The Well Advised

None of us is so smart or seasoned that we do not need to heed wise Biblical counsel: “Every purpose shall be established by counsel; and with good advice make war.” (Provs. 20:18)

On a humorous note, I once read “Reason #4 Why Guys Do Not Write Advice Columns: ‘Dear Abe, the other day I set off for work, leaving my husband in the house watching TV. I hadn’t gone more than a mile when my engine conked out and the car shuddered to a halt. I walked home, only to find my husband making love to our neighbor. He was let go from his job six months ago, and says he has been feeling worthless. I love him very much, but I don’t know if I can trust him anymore.  What shall l do? Sincerely, Frustrated.’ ‘Dear Frustrated: A car stalling can be caused by a variety of faults with the engine. Check that there is no debris in the fuel line. If it’s clear, check the jubilee clips holding the vacuum pipes onto the inlet manifold. Or, it could be that the fuel pump itself is faulty, causing low delivery pressure to the carburetor float chamber. I hope this helps.’”

But, humor aside, there are times when we do need good counsel, because of the complexities of life and the constitution of our frail humanity: “Verily man at his best state is altogether vanity,” as the Psalmist says. (Ps. 39:5) And, “Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors, there is safety.” (Provs. 11:14) And, “Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom: I am understanding; I have strength.” (Provs. 8:14)

Then, too, counsel is advised because of the confusion of sin. So many voices—often contradictory and often claiming authority—can and will at times leave one confused. “Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end.” (Provs. 19:20) Educators, philosophers, scientists and politicians will attempt to convince others of their viewpoints—but seeking Biblical counsel enables one to avoid the pitfalls of reason, pop psychology, and other “isms” of our day.

Counsel will guide one, too, away from fatal mistakes due to flawed judgment. Remember how Israel was fooled by the Gibeonites, when the Gibeonites lied to Israel’s leaders about who they were and where they were from? (Josh. 9:24) The deception was costly to Israel for years to come, and it could well have been avoided. But the men of Israel “asked not counsel of the Lord.” It was neither the first time nor the last that Israel suffered catastrophe because the people did not seek advice from God: “For they are a nation void of counsel, neither is there understanding in them.” That indictment by God is devastating—to a nation or an individual. (Deut. 32:28) Solomon instructs that “without counsel purposes are disappointed, but in the multitude of counsel they are established.” (Provs. 15:22)

So, yes, at times every person needs and ought to seek and heed good, Biblical counsel. Take heart, because such help is readily available. “I will bless the Lord who hath given me counsel,” the Psalmist declared. (Ps. 16:7) And, “The counsel of the Lord standeth forever….” (Ps. 33:11) Solomon again noted that “there are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless, the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand.” (Provs. 19:21) Wise believers are often a good source of guidance: “We took sweet counsel together and walked unto the house of God in company.” (Ps. 55:14) And, “Thou shewest lovingkindness unto thousands, and recompensest the iniquity of the fathers unto the bosom of their children after them: the Great, the Mighty God, the Lord of hosts, is His name. Great in counsel, and mighty in work.” (Jer. 32:18, 19)

God uses friends, teachers, pastors, parents, and mentors to give advice, which like “ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel.” (Provs. 27:9) “Counsel in the heart of a man is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.” (Provs. 2:5).

So, the worth of good guidance from a loving friend, family member, or fellow faith pilgrim cannot be overestimated.  Every word of God is pure (Prov. 30:5) and “The Law of the Lord is perfect, converting soul.” (Ps. 19:7). Seek God’s wisdom through His Word, and walk always in His way. “The counsel of the Lord standeth forever; the thoughts of His heart to all generations.” (Ps. 33:11)

Pray over His wise counsel. Receive it with gladness and with a commitment to follow it. “Because they rebelled against the Words of God and contemned the counsel of the most High God; therefore He brought down their heart with labor; they fell down.” (Ps. 107:11) “Hearken now unto my voice,” Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, exhorted Moses, “I will give thee counsel and God shall be with thee.” (Ex. 18:19).

But, in a fallen world, we always need to weigh all “counsel” in the light of God’s Word. The first verse of David’s voluminous Book of Psalms starts with: “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly.” (Ps. 1:1) King Rehoboam, Solomon’s son and successor to his father’s throne, made a critical error when he “forsook the old men’s counsel that they gave him, and spake to them after the counsel of the young men.” (I Kings 12:13,14)

Counsel that cannot be acted upon in good faith; counsel contrary to God’s Word; counsel from any stranger to truth—all of these must by all means be avoided.  Learn from King Saul, who “died for his transgression which he committed against the Lord, even against the Word of God, which he kept not, and also for asking counsel of one that had a familiar spirit to enquire of it.” (I Chr.10:13)

May our testimony now and ever be what David’s was: “Thou shalt guide me with Thy counsel and afterward receive me to glory.” (Ps.73:24)

The Power of the Gospel

Billy Sunday preaches – Unknown author – published about 1910

Lew Wallace, a Union general in the Civil War, happened to be seated near Col. Robert Ingersoll while on a train. In the course of their trip, the conversation turned to the subject of Christ’s divinity.  Ingersoll was an infidel, but Wallace had an open mind regarding the person and divinity of Christ. After the encounter with Ingersoll, he decided to do his own research, examining all sides of the question, and the six-year-long search led General Wallace to write the classic novel Ben-Hur.  Wallace concluded, at the end of his search, that Jesus of Nazareth was not only the Christ—He was his Christ, Redeemer and Savior. (Recounted in The House of Harper, a history of the Harper and Brothers publishers.) That story demonstrates what Paul affirmed in Romans 1:16: The gospel is “the power of God unto salvation, to every one that believeth….”

When Ellen and I visited Japan with veteran missionary Ron White in 2009, we had the privilege of joining in worship with several Japanese churches that Ron and his wife, Odessa, had been instrumental in helping plant during his 40 years of labor in Japan. He and co-workers also founded a Bible Institute for the training of young men and women for ministry.  It was truly an incredible experience to visit these local assemblies with their own national leadership and pastors, thriving churches all. Ron and a team of two or three other young first-term missionaries were able, by the grace of God, to plant four national churches in Japan during their first four-year term there, all the while learning the language and the culture—a daunting task to be sure. 

One of those churches, Japan’s largest Baptist church, is located in Osaka. I had the privilege of speaking to their mid-week prayer meeting assembly.  The pastor had become a believer years earlier, after passing by one of the missionary churches Ron was ministering in. As he walked by, the believers inside were singing “What a wonderful change in my life has been wrought, since Jesus came into my heart.” The words captivated the young businessman, who had initially paused only because of the English language he heard wafting from inside the building. Interested in learning English to enhance his business dealings, he paused and listened. The Holy Spirit did the rest, as in his heart he thought: “There has never been that kind of a change in my life.” He was drawn by God’s Spirit to learn more about this change. Eventually he accepted Christ as Savior, was trained to pastor, and in time became pastor of this great New Testament Baptist Church in Osaka, Japan. Truly a marvelous testimony to the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ, of which Paul the Apostle spoke in Romans 1:16, writing “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ for it is the power of God to salvation to every one that believeth….”

George Muller, known for his monumental labors of love in England for orphans, told of how he became a believer.  As a young, wild “swearing and beer drinking” university student—a ring-leader of the rowdies—his life was impacted by a handful of young Christians who were “brave, manly fellows” and met weekly for a prayer meeting. Muller related how, toward the end of his university studies, he became restless and dissatisfied with the direction his life had taken.  He traveled to Switzerland, where he thought a change of scenery would put his soul at ease, but that did not happen. He returned to his studies at Halle, but his burden grew heavier. Muller testifies that he then remembered the eight Christians on campus and their weekly prayer meeting, so he sought them out. Finding them, he related that “One and another told me of Christ. They prayed with me, and I prayed for myself.” The seeking sinner found Christ, believed on Him, and gave his life to the Savior as “a great love for Christ filled my soul.” Muller concludes his testimony by affirming: “That was more than fifty years ago. I loved Jesus then, but I loved Him more the year after that, and more the year after that, and more every year since.” Once again, it was the gospel of Jesus Christ that was the power of God unto salvation for a young man who had drunk deep of the cup of pleasure and come up unsatisfied. He found the water of life in Christ. Year after year, he experienced a deepening love for—and devotion to—the Person who gave him a drink of everlasting life from the cup of Salvation, which fully and forever satisfied Muller’s once thirsty soul. 

One Sunday afternoon a group of Chicago ballplayers, leaving a saloon, heard a gospel-singing group on a street corner, playing on their instruments some of the great, old hymns. One of those ballplayers, having been born in a log cabin in Iowa, remembered his godly mother’s singing those very songs as she did her daily chores.  Tears came to his eyes as the young gospel group sang sweetly, and the player announced to his drinking buddies, “Boys, I’m through!  I’m going to turn to Jesus Christ. We’ve come to a parting of the ways!”

Of course, some of his companions mocked him, and some responded with silence while one of the ballplaying buddies encouraged him. Billy turned into the Pacific Garden Mission. Then and there, he accepted the claims of Christ and turned from his sin to his Savior. His own words: “I called upon God’s mercy. I staggered out of my sins into the outstretched arms of the Savior. I became instantly a new creature in Him! The next morning at practice, my manager, Mike Kelly, greeted me and said, ‘Billy, I read in the paper what occurred yesterday. Religion isn’t my long suit, but I won’t knock you and I’ll knock the daylights out of anyone who does.’”  Billy Sunday left baseball to hit homeruns for Jesus Christ all across America as one of our nation’s great evangelists in the late 19th century and early 20th century.  It has been said that, after he held a meeting in a city, the saloons had to close for lack of business.  Thousands attended his great, protracted city campaigns. Multiplied thousands were saved and added to churches.  All because “the gospel of Christ…is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

I have collected the above testimonies of the gospel’s power from various sources over the course of my 50 years pastoring. Most are commonly found either in books or publications.  I did not note the specific source of each testimony, but each could be verified without much difficulty. I share them in hopes that all who read them will be encouraged to spread the good news that Jesus Christ came into the world to seek and to save that which was lost. (Luke 19:10).  Share the gospel.  It is and always will be the “power of God unto salvation.” (Romans 1:16)

This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I (Paul, the Apostle) am chief.” (I Tim. 1:15)

Sunday, the Lord’s Day

That’s how most Christians identify the first day of the week. Early churches, which we read of in the book of Acts, met on that day to worship the Lord together. Paul wrote to first-century churches that when they met on the first day of the week, they should set aside an offering. (I Cor. 16:1,2)

Before Calvary, the weekly day of rest and worship was called the Sabbath because it was the seventh day, and God ordained that man should rest one day in seven. God gave us the prototype of this day in the first week of the world when, having created the heavens and earth and all that is therein, including man, God rested from His labors on the seventh day.

When God called a people who were to be peculiar and holy for His glory, He gave them ten commandments. (Exodus 20) One of those commandments was that they were to sanctify one day in seven, the Sabbath, as a day of rest. This was part of the Old Testament revelatory and regulatory law. No work was to be done on this day: it was a day hallowed unto God.

 “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17) Jesus Christ, the only man (the God-man) who ever fully kept the law, fulfilled the law and the regulatory aspect of it was abolished. In Christ, we are free from the law, which served as a “school master” to bring us to Christ. It served its purpose well but no longer regulates (with its 613 commands following the 10 commandments) every aspect of the believer’s walk and work, dress and diet. However, the universal principle ordained of God before the law was given on Mt. Sinai and codified in the law of God—i.e., the “one day in seven as a day of rest”—still obtains as part of the order of the universe. He who follows God’s example, and sets aside one day in seven as a day of rest, is wise.

For those who are members of His Body, the Church, we recognize that there is more to keeping the one day than merely resting. We come together to praise the Lord of creation and to worship Him with prayer, preaching and praise. It is a day of worship. We celebrate what He has done for us, what He is doing through us, and what He will one day do for us when He comes to call us to Himself.

Are you benefitting from practicing this one day in seven principle? Is it truly a day that you cherish? Is it your favorite day of the week? Do you treasure the time when, on the first day of the week, you once again assemble with your family of faith and sing praises, lift up prayers and receive food from the Word of God? We pretty much took these gifts for granted until about the end of March 2020 when, due to the worldwide Covid 19 pandemic, public gatherings, including most worshipping assemblies, were shut down for some time.  We then realized how precious those privileges were and how very much we missed them every Lord’s Day.  Watching the streamed messages delivered by faithful shepherds of the flock, though it was an immeasurable blessing, just did not take the place of face-to-face fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ.

Blessed are the children whose parents have prioritized the one day in seven principle! They will grow up having spiritual foundations and moral moorings that will stand them in good stead all the days of their lives.

Blessed is the nation whose people shut down the work week for a day of physical and spiritual refreshment. Our nation was once a land where church bells called congregations apart for a day of edification and spiritual nourishment. In 1979, when we moved to Indianapolis, there were a number of stores and businesses that still respected so-called “blue laws,” and their retail establishments were closed for business on Sundays. But it was not long before that changed and one could hardly find a store that was closed on Sunday, as is the case today.

Sunday School and Sunday worship were part and parcel of the strongest days of America’s history. Preaching and music and revival meetings and Bible Schools and camp meetings—all have been part of the great religious heritage of this nation, which God has allowed to become one of the superpowers of the universe. Our faith in God, our honoring of His Word, preaching the gospel and sending it through great missionary endeavors to the uttermost parts of the world, and our hallowing of the first day of the week—all have been vital components in the mix that made America the giant that it became.

But giants fall. In proportion to our desecrating of His holy day, we can almost trace the spiritual slippage of America. Church attendance shot up dramatically after 9-11 for about two weeks. People trekked back to church to hear a word from God. But soon things got back to “normal.” Weekends in the woods or on the beaches or at the flea-markets or visiting relatives or just shuffling around the house lazily replaced reverent seeking after God by setting aside the first day of the week—the day upon which His Son rose from the grave triumphant over death and hell—as a day of worship.

A Gallup poll in the early 1990s found that 32% of American adults at that time claimed to be “reborn.” When asked if they attended church regularly, the figure dropped to 8%. When asked if they were “regenerate” and had the Christian character and desire to make a difference in the world, the figures plummeted to 1 or 2%. It is safe to assume that the figures today are not an improvement on that late-20th century polling data.

For far too many, even those who name Christ as Lord, Sunday has become Funday. Instead of a day of worship, it has become a day of “workship” or a day to do whatever one wants. Christ’s church suffers today because we bought into the spirit of the age and have compromised our reverence for the Lord’s Day. We have enjoyed our pursuits. We have cultivated our personal interests. Sports, of course, is huge. We have seen the world. But we have too often sacrificed our weekly appointment with the One who loved us so much that He gave His Son, His only begotten Son, to die for the remission of our sins.

It would be well, then, for each of us to evaluate our view of Sunday. Is it high on your list of special days? Do you honor the Lord with rest and worship on the Lord’s Day?

A Testimony to God’s Grace and Power

(When I was senior pastor of Thompson Road Baptist Church, we published a monthly “TRBC Times” newsletter.  This is a reprint of an article I wrote for it in July 2004.)

For several hours the Friday before Father’s Day, I sat transfixed before the television watching the funeral service for the 40th President of the United States, Ronald Wilson Reagan. Not since the laying to rest of the slain John F. Kennedy has America paid such homage upon the death of one of its leaders.

Ellen and I cleared our schedules so that we could watch together the service, held in a church in Washington, D.C. From the very first word of Sen. John Danforth—who quoted the words of Jesus when He said “I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live” (John 11:25)—to the benediction, the service was emotionally compelling, spiritually uplifting, and nationally unifying.  The eulogies by President George W. Bush, his father, Margaret Thatcher, and the former Prime Minister of Canada were beautiful and appropriate. Especially moving was Mrs. Thatcher’s taped tribute to the man with whom she had forged such a close friendship.

But what was most memorable about the funeral was the graveside service in California, at the site of the Reagan library.  Of course, the television cameras were fixed upon every detail. Invited guests began arriving more than two hours before the service was scheduled to begin. Many of them were dignitaries, including the governor of California and his wife, many movie stars, and other prominent figures. For at least 90 minutes before the service officially began, an Armed Forces choir sang many great hymns of the faith. Most of them were old-fashioned gospel hymns and, specifically, invitation songs. Did you get that?  “Just As I Am,” “Softly and Tenderly,” “Till the Storm Passes By,” and many, many more.  Not one contemporary hymn was played. The music would have been appropriate in any church in America where the Word of God is proclaimed.

And the message was eloquent. The former pastor of the Bel Air Presbyterian Church in California spoke to Mrs. Reagan and the family while the nation watched. Who will ever forget the moment he opened his Bible to 2 Chronicles 7:14? Someone said it was as if God was giving America another chance to hear and to heed His call to repentance.

None of us could have anticipated this glorious demonstration and testimony to God’s grace and power. As a nation, for a week, we were reminded of our foundation of faith; we were told of our fallen leader’s God and his commitment to Him. We heard strains of the old songs of Zion wafting through our homes and into our hearts. What a glorious week it was. We can only thank God for His providential timing and for His powerful triumph, even in death.

(Ellen wrote her own regular column, “Ellen’s Corner,” for the TRBC Times, and I would like to share her contribution for July 2017):

“Against the backdrop of history, I gazed at the giant columns remaining from the Roman Forum and the Coliseum. One is struck with the grandeur and enormity of the structures. Then, as you go a short distance away to a dark, damp church basement where Paul was imprisoned, you have the contrast of the two worlds during the first century. Rulers had no newspapers, televisions, or electronic media to communicate with their constituents, so they built grand, beautiful buildings and statues to themselves to let everyone know how important they were. They provided entertainment by the gladiators in the Coliseum to keep the people happy. The games were cruel and the bloodier they were, the more the crowd cheered. A short distance away, Christians were thrown to lions for the enjoyment of the onlookers.

Paul, in his prison cell with a guard, could receive people.  So, for two years, he witnessed and preached about Jesus Christ to all who would listen. With visible images of massive statues to gods, kings, and emperors all around, how could one man in prison make an impact with a message of an invisible God? And yet, with his testimony and the Holy Spirit, he saw a great church established in Rome.

I visited the Louvre in Paris, which houses one of the greatest art collections in the world. I don’t know the percentage, but a majority of the paintings were about Biblical characters or Biblical themes. I also visited Rembrandt’s home in Amsterdam, and almost all the paintings there were about Biblical characters. I wondered why this was so until I realized that people didn’t have the Bible in their language and this was the way they learned Bible stories and passed them along to others. (The King James Bible was translated five years after Rembrandt was born). The stained-glass windows in the churches also told the Bible stories. St. Chapelle in Paris was built in the 13th century, and every wall is a stained-glass panel. The panels tell the Biblical stories from creation to crucifixion and redemption through Christ. The Pentateuch, the Kings, history books, the prophets and the New Testament to John the Baptist follow one after the other. Each window, divided into arches, reads from left to right and from top to bottom.

The history of Christianity has been that of difficulties. The persecution of Christians from the first century through the Dark Ages was an attempt to mute the story of how Christ works, but it was told in numerous ways, and in the 17th century the Bible was printed for the common man. Today we have the privilege of reading His Word and knowing Him in a way previous generations could never have fathomed. Some of those beautiful buildings in Rome are crumbling, but God has promised that His Word would never pass away. It has been kept alive from creation until the present hour through various means and ways—and it will prevail until the final chapter in Revelation is fulfilled.

Remembering Kelvin

On February 2, 2021, a dear friend and faithful servant of God was ushered to his home in heaven, having served faithfully His Lord and Savior both at home and abroad.

Kelvin was born one month before our nation’s 200th birthday, June 4, 1976. Before he was five years old, Kelvin was diagnosed with a cranial tumor that required extensive surgery. His doctor counseled that the operation would quite possibly leave Kelvin seriously handicapped for life, speech and bodily movement wise. His loving parents proceeded in faith, trusting God unquestionably, and moved ahead with plans for the delicate brain surgery.

Kelvin did survive that surgery—and many others—and he did live to walk, talk, and communicate with not only a keen sense of humor but a living and abiding faith in his Lord and Savior. By God’s grace, Kelvin was able to attend college and receive a well-deserved diploma. He cultivated, as much as possible, an independence that would in time allow him to drive and live in his own residence.  His tender heart for God, for people, and for world missions would take Kelvin in time to South Africa where, under the auspices Baptist World Mission, and sent out by Thompson Road Baptist Church, Kelvin would realize his lifelong dream of serving God on a foreign field. To be sure, his service was not without steep challenges due to his handicaps that had to daily be reckoned with. But, because of his loving and devoted parents and the prayerful support of a network of hundreds of friends, Kelvin was able to minister, serving in and through the Calvary Baptist Church in Johannesburg, South Africa. I was privileged at that time to be pastor of his sending church, and I can attest that the love and care for him by the people of his home base was with thanksgiving and generosity.  We were so proud of what God was doing and had done through Kelvin Krueger—hindered seriously, but never to the point of giving up or giving out. His spirit was indomitable.

But, while serving in South Africa, Kelvin eventually suffered a stroke that necessitated his coming home to the states for medical attention. He never fully recovered from that final blow physically, but his spirit was never crushed, and his love for Christ never diminished as long as he had breath and being. He did, of course, retire as a missionary, and I would like to share with you—in an attempt to keep Kelvin’s memory alive, and with the hope that our God would inspire another would-be missionary to serve—a letter that I wrote to Kelvin upon the fulfillment of his service as a missionary appointee under Baptist World Mission, a fundamental mission board on which I have been privileged to serve for 40 years:

In the wise and good providences of our great God, He has relieved you, Kelvin, of your assignment there for now; but He has not withdrawn your commission as a missionary; that will stand as long as your heart is right with God and I am confident that you will remain steadfast for Him, a good and faithful servant until He summons you to His beloved side.

Thank you, Kelvin, (and Mr. and Mrs. Krueger, without whose loving care and assistance Kelvin could not have done what he was able to accomplish) for loving Jesus and His gospel so much that you were willing to go alone to South Africa with that saving gospel. Because of your early in life physical trials and subsequent resulting hardships, it would have been easy to excuse yourself and to expect someone else to do the job.  But you stepped up and said without hesitation, “Here am I, send me!” And He did, to God be the glory!

You served well and were faithful to your calling. As your pastor, I could not be more proud of anyone. I count you my peer in Christian service, fellow servant, beloved in the Lord and co-laborer. I cherish your friendship and treasure the times of past, and hopefully yet future, fellowship. You have done well, my fellow soldier of the cross. Know that your life has impacted and will continue to impact more people than you can imagine.

So, this is not the end of the road, but a bend in the road. Keep preaching, Kelvin, with or without a voice, with or without a microphone or a pulpit. By your life, labors, and love you are writing a beautiful story and I am anxious to see what the next chapter holds.  I am, as always, Your Friend.”

Kelvin, while in South Africa, had a ministry through his church in Johannesburg of visiting weekly a home for handicapped children. They loved to gather in a group, each of them in wheelchairs, maybe 40 or 50 in number, as Kelvin would come to them in his own handicapped way, to share with them the love of God through Christ. Only eternity will tell what this man, who had a lifelong dream of serving Christ as a missionary, accomplished for His kingdom.  I hope never to forget Kelvin Krueger, and I hope if you have never heard his story before, this brief reminder of his life and labors will encourage and inspire you. What can you do for Christ with what—and how and when and who—He has made of you?

Kelvin U. Krueger

June 4, 1976-February 2, 2021

I can do all things through Christ which strengtheth me.” (Phil. 4:13)

Note: In the “You and God” archives you will find previous posts about Kelvin Krueger on October 7, 2020 (“The Kelvinator”) and February 8, 2021 (“Here Am I, Send Me”).  

A Churchy World or a Worldly Church?

The English pastor and theologian Griffith Thomas was once asked if he thought the world was becoming a little churchy, to which he replied, “It’s true that the world is becoming a little churchy; but the church is becoming immensely worldly.”

D. L. Moody, the 19th-century American evangelist, was quoted as saying, “The churches are full of men and women who have no power at all.  Where did they lose it? It was when they formed an alliance with the world. I would rather be alone with God than be with the whole world without God.”

William Wordsworth, Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom from 1843 to 1850, wrote: “The world is too much with us: late and soon; getting and spending, we lay waste our powers. Little we see in nature that is ours.”

John the Apostle, in his first general epistle, admonished 1st-century readers to “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (I John 2:15)

The world (“cosmos”) has been defined as that which, in the context of what John said in I John 2:15, is the civilization, social order, custom, government, education, entertainment, culture, etc. The “things” of the world, which John said we should not love, are politics, luxury, pleasure, arts, entertainment, eating and drinking, financial pursuits, and on and on—anything that is part of our everyday life that appeals to what we would like to do, or pursue, while blunting our ardor for God. John Stott, I believe, put it this way: “Only when prostituted to the selfish purposes of man, to the exclusion of God, do the these become wrong. How do you use them?”

James addresses the root cause of worldliness: “From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not…Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy with God.” (James 4:1-4)

Some of you will remember when the United States Treasury minted the Susan B. Anthony dollar. Designed as a durable, lightweight alternative to the paper dollar, it never succeeded and finally fell completely out of circulation because it was easily confused with the quarter.  So is the Christian whose life cannot be distinguished from his unbelieving neighbor’s life. When the believer adopts the world-view of the culture in which he lives, his testimony is muted, and his witness becomes of no effect.  The 19th-century naturalist Henry Thoreau once went to jail for refusing to pay his poll tax because it would go, in part, to supporting slavery. His friend Ralph Waldo Emerson visited him in jail and, peering through the bars, said, “Henry, what are you doing in there?” Thoreau replied, “Ralph, what are you doing out there?” It does matter where we go, what we say, what we do, and how we are perceived by the world around us.  Christians can have a love affair with the world. Poet Robert Frost once admitted that “I have a lover’s quarrel with the world. When I look at our (America’s) wealth and power and how it is being used, I may still have a quarrel with America, but I hope it will always be a ‘lover’s quarrel.’”

The late J. Vernon McGee said that “We do not become pilgrims until we become strangers.” Peter urged, “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.”  (I Peter 2:11-12) Adopting a worldly life style and mindset does not lend itself to the “stranger/pilgrim” model for either 1st century or 21st century saints.

The UPI once published a sad story about a 9-year-old girl who had been raised in a barn-yard with pigs in the Chinese province of Liaoning.  The girl had been suckled and raised from infancy by a peasant family’s pigs, because her disabled parents supposedly could not care for her. Rescued in time, the child was taught to abandoned pig-like behavior. It was a difficult task, for the little girl had—from her earliest days—crawled like a pig and imitated other piggish actions. She wanted to be left in solitude. That is sad, to be sure. But what about believers who have learned the ways of this world, and who gravitate often to worldliness, so that they have become indistinguishable from the pagans whose spiritual habitat is the pigpen of this world? Jesus knew of the lifelong struggle that His own would have when He petitioned His heavenly Father: “I have given them Thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world even as I am not of the world. I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” (John 17:14-16)

English poet T.S. Eliot captured the Christian’s (and the world’s) dilemma in a poem entitled “The Rock.” I close with this powerful poetic reminder:

“O weariness of men who turn from God to the grandeur of your mind and the glory of your action,

To arts and inventions and daring enterprises, to schemes of human greatness thoroughly discredited,

Binding the earth and the water to your service, exploiting the seas and developing the mountains,

Dividing the stars into common and preferred, engaged in devising the perfect refrigerator,

Engaged in working out a rational morality, engaged in printing as many books as possible,

Plotting of happiness and flinging empty bottles, turning from your vacancy to fevered enthusiasm

For nation or race or what you call humanity; though you forgot the way to the Temple,

There is One who remembers the way to your door; Life may evade you, but Death shall not.

You shall not deny the Stranger.” (T.S. Eliot, 1888-1965)

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world…For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” (I John 2:15, 16)

America’s 246th Birthday—Special You and God Edition

This weekend we celebrate America’s 246th birthday! We sing “God Bless America,” and we must say that God has blessed America.  With all the monumental problems facing this great land of liberty, the USA is still at the top of the mountain of nations, with no country even running a close second.  That is not to say we should breathe easily; there is plenty of cancer at our core, rottenness if you will, which, if left unattended, will put us on the ash heap of history. But today, the words of Sir Walter Scott still resonate within our breasts: “Breathes there the man with soul so dead, who never to himself hath said, ‘This is my own! My native land!’ Whose heart hath ne’er within him burned, as home his footsteps he hath turned, from wandering on a foreign strand!”

Not everyone has wandered on a “foreign strand.” But if you have, no doubt you wanted to kiss the ground under your feet once they were planted back on the soil of your native homeland! We cannot fully appreciate what we have here in America until we have seen something of what most of the rest of the world does not have!  And I’m not just talking about material things, though in that category alone we are without equal.

In spirit, in strength, in character, heart, freedom, faith, family, generosity, love and a thousand other intangibles, America is #1! Yet, in spite of all of this, there is a malignancy in our body politic. It is a spiritual and moral cancer that is fast sapping away the life and liberty of the America soul. The solution, of course, is not to “vote the rascals out.” What takes place in Washington is only a mirror of what is going on throughout the land. The enemy is us! In spite of God’s abundant goodness to us, in spite of material prosperity and individual liberty, in spite of educational and scientific superiority, we have become morally bankrupt, spiritually decadent, politically perverse, and disabled. We do not need different politicians or better schools or more jobs or improved infrastructure, or reformed welfare, or a revamped social security system. We need a grass-roots revival that will spread throughout the length and breadth of this land. We need a fire ignited in the hearts of 10,000 preachers that will set ablaze their pulpits, fanned by flames of faith that send men and women to their knees in prayer—producing purity, promoting prayer, and propagating peace with God from shore to shore. So that He will, as He has promised, hear from heaven, forgive our sin, and heal our land. (2 Chr.7:14)

May God spare His judgment that we so deserve and mercifully give us another day to repent and enjoy His divine mercies.


On a personal note, I want to thank all of you who have been praying that God would put into remission the multiple myeloma cancer of the blood that I have been dealing with most of this year. A trip just this past week to a myeloma specialist at Indiana University Hospital brought good news on that front. Having examined the statistics and charting the progress of the treatments I am undergoing, he said that the myeloma had improved 90% from the diagnosis to this present day.  That, of course, is very encouraging.  I know many people are praying for “remission,” and Ellen and I want to thank you from the depths of our hearts.  God has a plan, and I am OK with that, whether to live or to die. But with my 80th birthday only months away, by God’s grace I have preached the past three Sundays! God is exceedingly good, and His compassions and loving kindnesses never fail.  Once again, thank you for your intercessions and encouraging calls and cards along the way. No words can express the joy that one experiences, living in light of the love of God and the caring kindness of God’s people. As our dear friend Elaine Camp—widow of beloved pastor and evangelist Don Camp of Anderson, Indiana—heard Vance Havner say (in the Billy Sunday Tabernacle in Winona Lake, Indiana, where she worked as a teenager), “God will give you what you need, when you need it!” Amen.  Selah.

Building A Christian Home, Part 3

Holding to Solomon’s timeless truth that “through wisdom is an house builded….” (Provs. 24:3) I have set forth in parts 1 and 2 of this study that in the building of a Christian home, one will need wisdom in establishing a right resolve in private and public worship, in family, and in personal disciplines of worship. Then, too, wisdom should be a major factor in the right resolve in our walk with Christ, in our witness for Christ, and in our using the world, rather than abusing the world. (I Cor.7:31)

In this final installment, the wisdom needed for a right resolve for our work—and concerning our wealth—will be discussed.

First, our work: Are we engaged in honest work? Are we known as dependable? Do we do our job with enthusiasm, exhibiting a positive, cheerful spirit? God has ordained work for our good, and it is a necessity. Paul said that if any man would not work, assuming he was able-bodied and could work, he should not eat. (2 Thess. 3:10) In fact, as a testimony and for an example, Paul—an Apostle, who might have been expected to receive support for his labors in ministry—said, “Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you.” (2 Thess. 3:8)

U.S. News and World Report, some time ago, reported that employees spend, on average, 34% of their paid time not working!

If you should feel over-worked, consider the labors of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism: “At the age of 83, he complained that he could not write more than 15 hours a day without hurting his eyes; and at the age of 86, he had to admit he could not preach more than twice a day. For years, he averaged three sermons a day, traveling horseback more than 200,000 miles. During his lifetime he wrote a four-volume commentary on the whole Bible, a dictionary of the English language, a five-volume work on natural philosophy; histories of England and Rome, grammars on the Hebrew, Greek, Latin, French and English languages, three works on medicine; six volumes on church music; seven volumes of sermons and papers, and he also edited a library known as the “Christian Library.” In his 86th year he preached in almost every shire in England and Wales and often rode 30 to 50 miles a day.” (copied)

For the believer, our work should be done to please our Lord the Christ: “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him.” (Col.3:17) And, we should take to heart the wise words of Solomon, who concluded that “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave whither thou goest.” (Eccl.9:10)

Finally, in building a Christian home, there is a need for wisdom in forming a right resolve concerning wealth and our attitude toward money. There is little doubt that in the latter part of the 20th century and for most of this current century, Americans especially have been engulfed in a tidal wave of materialism. Our parents, some of whom came through the Great Depression, wanted us to have a better life than they did, and after World War II they set about to ensure that. With a couple of “hiccups” on the screen of history, their children have enjoyed historically unprecedented prosperity.  Only the darkening clouds of a possible, pending recession have slowed this pursuit of phenomenal profit and pleasure that 21st century westerners have by and large enjoyed.  But, it would seem that with it has come personal and public unrest and turmoil in the streets and market places—and even in the halls of Congress—that have also been nearly unequalled.

Rudyard Kipling, speaking of materialism and the vanity of spending life pursuing only those “things,” wrote: “Someday you will meet a man who cares for none of these things. Then you will know how poor you are.”

John D. Rockefeller (1839-1937) founded the Standard Oil Company in 1870. At the age of 33, he had become a millionaire. By the time he was 43, he controlled the biggest company in the world. And when he was 53, he was the world’s first billionaire. It was then, though, that the oil magnate became sick, losing his hair along with considerable weight, with no ability to keep anything on his stomach but crackers and water. His weekly income was a million dollars, but he could not enjoy it, and most of his nights were spent without sleep and in misery. His doctors, having examined him, confided that he would probably not live to see his 54th birthday.  But after one of those sleepless nights, having inventoried his soul, Rockefeller arose and began to divest himself of a good deal of his fortune.  He had concluded that he would not be able to take one dime out of this world, so he began to give away much of his wealth.  He gave to churches and charities, established universities, and eventually created a foundation for the future dispensing of his fortune.  And, as a benefit of this new mindset, he began to revive physically!  He did live to see his 54th birthday; in fact, John D. Rockefeller—Baptist Sunday School teacher and richest man in his world—lived to be 98 years old!  It is so important to have a right view of money and of wealth! How is your resolve concerning material things?  Paul reminded his protégé Timothy that “we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain that we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us therewith be content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.” (I Tim.6:7-9)

“The fly lands on the flypaper and says, ‘My flypaper,” while the flypaper says, ‘My fly.’” Beware of “destination sickness.” It is the syndrome of a person who has arrived and discovered he is nowhere…having all the things that money can buy while experiencing little or no satisfaction with any of them. Jesus simply said, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matt. 6:33)

Seek God’s wisdom in making right resolves concerning your income, money, wealth.

What kind of a home are you building? Did you begin with a solid foundation? For the Christian, that foundation is Jesus Christ, for “other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (I Cor.3:9) If you are building on Christ, then He will give you the wisdom to build a home with righteous resolves concerning your worship, your walk, your witness, the world, your work and your wealth. God help us to build such homes—and to encourage the generation following us to do the same.

Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not for it was founded upon a rock.” (Matt. 7:24)

Building A Christian Home, Part 2

Living happily ever after is becoming rarer in our riddled world.  The ideal marriage too often morphs into an “ordeal,” and couples are too prone to throw in the towel, often neglecting good counsel from family, friends and faith leaders. Tim LaHaye cited a poll years ago that asked 3,009 wives if they would marry their husbands were they able to do a “reset.” Less than 50% said “yes.” Another poll, taken by the Chicago Sun Times, asked 2,301 husbands the same question, and 72% said they would marry the same woman were they given the choice to do it over.

The Indianapolis Star published the results of a poll that sought to determine why marriages too often were hitting the rocks.  Their findings:  40% never worked out anything together as a couple; 50% enjoyed a physical relationship; 60% claimed they were emotionally abused, while 20% said the abuse they suffered was physical; 25% never laughed together; 60% argued about money; 31% said their spouse was unfaithful, and 25% said they were married to an alcoholic. How about this ad: “Single, white female, narrow-minded, unfaithful, complaining, quick-tempered and critical, seeks jealous, emotionally abusive, drug-using single white male.”

Well, it is not difficult to isolate some of the current cultural stresses that wear on marriages, but in this series of posts I want to offer some positive Biblical guidelines that will keep a Christian home intact “till death doth us part.”  Note: the key word is Christian home, a home where Christ is Savior of both husband and wife and where the Bible, God’s Word, is revered as one’s final authority for faith and practice.  It is much more likely that the storms of life will dash any other home—built upon the shifting sands of time—against the rocks of dissolution. 

In part 1 of this series, I posited that a Christian home must be built with Solomon’s admonition as a bedrock principle: “Through wisdom a house is builded; and by understanding it is established.” (Provs. 24:3) In that post I set forth the wisdom needed for a right resolve in our worship, and wisdom for a right resolve our walk.  Continuing in that theme: Third, we need wisdom for a right resolve in our witness. By the way, James reminds us that “If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God Who giveth to all men liberally….” (James 1:5) In chapter 3 James identifies God’s wisdom as characterized by that which is “pure, peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.” (James 3:17) So, we will need God’s wisdom for a right resolve as a marriage mate to have a witness in and through our home-life that will be Christ-honoring.

An artist wanted to paint the most beautiful picture in the world, so he sought out his pastor and asked him: “What is the most beautiful thing in the world?” “Faith,” answered the pastor: “You can feel it in every meeting of the body of Christ and find it at every altar.”

The artist then asked a young bride the same question. “Love,” she replied, “for it wipes away tears, turns poverty into riches and makes much of nothing.  Without it there is no beauty.”

He then asked a weary soldier the same question. His answer: “Peace is the most beautiful thing in the world. War is the ugliest. Wherever you find peace, there is beauty.”

“Faith, love, peace,” the artist mused. “How can I paint them?” Entering his door, he saw faith in the eyes of his children and love on the countenance of his wife. In the home, he could sense the peace that faith and love had built. So, he painted the picture of the most beautiful thing in the world, and when he had finished it, he called it “Home.”

Our witness, in our Christian homes, should reflect the living epistles that we are called to be, so that our witness will impact the unsaved people with whom we have to do, the church family with which we worship, and the business world we are engaged with in our daily living. And, would you believe, our witness speaks to a world of unseen—but no less real—angelic beings? Our obedience to Christ is “because of angels,” as Paul says. (I Cor. 11:10) Wisdom from God’s Word that will make our witness count in this age in which we find ourselves cannot be over-estimated. We have unimaginable opportunities to let our light shine in the darkness of our age. For this witness, we will either be rewarded or see our efforts consumed by the flames of judgment as wood, hay and stubble.  Work on your witness and work on the witness that your home echoes.

Next, we need wisdom for a right resolve concerning the world. We can either “use” the world or we can “abuse” the world. (I Cor. 7:31) In our Christian home, it is incumbent upon us to use the world in a wise way for God’s glory, all the while carefully guarding against the worldliness that will swallow us up if we fall in love with it. William Wordsworth wrote, “The world is too much with us: late and soon, getting and spending we lay waste our powers: little we see in nature that is ours.” Henry Jowett asks: “What is worldliness? It is human activity with God left out.  It is life that is horizontal only, and not vertical. It is ambition without aspiration. Its goal is success, not holiness…God is not denied, He is just ignored.”

In the building of a Christian home in the 21st century, there are opportunities in this world through technologies that would be unimaginable to our forefathers. But along with the opportunities come many pitfalls in a world that has 7 billion plus inhabitants—yet has shrunk in size so that we can go anywhere on the earth, in a matter of seconds, with just a few touches on our keyboard. Youth coming of age in this hi-tech world face unprecedented challenges. Consequently, parents are faced with a mountainous home-terrain. Cell phones are ubiquitous. What teen does not have one? And, computers. Without a system of safeguards, young people in today’s Christian home can be quickly devoured and ultimately destroyed by unseen and unknown wicked plotters who, without scruples, can lead an unsuspecting young person into a dark abyss from which there will appear to be no way out.

Ye adulterers, and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” (James 4:4)

Building A Christian Home, Part 1

One of my sons-in-law has done something I have never attempted to do: He has built a house from the foundation up. In fact, he has built many houses, and his workmanship is recognized as superior. I can’t imagine doing that, as I do not have the skills, though I do appreciate the fine work exhibited by others who do have the required skills. I’m afraid if I were to put myself to building a house, the project might turn out like the good people of Pisa experienced when they set out to build a tower in their Italian city. It took them 178 years to finish the job, and when they were through, the now-famous tower was leaning 52” from perpendicular. Over the centuries, the lean aggravated slowly and eventually reached a drift of 17 feet!  That would be like my building project for sure!

I will not be building any houses, but for 57 years now I have been building a home. Solomon had a home in mind when he wrote, “Through wisdom a house is builded and by understanding it is established.” (Provs.24:3) A young serviceman and his family were living in a hotel near a military base where he was temporarily assigned. One day his little girl was playing house in the lobby when a lady asked, “Isn’t it too bad you don’t have a home?” “Oh, we do,” the child answered, “we just don’t have a house to put it in!”

A Christian home. What is it? One writer defined it aptly: “It is one in which the ideals for living found in life and in the teachings of Jesus Christ are accepted, exalted and exemplified.” (Harold Bosley) That is the kind of home every Christian couple ought to be building, Christ Jesus Himself being the chief cornerstone and foundation. 

But to build a Christian home one must first build a Christian life, and it is imperative to remember that the oldest of all institutions, the home—ordained of God in the first week of the world—was and is intended to last a lifetime.

A nationwide survey of 3,118 single teenagers revealed that 90% of the girls and 85% of the boys expected their marriages to last a lifetime.  Sadly, the teens’ ideal of “living happily ever after” does not materialize in many cases. Some couples try cohabitation—living together before marriage—as a “trial run” of the possible marriage.  One national survey of families showed that 40% of the couples who cohabit break up before they marry. Of the 60% of couples who marry having experienced the “trial run” first, 45% ended up getting a divorce.

What went wrong? Why those staggering statistics?  Many factors have been cited: “We just grew apart;” “My sexual needs have not been met;” “I can’t respect him anymore;” “She was moody all the time;” “I got married way too young and missed out on a lot of experiences;” “We argued all the time;” “He comes home and sits before the TV all night and we never talk,” etc., ad nauseam.

But wait, there is hope for any and every marriage!  Solomon, in his wisdom, says in Prov. 24:3 that there are three key ingredients for building a lasting home:  wisdom, understanding and knowledge.

There is a need for wisdom in laying the foundation of a happy, thriving home.  Wisdom that is from above which is first pure, then peaceable… (James 3:17). Wisdom will assure us of the right resolve in life’s day in and day out experiences.

First, the right resolve concerning our worship. Worship is private, and it is also at times public. Families that worship together as a family, regularly—both at home through family devotions and in concert with other believers as in a church gathering—tend to produce children who embrace the faith of their fathers. A study disclosed that if both mom and dad attended church regularly, 72% of their offspring would remain faithful in their faith-walk and practice. If only mom attends church regularly, 15% of the children will grow up to perpetuate her faith. In a home where neither mother nor father consistently practice worship in a body of believers, a church, just 6% of the children of that union will live out a personal faith-walk when they become adults. At the top of the list of most Christian women, when asked what they desired and needed most to make their marriage a fulfilling one, a praying husband is mentioned as number one. A Christian home needs Christian parents who regularly, both at home and in public, gather the family for times of worship. Wisdom will produce this in a home where Christ is revered and God’s Word is more than a book on the shelf.

By way of personal testimony, Ellen and I are both thankful to have been reared in such a godly home. Family devotions were part of our daily routine. When God blessed us with children, we continued that daily routine of Bible reading and prayer.  We, Ellen and I, still do, and it is the best few minutes of any day. I can attest that as a teenager, if I would come to family devotions with a bad spirit, it was impossible to pray together as a family and get up to go about one’s daily activities with that same bad spirit.  Praying together really does work supernaturally in the hearts of each family member.

So, we who are building a Christian Home need wisdom for our resolve in worship. Then, second, we need wisdom for our walk with Christ in a world that is not a friend of His.  Our walk should be with all lowliness, meekness, long-suffering and forbearing, Eph. 4:1,2; it is a walk that distinguishes the believer from the vanity of this world, Eph.4:17; a walk in love, Eph.5:1; in light, Eph.5:8; and a circumspect walk, Eph. 5:15, redeeming the time in the light of days that are evil.  Wisdom for a right resolve to walk rightly in this world is a must for each who names the name of Christ.

Have you heard of Bobby Richardson, the famed 2nd baseman who played for the great New York Yankees franchise back in their glory days of the early 1960’s?  It was the 7th game of the 1962 World Series, and the San Francisco Giants had a man on 2nd base. When the Yanks decided to change pitchers, Richardson, a born-again believer, walked over to 2nd base and asked the runner on base if he were a Christian.  While the new pitcher warmed up, Richardson saw an opportunity to speak to a man about his soul.  When the runner got back to the dugout, he asked Felipe Alou, who was also a believer, what was going on. “Even in the seventh game of the World Series,” he said to Felipe, “you people are still talking about Jesus.”  That runner could not understand why Christians were so eager to talk to others about Jesus.  But Richardson had a walk in love and in light that could not be hidden. He had a right resolve to always “walk worthy,” (Eph.4:1) and his life then and thereafter was a testimony to that walk.

And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor.” (Eph. 5:2)