The Kelvinator

When doctors discovered a cranial tumor in Kelvin before he was five years old, they did not give him much hope to live out a normal childhood.  His parents, trusting God and hoping help would come, transported their little boy to Mercy Medical Center where an extensive brain surgery would be undertaken, praying God would spare his life, yet doubtful that he would ever enjoy “normal motor skills.”  Even at this young age, Kelvin harbored hopes in his heart that he would one day be a missionary.  Those dreams seemed to be worlds away at the time the trip was made to Children’s Hospital in Boston, but Mom and Dad and many others were praying.  The surgery not only spared Kelvin’s life, but in time he would be able to walk, talk, eventually drive, attend college and live quite like anyone else.  

Kelvin graduated from college, still with a heartbeat for world missions.  He acquired a “dummy” he called Zeke and honed his ventriloquist skills well enough that he could entertain folks with his routine with Zeke.  He served for some time in New Zealand before coming back to America for further medical attention.

I met Kelvin when he appeared before Baptist World Mission for appointment to serve on the field of South Africa.  There was an instant bond between us when I heard his testimony and saw his heart for God’s mission field, and in a short time I had the privilege of becoming his sending pastor after his internship with us for several months at Thompson Road Baptist Church.  I gave him the nickname Kelvinator.  He drove his own car, lived independently, worked diligently, displayed a commitment to ministry with a love especially for children, and his time at TRBC was an encouraging time for all of us.  We learned that people who from birth have labored with serious physical handicaps cannot be sidelined from serving.  Kelvin was faithful in our choir ministry, our bus ministry, our children’s ministries including VBS and was always ready to serve.  I have no doubt we (I) learned more about ministry in those few months that Kelvin served alongside of our staff and members than Kelvin learned.  He was an inspiration every day of the world to all of us.

On September 26, 2010, we had a commissioning service for Kelvin, and he was ready to go to South Africa. His loving and devoted parents accompanied Kelvin to Johannesburg, SA, and helped him to get set up in an apartment and in necessities, then left him there to serve His Savior.  Kelvin made an adjustment or two concerning what church/pastor he would end up serving alongside, then began a faithful ministry of soul-winning, serving and visiting weekly an orphanage where dozens of wheel-chair bound boys and girls looked forward to his visits to cheer them and to tell them about Jesus.

In 2015, as Kelvin was serving and faithfully discharging his duties as a servant of our Lord, he suffered a disabling stroke.  He was flown home to the states and has since been not only fighting for life but learning to do basic movements in a rehab program.  Unless God would miraculously intervene, Kelvin will never be able to function again independently so his time as a “foreign” missionary has ended; but he will always have that missionary heart that beat in his boyhood breast compelling him, as a child with an incredible disability, to desire to serve as a missionary on God’s field, the world.

Some weeks ago, I wrote about a little girl who had the same heart for world missions who now serves in Africa as a missionary with her family.  What she did, as a single gal, crisscrossing America raising support to go, was an incredible story that was summarized in a single question she raised when told the field she originally wanted to serve on was closed.  She simply said, “Where Can I Go Then?”  

Kelvin’s story is not dissimilar.  When faced with herculean obstacles that would discourage most anyone from thinking of going to a foreign field as a missionary, Kelvin said, “What Can I Do Then?”  Well, it would have been easier to answer Kelvin with this question, “What Can You Not Do Then?”  He gave God his all, with impairments and crippled limbs, and he served well as one of God’s choice emissaries.  He is one of my heroes today.  He is on “R & R” now, wounded in the line of duty, as it were.  He’s the Kelvinator.  He enriches every life he touches.

As a tribute to TRBC’s missionary to South Africa, I wrote this poem in his honor for his commissioning service; it is entitled “Farewell, Dear Kelvin.”

“To ripe fields we send you, with our prayers you’ll go;
Telling folks of Jesus so His love they’ll know.
 
We’ve grown so to love you, love you in the Lord;
For your love of children, teaching them His Word.
 
You have served amongst us with a servant’s heart;
We are kindred spirits, have been from the start.
 
You’ve shown us Christ’s spirit by your words and deeds;
We have seen Him in you, meeting others’ needs.
 
You’ve taught us His virtues by your godly talk;
He has loved us through you by your humble walk.
 
So, to the field you go now, Africa the south;
Your words will be mighty—as if from God’s mouth.
 
You will reach His littlest, lovingly bring them in;
Their lives will be salvaged from a life of sin.
 
And when at the Bema we lay our worn tools down,
There’ll be great rejoicing when you get your crown!

Wings as an Eagle

Any preacher on any given Sunday in America could address his Sunday morning audience as a “gathering of people who might be considered rich.”  I did this recently to a small auditorium of several rural congregants yet folk who represented various professions and varying age groups.  To prove my thesis, I merely recited some readily available statistics which demonstrate that two out of five people of the world live on less than three dollars a day.  One of four children have to drop out of school to work and of the more than two billion children in our world today, half of them live in poverty.

So, I think it safe to say that in the USA even the most underprivileged, compared to other world citizens, are “rich.”  The average annual income of the world’s working man/woman is less than $10,000.  How about it?  Are you wealthy or not?

Now, Jesus warned that it is extremely difficult for a rich person to enter into the kingdom of God, because a rich person trusts riches.  He even used the “absurd” illustration of a camel getting through the eye of a needle, warning that it would be easier for a camel to accomplish that seemingly impossible feat, than for a rich person to enter into the kingdom of God.  The eye of the needle in Jesus’ day was a very small opening in the city wall that, when the main gates of the city would close at dusk, a man only with great difficulty could crawl through.  It was about as unthinkable to imagine a camel going through this very small opening as it would be to believe that a rich person, trusting his wealth, would get into the kingdom of God.  (Mark 10: 17-25)

So, here in America, awash in wealth, it is conceivable to think the average dinner table on any weeknight in a middle-class household is set more abundantly than one that would have been set for regents of ancient kingdoms.  Little wonder then that we ought to give diligent attention to Paul’s instructions to Timothy:  “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God who giveth us richly all things to enjoy.” (I Tim. 6:16) The most desperate pauper can enjoy the chirping of a bird or the frolicking of cats or the brilliance of a sunset.  What riches!  How relevant the wise man’s query: “Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not?  For riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.” (Provs. 23:5) And, Solomon ought to know.  He tells us in Ecclesiastes that he amassed an incalculable amount of material wealth and possessions, including silver, gold and “peculiar treasure…more than all that were before me…and whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them…then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought…and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.”  (Eccl. 2:8-11)

I read what Andrew Carnegie once said about riches.  “I was born in poverty and would not exchange its sacred memories with the richest millionaire’s son who ever lived.  Some men think that poverty is a dreadful burden and that wealth leads to happiness.  What do they know about it?  They know only one side—they imagine the other.  I have lived both and I know there is very little wealth that can lead to happiness.  Millionaires who laugh are rare.”

So, “godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.  And having food and raiment, let us be therewith content.”  (I Tim. 6:6-8)

But they that would be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.”  (I Tim. 6:9)

Debate or Debacle

debate, di bat, an argument or reasonings between persons of differing opinions; dispute; controversy; quarrel; strife; contention.

debacle, di bak l, to break up. A sudden breaking up of ice in a river; the complete collapse of an enterprise.

Take your choice.  Parts of either of the above definitions would aptly characterize what the nation was subjected to in the much-anticipated Cleveland Clinic inaugural presidential debate of the 2020 presidential campaign.  No matter your party affiliation or your presidential preference, it was a disgusting, disappointing and depressing display of raw rudeness on the part of both principals.  The name calling, ceaseless interruptions, total disregard for the pleas of the muted moderator was an embarrassment to peoples of either corner of the ring, revealing a new low in what more accurately might be called a “free-for-all,” or the raucous rantings of two men vying to win the November 3, 2020, presidential election.

Civility was out the window as the President of the United States, leader of the free world, was called a racist, a liar, a clown and was told impolitely by his opponent to “shut up, man!”

Manners were checked in at the door as evidenced by incessant interruptions on the part of the incumbent; and redundant repetitions that squandered valuable time that could have been used to recite factual achievements or in skillfully rehearsing the glaring inconsistencies and inadequacies of his challenger.

Managers of the President boasted before the debate that he had not spent much time being coached or in preparations for the big night since he had been fielding tough questions in news conferences for months.  His lack of preparation became apparent minutes into the hour and a half event, and he tried to compensate by dominating the time and overcoming the pleas of the moderator with his volume and disregard for debate decorum.

And, the President’s debate opponent and his team should be celebrating that there were no instant fact-checkers allowed to participate!  The only time he seemed not to misspeak, misrepresent or mischaracterize were the times he was not speaking or muttering something not so under his breath!  Has he not been on the record as supporting the Green New Deal; and does he really think Antifa is simply an idea rather than an organized movement of radicals majoring on burning buildings and hurling rocks at police?

But, all the important issues aside (abortion was barely mentioned), the general bad behavior of both principal parties was the saddest and surely most disheartening part of the 90 minute “debate” charade.  With probably millions of our nation’s young people watching the big event Tuesday night, two men, representing the major political parties of our great nation, were not able to maintain control of their minds, mouths and manners for a few minutes in order to have a meaningful exchange of ideas, visions, paths for America’s present dilemma and future direction.  

Our youth must have gone to bed Tuesday night troubled if not traumatized by a public demonstration of vitriolic, venomous outbreaks by two old men who will soon be exiting the stage of life, having played their parts, if they live what is the average lifespan of today’s American male.  They leave behind a clouded legacy, put on public display September 29, 2020, of anger, disrespect and at times dishonesty absent any gracious, humble and deferring gentleness, viewed by untold millions of their hopeful, fellow Americans.  Both men would, I suppose, rather be labeled under the “Christian” banner as opposed to the “Non-Christian,” so I bid them, and all who read these lines to heed the words of a man who said of himself that at one time in his life he was a “blasphemer, persecutor and injurious…in unbelief,” but found that “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus…” because “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners….” (I Tim. 1:13-15).  He had earlier written to fellow believers living in the first century center of world power, Rome:

“Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another…dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath:  for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” (Romans 12:10,19)

David’s Band

Our 25th annual faith-promise world missions conference at Thompson Road Baptist Church, October 1-8, 2006, with Pastor Larry Hufhand as our keynote speaker and featuring Ben and Becca Sinclair (Cameroon), Kevin and Mary Brunner (Philippines), Saundra Smith (South Africa), and Jodie Clark (Australia) among others was a blessed week, our conference theme being “Let the nations be glad.” (Ps. 67:4)  It was during that week for world missions that our 11 year-old grandson, David, would be stirred in his soul with a vision for missions, but little did any of us know then that when our 26th annual faith-promise world missions conference would commence a year later David would be in heaven.

As in every conference, missionaries like Ben and Becca Sinclair, who with co-laborers Matt and Susan Yeiter, would lay the foundation for the establishment of two churches in Cameroon while serving their first term in Africa, and, on that first furlough, visiting churches like ours, would light a fire in the hearts of young people for serving as missionaries on the field, the world.

David’s first “job” was helping his older brother, Tim, mow yards in the lawn business that Tim had launched when he was eight years old.  David made a meager income as a helper and by the second week of October in ’06 the grass cutting season was winding down; but David got the ear of his grandmother who at that time was working in the church office and he asked her how he could give to faith-promise, wanting to give $2 per week but not knowing the logistics of it.  Of course, grandmother got him set up with a set of giving envelopes and explained to him how to get involved in giving to faith-promise regularly.  David gave what he could that fall and when mowing season was gearing up for the spring of 2007, David was ready to be a regular participant in faith giving, having covenanted with God to give $2 per week to world missions which he did faithfully.

Our hearts were especially touched a few weeks before David was called home to heaven when one Sunday night in a TRBC service, propped up on a chair behind the pulpit so that he could see and be seen and heard, David sang the beautiful song “As a Deer,” offering in his own tenderhearted way a sacrifice of praise to God.  God was preparing David and us, family and church family, for David’s upcoming move to higher ground and we will be ever grateful for the memory that is hallowed in our hearts of that night, just a short while before we would all be called upon to suffer the shock of David’s sudden departure from us.

He was graduated to glory March 2, 2007, after a brief illness, having suffered a ruptured appendix.  Some of us begged God to let us trade places with David as he fought for his life at Riley hospital, but “He makes no mistakes,” and though we may have wanted to hold on grudgingly for a while, we all knew that He who sees from the beginning to the end and beyond has a will that is perfect and a plan that is best, with compassions and mercies that are new every morning, and we were and are content that we can “Rejoice in the Lord….”

After David’s brief endeavor to give $2 a week of his earnings to world missions, I challenged anyone who wanted to join “David’s Band” in giving $2 a week above and beyond to world missions to indicate that on their faith-promise giving commitment form.  Many did and from that 26th missions conference in 2007 until the present a host of people gave and are still giving to perpetuate the memory of a child whose heart was moved for missions and missionaries.  Thousands of dollars have been set apart through David’s band for the cause of Christ through faith-promise giving, and to all who have so faithfully participated I want to say “Thank you,” and “To God be the glory,” and we truly do, “Rejoice in the Lord, He makes no mistakes.”

David
You were ours these precious years;
            We give you back to God with tears.
You made our life bright with your smile,
            You were God’s gift for just a while.
You’ll ever be within our hearts,
            And, those in Christ are not apart.
You’re only “there” and we are here,
            But in our Savior, you’re so near.
Thanks for your love, your kindness true.
            And ever, David, we’ll love you.

 Grandpa Slutz  2007

When Pastors Retire

It was recently reported that Dr. Charles Stanley stepped down as senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Atlanta after a 50-year tenure at that post.  It was also clarified on the same news page that the good pastor was not retiring because he could not find retirement in the Bible, but that he was going to still be Pastor as long as the church would have him, and his health would permit, or something to that effect.  May God raise up more faithful ministers who year after year stay by the stuff, through thick and thin, through the good times and the bad, and in 50 years you will have your share of both!

Reading of Dr. Stanley’s retirement, it brought to mind my own, just one year ago now.  I too at one time recoiled against the concept of retirement, and, like the famous southern shepherd, I probably invoked scripture, or lack thereof, as grounds to stand upon.  However, sometime well into my 70’s, I came to the realization that I had come to expect and accept the government’s monthly social security deposit into my bank account even though I could not find social security in the Bible.  So, yes, I am “retired.”  Not that I am ready to pack it all up.  I did sell several hundred of my dear old friends, a library collection of half a century, keeping a few dozen that it was unbearable to part with.  Through the generosity of the Thompson Road Baptist Church and its pastor, Joel Stevens, I am able to maintain an office at the church I pastored 40 years; and I am serving the 150 year-old Coatesville Missionary Baptist Church in Coatesville, Indiana, as interim pastor; but I do not carry the load, the burdens, the responsibilities and the accountability that I did twenty or even ten years ago.  I miss the personal daily interaction very much with my church family, many of whom have been a part of our (Ellen and I) lives for 40 years.  I miss visiting folk in the hospital and in their homes as pastor, and I miss being able to serve them in their darkest and deepest hours; yet, I am very happy that a young and well-qualified man, Pastor Stevens, is able to do what it became apparent that I was not able to do any longer with the strength and vigor, physically, mentally, and emotionally that the job in all honesty requires.

I enjoy immensely the new life that is mine now, seeing more of Ellen, whom I could never get enough of, and family and spending more time meditating and musing over messages, most of which I have already preached at least once or twice, instead of merely “mastering” them for a 35 minute delivery on Sunday morning or evening.  It is a great season of life!

I am enjoying the interim pastorate very much; and appreciate the arm of Gospel Fellowship Association which is facilitating the placing of available retired pastors in meeting pulpit committees of churches of like faith which are seeking God’s will for an under shepherd to lead them.  The folk at Coatesville Missionary Baptist Church, located 40 miles west of Indianapolis, remains true to its original vision and mission of holding forth the Word of Life and of taking Christ to the world through a world missionary ministry.  They are easy people to love and a joy to share God’s Word with.  Interestingly, 57 years ago as a single, ministerial student in Bible college I accepted the opportunity and challenge of being summer youth and camp director in Coatesville Missionary Baptist Church.  The then pastor and his wife, Malcolm and Ruby Neier,  treated me like a son for the two summers of my junior and senior college years; and then, on a warm summer August evening in a white-steepled church in North Wilkesboro, NC, Pastor Neier led Ellen and myself in the repeating of our wedding vows, 55 years ago this past month.  Malcolm has been with the Lord several years now, but Ruby, in her mid-nineties, still attends church (or has until Covid-19 temporarily grounded her from coming) at this little rural community Baptist Church.  So, we have come full-circle and we are loving it yet praying earnestly that the Lord will give this historic church a full-time pastor to lead and feed them now.

I tell you, it’s good to be “retired!”  

And moreover, because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out and set in order, many proverbs.”  (Eccl. 12:9)

Your Sin Will Find You Out

The late Paul Harvey used to close his daily news program with a “For What It’s Worth” story.  On one particular day, he told of a man in New Zealand, a gas thief, who was siphoning gas from a car at 2:00 A.M.  As I recall, Paul Harvey reported that for illumination, since it was in the middle of the night and on that particular night very dark, the thief “flipped his Bic.”  This “For What It’s Worth” segment followed a long series of news stories detailing catastrophes caused by hurricane Katrina.  When Harvey ended his program with the story about the thief who flipped his Bic, I spontaneously broke out in a chuckle.

I know I should not have laughed, and immediately I lectured myself for doing so.  After all, I soon realized the thief was probably lost and the instant he flipped his Bic he was catapulted into Hell.  That is no laughing matter.  But, with all the disasters so many thousands of people were facing through no wrong doing necessarily of their own, when my mind conjured up a mental snapshot of the thief flipping his Bic as he siphoned stolen gas, I just lost it (driving on I-465).  I guess it was “relief humor.”

More soberly that afternoon back in my office, I thought of some Biblical lessons that might be drawn from the story that initially struck me as humorous.  I suppose there are many, but here is one:

Paul says in I Tim. 5:24: “Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment….”  Boy, was his sin open beforehand!  Evidently as he was in the act of stealing gas, he did not think of facing up to that sin.  But the whole world heard about it via Paul Harvey.

And, he did not have to wait for Judgment Day to face it.  He was immediately thrust into eternity as he was in the very act.  That is a dramatic illustration of what Paul said in I Tim. 5:24: his sin was open (exposed to all) beforehand (before the day of judgment).  What a striking demonstration of how that sometimes works out!

Most will never siphon gas from anyone’s car, and, thankfully, most will never die in the very act of sinning.  But some will face their sins in the here and now, and some will face them in the hereafter, as the latter part of I Tim. 5:24 says: “…and some men they do follow after.”

If you are a believer your sins were dealt with at Calvary.  You will stand at the Judgment Seat of Christ and the issue there will not be sins, but service.  That does not mean sin committed as a believer will not yield negative consequences, for it does and it will, including most of all an interrupted fellowship with our Lord and Savior and unanswered prayer plus chastisement which will be unpleasant according to Hebrews 10.  But at the future Judgement Seat of Christ before which all believers will one day stand, what you have done for Him since you were saved, including your motives and methods, your works or lack thereof, will determine your receiving commendation and rewards or not receiving His “well done.”

If you are not one who has accepted Christ by faith for salvation then you will appear before God at the Great White Throne Judgment to answer for your sins.  First, the sin of unbelief if your name is not found in the Book of Life (Rev. 20:15).  Then, as the “books” are opened, you will answer for the sins you have committed and punishment will be meted out in degrees of severity on the basis of light you have been exposed to having rejected.  You will face your sins, for they will follow you.

Bottom line:  Don’t flip your Bic around fuel ever!   And, don’t leave this world without having put your trust in Jesus unless you plan to meet up with Him at the Judgment Bar of God where there will be no second chance.

Thanks Paul Harvey for the food for thought.

“And I saw the dead, small and great stand before God:  and the books were opened:  and another book was opened, which is the book of life:  and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books according to their works…And whosoever was not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Rev. 20:15) 

Where Can I Go Then?

A girl that grew up in a church I pastored wanted from childhood to be a missionary.  That desire never left her through her school years and she attended a local Bible college in order to be prepared to serve God.  At one point, she applied to be a “Mapper,” a missionary apprentice, but the field that she applied to serve on closed as an open door at the last moment and when advised by the board under which she was serving ,the single would-be missionary lady asked, “Where can I go then?”  She learned that there was a need for her help in a certain central African country and she accepted that as God’s leading and today, twenty years later, she is serving there with her husband and three children, her dreams having come true.

“Where can I go then?”  What a yielded spirit!  Of the approximately 276 countries in the world today, some 100 or so are “restricted” or “closed” to foreign missionaries.  There are more than 24,000 people groups in the world, 10,000 of which have not yet been evangelized.  The field is the world, Jesus said.  There is a place to go!

David Livingstone was poised to go to China when the Opium Wars broke out and was told that it was not possible for an Englishman to go to China at that time so he would have to wait until the wars were over there.  Livingstone reasoned that there was no need to wait to go; he would go to Africa instead.  And, the world now knows the rest of the story!

Well-meaning friends of Livingstone, fearing for his health, safety and well-being, tried to persuade him not to go to Africa, to which he responded with His Savior’s words, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  Livingstone concluded, “That, my friends, is the word of a gentleman, so, let’s be going.”

Oswald J. Smith told of a little girl named Grace who was saved in the Dale Presbyterian church when he was in his twenties.  Her heart was in India.  One day her mother announced she would buy Grace a new coat to replace the worn-out, six-year-old coat that she was then wearing.  Grace pleaded with her mother to let her wear the coat one more year and to give her, instead, the money she was prepared to spend on the new coat so that she could send it to her missionaries in India.  Pastor Smith said that before he left Dale, Grace became gravely ill. On her death bed she made her mother promise to sell all her clothes, such as they were, and send whatever she got for them to India to the missionaries she loved and prayed for.  With tears in her eyes, her mother promised to fulfill her wish.  Oswald J. Smith said, “I would like to be standing somewhere near the throne when Grace gets her reward.”  Her heart was in India and her money followed her heart.

Where is your heart?  A leading U.S. oil company wanted to open up a division of their operations in a far eastern nation.  They searched for the person best qualified to oversee the day to day operations and their search led them to a man who was a missionary.  They approached him with the job description and then offered a lucrative salary if he would accept, but he declined the offer.  They raised their salary offer and again he refused.  Finally, the company asked, “Is the salary not big enough; you tell us what you want and it’s yours.”  “Oh, no,” replied the man of God.  “The salary is big enough, but the job isn’t.”

Where could you go?  What could you give?  What might you do?

“Our task is not to bring the whole World to Christ; our task is to take Christ to the whole world.” (A.J. Gordon, 1889)

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” (Matt. 28:19)

The Unquenchable Fire

“Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it.” (Song of Solomon, 8:7) The wise king had in his mind, no doubt, the love of his life, the beautiful bride known as the Shunamite woman, but his treatise on love causes any thoughtful heart to pause to ponder the love that surpasses all understanding.

Paul exhausts his mental, verbal and spiritual powers to extol the virtues of love in that majestic 13th chapter of First Corinthians, concluding with the exclamatory finale “Now abideth faith, hope and love, these three, but the greatest of these is love.”

The greatest of these is love!  How towering are the mountain peaks of faith where glimpses of glory shed light on the shadowy paths of our earthly pilgrimage.  And, what could be said of hope, the lifeline grasped by humankind swimming in the mire of these temporal miseries; and there is a strand of saving grace that when grasped by the desperate drowning soul yields hope and life and breath for another day.  Yet, “the greatest of these is love.”

Greatest because God is love, and the love of which both Solomon and the Apostle spake is divine and distinct from any earthly semblance of that which is often labeled, in common parlance, love.

Agape love, love that has its source and sphere in the heart of God and can only come from Him and then through us to others (I John 4:7-10).  It is love that is without deceitful dissimulation. (Romans 12:9) That is, it is genuine, because it is Godly.  It is without hypocrisy and without a vanishing veneer.  When one who possesses this kind of love says “I love you,” it is not simply a concluding conversational sign-off; it is a heartfelt, holy word of true devotion.

Love is without selfish motivation.  Much of what passes under the contemporary banner of love is motivated by personal pursuits and selfish interests.  Agape love does not wish another to succeed so that benefits will accrue to anyone other than the one loved.  If you love another unselfishly it will be with a true desire that your loved one will experience and enjoy the unimpeded, unparalleled, unmitigated goodness and grace of God just for His love’s sake.

Christlike love is without discrimination.  God so loved the world, an arid desert of sin in which there was “none righteous, no not one.”  His love is non-discriminatory.  He loves people of every tribe and tongue, every color and culture.  And, His love, shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, will cause us to love those who are at times unlovely and apparently unlovable, without discrimination.

His love, working through us, will also be without qualification.  We love our foes and friends, through Christ.  “He drew a circle that shut me out; heretic, rebel, a thing to flout; but Love and I had a will to win; we drew a circle that took him in.” (Edwin Markham)

And, love is without temporal termination.  “To the last syllable of recorded time.”  “To the depth, and breadth, and height my soul can reach.”  “Till death do us part.”  It is agape love.  It has no limitation, nor will it have in time any termination.  It cannot fail.

 Roy Croft said it well when he wrote:  “I love you, not only for what you are but for what I am when I am with you; not only for what you have made of yourself but for what you are making of me.  I love you for the part of me that you bring out…because you are making of the lumber of my life not a tavern but a temple out of the works of my every day.  Not a reproach but a song.  You have done it without a touch, without a word, without a sign; you have done it by being yourself….”

That’s what His love, flowing through us, will do to those with whom, in His providences, we have to do.

But the greatest of these is love.”  (I Cor. 13:13)

The Believer’s Badge

The Apostle Peter echoed King Solomon’s words “…love covereth all sins” (Proverbs 10:12) when he said in his first New Testament epistle “And above all things have fervent charity (love) among yourselves:  for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.” (I Peter 4:8)

What a world of difference that would make were it to be the rule of everyday living for those who know something of the “love of God…shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given to us.” (Romans 5:5)

When a person identified with the covenant promises made to Abraham, he did so by being circumcised; the badge that identified one as a follower of Moses and as an adherent to the law that Moses received on Mt. Sinai was the keeping of the Sabbath; then when the forerunner of Jesus, John the Baptist, preached that the kingdom of Heaven was at hand, people identified with his message by submitting to his baptism; and the Lord Jesus Christ affirmed to his disciples in his Upper Room Discourse on His way to Calvary that “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”  (John 13:35). 

Some years ago, a large, growing church decided to buy a building adjacent to their property for future expansion, a building that they purposed to have demolished in preparation for their future development needs.  It was discussed and decided that a committee should be appointed to get the building torn down as soon as feasible, but the pastor said there was no need to appoint a committee as he would be glad to take care of it, so it was left in his hands to do.  

However, the pastor failed to give the demolition crew adequate information, evidently, and another building next to the recently purchased building was demolished instead of the intended structure.

When the deacons met next, the pastor broke an awkward silence by saying, “I just wanted to tell you, I love you.”  One deacon said, “Out with it.”  So, the pastor told them what he had done and the huge mistake that he had made, to which another deacon said, “We don’t pay you much so we should not expect much.”  Another voiced, “Be careful, he’ll get your house tonight.”  And yet another, “That’s OK, he’d get the wrong one!”

Then one after another of those deacons stood to testify how the pastor had led them and many of their family members to Christ and how he had baptized them and visited them when they were sick and welcomed their newborns into the world with a prayer while the baby was still in the hospital with Mom and how he had conducted funerals for their parents and had officiated weddings for their sons and daughters.  It was soon evident that in that room that night, love did cover a multitude of sins and deacon after deacon assured the embarrassed pastor that they loved him no matter what and that now they owned an extra building, simple as that!

The ending is not always as comforting as that though.  Sometimes those we love (or should love) the most we inflict the most severe pain upon.  Some poet opined, “Look at the roses, saluting each other; look at the herds all at peace on the plains.  Man, only man, makes war on his brother, and laughs in his heart at his peril and pain.” (Unknown).

Let us not forget what the world will identify us by, that is, our love one for another.  It comes through our hearts from the heart of God and flows to others in the world around us.  It is a treasure that multiplies by division and when given as a gift it simply comes back bigger and greater.  “You can give it away, throw it away, empty your pockets, shake the basket, turn the glass upside down; and tomorrow you will have more than ever.”

A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” (John 13:34)

On Using the Ordinary to do the Extraordinary

It was a rod in Moses’ hand that God told the prophet to cast onto the ground, and an ordinary rod became a serpent.  That same rod was lifted up in Moses’ hand over the Red Sea to call the waters to stand at attention while two million Israelites marched through the sea on dry ground.

God used an ordinary beast to do the extraordinary when the ass opened its mouth to confront a backslidden prophet, Balaam.

God used the ordinary lunch of an ordinary lad to feed an extraordinary crowd of thousands of people; it was an ordinary lunch of five loaves and a few fishes.

When God chose twelve men to become the building blocks of the greatest organism that has ever breathed life, it was ordinary men from common walks of life, men who would become His apostles and do the extraordinary.

Gideon was an ordinary person that God used in an uncommon way.  No one was more surprised when, as he was threshing wheat by the winepress to hide from the Midianites, the angel of the Lord appeared to him and called him a “mighty man of valor.”  Extraordinary!  And, God would do some amazing things through this ordinary young man.

Paul put it into the written Word of God this way:  “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many mighty, not many noble, are called:  but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty, and the base things, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and the things which are not to bring to pass things which are.  That no flesh should glory in His presence.”  (I Cor. 1:26-29)

So, there’s a place in the purposes of God for you!  Most who read these lines are ordinary people.  I’m sure you have some extraordinary characteristics.  Each of us is unique in our own particular, God-given, way; but in the over-all scheme of things, each of us is, no doubt, pretty ordinary.

But, it’s the ordinary folk, like Moses (who had a speech impediment) and Gideon and Samson and Elijah and so many, many others that our Heavenly Father deigns to use.  Jesus, who favored the designation of Himself as “the Son of Man,” was considered by those who did not understand His incarnation, pretty ordinary: “Is not this the carpenter’s son?”  A young man was He who lived and worked a fairly common life for thirty years in a less than ordinary town, Nazareth.  But, Jesus, employing twelve quite ordinary men, turned the then known world upside down and left a legacy that will out-live time.

And, so could you and a few other ordinary folks who are willing to live consecrated lives for Him.  Are you ready to allow God to do something extraordinary through you today?

Thus saith the Lord, let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches:  but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me….” (Jer. 9:23,24)