THE BIG SNOW

Somehow I made it through my message Sunday morning, February 13th. I was desperately ill. Sinus infection coupled with either bronchitis or pneumonia had me in an awful state. We cancelled our evening small group study. This has been a punishing winter. I was unable to do more than rise from the bed for a few minutes at a time.
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THE MOCCASIN LETTER

I could not have known that July 4, 1955, would be one of the most important dates
in my life. It was a Monday. My Navy buddy, Leroy, and I had been invited to a Sunday
school picnic. The Community Baptist Church of Deerfield, Illinois, was meeting at a
community park for its annual picnic. “Just bring yourselves, there’ll be plenty of food,”
we were assured by the ladies of the church. That’s what we did.

I had found the little mission church on a Sunday night when, as an infant Christian, I knew I belonged in church. “We preach Christ, Crucified, Risen and Coming Again,” the advertising flyer of the church said. Someone had placed it on the bulletin board of the Navy Ship Service store. That little flyer led me to the church and acquaintance with its people, though I usually went into Chicago to church with another buddy on Sundays.

About eleven o’clock that holiday morning we found the park, left the car in the parking lot and began to mingle with the people. After an hour or two of playing softball with a few of the very young children there and a couple of dads, we were called to eat. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a pretty brunette who was playing with her little brother and generally looking after him. She looked very young. Later in the afternoon the girl’s mother approached the pastor of the church and suggested that “these young people be introduced.” We were. The young lady was named “Jane Shipley.” She lived in the nearby city of Evanston.

One thing led to another and I found myself inviting Jane and “anyone who wanted to go” to the upcoming Youth For Christ meeting in Chicago the following Saturday. Jane and the other young people there accepted our invitation and Jane’s mother assured us they could go. Leroy and I were to drive, in my little black Chevrolet, to Evanston, pick up the young people, three girls, and proceed on to Chicago for the youth meeting. I was secretly interested in this pretty but very young girl but hardly dared admit it, even to myself. Nevertheless, we went. We all had a good time and that get-acquainted trip landed Leroy and me an invitation to return to Jane’s home the following day for Sunday school and church and the noon dinner.

TOO YOUNG?

Jane was just sixteen and later I endured some good-natured kidding from my Navy buddies who accused me of “robbing the cradle.” I brushed aside their remarks as mere envy. I was uneasy, though, for I was afraid her parents would call a halt to things if they suspected I was interested in a serious relationship. All the young people from time to time reminded each other that “Ken was twenty-one.” The way they referred to it made me think of my sophomore course in high school English. We had studied “The Ancient Mariner.”

What I didn’t know was that Jane had put her girl friends on notice that she was interested in me and that they were to “stay away!” At the speed with which our relationship would develop, it was probably providential that I didn’t know.

BACK TROUBLE

Not many days had passed when Jane began to develop serious back pain. At that point I learned that back trouble was not new to her. She wore a lift in one shoe to compensate for a spinal curvature. She had previously been under the care of an osteopathic physician. She returned to South Bend, Indiana, about one hundred miles away, for his further evaluation. She was ordered to check into the Osteopathic Hospital there for treatment. Jane’s parents had lived in the greater South Bend area before coming to Evanston, Illinois, so it was natural for them to quickly arrange the hospital stay for her. She was to be there about three days. She would be “in traction,” whatever that was. Alternately I felt sorry for her with her back trouble and for myself, knowing I would not see her for awhile. We had spent several Sundays together at her church and home. She played the piano and we sang hymns together. It was getting to be a habit I liked. I wondered if any feelings she might have for me would “cool” while she was away. What could I do about it?

In the meantime, I had my duties to perform at the Naval Air Station at nearby Glenview. I was what the Navy called a “yeoman.” A yeoman is assigned to do office work either ashore or on board ship. The sailors with hard physical work to do referred to we yeomen by a slur that must not be mentioned here. Usually this was done out of our hearing inasmuch as we had access to their personnel files which placed some of them at our mercy. The result was a standoff with we yeomen having the easier work and the others disguising their disdain for us as best they could.

During those days of my early acquaintance with Jane, I am afraid my office efficiency was not up to par. I found myself thinking of her a great deal of the time. Now that her back trouble was a major factor, I was all the more concerned. I mused from time to time, “How could one so pretty have a bad back?”

HOSPITAL CALL

The day came when Jane was to make the trip, with her mother, to South Bend for, her hospital treatment. Other members of her family lived in that northern Indiana area and would support her mother and other family members while she was there.

After a day or two of her treatment I inquired about coming to see her. Somehow I got a day off from my Navy duties and permission to be out of the area. Jane’s family seemed to have no objection to my coming to see her. I wasn’t sure I could find the place, but I certainly was bent on trying.

I arrived in South Bend, found a parking place near the hospital and hurried in to see Jane. It was a wonderful summer afternoon and I struggled to contain my joy at the prospect of seeing her. I wanted to run across the deeply shaded street and through the parking lot. At the same time, I dreaded seeing her “in traction.” What could it mean?

As I recall, her room was on the second floor of the small brick building. I surveyed my appearance quickly and stepped quietly into the room which, I think, was a rather large ward, but Jane was either the only person there or the only one I really saw. I slipped up to her bedside expecting to see her in great pain or in a very difficult circumstance of some kind. Instead, I was greeted by her bright eyes and wonderful smile. She left no doubt that I was welcome. As she lay in her bed in a white gown I saw that she was stretched full length and was under covers from the waist down except for her feet. There were devices of some sort attached to both her feet and metal weights hung over the side of the bed. “Oh,” I thought, “That’s what “˜traction’ is!” Before I could ask her if it hurt, she began talking to me in a very friendly and disarming manner, complete with a touch of embarrassment.

At this point I would like to say I handed her a gift or a bouquet of flowers but I am sure I didn’t. My Navy salary after taxes and small amount deducted for a savings bond was about $80 per month. I worked after office hours in Glenview at the Kroger store there to pay for my car and other personal expenses. Also, looking back on the event, I probably did not know enough about hospital protocol at the time to even be embarrassed that I could not bring a gift.

We talked for awhile as I nervously contemplated that a nurse would soon ask me to leave if it looked like I was going to overstay my welcome. All too quickly the time came when I knew my acceptability in the room was reaching an end. I said my goodbye as I reached to take Jane’s hand in mine. Her dancing eyes and warm smile reassured me that my trip was not a wasted one. I walked away and back to my car, my heart swimming with delight!
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Remembering A Wrong

“So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24, ESV)

******

At the very beginning of my Christian experience, God sent a fellow sailor into my life to show me an awful wrong in my past. It is difficult to describe the transition from my lost condition as a young religious individual to that of a Christian believer. In fact, I know, of course, that “transition” is hardly the word. It is actually a passing “from death to life” (John 5:24). It is a new birth, a new creation, a new ownership. And there were wrongs in my life that very much needed to be righted.

The sailor I refer to was a young petty officer, several grades in rank above me in the Navy. One day I came into the barracks and glanced at his “rack” (bed) and saw a Bible lying there. My instant thought was, “Why would anyone bring a holy book into a godless place like this?” Within a few days I had met the young man and owner of the Bible. He was Ed Moore from Alabama and he was just finishing a four-year tour of duty in the Navy. I was just beginning my two-year tour.

Without actually confronting me with my need of Christ, Ed simply lived the Christian life before me, referring often to his Bible and questioning me about my background. I do not know, exactly, when I was saved but I am inclined to think that it was right about this time. As I learned the truth I believed it, hence, I am not sure at precisely what moment God saved me. In large part he was responsible for setting me on the path that won me to the Lord.

Before long our conversations turned to girls and some of our dating relationships. He fondly told me of a young Japanese girl he had met while overseas with whom he had fallen in love. After an extended period of dating Ed described as a wonderful relationship he had had with this young lady, they had agreed to bring this relationship to an end, mostly I think because of their racial differences. Ed was clearly moved to tell me about it though the events he described were a couple of years old.

One afternoon as we were standing around talking, just the two of us, I found myself volunteering information I had never told anyone. Probably as a response to Ed’s disclosure that he had had a serious dating relationship, I confessed that day that so had I. In fact, I went on to tell him, I was actually engaged to marry a young woman with whom I had gone to high school. Her name was “Sally.” As nearly as I can remember, the following was my confession; a confession I made to my friend more than fifty years ago.
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What If 2005 Is My Last Year Here?

James 4:13-17; 5:19-20

Introduction

I have a very painful lesson in my past that comes to my mind from time to time. When we boys, my brother and I, were young, my dad would take us fishing. We didn’t have much of this world’s goods so the best we could do to get a boat for our fishing trips was to rent one from “Cranberry Landing.” These were big old, leaky, flat-bottomed things that were hard to row but they were stable for young boys’ safety and, best of all, the rent was only fifty cents a day. Through those young years of mine, we were often out on Buckeye Lake (Ohio) with my dad, having fun fishing.

Back in the late seventies, after my dad retired, he was able to buy a small fishing boat of his own along with a trailer. He loved the boat and proudly showed it to us the first time we came to his house from where I taught and pastored, about three hours away. I knew he was thinking of all those times we had used someone else’s old worn out fishing boat when we were kids. Now he had a nice shiny aluminum boat with nice seats in it and a good trailer for spotting it up anyplace we wanted to put it into the water.

Summer came the first year my dad had the boat and he invited me and the boys to come over to Buckeye Lake to go fishing with him. I didn’t get around to making a date to go and the summer passed. The next summer, he invited us again a number of times. I made excuses. The truth is I didn’t want to admit to Dad that I didn’t have money for my fishing license. That summer, too, passed.

The next year my dad fell into poor health. Just before Thanksgiving time, God took him home. We never did get to go fishing in Dad’s nice little boat. I had intended to but the time got away and so did our opportunities. I took some comfort in knowing that my brother and our son-in-law got to go with Dad several times, but I never did. Lost opportunities!

Recently I read an article by a missionary. In it he asked, “Would it make any difference if you knew 2005 was going to be chiseled on your tombstone?” That thought is the seed bed of this message.

I. OPPORTUNITIES ARE FLEETING THINGS

One passage in the New Testament has presumption written all over it:

13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.”
14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. (James 4:13-14a, NIV)

I suppose we’ve all heard the little quip: “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.” Unfortunately, so is the road to Heaven. I always intended to get up to my dad’s home and go fishing with him, at least one last time. But I never did. Opportunities are fleeting things.

The Bible writer James, here in chapter 4 says: Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money.” v 13 NRSV. Nothing should interfere with our plans. We presume there is always time to get around to doing the things we have postponed. Not so. We are here only a little time, then life “vanishes away.” (v 14) Opportunities are fleeting things — there may not be a tomorrow.

II. LET’S DO IT RIGHT

One translation of v 17 in our text says: “Whoever knows what is right to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” (RSV) There is any number of things we as Bible believers know we ought to do before God takes us home or before He comes for us. Would we want to know we had done our best to accomplish them if 2005 were to show up on our tombstone? Let’s think for a few minutes about doing it right. Doing as a Christian, promptly, what God would have me do.

Note in our text that not doing right is sin for whoever knows what is right to do (v 17a). The same thing when omitted by someone else might not be the least bit blameworthy. Why? Because that person might not know it is something right to do. A lost person has no desire to witness of Christ. And he has no obligation. The Bible says: “Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy” (Psalm 107:2). Along the same line, it is important to remember that only the believer is commanded to come to church (Hebrews 10:25), not the unbeliever. He has no command to come in to us, but we have a command to go out to him (“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations” Matthew 28:18).

Let’s do it right, this business of sharing our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Someone you know is waiting for your witness to the truth. Someone you are around needs to know whose team you are on. That person needs to know that you care that he or she goes to Heaven and not Hell. You are the only Jesus some people may ever see. Put it down. A person will not come to Jesus stumbling over my bad example — or yours!

A young teenage girl went off to Christian camp for a week. Excited to live for the Lord, she came home and sought to witness to her loved ones. After some days, she slipped in her Christian example. An ignorant loved one saw the example and said, “And she has been to Christian camp too! You say how unfair. You are right. But as someone has said, God never calls His children to a fair fight. The odds will always be stacked against us. That’s so we are reminded to depend entirely on the Lord and not ourselves. The Psalmist reminds us: “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?” (Psalm 118:6)

Here was a young teen who went home and tried to live up to all the light she had. She was not entirely successful. A lesser person, an adult besides, accused her of not being a very good Christian. Perhaps she was not. But, at least that adult knew which side she was on. Do the people around you in everyday life know whose side you are on? I hope they do. It matters that we get it right. God does not necessarily hold us responsible to succeed. He does, however, hold us responsible to be faithful. “In stewards, servants, it
is required that a man be found faithful.” (I Corinthians 4:2)

III. THE ULTIMATE NEED OF EVERYONE

All of us would agree, would we not, that Christians desire to meet men’s needs. I well remember, that more than forty years ago I presented a message to my church which took up this concept. “Christians desire to meet men’s needs,” I stated. Then I stated: “The greatest need of every human being is Jesus Christ. Therefore,” I said, “our greatest mission is presenting Christ to others.” I still believe that is true.

Verse 20, of chapter five of James states: “whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” Often our prayer meetings boil down to being merely requests for sick folk and challenges to missionaries. We would do well to pause and ask ourselves if praying for a sick person’s soul is not infinitely more important than praying for his or her physical healing, important though that is?

Getting our prayers answered is a matter of asking aright (James 4:3). All through the fifth chapter of James runs the theme of need: Are you suffering? Are you sick? Are you unsaved? Great need. Great need which only God can alleviate. So often we feel we have been at our best when praying for needs but if we are praying for needs that are among the least folk need at the time, we are not asking aright.

The ultimate need of everyone is the Lord Jesus Christ. Are we doing all we can to see that our loved one’s greatest need is met, our work companion, our son, our daughter, our mother, our father?

Conclusion

If we knew, somehow, if we were just soon to find out, 2005 will be my last opportunity to see my precious friend, relative, loved one saved, what would we do? Until that need is met, we have a right, yea a duty to pray that God will help us meet that need. If it is right to pray about, it is right to keep on praying about.

Robert Morgan in his Stories Illustrations and Quotes cites the example of the great Methodist preacher, John Wesley: “John Wesley averaged three sermons a day for fifty-four years. In his work of evangelism he traveled by horseback or by carriage more than 200,000 miles. His published works include a four-volume commentary on the whole Bible, a four-volume work on church history, six books on church music, and seven volumes of sermons. He also edited a set of fifty books known as The Christian Library. He was greatly devoted to pastoral work, taking on himself the care of all the Methodist churches, never rising later than 4 A.M. and seldom concluding his labors before 10 P.M”
[S-104, 514]

Oh how we need Wesley’s example in these challenging days to live out our lives as though this year were our last year. Amen.

A Friend At Christmas

Today is December 17th, another eight days and Christmas will be here for 2004. What will you be doing this Christmas? If you have a live wire and bubbly family, Christmas will probably be a time of friendship and laughter, of love and giving.
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Help For Your Marriage

God Meant Marriage to Be Great

My wife, Jane, and I have been married forty-nine years as of this coming Christmas. We were married on Christmas Eve in 1955. We have spent our ministry lives trying to help people. Especially, we have tried to help people have a better marriage. We think we can help you too.

There aren’t many storybook marriages: boy meets girl, they have a whirlwind courtship. They get married and live happily ever after. Usually that is just for stories and the movies On the other hand. God meant marriages to be happy, to be great marriages.
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If I Should Die Before I Wake

The little boy was only five years old. His parents were trying to keep body and soul together during the Great Depression. They lived in a humble little cottage in a small Ohio industrial town. The little boy had a younger brother and a baby sister. His father worked nights at a nearby industrial plant. There were many lonely hours for the family as they awaited their husband and dad’s return from work late each night.
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What Do I Need With Church?

A homeless man found his way to the door of a large downtown church in a certain major city. It was Sunday morning, biting cold gripped his poorly clad body. He wrapped his aging threadbare jacket about him and waited on tile curbing for the end of the service when the parishioners would emerge and help him, or so he thought. When the worshipers emerged, the service ended, they moved down the steps from the beautiful auditorium. Now was his chance. He approached the nearest worshiper and was going to offer his services at the man’s home in exchange for a warm meal. The man quickly turned aside and hurried away. To his right and to his left the well-dressed parishioners glance his way and moved quickly on or tried to pretend they did not see him. Finally, the man stood alone and glanced up just in time to see the minister disappear into the foyer. He heard the door being firmly locked.
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Under God

Tuesday November 2, 2004 was an historic day in our country. I would be remiss in my responsibility as a pastor to allow this moment to pass without calling attention to it and without thanking God in prayer.
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The Passion Of Christ

A Chronological Reading Arrangement Of The Gospels

Prelude

Matthew 26:31-35
Mark 14:27-31
John 17:1-26

On the Mount of Olives

Luke 22:39-46

Gethsemane

Matthew 26:36-46
Mark 14:32-42

Arrest

Matthew 26:47-56
Mark 14:43-52
Luke 22:47-53
John 18:1-11

Interrogation and Abuse

Matthew 26:57-27:31
Mark 14:53-15:20
Luke 22:54 — 23:25
John 18:12-19:16a

Crucifixion

Matthew 27:32-56
Mark 15:21-41
Luke 23:26-49
John 19:16b-37

Burial

Matthew 27:57-66
Mark 15:42-47
Luke 23:50-56
John 19:38-42

Resurrection and
Post — Resurrection
Appearances

Matthew 28:1-20
Mark 16:1-20
Luke 24:1-53
John 20:1-21:25

If the reader goes through this, section by section, one should have a clear historical picture of what Christ did for you.