There Has to be a Song!

Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” (Eph. 5:19)

Being filled with the Spirit immediately preceded this verse admonishing Christ-Ones to have a song-filled heart.  The two go together, i.e. being filled with the Spirit and singing and making melody unto the Lord.  In the shower is a good place to start but don’t leave your song there, take it in your heart with you through the day. 

 All kinds of songs:  psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.  The Psalmist added an interesting component when in Psalm 92:3 he said our music at times should have a “solemn sound.”  And, all with ten strings. I take that to mean at times with a full orchestra.  A majestic, soul-stirring sound that lifts you out of your seat emotionally and spiritually.  Like the Hallelujah Chorus that just about put its composer, Handel, into orbit the first time he heard it performed.  Some sounds are ordinary, ever day choruses that we joyfully rehearse such as “Heavenly Sunshine, heavenly sunshine, filling my soul with glory divine.”  Some may be actually words of the Psalms put to music, as many have done with Psalm 19:7ff. when singing about the Law of the Lord which is perfect, converting the soul.  Some are greater hymns that might be sung with a congregation of like-minded folk who are worshipping the Lord by united voices lifted in praise to extol His virtues as in “How Great Thou Art.”  So, there are a variety of ways to sing, and the goal of all spiritual singing is “in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him.” (Col. 3:17).  

Paul qualifies all of our singing in I Cor. 14:15 when he says that our singing, like our praying, should be done with the spirit and with the understanding.”  Recognizing there may be differing styles and preferences of styles of music, whoever sings in worship and whatever is sung in worship, the singing should be “with understanding,” and with “the spirit.”  The word spirit in I Cor. 14:15 is not capitalized, but it might well refer to the Holy Spirit who, indwelling believers, would produce music that is conducive to understanding so that if in our meetings an unbeliever or new believer (unlearned) visits our assemblies they could and would understand what we were singing about and why (I Cor. 14:23-25).

Some years ago, I visited an old man and his wife who were then members of our church (both have since been graduated to glory).  He was from the hills of Kentucky which must be a wonderful place to be from for I have known many folks from there who, when getting an opportunity are always quick to return, if only for a visit.  Sparky was his name, and having invited me to sit down I noticed there was a well-used hymnal near where I was seated which I commented on.  Sparky sang solos occasionally at our church, and always without accompaniment.  He would bellow out his song, from his heart, often a song none present had ever heard, but he knew it and he knew it well.  It was always an appropriate song telling us what Jesus meant to him and we could understand every word of it.  His music was truly inimitable.  You could picture him working in a field or garden somewhere in a Kentucky valley or on its hillside, singing and making melody in his heart unto the Lord.   When I mentioned that his hymnal looked well-worn, a broad grin lit up Sparky’s face and he said with his southern drawl, “Oh, there has to be a song!”  And let us not forget it, brothers and sisters, there has to be a song!

“O come, let us sing unto the Lord:  let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.” (Ps. 95:1)

Together Again

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

Well, after two months without assembling ourselves together for worship with those of like faith, we are beginning to “Open Up” our church houses once again for corporate worship.  It is refreshing and revitalizing to sing together, offer praises and prayers with the body of believers and then to bow before His Word as it is held forth as the Word of Life by teachers and under shepherds.  We will never again, I hope, take for granted this special privilege.  Meeting together in freedom, without fear and for worship is something we should never again need to be admonished to do!

A couple of weeks ago, a pastor friend of mine, anticipating that the flock he now serves as interim pastor would be meeting after weeks of “online” services, asked me to pen a poem celebrating this momentous milestone in the life of 21st century churches.  He was hoping to put whatever I came up with to music, so I did write the following (I am not sure if he was able to find a tune that would fit it musically) and wanted to share it with any today who might be interested in reading it.  The title is “Together Again.”

Together again, in the House of the Lord,
Together again, around His dear Word;
Together again, we’ve so long been apart,
Together again, with a song in our heart.
 
Together again, just to sit at His feet,
Together again, with sweet joy do we meet.
Together again, we are tuned to His voice,
Together again, Oh, how much we rejoice!
 
Together again, by the touch of His love,
Together again, a foretaste of above;
Together again, we’ve been led by His hand,
Together again, by His grace here we stand.
 
Together again, we’ve a story to share,
Together again, to tell of His care.
Together again, Oh, blest be His name,
Together again, through the “Shut Down” we came!
 
Together again, ‘til one day by His grace,
Together again, where we’ll shelter in place;
Together again, in our home there above,
Together again, in the fold of His love!

It was surely encouraging to hear our President last week proclaim that worshipping together in a local church setting is “essential.”  We knew it and it was good that the leader of the free world was not embarrassed to say that church gatherings are vital to the individual and national well-being of our republic.  Thank you, Mr. President!  Now, let us not “forsake” these assemblies but treasure them and participate gladly in the same as long as we are able-bodied and sound-minded enough to do so.

“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another; and so much the more as ye see the day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25)

Charity to the Brethren and to Strangers

“I have shewed you all things, how that so laboring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, it is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)

Sadly, there are those who shamelessly, under the guise of Christian brotherhood, take advantage of believers who endeavor to heed the apostle John’s admonition to treat both strangers and brethren charitably and “bring them forward on their journey after a godly sort.” (2 John 6).   

Because we are a lot that from the inception of the Church has been known for our love, unscrupulous men have become cunning in taking advantage of those who remember the words of the Lord Jesus who said ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:35).

For the 49 years that it was my privilege to labor in the gospel ministry as senior pastor, it was almost a weekly occurrence that someone would petition either the church or myself for financial, material assistance.  To balance Christ’s warning that we ought be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves with the Biblical injunction to “do good to all men, especially to them who are of the household of faith,” (Gal.6:10) was a delicate act that called for wisdom as well as on occasion the intuition of a godly wife!

We, my wife and I, have given to individuals over the years; in good faith, not a few of them professing believers who, with the advantage of hindsight, we sadly discovered, were deliberating scamming us in order to get money, all the while spinning a compelling story, couched in spiritual verbiage, that was a fabrication.  They were really good and could have made an honest living in theatre!

On one occasion I received a call from a man who was in the library of the University of Indianapolis (a couple of miles from our church) saying he had been reading the gospel of John and had serious questions.  He had a heavy British brogue.  I arranged to pick him up and bring him to my office which I did and after an hour or so on his knees with tears he “prayed” asking Christ to save him.  He was well dressed and as he got up and regained composure, he told me his rent was due that day and he was finishing a job on a grandfather clock repair but it had taken him longer than expected.  He needed $125 before day’s end.  After hearing more, I went to the bank and withdrew the said amount, then proceeded to drive him downtown to the office building he said his landlord worked in.  I went upstairs with him and when we got on the supposed right floor, he asked me to let him go alone to give the money to his landlord.  I complied, took him back to the library and made plans to pick him up for a Bible study that evening at the address he gave me at his home, near the university.  It was not until I returned to my office that it dawned on me that I should drive by the address to make sure I knew where he lived.  Wouldn’t you know, there was no such address!  That one really hurt!  Not so much the loss of money though at that particular time in our lives it was a lot of money to us, but that he had been so good at his con job, using a profession of faith, etc.  He deceived even the elect!

Well, that was just one of too many times; I can say, though, that I have always given in good faith in order to help someone whom I really believed to be in need; believing that God knew my heart and motives and that if the recipient of the charity given in Christ’s name was a fraud, he or she would have to deal with that before a holy God.  He keeps the score and will adjust the accounts in His time and for His own glory.  It is still more blessed to give than to receive!

“As we have, therefore, opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” (Gal. 6:10)

Blessings of Banishment

And He (Jesus) withdrew Himself into the wilderness, and prayed.” (Luke 6:16)

Well, it’s not exactly banishment.  It may be a medically necessitated or self-imposed quarantine, but for most of us, we have been out of “circulation,” including that of attending regular church services, for a longer time than we have ever experienced before.  Because of the federal, state and local guidelines in coping with the dreadful Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a national and even international sheltering in place that has been deeper, broader and longer than we had imagined it would ever be.

We have had doctor’s appointments via our smart phones during which a doctor can examine us, diagnose our problem, and prescribe the proper medication all while we are sitting in a bedroom, living room or den of our own house.  We can have our groceries delivered as well as meals if we so choose, all without any contact or conversation in the transaction.  We worship via the internet and conduct our business or family gatherings through the medium of Zoom.  Coughing cannot contaminate the air in the isolated manner in which we conduct our lives now.  We can do banking and about everything but pump gas; but then, we are going nowhere so there is no need for filling up the tank.

It’s a new world!  And, we are dreaming about the old world with its infinite number of choices of what to do and where to go, wondering if life will ever be the same again.

As we contemplate the future while musing about the past, it probably has dawned upon us that all of this lockdown has had some benefits.  We are not so pressed now to find time to read the Bible that has so often been neglected in former days.  Prayer is more likely now upon our hearts if not upon our lips as we are able with fewer distractions to focus more; and we are likewise more prone to listen to others as they share their blessings and burdens.  Facebook may have been a nuisance before the shelter in place, now it is a lifeline of communication into the homes and hearts of those about whom we care.

Speaking of a time when one’s life was shut down, consider the aged follower of Jesus Christ, the apostle who outlived all other apostles, John the beloved.  He was banished by the Roman emperor Domitian and exiled to the island of Patmos because of his testimony for his beloved Lord.  It was there, in his old age, that John received a message from God through Jesus by an angel, known as The Revelation, the final Word from God about things primarily future.  John had time to listen, to meditate and to commit to memory that which he had seen and heard until he would have the opportunity to put those unimaginable images and texts in writing.  All in a place of desolation and desertion, but Oh, what he saw and heard and learned about the Lord and His plan for the culmination of the ages!  

So, as we continue to move forward to the future, still in slow motion because of a “shut down,” remember that good things can accrue because of what we are experiencing.  Don’t forget John and his “lock down.”  Then meditate upon the Psalmist’s words found in Psalm 46:10:

“BE STILL, AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD:  I WILL BE EXALTED AMONG THE HEATHEN, I WILL BE EXALTED IN THE EARTH.”

Facing the Inevitable

“l am as a wonder unto many, but thou art my strong refuge.” (Ps. 71:7)

I was making a hospital call on an old friend, not a member of our church, who had lived her three score years and ten, plus.  She was prepped for surgery; without the hair piece she normally wore and sans teeth.  Her son was sitting by her side.  I had not seen her for a couple of years and when I walked into the room, she looked at me in wonder and said, “My you’ve changed; you’ve lost your hair!”  I got a chuckle out of that.  At least I thought, she was not self-conscious (No, I don’t think they had given her anything yet to make her goofy).

It reminded me of another hospital incident a year or so earlier.  I was hurrying through the lobby to leave and one of the volunteers, a lady whose head was white with hair, was sitting at the desk probably waiting for flower deliveries.  I happened to pull a pocket comb out of my pocket to run it through my hair (why? Just an old habit) and she looked at me, a total stranger to her, and said, “not much there to comb is there?”  I walked by and pretended not to hear her (an old man without hair might be hard of hearing too!)

Age does a number on us; and no matter how many ointments we apply, it always seems to win!  Very few are able to really conceal their age.

But, inside, we do not feel that old.  I used to marvel when my parents would say, before the ravages of old age began to torment them physically on a daily basis, that they sure did not feel as old as they looked on the outside.  Now of course I understand.  Most usually I do not feel my age but a morning look in the mirror always confirms it.

We do not see ourselves as others see us.  If we did, my friend going into surgery would probably not have been thinking about how much I had changed but rather she might have been explaining that they had taken her hair piece and teeth away from her.  And, the aged candy stripper wouldn’t have been focusing on somebody else’s lack of hair had she gotten a fresh look at her own.

Nor do we see ourselves as God sees us.  He sees every blemish…all the wrinkles and warts inside and out.  Yet, we come to Him, I fear, with little or no thought of our own condition.  I need to take a long and lingering look at Him.  Then I will cry, “woe is me, I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips….” (Isa. 6:5).  After Isaiah saw God in His holiness, he saw himself as dwelling in the midst of people like himself.  He had the same uncleanness that others had, compared to God in His holiness.  Thankfully, the believer can say that “our life is hid with Christ in God,” (Col.3:3) and thus we are “accepted in the beloved” (Eph. 1:6) to the praise of the glory of His grace! (Eph. 1:6)

May we ask our heavenly Father often to help us see ourselves as others see us; and to see ourselves as He sees us.

The Uttermost Part

That’s where Jesus told his disciples to take the gospel to:  “the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)  We sometimes hear that verse misquoted as “…the uttermost parts of the earth,” but it was to the very remotest, uttermost PART that the good news, having begun in Jerusalem, then in all Judea, then Samaria, was to be delivered by people whom Jesus labeled as witnesses who would be filled with the Holy Ghost.

That assignment has not been completed as of yet.  If any reader is in the Orlando area and has not visited the Wycliff Bible Translators world headquarters there, it would be a fascinating half-day for you to invest and would cost you very little but your time (which, in Orlando, FL, is a rare place to find, i.e. some place to visit that does not cost quite a good sum of money!) You will be amazed as your guide demonstrates to you the thousands of tongues and the myriads of places where there has never been a readable translation of scriptures produced in the native tongue of the local people.  

We know that Jesus also instructed His disciples before He made His final journey to Jerusalem that the end of the age would not come before the gospel would be preached “in all the world, for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” (Matt. 24:14).

In His “Great Commission” to the disciples just before He ascended back to Heaven, Jesus instructed them to teach (disciple) all nations (Matt. 28:19).  

The task seems almost impossible; in two millennia we have still not reached nearly two thousand people groups with a clear presentation of God’s plan of salvation!  What to do?

Well, as our Lord said, we should occupy until He comes.  He is coming back as He promised He would, for His church, the body of Christ.  That coming is imminent (I Thess. 4:13-18) and it will precede His second coming, what the Old Testament prophets and also the Apostles referred to as the “Day of the Lord,” or the “Day of Christ.” (I Thess. 5:2; 2 Thess. 2:2) 

It is before the second coming, the subject of Matt. 24 & 25, that the gospel will have been preached in all the world.  That will not happen before Christ’s return for His church, commonly called the rapture of the church, the blessed hope of every believer (Tit. 2:13).

That does not diminish our responsibility to fulfill our Lord’s Great Commission to disciple all nations.  The field Jesus said is the world.  We are to lift up our eyes and behold fields that are white unto harvest (John 4:35)  So, keep your eyes open and up, your heart tender, your hands ready and engage in the most rewarding employment at the most exciting and opportune time in the history of the church and where ever your Jerusalem is, get ready, get set and go! 

“But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you:  and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

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The Wise Woman

“Honor thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise).” (Eph. 6:2)

It happened of old in the little- known town of Abel.  Sheba, an enemy of King David, was running for his life following the downfall of Absalom and his rebellion and insurrection against his father, the King.  Sheba had made it to the town of Abel and Joab, David’s captain, was in hot pursuit.  David’s men were ready to tear down the gates of the city to get at their man.  But a wise old woman who lived within those city gates interceded.  She pled with Joab not to destroy the entire town just for one person.  She promised that she would serve up the head of Sheba in a basket before the sun would rise on the next day.  And she did!

In her piteous plea the old woman said to battle-hardened Joab: “Thou seekest to destroy a city and a mother in Israel:  why wilt thou swallow up the inheritance of the Lord?”  Her appeal was well worded and aptly directed.  Joab responded that in no way would he want to swallow up the inheritance of the Lord!  The wise woman of Abel was granted her petition to Joab, and because she lived scores of innocent men, women and children were spared.  In making her plea the woman also said “I am one of them that are peaceable and faithful in Israel.” (2 Sam. 20:19).

Thank God for good mothers.  I praise Him for my Godly mother who lived before her children as one who feared God and kept His commandments.  She loved God’s Word.  She was a devout student of things scriptural and spiritual.  She had a thirst for knowing Him better and for sharing things she had learned in her search for truth.  My mother-in-law was likewise a Godly woman whose life was immersed in serving her Lord and Savior and tending to the needs of her family and of her pastor-husband who served a local church in their neighborhood for fifty years. Ellen and I have a Godly heritage.  I am truly thankful to God, also, that the woman I married 55 years ago has been from the first day of her motherhood a woman of faith, genuine Christ-like character, love of God and of God’s family and especially His local church and its ministries.  She, along with her mother and mine, could say “I am one of the peaceable and faithful mothers of the land.”  May God raise up millions more for such a time as this.

A Mother’s Prayer 
(a tribute to my Godly Mother)

God of the weak, the lame and poor,
Whose Son is Christ, the Way and Door;
Oh, hear my weary groan and sigh,
Oh, hear me, God as I now cry.
 
Please grant me wisdom from above,
Mix it in me with grace and love;
Help me to others freely give,
And only for your glory live.
 
May others see your light in me,
And may they also rest in Thee;
Safe in the blessings of Thy grace,
Showing the beauty of Thy face;
 
And may I, God, my family reach.
Help me my children ever teach.
Oh, let us one in Thee be found,
And ever forth Thy praises sound.

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New Blog Subscription

Dear Friend:

I am planning to send out blog posts regularly under the title “You and God.”  I have put you on a list of recipients, but I am aware that you probably get more emails than you have time to read; so, if you choose to unsubscribe that is certainly understandable.  I have done the same to others.  If you would see fit to give this a few reads before deciding, I’d be much appreciative.  If you would forward to a friend that you think might want to read it, well, that would be going the 2nd mile.  Thanks, indeed!

Tony Slutz

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To Hug or Not to Hug

All the brethren greet you. Greet ye one another with an holy kiss. I Corinthians 16:20

Growing up in a Midwest culture it was a rare thing for my family in the postwar years that were also post Great Depression years to show any outward, physical affection.  This may not have had anything to do with a geographic area or post anything era, but as I reflect back upon it the very hard times that my parents and grandparents endured gendered, in my mind at least, a sort of toughness that was not at all comfortable with much affection shown either by the touch or by the tongue.  “I love you” were words just not often spoken; a loving caress or touch, well maybe our family was different, but we just were not given to those displays of caring devotion.  

I married a beautiful belle from North Carolina, and I confess it has never been difficult for me to tell her I love her or for me to give her a loving embrace.  So, my childhood days were not so without affection that I did not know how to demonstrate my love for my wife; maybe not quite so natural with our children and certainly not, in my early adult years, with others.

But God brought into our lives, in time, some wonderful people who taught me how to appreciate a hug as well as a hand shake.  It became something that I did not have to work at doing.  And, to say “I love you” because you truly in the love of Christ love another human being, whether man or woman, became something I grew accustomed to and have been blessed by verbal affection as well as a kind, loving touch. 

One of my regrets in life, though, is that “I love you” never became a common note struck in our family gatherings in my childhood days.  I would often yearn to hug my Dad but I can only remember one time when I determined I would do it and did!  My Dad felt affection deeply, I never doubted that.  He showed it to his wife without hesitation.  He was tenderhearted and loving. But when Ellen and I and the children would leave to go home after a visit, knowing that it might be a long time before we’d see each other again, Dad would always extend his hand and offer a heartfelt handshake.  That was just his way and for years it was my way.  Imagine the horror when in1989 I had the opportunity to visit the then Soviet Union and minister in churches there, to learn in our very first service that in Russian churches men greeted other men with a holy kiss and it was not a kiss on the cheek but it was indeed lips to lips.  Well, that will have to be another story.  I have written this to say that people have different ways of saying “I love you,” and different ways of showing it. One need not be more or less genuine than the other.  It depends upon many factors whether you will extend a hand or go for a hug.  The crux of the matter is though that we should let our family know that we do indeed love them and that we cherish appropriate ways, verbal and non-verbal, to let them know so.

And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all. And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul’s neck, and kissed him, sorrowing most of all for the words which he spake, that they should see his face no more. And they accompanied him unto the ship. Acts 20: 36-38

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No, Never alone

Greetings All:  This is my first attempt at sending my friends and anyone else that I may not even know yet a brief message.  I hope you will see fit to respond.  We are all forging ahead through unchartered waters through this Covid crisis, and I thought it might be appropriate to remind ourselves of a foundational truth.  In my next installment I want to send you a poem that I penned for this past Easter; though it will arrive to you after Easter, I hope you can file it away for future use if you ever need an Easter poem.  Easter poems are not as easy to find as are Christmas poems or poems for other special days, but I feel like this is a good one and so wanted to share it with others. But the poem will come later.

No, Never alone

“Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have:  for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” (Hebrews 13:5)

Recently, while all of us were “sheltering in place” in individual efforts to keep the COVID 19 virus from spreading, my sister and I were exchanging text messages and in one of them she was reflecting on what the health mandated isolation meant to her.  She lives alone, an octogenarian grandmother, on top of a mountain in Georgia, separated by miles from any family, but supported by them through loving constant communication, and buoyed by neighbors and friends who look in after her.

During the conversation she mentioned our grandmother, who, having lost her husband in death when she was a young mother of three, expecting her fourth, children lived in a small rural community in southeastern Iowa, in our nation’s post-depression.  She eked out a living by doing housework for people in the community, supporting herself and children by a meager income sometimes of a dollar per day.  We never heard her complain.  Hers was a difficult life; she was not given to many lighthearted moments and the few times that I remember being around her she seemed austere and not very “warm” like most grandmothers might appear to be.  It would be years later, when I became a parent, and later a grandparent, and had some perspective on life and on history that I would be able to somewhat appreciate the austerity of the times through which grandmother Moore had lived and had provided, without any governmental assistance, for her four children.  My sister in our texts back and forth made this observation about grandmother: “She explained to me how she felt about living 55 years as a widow:  ‘I am never alone.  The Lord is always with me.’”  My sister followed that up by saying, “I have had the opportunity to prove that fact to be absolutely true, and I never feel alone.”  Nor should any of us who can sincerely affirm “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…I will fear no evil for thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” No, we are, with Him, never alone!