I saw a girl with golden hair. She seemed so bright; I envied her, and wished that I were half so fair. I watched her as she rose to leave, and saw her hobble down the aisle. She had one leg and wore a crutch, but as she passed—a smile! Oh, God, forgive me when I whine, I have two legs, the world is mine.

Later on I bought some sweets. The boy who sold them had such charm, I thought I’d stop and talk awhile. If I were late, ‘twould do no harm. And as we talked, he said, ‘Thank you, sir, you’ve really been so kind. It’s nice to talk to folks like you because you see I’m blind.’ Oh, God, forgive me when I whine; I have two eyes, the world is mine.

Later, walking down the street, I met a boy with eyes so blue; he stood and watched the others play; it seemed he knew not what to do. I paused, and then, I said, ‘Why don’t you join the others, dear?’ But he looked straight ahead without a word, and then I knew, he couldn’t hear. Oh, God, forgive me when I whine; I have two ears, the world is mine.

Two legs to take me where I go. Two eyes to see the sunset’s glow. Two ears to hear all I should know. Oh, God, forgive me when I whine. I’m blessed indeed, the world is mine.”

In Psalm 119:62, David said that he would rise at midnight to give thanks to God.  It is a good thing to give thanks to God—morning, noon, and night. It is one thing that every one of us can and should do.  Is your present plight difficult? Giving thanks in everything—for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you—will change your perspective on any problem or even in any crisis. (I Thess. 5:17)

Missionaries, like every other serving saint, have difficulties and mountainous challenges to deal with daily, serving often in foreign countries and attempting to reach the nationals where they serve, while learning a language that is not familiar to them—in a culture that, in many ways, is the opposite of the way of life where they grew up.

Bernard and Bernice Dodeler have served the Lord faithfully in France for 50 years. Their advantage has been that the language and culture are native to them, but the barriers of unbelief have been no less monumental. In November of 2011, when Bernard and Bernice had been laboring faithfully for 40 years, loving their own countrymen and women to Christ, they sent their supporters and friends a prayer letter in which they said, “When in the early 70’s, we accepted the call of God to go church planting in France, little did we realize how much we would have to squarely rest upon God’s daily providence. Day after day, month after month, year after year, we have marveled at the way God has extended His providence over us:

  • God was there to provide all of our support to go to the mission field only five months after graduation from Central Seminary.
  • God was there to give us strength and courage to establish a local church in a city of northeastern France, totally overwhelmed by Marxists.
  • God was there to comfort us and take care of us when the French Post Office blocked our monthly support checks for nearly four months because postal workers went on strike.
  • God was there to encourage us when the going was slow in getting churches under way.
  • God was there to give us wisdom and patience every time a church failed financially to meet its obligations.
  • God was there protecting us when we were driving unreliable cars from one ministry to another.
  • God was there to enhance our compassion for the lost when they were obnoxious to us.
  • God was there providing our very basic needs through the economically disastrous Carter era.
  • God was there guiding us when pivotal decisions needed to be made to preserve the integrity of I.B.B.I., the training place for faithful nationals.
  • Recently, God provided graciously a nice pre-owned station wagon with low mileage from people with whom we now have excellent rapport.”

That praise and prayer letter was written almost 11 years ago, and the Dodelers are still praising God for His faithfulness. They were just presented a special award for meritorious missionary service of 50 years by the mission agency under whose auspices they have steadfastly served a half-century.

Do you have a list of things for which to specifically thank God for this Thanksgiving Day? Giving thanks reveals a grateful heart. It can also be contagious.  Anyone can grumble or even gripe, but it is a serious thing to do.  The late Noel Smith, writing in the November, 1972, issue of the Baptist Bible Tribune, said, “Ingratitude is the basic sin of youth. It is the basic sin of middle age; such gratitude as most middle- aged people have drains to their belly. A girdle will improve the figure but it won’t improve the heart.”

My prayer is that Thanksgiving Day Thursday will find you lifting your heart in praise to the God of all grace.

Save us, O Lord our God, and gather us from among the heathen, to give thanks unto Thy holy name, and to triumph in Thy praise.” (Ps. 106:47)

Mary Ann

She is my oldest sister, born about eight years before I became the fourth of five children of Theodore and Margaret in Van Buren County, southeastern Iowa. Mary Ann was the first born, and she has always demonstrated an individualistic spirit. She is an avid reader, a loyal friend, a lover of fine china, a people-person, a devoted follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, a loving mother and grandmother, a leader by nature, and a consummate learner.

I could never begin to tell Mary Ann’s story; it so jam-packed full of life’s ventures and adventures. But I want to share a slice of it that might encourage someone reading this to “do right.”

When she graduated from high school in 1952, Mary Ann enrolled in Baptist Bible College of Springfield, MO. Arriving in Springfield, she had nothing and knew no one; but with her resourcefulness, she was able to quickly find a job, make a good friend, and meet teachers in this start-up Bible college who were willing to help her. That was the era when the likes of Jerry Falwell, Greg Dixon, and other notables from around the country were students in this Baptist Bible Fellowship college, and W.E. Dowell, David Cavin, G.B. Vick, Noel Smith, the Donnelsons, and other men and women of stature were leaders.

Mary Ann met and in 1954 would marry Tom Wilson, who attended BBC for a year before moving to Denver.  He was from Seymour, Iowa, and from his childhood dreamed of flying planes in the United States Air Force; but having enlisted, he was later discharged honorably for medical reasons. In his life after the Air Force, Tom worked for Continental Air Lines, Douglas Aircraft, and other employers, learning also to become a skilled craftsman as a watchmaker.  The Wilsons lived in Los Angeles, Denver, Charlotte, and finally in the greater Atlanta area. They enjoyed 56 years of married life until the Lord called Tom home, having battled Multiple Myeloma for about six years before being graduated to glory.

Four or five years into their marriage, Mary Ann was working at a Lincoln Mercury dealership, Kumpf Motor Car Company, in downtown Denver. An elderly gentleman came to her counter one day to pay his bill and pick up his car.  She asked him for his ID not having met him before and not knowing that he was one of the wealthiest men in the United States at that time, having made a fortune as a cattleman with a ranch in Kansas. He was a bit put out at first that she would ask him for identification, but soon realized that this friendly young lady was pretty naïve and just doing her job. He pulled out a stuffed wallet and showed Mary Ann about every form of ID she could have imagined. She saw at the end of that string of Diner’s Club cards a picture of his grandchildren which she commented on. That was the beginning of an acquaintance and friendship that would continue while Tom and Mary Ann were in Denver. 

In the course of time, the cattleman wanted to give Mary Ann a token of his appreciation for her friendship. He was going to be going on a trip, but before he left he thrust out a checkbook and asked her to write herself a check for any amount. He would never know how much it was. She was, of course, stunned. In no way had she ever thought of anything like that happening. She and Tom had been his guests at Denver’s most exclusive restaurant, and they had entertained him in their home.  They desired opportunities to witness to him about Christ, and their motive was ever and only to be genuine friends to an old man who did not have close family as a part of his life. They did not realize, at that time, that he was indeed one of America’s wealthiest people.  Mary Ann would not—could not—accept his generous offer, and as long as they were friends she never accepted any cash gifts from the Kansas cattleman.

I heard about that story and watched Mary Ann and Tom through the years. Mary Ann testified to her friend that she would always and only trust in the Lord to take care of her needs. Tom was a skilled craftsman and always had work. They lived in His presence, and their needs were always met. One could only guess what twists and turns life might have taken for the Wilsons, had they accepted this offer from a well-meaning friend. But Mary Ann has testified that it was never a temptation and that she was determined to trust God and depend on her husband to take care of her needs. And He has, to this day, never failed.  From the time when, penniless, she enrolled in Baptist Bible College until this present hour, she has lived a comfortable life—not luxurious but surrounded by some of her very best friends, BOOKS, and living in a beautiful home on top of a Georgia mountain. She and Tom have always been active in a local Baptist Church wherever they have lived, and they have always been generous to others when there has been a need that they could help meet. When one of our sisters who lived in Waterloo, Iowa, struggled with serious health problems that eventually claimed her life, Mary Ann, in her mid-80s, drove to Waterloo alone from her home in Georgia to care for her multiple times over the course of Nancy’s last years. Nothing has ever seemed out of the realm of possibility for Mary Ann to tackle. Her spirit is indomitable.

With eight years separating us, I have not always known her closely; but I have admired her and loved her for her love of life, people, Christ and His Word, and for her steadfast testimony. When she was a high-school student, she wrote a paper for one of her classes on “Protestantism Versus Catholicism.” She received a failing grade from the teacher, and I almost got a heart attack out of it as I was in the Catholic hospital recovering from an appendectomy when she—armed with bound copies of her thesis—visited me in the hospital. As she was leaving, she left a copy of the little red booklet on Protestantism v. Catholicism between the fingers of all the statues of Mary. I had visions of being rolled down into the basement of that hospital, where something very grisly would happen to me. But, that was Mary Ann. And still pretty much is. An individualist. But on the right side and for the cause of truth.  I am proud to call her my sister!

I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.” (Phil.1:3)

Don’t Look Back!

Jesus was once approached by a would-be disciple who said, “Lord, I will follow Thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house.” Jesus’ reply was a warning for all those who are following the Lord Jesus or who are contemplating signing up for service: “And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:61, 62)

All of us have known some, maybe more than a few, who would fit the description of “looking back.” Maybe some who are reading this are saying, “Yes, there was a time when ‘looking back’ would have described my status as a follower of Jesus Christ.” Startling, is it not, that Jesus said of such a person that he is not fit for the kingdom of heaven. Lest one should be hasty in judgment and consign such a one-time follower that died in a state of “looking back” to Hell, it should be noted that the words “not fit” could be rendered “not ready.” No believer who is “looking back” (as Hebrew Christians addressed in the book of Hebrews were tempted to do) is ready for the kingdom of God. He has more maturing to do; God has some refining to put him through, and it is certain that the work that He has begun and will perform in that follower (Phil.1:6) is not yet complete.

The day that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah—sending angels to escort Lot, his wife, and two daughters out of the doomed city—the people were warned by their rescuers: “Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain.” (Gen.19:17) Sadly, we read in Gen. 19:26: “But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.” It was devastating to Lot and deadly to his wife to “look back.” Jesus used that Old Testament incident to instruct his followers. In Luke 17:32, He simply says, “Remember Lot’s wife.” He was encouraging the disciples (Luke 17:22ff.) to be faithful and ready for the coming of the future kingdom of God.

Following that instruction from the Gospel of Luke, we should look to and for these things, having put our hands to the plough:

Look to His Person Hebrews 12:2 gives us good counsel in our walk and work for our Savior in this Church age: “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.” We are members of His body, the Church, and He has, by His Spirit, gifted us and equipped us for the work of edifying His Church. There is a work for each child of God to do. Set out to do it with your whole-heart; but whatever you do, don’t look back. Don’t look back to old ways of the world that you once embraced. Look to Jesus. Keep your eyes fixed upon Him and in so doing “run with patience the race that is set before us.” (Hebs.12:1)

Look to the prize. Paul declared that “forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil.3:13, 14) A prize for Paul was the “crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only but unto all them also that love His appearing.” (2 Tim. 4:8) So, too, every believer can look forward to the same prize that kept Paul looking straight ahead and not back at those things which were behind.

Look for the promise. Paul put it this way in writing to Titus: “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ.” (Tit. 2:13) The promise was, “I will come again to receive you unto myself that where I am ye may be also.” (John 14:3) His coming for the Church, the Rapture, is imminent.  We are to live expectantly, faithfully, ready to hear the trumpet’s signal and the Saviour’s shout to “Come up hither.” Oh, what a blessed daily hope that is! Let us live while looking for that promise as Paul encouraged his son in the faith, Titus, to do.

Look at our progress. (2 John 8): “Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.” Paul plainly said to the Corinthian Christians, a carnal lot, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves.” (2 Cor.13:5) It is well to look at our own heart: Am I right with God? Am I keeping the faith? Am I in love with Him and His word?

Finally, look to people.  (Phil.2:4): “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” We live in community as believers.  We are a body. When one member of the body suffers, all members of the body suffer. God has given us plenty of instruction as to how to treat and care for people who are family and family of faith: “Love one another.” “But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?” (I John 3:17) We take care of our own. Our own household and then, when and where needed, the household of faith. We minister to spiritual needs (Gal.6:1, 2), and we are sensitive to the physical needs.  Looking also “on the things of others,” in the sense that Paul had in mind when he wrote to the Philippian church, will keep us from living a selfish, self-centered life.

So, while ploughing in the field where God has placed you, remember: Do not look back; look to the Person (Jesus); look to the prize; look for the promise; look at your progress, and do not fail to look to people. In doing so, He will be able to finish that work that He has begun in you (Phil.1:6). And in time, in His time, you will be ready for the kingdom of God, where He will have more ploughing  for you to do, ploughing that will take a millennium to complete, all to the praise of His glory!

“Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.” (Hebrews 10:35,36)

20th Century Contender for the Faith

He was born during a prayer meeting on March 25, 1942, in Peoria, Illinois, and by the time he was 21 years of age, he was pastoring Golden Hill Baptist Church in Rochester, Minnesota. From that humble prayer-meeting entrance into this world, Dr. Fred Moritz became a 20th/21st-century contender for the faith once delivered to the saints.

He was well prepared for his leading role in the advancement of Christ’s kingdom through the independent Baptist movement. Born into a Christian home in the Midwest, nurtured under the tutelage and ministry of Bible-preaching pastors and loving, Godly parents, Fred Moritz enrolled as a student in Pillsbury Baptist Bible College in Owatonna, Minnesota, where he would sit under the ministry as he caught the evangelistic fervor and hard-core convictions of the then President of PBBC, Dr. Monroe Parker. As a 19 year-old sophomore, Dr. Moritz surrendered his life to preach the glorious gospel of the grace of God. In 1963, he married the love of his life and constant companion in life-long labors of love for their Lord, Judy Cook Moritz. God blessed this union with two daughters and “six wonderful grandchildren.” Dr. and Mrs. Moritz reside in North Carolina.

Fred Moritz continued his ministry preparation at Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Minneapolis, where Dr. Richard V. Clearwaters had founded—through his church, the Fourth Baptist Church—a seminary that trained young pastors, missionaries and evangelists to resist the encroaching compromise of the “ancient landmarks” in favor in inclusivism, theological compromise, and a softening of the principles of both personal and ecclesiastical separation.  This “mood swing” affected mission agencies, mainstream denominations, colleges, seminaries, and pastors’ fellowships. It was a byproduct of early-20th century Modernism, which was spawned by the “higher criticism” that had swept across the waters from its birthplace in Germany, eventually affecting and infecting the pastors and pulpits of America.  The Fundamentalist-Modernist controversies that raged during the 1920s continued into the 1940s and 50s, as the “New Evangelicalism” carried forward the spirit of Modernism under a different banner. Dr. Moritz was trained under the leadership of men who were committed to the fundamentals of the faith, purposing to steadfastly perpetuate and contend for the “faith once delivered to the saints.”

Following his shepherding of the Golden Hill Baptist Church, he would in time pastor the First Baptist Church of Oregon, Illinois; the Oak Grove Baptist Church of Bartonville, Illinois; and the Thompson Road Baptist Church of Indianapolis, Indiana, before entering full-time, local-church evangelism in 1979. I had the privilege of following Pastor Moritz as his successor at the Thompson Road Baptist Church—a congregation that, in September of 1979, bid a fond farewell to their under-shepherd of seven years, who had endeared himself to them through skillful Bible exposition messages powerfully delivered, with a heart as wide as the sea of God’s love. Like the previous churches pastored by this man of God, the church in Indianapolis grew and was grounded in the faith, becoming a pillar of the truth on Indy’s Southside.

Two years into the full-time evangelistic ministry that God had called him to, Dr. Moritz received an invitation to join his college mentor, Dr. Monroe Parker, in Decatur, Alabama, as Assistant to the General Director of Baptist World Mission, an independent, fundamental mission agency born in 1961 out of the need for a mission agency that would be separatist and Biblicist in position and practice. Dr. Moritz served as the Assistant Director for four years. In 1985, he assumed the position of Executive Director, a position he held until his retirement in 2009.

Under the careful guidance of Fred Moritz, Baptist World Mission continued to grow. Entering the 21st century, it enjoyed the confidence of hundreds of pastors and local churches, which needed to partner with a mission-service agency to get God-called missionaries from their churches to the regions beyond. When Dr. Moritz retired, having served BWM for 28 years, he was known as a leader in fundamentalism, an author of several books—including “Be Ye Holy,” “Contending for the Faith,” and “Now is the Time,” a history of Baptist World Mission. His strong pulpit ministry, keen mind, and tender heart made him a favorite conference, Bible college, and local church speaker. He regularly visited the various continents of the world, ministering to missionaries and their families and field co-workers. Upon his retirement from Baptist World Mission, Dr. Moritz continued his ministry as an adjunct professor at Maranatha Baptist Seminary in Watertown, Wisconsin, where his theology courses were popular and desired by students, including one Joel Stevens—who, on my retirement from the pastorate in 2019, became the senior pastor of Thompson Road Baptist Church.

The measure of a man who serves God faithfully for more than half a century—pouring his heart into the hearts of fellow servants of God, encouraging hundreds of ambassadors for Christ to pursue with purity the call of God upon their lives to take the gospel to every creature—is incalculable. Serving for, and with, scores of leading North American pastors who comprised the core leadership of Baptist World Mission; writing books that champion conservative Christianity in our generation; encouraging all who heard his message or read his manuscripts to continue to “earnestly contend for the faith, once delivered to the saints”—Dr. Moritz discharged his commission in faith and with fidelity to the Bible for His Body, the Church. It is certain that, with God as his co-laborer and Judy as his helpmeet, Fred J. Moritz has lived a life that has counted for Christ, for time and eternity.

The prayer of all who know and love this dear servant of God is that the Lord of the Harvest will raise up a score—yea, scores—of young men who will perpetuate his passion for truth, who will imitate his commitment to world missions, who will disseminate faithful and fearless preaching of the “thus saith the Lord,” and who will motivate the next generation to cultivate sharpened powers of reasoning and recall, of a mind that is disciplined, directed and devoted to fulfilling the calling that the Holy Ghost has separated them to, for the work of the ministry.

In a word or two: May his influence and worth of work follow him, and may his Lord and Savior, his Chief Shepherd and Bishop of his soul, increase his tribe today, tomorrow, and until Jesus comes again!

Faithful is He who hath called you who will also do it.” I Thess. 5:24

One Vote!

Today is (midterm) Election Day, USA. What a privilege is ours to be able to vote freely.  We have seen in the news of late the areas in Ukraine where citizens were asked to vote yes or no on being annexed as part of Russia. Armed Russian guards stood watch as people cast their ballots and, guess what, the vote was overwhelmingly in favor of becoming part of Russia!  In some countries, that is the way people are forced to “vote.” Not here in our great homeland, America.  For the most part, our elections are still free and, whereas there was much confusion and consternation over the irregularities of the 2020 Presidential Election, hopefully we have learned from those unpleasant experiences and safeguards have been put into place to assure that when we cast our ballot today, it will be counted for the intended candidate.

An old man was walking along a beach one day with his grandson, who picked up each starfish they passed and threw it back into the sea. “If I left them up here,” the boy said, “they would dry up and die. I am saving their lives.” “But,” protested the old man, “the beach goes on for miles, and there are millions of starfish. What you are doing won’t make any difference.” The lad looked at the starfish in his hand, gently threw it into the ocean, and answered, “It makes a difference to this one.”

You might just be thinking, “I have one vote. If I do not make it to the voting place today, it really will not make a difference. It’s just one vote.” But one vote—added to another vote and another vote and on and on—can and does make a difference.

One intelligent vote. There are so many critical issues at stake in this election. One preacher friend said he believed this midterm election was the most important election of his lifetime! Woke issues, democracy, crime and how to handle criminals, education and when or whether second and third-graders should be introduced to gender and transgender issues, and much more.  It is spiritual warfare and the “ultra-progressives” of our land, a minority of the electorate, want to radically change the face of America and entrench us into a global, one-world state.  Your vote does make a difference.  One vote does!

So educate yourself. Voter guides assembled and distributed by patriotic organizations, such as Advance America here in Indiana, have published and distributed non-partisan records on how each candidate stands on key issues like those mentioned above.

In 1883 in Allentown, New Jersey, a wooden facsimile of a man—the kind seen in those days in front of cigar stores—was placed on the ballot for Justice of Peace. The candidate was registered under the fictitious name of Abner Robbins. When the ballots were counted, Abner won over the incumbent, Sam Davis, by seven votes. Again, in 1938, the name Boston Curtis appeared on the ballot for Republican Committeeman from Wilson, Washington. Actually, Boston Curtis was a mule. The town’s mayor sponsored the animal to demonstrate that people too often know very little about the candidates. He proved his point. The mule won!

Razor-thin margins regularly elect candidates to office; then, after elections, as is the case in the United States Senate where often votes on major pieces of legislation are 50-50, one vote, the vote of the sitting vice-president of the United States, will determine the final outcome. Vice-President Kamala Harris, in her first year in office, cast 15 tie-breaking votes, the most of any first-year vice-president in the history of the United States.  One vote resulted in major differences in legislative outcomes, such as the so-called Inflation Reduction Act (2022), on which the Senate voted 50-50 and VP Kamala Harris broke the tie with her one vote.  She cast 26 tie-breaking votes through August 7, 2022, third most of any vice-president—and that less than half-way through her four-year tenure as vice-president. So, one vote is important in securing the election of a candidate where the outcome going into election-day is a “toss-up”; and it is important after the election when—as is the case with the sitting vice-president—one tie-breaking vote can and does change the direction of a nation of laws, checks and balances.

Doubtless, one vote can make a world of difference. (Remember, Republican Senator John McCain cast the deciding “no” vote on the Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act on July 28, 2017). One  vote!  That’s what you have to invest today in your republic.  Spend it wisely. Invest it well. If Jesus does not come soon, your one vote will impact significantly how your grandchildren live.  Today, Election Day, vote!

Therefore, to him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17)

History’s Timeline Going Forward

The apocalypse is in the air! That statement has been uttered many times over the course of many years. It was the Apostle John, before the second century had dawned, who said, “Little children, it is the last time.” (I John 2:18) Another Apostle, Paul, had the last time on his mind when, writing to his protégé, Timothy, he said, “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.”(I Tim.4:1) Paul evidently thought that admonition was relevant to the young Timothy and that the last times were even then imminent. It has, of course, been two thousand years since those last-time alerts were sounded, which, to the Bible-believer, only means that it is that much closer now than when John and Paul sounded the warnings! With that in mind, note with me the order of events that Scripture affords us of what will happen in the end of this age—the who, when, what and where of it, if we may:

  • The Rapture of the Church is the next eschatological event that the Church anticipates, day by day. No signs need be fulfilled before Jesus’s coming in the air for the Church in fulfillment of His Upper Room promise, “I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” (John 14:3). This event, the calling up and catching away of the Church, both the “dead in Christ” and those who are alive at His coming, is called the “Blessed Hope” of the believer. (Tit. 2:13). It will be announced by the sounding of a trumpet (I Cor. 15:52). When it happens, all who have accepted Christ as Savior, from the Day of Pentecost until that moment, shall be resurrected and raised up or, if alive at that time, will follow in order the resurrection and raising of the dead saints, to be caught up together with them to meet the Lord in the air. Their bodies—in “a moment, in the twinkling of an eye”—will be instantly glorified and made in the likeness of Christ’s glorified body. (I Cor.15:51-54; I John 3:2)
  • Sometime following the Rapture of the Church, a seven-year period of tribulation will begin to play out upon the whole earth. Israel as a nation will enter this seven-year period having signed a (false) peace treaty with the Anti-Christ—which he, the “man of sin,” will break at the half-way point of this period known as “The Tribulation.” When that half-way point occurs, the Anti-Christ will unmask his identity and try to eliminate all Jews (not succeeding, though, as Israel will be divinely protected by God). The last half of the “Seventieth Week of Daniel” Jesus calls the Great Tribulation, and death and devastation will rule upon the face of the whole earth. A rapid-fire series of divine judgments, called the Seal, the Trumpet and the Bowl judgments  will bring crushing pain worldwide as God pours out His wrath upon the world. (Revelation, chs. 6-19) Chapters 24 and 25 of Matthew offer further clarification—in Jesus’ own words—of this future period, ending in the gathering and judging of the nations, including Israel, as Jesus comes to establish His millennial kingdom.
  • The 2nd Coming of Christ, not to be confused with the Rapture of the Church. In the Rapture, Jesus will come in the air for the Church; in the Return, He will come to the earth with the Church. There will be battles, as the Anti-Christ and his forces assemble in Megiddo to oppose this coming King. But Christ will prevail and the Devil will be cast into a bottomless pit, bound there for 1,000 years as Christ rules and reigns from Jerusalem, with His saints, during this edenic-like, renovated world. (Rev.20:1-10)
  • Armageddon, Phase 3: At the conclusion of the 1,000 years, Satan will be loosed from the bottomless pit where he had been bound. In one last desperate attempt, he will once again deceive millions of earth’s inhabitants—declaring that he, not Jesus, is the rightful ruler of the earth. Mounting this final coup against God, Satan will be once-and-for-all defeated and cast into the Lake of Fire where he, with the Beast and the False Prophet—the unholy triune—will spend eternity. The earth will be destroyed by a universal conflagration, making way for the coming down from God, out of heaven, a new heaven and new earth complete with the New Jerusalem. (Rev.21:1,2)
  • The Great White Throne Judgment: When Satan shall have been cast into the Lake of Fire, a great judgment will take place, known as the Great White Throne Judgment, at which time all the unsaved dead, of all time, will be resurrected to stand before the judgment bar of God. All whose names are not found written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (and there will be none!) will be cast into the Lake of Fire, their eternal abode. (Rev.20:11-15)
  • A new heaven and new earth will come down from God, out of heaven, and the eternal abode of the saints of God will be in place. This place, set forth in Revelation 21 and 22, will be beautiful and blessed beyond our ability, in our finiteness, to comprehend.  We will live in peace with Jesus forever in a place where there will be no time, no tears, no death, no crime, no sin of any kind, no sun nor moon—because Jesus will be the SONLIGHT of Heaven.

The above gives the interested reader a basic outline of future events.  There will be other judgments, on which I did not elaborate, including the Judgment Seat of Christ at the Rapture, for Church-age saints; and the Judgment of Israel and the nations at the time of Christ’s 2nd coming. Old Testament saints will be resurrected at the close of the Tribulation, as well as Tribulation martyrs. (Dan. 12:1-3) There are many other blanks one could fill in and, though I do not expect to be able to answer every question or concern, please feel free to reply with your questions or comments. I know that in matters of eschatology, good men will differ in matters of interpretation, so if you disagree with my outline, I am OK with that. We can agree to disagree.

Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.” (Matt.24:42); “Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.” (Matt.25:13)

What Made the Psalmist Glad

I was glad when they said unto me let us go into the house of the Lord.” (Ps.122:1)

Now I am a dispensationalist through and through and am aware that this psalm of ascent was chanted in chorus as the faithful ascended to Jerusalem on their trek to the temple to offer sacrifices of praise (three feasts each year).  But I love to make a New Testament application of this great affirmation of faith and recite it to myself, and occasionally to others, as we prepare to assemble with God’s people in the local church meeting of His Body with those of like faith, where we too offer sacrifices of praise, thanksgiving, and songs of worship. Peter used the term “House of God” when referring to a local church when he said that judgement must begin at the House of God. (I Pet. 4:17)

God’s people have always rejoiced in the prospect and privilege of assembling in the “House of God,” the place of praise, prayer, Bible teaching, and communion around the table of the Lord. A deep price has been paid to enjoy this treasured time through the ages, and men and women have been burned at the stake for having gone “outside the camp,” to worship their Lord and Savior as their consciences dictate.

Students of 21st-century church-growth patterns report that church attendance is on the wane. Less than 20% of Americans attend church regularly, and only one in four attend services three of eight Sundays.

J. Frank Norris was a church-building pioneer in the 20th century, one of the founders of the World Baptist Fellowship. He was a controversial figure, but no one would take issue with what he saw and said in 1939, with the background of an ever-encroaching modernism infecting mainstream denominations of the day:  “What is needed is a school that teaches the whole English Bible. What is needed is a school that will take men from the engine cab, from between the plowshares and teach them the Bible. What is needed is a school that is free from modernism. What is needed is a school that will teach a man how to go out with the Bible under his arm, faith in his heart, and in the power of the Holy Spirit, begin in a vacant lot and build a church to the glory of God.”

What Norris no doubt envisioned was what he, T.T. Shields, and Luther Peake established in Ft. Worth, Texas, in the World Baptist Seminary. In the early 1970s, I attended a church in Dallas, Texas, pastored by Dr. Peake. He could expound the scriptures par excellence. I asked him three times to visit our home so I could get to know more about him and the church he pastored, and he never did visit. But on the strength of his preaching, Ellen and I joined anyway. We loved to attend those services to hear an old- fashioned preacher preach the old-fashioned Book in his own inimitable way.  We have always loved attending church services!

When I was young in the ministry, I met an old-fashioned evangelist who went from village (town) to village in northeast Missouri, where in most cases there was a town square but not always an active Baptist Church.  The evangelist rented a space on the town square and spent weeks preaching in the open air to anyone who would listen. In the course of time, he would attract some good people who had once heard that kind of preaching and had an affinity for it.  More often than not, after a few weeks, the nucleus of a local, New Testament church had come together, and when the old preacher and his wife picked up their belongings to go find another town square in which to preach, a newly formed church was left behind. Kind of reminded me of a couple of evangelists I had read about in the book of Acts.  Their kind has been a dying breed for decades now, but with or without the latest technology, their method did work—both in the book of Acts and in 20th-century northeast Missouri.

No community, large or small, has ever outgrown its need for a Bible-preaching church.  A buddy of mine (from northeast Missouri) and I (from southeast Iowa) picked up on that fact and visited several of those small Missouri towns, where it was not unusual to see an old framed church with a white steeple and maybe a bell in the tower, long since closed and full of cobwebs and dust. We had the privilege of going into some of those church buildings, where we could imagine that in years past the gospel went forth from the pulpit with power. We could imagine revival meetings, sometimes protracted, that saw scores of people on their knees in penitent praying. With those thoughts in our hearts and heads we knocked down the cobwebs, having secured permission to use the abandoned facility, swept out the dust, and announced a revival meeting nightly with a VBS during the morning hours.  We were able to witness spiritual life renewed in the hearts of some, and were able to see some children come to know more of Christ, too. It was a mission field ripe for the harvest.  We did not have to convince many that a church—open and alive—was vitally needed in their rural communities. Of course, our hearts were torn when we had to move on to find another “dead” church to attempt to revitalize it.

Church attendance is a privilege. Some people are physically hindered from attending regular services, but for those who are not and can be faithful, the blessing is theirs. Nothing can compensate for the one-on-one interaction with members of the family of God; the singing as a body, the praising and the praying—all are incomparable.  Mrs. Ella Craig thought so.  The Nashville Banner featured her in a story some time ago. Mrs. Craig had perfect attendance in Sunday school for 20 years, or 1,040 Sundays! The article asked, “Doesn’t Mrs. Craig ever have company on Sunday to keep her out of church? Doesn’t she ever have headaches, colds, nervous spells or tired feelings? Doesn’t she ever take a weekend trip, or sleep late on Sunday mornings? How about rain or snow, do they not hinder her from attending church? Or, has she never gotten her feelings hurt by someone at church?”

How is it with you, reader friend? What does it take to rob you of the blessed privilege of rejoicing because “this is the day the Lord hath made?”

And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” (Acts 2:42)

Of the house and lineage of David

A few months ago, a relative wrote and asked me to participate in a DNA test so that the genealogy she was working on would have some gaps filled in, possibly.

I am aware that some people have made a serious hobby or pastime of compiling family trees and meticulously poring over genealogies. It has never been of interest to me, past knowing something of my grandparents and fairly immediate family history. Growing up in southeastern Iowa, I was unaware of anyone else in the universe other than an uncle and my grandmother, who had the same last name as I did. Years later, as I was driving home on the street in Indianapolis that our church is located on, I just about lost control of the car when I glanced in the rearview mirror and read the personalized license plate of the westbound car that had just passed me: SLUTZ.  How can that be, I wondered!  That was on a Saturday afternoon, and the next day a visitor to our Sunday services at Thompson Road Baptist Church introduced himself. His last name was Slutz.  He lived in Ohio, had heard that I pastored here in Indianapolis, and decided to drive over to pay a visit. I later learned, through other sources, that there were cemeteries in Ohio, especially around Zoar, that have lots of headstones with that last name on them. So I figured that I did have some cousins out there somewhere. The name has had variant spellings but is still the same basic name. 

So, when I received a request from a person named Slutz (this one living in Texas) to participate in a DNA test, expenses paid, I had no reason not to accommodate the person in her search to fill in some genealogical blanks. The test arrived, I followed the instructions, sent it back to the lab, and forgot about it until recently, when I received communication from my Texas “cousin” thanking me for my participation and informing me that the information obtained through it had proven to be quite helpful. She sent several pages of a genealogy and informed me, too, that somewhere in the past an illicit union (it was thought) had occurred between two of my ancestors. This was not happy news, of course, but it was what the facts had revealed.  She was not doing this to bring discomfort but simply as a messenger.

Well, as I have said, genealogies have never intrigued me, nor have I ever been too engrossed in affairs of my forefathers. I pretty much shrugged off what might have been troubling news to some. I live now, not then. What a great, great someone or other did (or did not do) with his or her life, I could never undo, nor bear any responsibility for it.

It did set my mind to thinking in Biblical terms though, and I mused over how precise God is in His Word about genealogies. Most everyone has tried to labor patiently in reading the Old Testament genealogical lists. God is very meticulous in tracing the lineage, especially of Abraham’s descendants from which the Messiah was born. “Because he (Joseph) was of the house and lineage of David” in Luke 2:4 is critical in the narrative of the birth of Jesus Christ. He was out of the tribe of Judah and of the house and lineage of David, a must for the Messiah.

Then, in Matthew’s Gospel, written by a Jew primarily for a Jewish audience, Christ’s lineage is presented so that it is without disputation that He was the son of David, son of Abraham. He was indeed qualified to be Messiah! In Matthew’s detailed genealogy, he mentions early in his enumeration of Abraham’s descendants, Judah, son of Jacob, then Phares and Zara, born to Judah through an incestuous affair with his daughter-in-law Thamar. How awful! But there it is, in the genealogical tree of Jesus the Messiah.  A few verses later, we read that David the King begat Solomon through “her that had been wife of Urias.” (Matt. 1:6)  Another dark blot in the genealogy of Jesus! His ancestors were anything but pure. Bathsheba conceived Solomon through an adulterous act and the father of the child tried to cover the whole thing up with murder!  Quite a checkered ancestral history! And, did I mention Rahab the harlot? There she is in Matt. 1:5, in Jesus’ genealogy!  So, it was and is my humble conclusion that, yes, humanity is broken and sinful deeds have occupied the asterisks of history’s pages.  So it is. We cannot be accountable for the deeds of those who have gone before us. Their lives, in many respects, are an open book, seen and read of all men. We can and should thank God that we were born when, where, and to whom we were born, not knowing how our life story would be written had we been there, then, in their shoes and in their circumstances.

I praise God that the “grace of God hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly, in this present world.” (Tit. 2:12).  I am unspeakably thankful that somewhere in my past, the gospel came to our household and that my parents received His Word with gladness and confessed Jesus as Lord and Savior, and that I had the privilege of growing up in a Christian home! Somewhere, at some time, the sin chain was broken because of God’s grace, and I and my siblings had the opportunity of knowing Him whom to know aright is life eternal. I hope the story of sordidness that clouded my ancestral pages in the past had a happy ending, like Rahab’s story did. I do not know. But this I do know: God’s amazing grace—which teaches sober mindedness, righteousness and godliness—hath appeared to all men. The chain can be broken to His glory, and the scarlet blot can be made white as snow.  To God be all praise and glory.

Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” (Isa.1:18)

The Kindness Command

There it is, right there shortly after Paul warns the Ephesus church to avoid grieving the Holy Spirit, putting away all bitterness, wrath, and anger. The command cannot be missed: “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” (Eph. 4:32)

Christians live in a harshly biting world today. Treated often with malfeasance, we face an ever-present temptation to respond in like manner with terseness, sarcasm, impatience, and even anger. Paul warns against this kind of reaction with the straightforward command to be kind. It cuts against the grain of culture and is contrary to our ever-active human nature. But with the indwelling Holy Spirit as our enabler, the 21st-century believer has set before him the exact standard that the first-century saint was given: be kind!

How do you know if you are kind? Well, one of the accompanying traits listed in the Ephesians passage will give you a clue: tenderhearted. How is that going with you just now? Do you weep over the suffering of others? Can you be moved with compassion for the hurting? Or, is it easy for you to dismiss others’ misfortunes summarily with, “they made their bed and they’re going to have to lie in it?”

But wait, Paul did not end there. He concluded his discussion with “forgiving one another even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” Off the charts, you say. Impossible!  And, yes, it is impossible to be kind to those who have wronged you; maybe even harder to think of forgiving them. Until you read and reread the context of this command and are brought to your spiritual senses, acknowledging that apart from the indwelling presence and power of the Holy Spirit, you could never keep that command. Then, right between the spiritual eyes, Paul hits you with “even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” You, sinner of sinners. Chief of sinners, as Paul confessed. Your heart hits the floor in humility and repentance! God has forgiven me, vilest offender that I was. His grace has been freely bestowed upon this sinner, so that I can sing, “Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.” Not only that, Paul teaches in Romans 2:4 that it was the riches of His goodness and forbearance and longsuffering that led the believer to repentance! How could I not show kindness therefore to others, having been the recipient of such by His grace and from His hand!

God’s kindness has been the subject of prophets and preachers through the ages. The Old Testament, often portrayed as an account of a stern God who often exercises judgment apart from mercy, is replete with affirmations of His kindness: “I will abundantly pardon”; and, “With the Lord there is plenteous redemption”; and, “Can a woman forget her sucking child?” She may, but “I will never forget you.” God again assures us in the Old Testament that, though “The mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed…my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed.” God, in His merciful kindness invites all, yea, “everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the waters.”

And, His provision for His creation is an undeniable and universal testimony to His kindness. In Psalm 104 we read that “He sendeth the springs into the valleys, which run among the hills. They give drink to every beast of the field; the wild asses quench their thirst. By them shall the fowls of the heaven have their habitation, which sing among the branches. He watereth the hills from His chambers: the earth is satisfied with the fruit of Thy works. He causeth grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man, that he may bring forth food out of the earth.” So, He in His kindness takes care of His creatures with gracious and good provisions for both water and food. His kindness is without measure!

Ought not ours to be likewise! We who have received of His goodness. How can we not respond with unreserved kindness?

A first-century sage said, “You can accomplish by kindness what you cannot by force.”

William McKinley was President of the United States from 1897 to 1901. During one of his campaigns, a reporter from an opposition news outlet followed the presidential candidate constantly, persistently badgering McKinley about something and misrepresenting his views on just about every subject. At one point during the campaign, the weather became bitter cold, but the reporter continued to follow McKinley even though he was not prepared for the extreme cold, as evidenced in his lack of warm clothing.  One bitter night, the president-to-be was riding in his closed carriage, and the young reporter sat shivering on the driver’s seat outside. McKinley stopped the carriage and invited the reporter to put on his coat and ride with him inside the warm carriage. The young man, astonished, protested that McKinley knew he opposed his positions and platform, and that he had no intention of making any changes in his opposition during the campaign. McKinley knew that, but he wasn’t out to seek revenge. And, in the remaining days of the campaign, the reporter continued to oppose McKinley. But never again did he write anything unfair or unfounded about the future president.

In the mid-90’s, Pastor Collins Glenn and I joined an evangelist on a blitz to a third-world nation that had suffered under communism for more than four decades. Communists were still in power, but for a time there was limited travel back and forth. Arriving in the capital, we got a taxi and rode maybe three hours due west to get out of the gaze of any of communist agents. We were able to meet with believers, hold some services, and share our testimonies. It was so humbling to meet with these precious people who had known nothing but the rigors of communism all of their lives, for the most part. I will never forget eating a dinner one Sunday afternoon in the humble, rural hut-home of a family. A small card table was set in the middle of the hut, where Pastor Glenn and I were served a dinner consisting of chicken and a side dish. I remember thinking as I ate that the chicken was probably their finest meal, and that they probably could eat such a meal only rarely. It was, by American standards, a very scrawny chicken. But it was served in love and with a Christian hospitality and kindness that would put our American churches, some of them at least, to shame. It is a memory I shall gratefully and humbly take to the grave.

Kindness.  “Be ye kind….”

The desire of a man is his kindness; and a poor man is better than a liar.” (Provs. 19:22)