20th Century Contender for the Faith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One Vote!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

History’s Timeline Going Forward

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

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

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

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

What Made the Psalmist Glad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Of the house and lineage of David

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Kindness Command

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kindness.  “Be ye kind….”

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


The title suggests that this post will be about worship, as indicated by the use of the Old English “worthship,” meaning acknowledgement of worth. “Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are Your ways, O King of saints.” (Rev.15:3). God alone is worthy of praise and worship, for His works and for His ways.

One serious student of the word worship said of it: “To quicken the conscience by the holiness of God; to feed the mind with the truth of God; to purge the imagination by the beauty of God; to open the heart to the love of God; to devote the will to the purpose of God.” (unknown)

R.A. Torrey, associate of the 19th century evangelist D.L. Moody, observed that there is a great deal of so-called worship. He said that “reading the Bible and meditating upon it is not worship. It may lead to worship, but it is not worship. Listening to a sermon is not worship. It may be, and should be, but it is not worship. Praying is not worship. It may be, and should be, accompanied by worship, but it is not worship. Singing is not necessarily, nor generally, worship. There are hymns which, if sung intelligently and in the proper spirit, would be worship, but they are comparatively few in the hymnology of the day. Worship is the definite act of a character very clearly defined in the Bible. It is, as said, the soul bowing before God in adoring contemplation of Himself.” “And Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground: and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell before the Lord, worshipping the Lord.” (2 Chron. 20:18)

Rev. Gordon Brown prayed the following petition before God’s throne as he led a congregation to worship: “O Savior of the world, Thou divine and human Christ, Thou who alone canst supply our needs, it is in Thy presence we bow at this quiet hour. Give us to drink, O Christ, of that water springing up into everlasting life. Our souls are athirst for God, and Thou alone canst supply our need, for no man cometh to the Father, save through the Son. We come that we may worship Thee. God is a Spirit. Grant that by the Holy Spirit’s working in our spirits we who are Thine own children may worship truly and spiritually. Enable us to offer sacrifices of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name. Our hearts go out after Thee, that by faith afresh we may lay hold of Thee, that our souls may be filled with the fullness of God, so that others may share the blessing of our overflowing hearts.”

That prelude prayer pretty much captures the adoration, contemplation, confession, and admiration that are the essence of worship. But the Devil has long been trying to confuse religious activity with worship. Charles Spurgeon, the noted 19th-century London pastor, remonstrated that “the Devil has seldom done a cleverer thing than hinting to the Church that part of their mission is to provide entertainment for the people, with a view to winning them…providing amusement for the people is nowhere spoken of in the Scriptures as a function of the Church…the need is biblical doctrine, so understood and felt that it sets men on fire.”

And, worship, heartfelt and soul-stirring, need not be done in the latest state-of-the-art facilities. One can worship in the humblest of surroundings. In 1989, with Dr. Ed Nelson and Natasha Vins, we joined hearts together in praise and prayer under the sky in a woods at the edge of Leningrad, Russia, where persecuted Christians were wont to assemble away from the gaze of the gawking KGB (Russian Secret Police), who had imprisoned many of the saints there for no other crime than gathering together with their families for worship. The pews were of beautiful, unstained wood, i.e., fallen forest tree limbs on which the women and children were afforded a place to sit, as all would come quietly before the Creator God to praise and petition Him. It was one of the most spiritually impacting worship services this pastor has ever attended, before or after that Soviet summer Sunday.  But there were no high-tech instruments with which to enhance sights or sounds; just hearts ablaze with love for Jesus, His Word, and His Church. That kind of worship service is etched upon one’s mind, indelibly, by the Holy Spirit who orchestrated it to the praise of His glory.

In 2009 Jerry Jones, owner and general manager of the Dallas Cowboys, spent over $1 billion to build a state-of-the-art stadium with the largest (at that time) Jumbo Tron in the world (7 stories high). The facility was replete with artwork everywhere, a retractable roof, platform decks, party suites, 120-feet-high glass doors, and a pricy average ticket admission of $160.  But all of that could not, in and of itself, produce a winning team; that had to come on the field—out of the hearts, minds, and souls of the players. So with worship. It seems that, in today’s world, production substitutes for power; the band for the Bible; PowerPoint lectures that reach the head for plain preaching that touches the heart. Are we, the 2022 Church, better off for this trade off?

Keith Bashan, writing in the Bible Baptist Fellowship Tribune of August of 2008, says that he had visited a growing mountain-states church in four different buildings—three times of which had been in the past five years from the time of his writing. He said, “The services are always fresh, and in spite of the moves, there are always new faces to meet and greet. In late July I was with the church in its current meeting place, a school building. As expected, there were new people I had not met, and even some first-time visitors. Though the church has existed more than 50 years, the atmosphere and enthusiasm made it seem something new, almost like a newly planted church. The old church seemed like a new one.”

One astute observer offered the following analysis of the 21st-century church: “Like weak-willed politicians, American churches have reinvented themselves over and over to satiate the restless whims of an unregenerate world.” (unknown)

However, no matter how many times churches of today reinvent themselves, true worship will never be reinvented, and what Jesus said will be true until after time as we know it shall be no more: “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and it truth.” (John 4:23, 24)

The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship Him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created.” (Rev.4:10,11)

Fear or Faith

The once-shepherd boy queried “whom shall I fear?” and “of whom shall I be afraid?” He might have filled in the blanks with the spear of King Saul, the rebellion of Absalom, the armies of the Philistines, or any number of persons who wanted to see this charismatic, young, anointed future-king wiped out. But David, rather than cowering in fear, affirmed: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear…of whom shall I be afraid?” (Ps.27:1)

As you survey your landscape, you could probably come up with your own list of things to fear. Putin’s threat of nuclear warfare; out-of-control inflation; 401k plans that have “melted” by twenty or thirty percent, with no foreseeable endpoint; escalating crime that is creeping from “bad neighborhoods” to an ever-enlarging city circumference , threatening even your neighborhood; political polarity and divisiveness that are harsh, sometimes cruel, and at best nationally numbing as we seem stuck in a quagmire of selfish agendas, which advance personal interests at the expense of the good of our body politic; and, worse, a people who once proudly called themselves “one nation under God” morphing into a spiritually apathetic, practically atheistic nation that has embraced “gods” while abandoning the “God” that it once pledged loyalty and allegiance to. If you cannot fix on one or more of the aforementioned fear factors, there are no doubt myriad more within your life orbit. Do you suffer with a terminal disease? Are you agonizing over a broken relationship that seems irreparable? Is your job on the line, so that you are not sure from day to day if this will be the day you receive that “pink slip?” So many things that might cause us to fear!

When America was entering the depths of the Great Depression, one of our past presidents tried to allay our national fear in his First Inaugural Address, in which he assured us that “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

One of our great astronomers had etched onto his tombstone the words, “I have lived too long among the stars to fear the night.”

Evangelist Jerry Sivnksty, a favorite local church evangelist who has ministered God’s Word to our generation for over 60 years, once taught our church to memorize Ps. 56:3: “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.” (Ps. 56:3) It’s amazing how, when a tornado or hurricane or flood warning is issued, clinging to that simple yet powerful, soul-mooring anchor of David the Psalmist will calm if not chase away one’s fears.

Then, Paul, who faced enough frightful, life-threatening scenarios in his lifetime to have died a thousand deaths, as it were, simply said, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Tim.1:7)

Dr. and Mrs. Nelson Bell were in China in 1938 when the Japanese invaded and put them and other Christians in a dangerous place. On Christmas Day, Dr. Bell wrote his mother, who was in America, that it had fallen on him to lead in devotions a couple of days earlier that week. He wrote, “It dawned upon me that our Lord, tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin, hungered, thirsted, was tired, became angry and gave every evidence of His humanity, but He was never fearful. Fear, therefore, must come from lack of faith—sin. Just as we never become sinless, so we never entirely lose fear, but it surely is His will for His children to live with peace in their hearts, trusting Him and His promises.”

John Chrysostom was a gifted fourth-century preacher who was exiled for his powerful preaching but could not be muted nor intimidated. He wrote: “What can I fear? Will it be death? But you know that Christ is my life, and that I shall gain by death. Will it be exile? But the earth and all its fullness are the Lord’s. Will it be loss of wealth? But we brought nothing into this world and can carry nothing out. Thus all the terrors of the world are contemptible in my eyes, and I smile at all its good things. Poverty I do not fear, riches I do not sigh for, and from death I do not shrink.”

Charles Spurgeon once commented, “It is a blessed fear which drives us to trust.”

Fixing our focus on unknown or uncertain elements can conger up fear factors. The children of Israel, having listened to the report of 10 of the 12 spies sent to scope out the Promised Land, were afraid to proceed because they feared the size of the enemy, the enormity of the task ahead, and the negative outlook presented by all of the 12 reconnaissance teams but Joshua and Caleb. Fear can rob us of potential blessings and victories, as it did that generation of fearful men and women who chose to believe the “minority report,” missing the realization of possessing that land flowing with milk and honey.

Jesus, in His classic Sermon on the Mount, addresses our common worries about life and its nagging necessities. He bids us to “Take no thought for your life…life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment.” He illustrates by pointing to the ravens, the lilies, and the grass of the field, all of which are recipients of the Creator’s care. He concludes, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32)

Will you receive His good counsel? Review that inventory of pesky, probing, possible fear mongers on your horizon and reply, as David would, “What time I am afraid, I will trust in Him.”

Bid fear farewell! Have faith!

He Gave Some Evangelists

Joe Mark, local church evangelist, was called to his eternal rest on the first Lord’s Day of October, having served his Savior faithfully as a gifted evangelist for more than five decades.  Joe was one of my favorite evangelists, and he probably held eight or ten meetings in our church over the years. His preaching was plain but powerful. He aimed for the heart and seldom missed. His invitations were direct, discreet, and discerning.

Joe was a Midwesterner by birth, growing up in Illinois where, following his marriage to Elizabeth “Betty” Millikan in 1956, Joe and Betty would enjoy 56 years of marriage before the Lord called Joe to his heavenly home. They never had children, and most of the 45-plus weeks of the year that Joe traveled in revival meetings were by himself. Betty stayed home, worked at State Farm, and kept watch over the family cat.

Joe graduated from Pillsbury Baptist Bible College in Owatonna, MN, and then from Tennessee Temple Seminary, after which he served for a few years on the staff of Calvary Baptist Church in Normal, Illinois, under the direction of Pastor Bud Weniger.  He was the outreach director during those years, and when he left that assignment Joe had a good understanding of what it meant to be a pastor in a thriving local church.  He drew upon those experiences and that garnered wisdom as he ministered to local churches all across America for 53 years until his home-going.

Joe’s hobby was reading, and he took pleasure in sharing a good book with a friend.  One of the first questions he would ask when arriving on the scene for a meeting was, “What are you preaching on now?” That was followed by the question, “What are you reading for that series?”  Then, in a few days, a book would arrive in the mail—one from Joe’s library—on the subject of the current series. They were always first-rate books—books that I usually did not already own.

Joe’s preaching was never boring or exhaustingly lengthy, nor ever built upon “shaky” exposition.  He knew God’s word and handled it adroitly, but always on the level and in the language of the common man. You did not have to be Bible College graduate to know what Joe was preaching about.  His voice was commanding, and his pulpit demeanor in good taste. He never embarrassed this pastor by what, or how, he said anything. His messages were Bible-based, and his titles were sometimes intriguing: “Cult of the Comfortable,” “Scraps and Leftovers,” “When Demons Dance with Delight,” and “Hell is Enlarged,” among others.

Joe was a favorite camp speaker because of his ability to talk to junior-age boys and girls in a way that they could understand. Camp Assurance in Danville, IL, was a favorite destination of his during summers when (then) Camp Director Scott Randolph needed a camp evangelist.  It was never a “duty” for this seasoned evangelist to give weeks of his summer ministering to boys and girls at camp.

Joe grew up in a broken home and spent lots of evenings in a local Macomb, IL, tavern with his granddad. Thankfully, a good, Bible-preaching local Baptist Church found Joe (or he found it), and he was able to make sense of life as he learned, loved, and lived the Bible that this church was preaching and teaching. Joe never got over his childhood—with virtually no father, and a grandfather who “watched Joe” while he and his grandson visited a saloon nightly. He never lost his passion or his compassion, and in his voice was a twinge of love—compelling, calling love for his hearers to come to Christ, in whom they could enjoy an abundant life.

As with most evangelists of Joe’s era, before convenient motels became available for housing special speakers and local church guests, Joe amassed a repertoire of jaw-dropping stories of incidents that occurred with people in places that he was “put up” for the week.  One particularly memorable story was about a beautiful “mansion” at which the pastor dropped him off to lodge in for the week. The homeowners were gone, so Joe had the run of the place. After giving him some instructions, the pastor left.  It was not long before Joe discovered that he was not the only houseguest in that beautiful paradise palace in the Sunshine State.  It seems, as Joe related it, that there were snakes in every room, under and around every planter. Joe had to retreat to his car for cover and, alas, spent the week dodging the creepy, crawling, cursed from the Fall reptiles! 

Another story occurred in the home of an older bachelor with whom Joe was assigned for the week.  The house was cold that Midwestern winter, and Joe could see snow in the cracks of the floor and walls as he woke up shivering in the morning.  Not to worry—his host had just the solution. With a chain saw, the old man cut a square opening in the wall that separated Joe’s bedroom from the adjoining bathroom, allowing the warmer air from the bathroom access to flow through the opening in Joe’s wall, and thus providing some heat!  There were, of course, many more stories, but I have forgotten most of them and should kindly spare you any others anyway!

Joe was like a brother, real time, to many of his preacher friends, myself included, and we would have lots of laughs together. For instance, there was the week that we put Joe up in the church parsonage. It was/is a beautiful dwelling place, but at that time it was uninhabited, so there happened not to be any window coverings in any room, though in the master bath one could still find privacy.  So, true to form, Joe was careful to tell us that without any window coverings, there was a long line of traffic outside on the street in the evening hours. Joe surmised that word had gotten out about the absent window coverings, and that people were driving by to catch a glimpse of “my physique.”

There was no other preacher/pastor/friend with whom I would rather spend a week in serving God.  As a fellow Midwesterner, we enjoyed a mutual love for many things, and I could always feel at ease in his presence. I will miss Joe dearly and cling to the hope that when God called Joe into His presence on the Lord’s Day, it was not “Good-bye,” but only “So long…see you soon!”

And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, ‘Write, blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them.”(Rev.14:13)

Are You Like Christ?

It is well to aspire in our Christian walk day by day to be Christ-like. “O to be like Thee, just to be like Thee,” we sing as a hymn from time to time. So, the question that ought to haunt our hearts is, “Am I like Christ?” Here is a simple yet profound test: read Mark 10:45: “For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister and to give His life a ransom for many.”  In other words, Jesus said that His mission was to serve. What is your mission now, as a follower of His? Jesus said in that same passage: “And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.” That’s the divine perspective on servanthood.  Is it ours?

One pastor aptly said, “Instead of being great servants of God, try to be a servant of a great God.” (Pastor D. Burgraff) D.L. Moody:  “We may easily be too big for God to use, but never too small.” (Quoted by J. Sidlow Baxter in Awake My Heart, p.57)

In 1 Cor.4:1, 2 Paul uses the term “steward” to refer to “ministers of Christ.”  The meaning of the word steward in these verses is of course “servant.” A study of that word reveals that it is used of first-century slaves—not just any slaves, in fact, but the lowest order of slaves. They were sometimes called “under rowers” because, in boats of the day, powered by oars in the hands of men, the lowest level of men with hands on the shortest oars were called just that. Theirs was the hardest and hottest job of all, lasting for hours each day. As was the case with most slaves in that Roman Empire, they were owned by masters who considered them nothing more than dispensable property. The master’s will was their will, and it was a matter of life and death, survival, to please him. Unquestioned obedience was expected. The servant’s only question was, “Master, what wilt thou have me to do?” The servant had no time of his own; no personal days, no holidays, no days off. That is the concept behind first-century servanthood. Jesus said He came to be a servant and that His followers should expect to become a “servant of all.” Pretty challenging statement to read and realize in this 21st century, is it not?

But J.L. Massee reminds us that “service can never become slavery to one who loves.”  God loves us, saved us, called us to serve, and gave us one requirement: that we serve faithfully. We never are too old (or too young) to serve faithfully. This past week, I rejoiced to hear that my dear friend of many years, evangelist Joe Mark, was graduated to glory at the age of 80. Joe was one of my favorite evangelists. An avid reader with a dry sense of humor, his lifelong labors of 53 years in local-church evangelism endeared him to pastors and people alike. His obituary concluded that the thing that characterized Joe most fully was not the number of years he traveled in ministry, nor the number of churches and pastors he encouraged, nor even the number of lives transformed through His masterful preaching of God’s Word. The one word that sums up what evangelist Joe Mark will be remembered for is faithfulness. Month after month, year after year, he did what the Lord called him to do, and he did it faithfully for his Master. He was never disqualified. He lived a life of integrity. He never watered down his message to get a meeting. Our church was blessed by having Joe for several revival meetings through the years, and I was never disappointed in any of them.  He was consistently faithful and faithfully consistent.

 A.E. Whitham pictures an imaginary preacher as he gives a report of a visit to the New Jerusalem: “In my wandering, I came upon the museum in the city of our dreams. I went in, and an attendant conducted me around. There was some old armor there, much bruised with battle. Many things were conspicuous by their absence. I saw nothing of Alexander’s or Napoleon’s. There was neither a pope’s ring, nor even the ink bottle that Luther is said to have thrown at the devil. I saw a widow’s mite and the feather of a little bird. I saw some swaddling clothes, a hammer and three nails and a few thorns. I saw a sponge that had once been dipped in vinegar, and a small piece of silver. Whilst I was turning over a simple drinking cup which had a very honorable place, I whispered to the attendant: ‘Have you got a towel and basin among your collection?’ ‘No,’ he said, ‘not here. You see, they are still in constant use.’”

Are you, as His servant, using the tools He has gifted you with? Is it your first and foremost desire, each day, to please your master, with the hope of having Him say at His Bema seat that you were a faithful servant?

A very young but extremely talented concert pianist, performing for the first time in his professional career, kept the audience in rapt attention. When he finished, almost every person in the audience—all but one old man—expressed their approval with a lengthy standing ovation.  Yet, when the brilliant artist got off the stage, he was seen with his head in his hands, displaying disappointment with what he had done. His manager approached him with unreserved adulation, but the artist said that he had failed. Asked why he would think such thing—given the affirmation that all but one man in the crowd had given him—the young artist said, “That one old man is my teacher.”  So it is with stewards: our one Person to please is our Master, and His approval is what we desire.  The applause of the world, if ever given, will wane. His approval is eternal, and it is the only one that we seek.

A young man had been installed as pastor in a rather large church. After his first sermon, a member pulled him aside and, realizing the new pastor was very young and the audience was very old and seasoned, the well-meaning member said, “Pastor, I wonder how you will ever please 700 people.” To which the pastor, without a moment’s hesitation, replied, “Sir, I am not here to please 700 people; I am here to please one Person, my Lord and Savior. If I please Him that will be my reward.” This would be a wise perspective on all our ministries as stewards of the Lord Jesus Christ.

If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also My servant be: if any man serve me, him will My Father honor.” (John 12:26)