Remembering Kelvin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kelvin U. Krueger

June 4, 1976-February 2, 2021

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

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

A Churchy World or a Worldly Church?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Building A Christian Home, Part 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Building A Christian Home, Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Building A Christian Home, Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Good 4-Letter Word

Work has been ordained of God for the good of mankind. Solomon asked the question, “Seest thou a man diligent in his work?” Then the wise king said, “He shall stand before kings.” (Provs. 22:29)

One wag said of work: “There is nothing that concerns man so much as work. It is something that when we have it, we wish we didn’t; when we don’t have it, we wish we did; and the object of most of it is to be able to one day afford to do none of it.”

But, as long as we live, God has a job for us to do! The fact that you are still alive is proof that your work here is not yet done. Charles Spurgeon said, “Remember, you are immortal ‘til your work is done. If the Lord has more witness for you to bear, then you will have to bear it. Who is he that can break the vessel which the Lord intends again to use?”

In Ecclesiastes 9:10, Solomon exhorts: “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, or device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.” Three things should be noted:

  1. That work is profitable—physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

Sir Walter Scott’s biographer wrote of him: “He could toil terribly.” It was reported that Scott had on the face of his watch the verse, “I must work the works of Him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh when no man can work.”

Not only is work profitable, it is honorable.  All honest work is honorable!  Digging ditches, sweeping chimneys, cleaning house, sitting on a court bench, making or selling cars, farming, hauling garbage, banking, waiting on tables, serving in health-care, and more! “There is no difference between the secular and the sacred. Every bush is a burning bush, and all ground is holy ground.” Plowing corn is as honorable as preaching Christ if it is the job God has given you to do!

2. That work should be done with enthusiasm.

“And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily as to the Lord, and not unto men.” (Col.3:23) Paul admonishes that we should be “not slothful in business; fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.” (Romans 12:11)

Can you imagine Jonah preaching to Nineveh without passion, “Yet 40 days and Nineveh shall be overthrown?”

Or, John the Baptist without enthusiasm preaching “the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand?

Or, the Israelites, nonchalantly in chorus singing, just having come through the Red Sea, “The Lord is my strength and song: and He is become my salvation….” (Ex.15:2 ff.)

Or, Jesus coming to the Temple and—finding that it had become a den of thieves—saying without fervor, “Take these things hence; make not my Father’s House a House of merchandise!

I think of Peter, in John 21, seeing Jesus on the sea shore, jumping into the water to go to meet again His risen Lord.  Talk about being excited; he barely got his fisher’s coat around him before he jumped to Jesus! And, in the Old Testament, on a mission for God, Jehu calling out to King Jehonadab, “Come with me and see my zeal for the Lord!” (2 Ki.10:16) So, whatever we put our hands do, if it is honorable work, done in the will of and for the glory of God, we should do with enthusiasm with all our might.

3. Finally, in the spirit of Solomon’s wise exhortation, we should do our work understanding that there will not always be the time nor the opportunity to do what needs to be done.

“And that knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.” (Romans 13:11) The great educational reformer and abolitionist Horace Mann said, “I have never heard anything about the resolutions of the Apostles, but I have heard a great deal about the Acts of the Apostles.”

A godly deacon in a church I pastored came home tired one evening from climbing utility poles and repairing and replacing lines. He told me, “The moment I got stretched out comfortably on the couch, the Lord brought to my mind a person who was in a downtown hospital that I knew needed to accept Christ. I left my resting place, made my way downtown, visited the patient who, upon hearing the gospel again, got saved.” I have never forgotten Henry’s personal testimony to me about how important it was to serve “knowing the time….” Henry was a very humble layman and would have never shared that story for any commendation on his part, but he evidently was prompted to share it with his pastor; and, I have been encouraged by it many times to leave what I wanted to do and to do what I needed to do.

“And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish Thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish Thou it.” (Ps. 90:17)

A Tribute to Fathers

Father’s Day is this coming Sunday, so I will dedicate this post to dads of all ages. And, simply, what I would like to do is pass along to you, fathers, and anyone else whose eyes have fallen upon these lines, a poem that I wrote to my godly father on the occasion of his 86th birthday in 1998. It is a bit different than the usual poem to a dad, but I think you might find it thoughtful.  I hope you will enjoy it, and if in any way you could use it, feel free to do so.  Dad would live to celebrate eight more birthdays, getting his Iowa driver’s license renewed on his last, at the age of 94. His wife of 72 years had passed on to glory just a few months before Dad would.  He came through the depression and cut wood in freezing weather, eating frozen jelly sandwiches if he could get them, and I respect him and loved him dearly. As I might have written earlier, Dad was the “hand-shaking” kind and never offered a hug, except for receiving one from my sisters who would not be denied. But his eyes spoke volumes and I never doubted his love, and will always be grateful to God for his memory. Oh, by the way, very late in his journey, I finally screwed up enough of whatever it took to give Dad a hug.  He did not of course resist.  I think it was a first and last for us, but I am glad I have the memory. I have tried to remember to give our son a hug whenever we part.

Time and Beyond
Time, the treasure given to each
With worlds of successes just out of reach;
Time past, ‘twas so fleet,
Time future, not certain:
We race to the finish 
To beat life’s last curtain.
Too often the fury with
Which life speeds by,
Keeps us from seeking 
Or asking just why.
Why are we here,
And where came we from?
Where will we be 
When all of life’s done?
Who are we, anyhow?
What is our goal?
Is there inside of
This body a soul?
Sages through ages
Have sought these I know:
God in His wisdom through 
Grace did bestow.
In His good Book
The answers we read;
By His bright light
Our souls He doth lead.
Leads through the maze
Of this trip to each given;
Leads by His grace and
Through faith on to Heaven.
Time will one day be
Forever no more; 
Heaven’s ahead on
Eternity’s shore.
No death there above,
No sorrow or pain:
Only His comfort and
Just what is gain.

Happy Father’s Day to all!  
ALS
June 19, 2022

Ever Slide Back?

In the grand hymn penned by John Wyeth “Come Thou Fount” the third stanza reads “O to grace how great a debtor, daily I’m constrained to be; May Thy goodness like a fetter bind my wandering heart to Thee. Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love; Here’s my heart, O take and seal it; seal it for Thy courts above.”’

Most everyone will readily admit that “prone to wander” is not a foreign concept. It is something that, because of the “world, the flesh and the Devil,” believers will struggle with until they leave their body and this world for heaven. In the Old Testament book of Jeremiah, the weeping prophet took a whole nation to task because of their wanton wandering spiritually.  He called them backsliders:

“Hast thou seen that which backsliding Israel hath done?” (3:6) “Backsliding Israel committed adultery.” (3:8) “Backsliding Israel hath justified herself more than treacherous Judah.” (3:11) “Return backsliding Israel saith the Lord.” (3:12) “Turn O backsliding children saith the Lord for I am married to you.” (3:14) “Return ye backsliding children and I will heal your backslidings.” (3:22)

An old preacher said of the backslider: “It is miserable to be a backslider. Of all the unhappy things that can befall a man, I suppose it is the worst. A stranded ship, an eagle with a broken wing, a garden covered with weeds, a harp without strings, a church in ruins—all these are sad sights, but a backslider is a sadder sight still.”

That state did not occur overnight. There is an observable progression (or should I say regression) that leads to a backslidden state. In fact, Jeremiah details the steps of spiritual regression that took Israel, God’s chosen nation, to the backslidden state that he addresses. Follow with me that prophet’s points in chapter 2:

  •  Forgetfulness, vss. 31,32 Forgetfulness contains the seeds of spiritual rebellion. “Can a maid forget her ornaments or a bride her attire? Yet my people have forgotten me days without number.” Jer. 2:32 In verse 31 Jeremiah had quoted them as saying “We are lords; we will come no more unto thee.” i.e., lords, as beasts that had broken their yoke; unharnessed people, rambling about unbridled.

Forgetfulness breeds forgetfulness “days without number.” What had they forgotten?

  • They had forgotten God. Ps.78:11: “And (they) forgot His works and His wonders….”
  • They had forgotten the name of God: Jer.23:27: “Which think to cause my people to forget my name by their dreams which they tell every man to his neighbor, as their fathers have forgotten my name for Baal.”
  • They had forgotten God’s Word. Hosea 4:6: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge…seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God….”
  • They had forgotten their resting place. Jer.50:6: “My people hath been lost sheep…they have gone from mountain to hill; they have forgotten their resting place.”
  • They forgot God their Savior. Ps.106:21: “They forgot God their Savior which had done great things in Egypt.”

When believers forget the works of God, the Word of God, the name of God, their resting place in God and God their Savior, then they have taken step 1 in the backsliding downward spiral:

“He that lacketh these things is blind and cannot see afar off and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.” (2 Pet.1:9)

  •  Step two is compromise, v. 33.  When we slide back spiritually, we trim our ways and often justify it by claiming to do it in love. “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” (James 4:4)

In the pre-World War I days of America, Teddy Roosevelt blasted the German-American population for what he considered at that time “divided loyalties.”  He said, “America is not a polyglot boarding house.” He called them “hyphenated Americans?” And said “If a man is an American and something else, he is not an American.” The application for believers is that we are either for Him or against Him, and a “worldly Christian” is a contradiction of truth. Billy Sunday said, “Worldly Christian? You might as well speak of a heavenly devil.”

The backslider will not only go down and away from where he once stood with Christ, but he will take others with him. Jeremiah said: “Why trimmest thou thy way to seek love? Therefore hast thou also taught the wicked ones thy ways.” (2:33)

Compromise is dangerous. During the Civil War the man who lived by the North/South border not wanting to be identified with either side decided to wear blue pants and a grey coat. The result was not a pretty one:  The Yanks shot him in the coat and the rebs shot him in the pants!

In the later half of the 19th century in England, truth was taken to the stake and Charles Haddon Spurgeon would have nothing of the compromise of his day. Of the prince of preachers, Joseph Parker, a contemporary, said, “The only colors Mr. Spurgeon knew were black and white. With him you were either up or down; in or out; alive or dead. As for middle zones…he only looked upon them as heterodox and as implacable enemies of the Metropolitan Tabernacle.”

  • Step three:  Living in known sin, Jer.2:34: “In thy skirts is found the blood of the souls of the poor innocents: I have not found it by secret search, but upon all these.”
  • Fourth: Insensitivity to sin, Jer.2:35–, trying to justify sin and attempting to avoid judgment for it. (Read Jeremiah 42:14-16 where God reminds His people that they can run from Him–to Egypt– but they cannot hide from Him and the “sword which ye feared shall overtake you there….”)

Hard words?  Yes.  Tough lessons?  To be sure. But backsliding was not unique to Israel. It would eventually bring upon them the judgment of captivity in 722 B.C. when Assyria swept down and took captive 10 of the 12 tribes, the northern kingdom, the “10 lost tribes” which will not be returned again to their Israeli homeland until the King of Kings accomplishes His promised restoration at His 2nd Coming.

So, learn with me of the severity of the sin of backsliding.  We who have been born again are each capable of doing what the backslidden nation of Israel did. There is a remedy and it is stated plainly in 2 Pet. 1:10 right after Peter warns us about having forgotten that we have been purged from our old sins: “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall.”

Selah.

The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways: and a good man shall be satisfied from himself.” (Provs.14:14)

A Sinner Meets His Savior

Jesus, walking along the shores of Galilee followed by six to eight disciples, had just returned to His home in Capernaum from a preaching tour that had taken Him throughout all of Galilee.  He had healed broken and burdened bodies, cast out demons, and instructed His disciples concerning the coming Kingdom of God.  He had preached repentance and righteousness to the multitudes.  He might well have been physically exhausted, but there was a meeting that He would not miss. So He made His way to the Gate of Receipts where the Tax Collector, Matthew or Levi by name, was stopping people so that their goods could be inventoried, with special attention given to what might be an import or export subject to taxation.

Matthew was hated by the people of Capernaum for two glaring reasons: (1) He was a religious misfit, for according to Jewish tradition taxation was more than a nuisance—it was illegal and immoral. Tithes were paid to God, but to be required to pay taxes to the state, especially to a foreign entity, was contradictory to their customs, laws and traditions; (2) He was also a political renegade, aligning himself in his employment as a representative of the Roman empire, a traitor to his own nation. He was, therefore, hated and despised.

Yet it was to this man at that place that Jesus made His way, and with the bustling city of Capernaum on one side and the beautiful blue waters of the Sea of Galilee on the other side, Jesus and Matthew met.  The Tax Collector that day had no business with Jesus, for Jesus owned nothing, not even a place to lay His weary head. But Jesus had business to do with the Tax Collector. He was to lay claim on his very life, his soul’s destiny.

In Matthew’s later account of that life-changing encounter, recorded in Matthew 9:1-13, the conversion of this rebel Jew is recounted. One would have to conclude that it was sovereignly wrought. There was nothing religious about the man Matthew. He was not moral, and his friends were “publicans and sinners.” Yet, he was instantaneously converted when he heard the invitation of Christ to follow Him. Jesus saw in Matthew not only what he was, but what he would be. Matthew did not have to be told that he was a sinner; he lived with that reality daily. And, meeting the Savior, God’s Spirit had prepared his heart to believe and to receive the invitation of this itinerant preacher who had come to seek and to save that which was lost. Matthew, Levi, was on the spot saved by grace through faith, repenting of his sin and accepting the Messiah as his Savior. The same way every person, great or small, has ever—or ever will be—saved.

We see Matthew’s conversion and also his call to be a disciple. It is said that, immediately, Matthew left his tax table and followed Jesus. He surrendered for service and his first act in service was to testify to his fellow publicans what had happened to him when he met his Master. He prepared a dinner and invited all who would come to enjoy company with his newly found Lord and Savior.

I thought of what Matthew could have said in response to Jesus’ invitation: “Follow Me.”

  • “Hey, Man, been thinking about what all I have heard about You since You moved to Capernaum; I might be interested, but just let me finish what I am doing here and I’ll be right along. OK?”
  • “Me?  Follow You? Well, You’ve got too many hypocrites aboard Your ship. I know Peter, James and John; they can cuss right along with the rest of us reprobates and sinners.  No, I’ll stay here with my own crowd. Thanks!”
  • “Hey, I think I’d like to, but come around next year. I’ve got to get caught up on some bills, and get better established, but one of these days I’ll really give myself to following You. Serious.”
  • “Do You know who my father was? He was the late Alphaeus, one of the most religious men in these parts. Why do You think I have a name like Levi anyway? I come from a very religious background.  No, I’m alright, Sir. You’d better spend Your time trying to get the bad boys straightened out.”
  • “So, You want me just to get up and follow You? What do You think my family would say? They’d call me a religious fanatic for sure.  I can’t just traipse around the country following Someone I’ve never met before. Besides, I have a certain income requirement I doubt You could meet. No, I had better pass on this one.”
  • “I’ll follow You, but there are some things I don’t understand that You’ll have to answer for me first.”
  • “Follow You? Not on Your life! Why, I’m rich; I’m well liked by other publicans, and we’re just having a ball. Your religion is for old ladies.”
  • “Well, I might, but You see I once knew this prophet who claimed to be a man of God, and he ran off with the Temple secretary and I decided right there this religion stuff was not for me.”
  • “So, You want me to follow You? I know what You are after…You want to rake your fingers through some of these coins; you’re just after me for my money. Nothing doing!”
  • “Well, I’d like to, but it just seems too simple; there has to be more to it than to just ‘Follow You.’”

But the text says that when Jesus told Matthew to “Follow Me,” Matthew “arose, and followed Him.” No questions. No hesitation. No protestations. He arose and followed Jesus. He would be numbered among the Apostles of our Lord. And the Tax Collector, faithful as a follower in a few things, would be responsible for great things in the Kingdom of God. He became a leader in the early church, and through him God would give the world the Gospel of Matthew, proving to the Jewish world that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed the Son of David, Son of Abraham, Son of God, the long -awaited Messiah.

And He said to them all, If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for My sake shall save it.” (Luke 9:23,24)