Things So Precious

Dr Willard Aldrich

It was the first day of Bible college and my new friend and I compared classes. “Oh, you want to get out of this one,” David said. “Both my brother and sister had him and you’ll be bored to death. Take the class by Dr So-and-Such. He’s so cool.”

The Registrar’s Office assured my worst nightmare: all the other classes for the Study of Salvation were full and I was stuck with Dr Willard Aldrich.

Dr Willard co-founded the school in 1936. He was old and old-school, so soft-spoken that from the center of the room I couldn’t hear him speak. His lecture notes hadn’t been updated since Tyrannosaurs walked the earth.

I’d arrive for class as early before 8 as possible for a seat in the much sought after back of the room. All went well until I was late and the only seats left in the room were in the front row. I was the only student in the front row.

He opened the notebook he’d been reading his lectures from for the previous 50 years and began reading so quietly I strained to hear him over the racket of a pin dropped on the carpet. B – O – R – I – N – G!!! To add to the insult, we could hear the laughter from Professor Hipster’s class next door.

I counted the “dots” in the ceiling panels overhead as Dr Aldrich droned on about the theology of Substitutionary Atonement. Then I saw that the old man had tears rolling down his cheeks. His quiet voice was because he was crying. The things he was teaching were so precious to him that he could barely speak of them! Jesus died in his place. A sinner, redeemed eternally at the cost of the life of the eternal Son of God. The Precious for the wicked. The Perfect for the flawed and ruined. The Saviour for the sinful.

Dr Aldrich became my favorite professor and I took every class he taught. A man whose heart was still touched after so many years by the mind-numbing truth of salvation was a man I needed to know.

When the death of Jesus no longer moves our heart, we need to repent and return to the place where I first saw the light and the burden of my heart rolled away. 

While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).


# 26 of 30 – The Working of the Word

This is # 26 of 30 ways that God’s Word, the Bible, works in the lives of His people.

God’s Word equips the believer for spiritual proficiency and ability in serving God and living for Him. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work …  (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

# 22 of 30 – The Working of the Word

This is # 22 of 30 ways that God’s Word, the Bible, works in the lives of His people.

God’s Word gives the believer training in living a righteous life. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness … (2 Timothy 3:16).


Leaning on the Everlasting Arms

The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms (Deuteronomy 33:27).

My friend Isaac Mathembe and his wife have a daughter who is almost one year old. Every day little Kimberly is being taught new things about life. She’s learning to walk, to talk, to feed herself, to solve conflicts with her brother and sister, to obey those in authority, and to follow Jesus faithfully.

The goal of her parents is that one day Kimberly will grow up and not need to rely upon them. Instead, she will be mature enough to live on her own, care for herself, and care for others. She won’t need to constantly run to Mom and Dad to meet her needs but she’ll be strong enough to rely on what she’s been taught about herself and about her God. This process is called maturity.

Spiritual maturity is very much the same. The work of the pastor is to teach the Word of God so that your faith matures. It is the Scriptures that mature the believer (2 Tim 3:16-17). As your faith in God grows, you’ll apply God’s Word to your life to meet your needs. You don’t rely on the pastor or your own strength, but you rely upon the strength of the Almighty God.

The past year and a half I’ve been teaching through the Book of Revelation verse-by-verse. One of the threads woven through the fabric of this book dealing with the end times is that God’s children will face overwhelming troubles in life. Despite those trials and difficulties, the sovereign God is in control, working all things together for good to them who love God and are the called according to His purpose (Rom 8:28). Rather than worry or doubt or give-in or call for the pastor, the child of God knows how to lean upon the everlasting arms of God and rejoice.


What We Shall Be

Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is (1 John 3:2).

Across the street from my home there is a 300-room hotel going up. When the hotel is opened, occupants will be able to look down right into my living room windows!

Because of our continual rainy weather, the 5-level building is covered in plastic so the work can go on. Once in a while, the construction workers will move the sheets of plastic and I’ll get a peek at what’s going on underneath, but most of what the hotel will be is hidden for now.

Early Christians were troubled when their saved friends and loved ones died. The Apostle Paul wrote to encourage and comfort them, explaining why believers don’t mourn over death like the unsaved do. The Bible’s great funeral text says that death comes with hope (1 Thess 4:12-18).

When a Christian dies, his spirit immediately goes into the presence of God in Heaven (2 Cor 5:6, 8). His body goes into the grave awaiting the resurrection of all believers, when mortality is transformed into immortality. In the resurrection, the body will be reunited with the soul and spend eternity in fellowship with God (John 5:29). At the same time, the bodies of living believers will be transformed and also rise to be with Christ in Heaven.

Like the hotel being constructed underneath the plastic, we don’t know everything about these resurrected bodies, but we do know a few things.

For the child of God, your resurrected body will be like Christ’s resurrected body (1 Cor 15:49-53). After His resurrection, Jesus ate food (Lk 24:42-43), and could touch and be touched (Jn 20:27). He had flesh and bone, but no blood (Lk 24:39) and was not bound by time or space so He could appear and disappear (Jn 20:19; Lk 24:31). More importantly, we will be made like Jesus in character, free from sin and the affects of sin.

For now, the details of these bodies is hidden from us, like the hotel across the street. To go beyond Scripture is to go beyond God, but we know that when Jesus returns, and we see Him as He is, we’ll be made like Him. Until then, everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure (1 John 3:3).


Do the Right Thing

I’d only been the pastor a few weeks when the church secretary called. A man of the congregation was in the office to get my permission to organize a visit to another man in the church who was ill. I was glad to hear of his desire, but explained that he didn’t need an organized effort or my permission to do the right thing.

As Christians, we don’t need organized plans by the pastor to show our care for one another. That’s a program, and churches don’t need any more programs. There’s no need for love to be discussed and orchestrated like a government committee. That isn’t love, it’s a arrangement.

Christ-like love is motivated by devotion in the individual heart. It simply and quietly acts without needing a bandwagon, publicity, and organized labor. When you love someone, and see a need, you do something.

Love. Do.

You don’t need permission and a group to do the loving thing.

Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart (First Peter 1:22).


The Parable of the Ant

So much to do and it seemed so little time to do it. He didn’t know where everyone else was going, but everyone was certainly busy. Always going. Always busy. At least that’s how it seemed.

The little black ant scurried his way along the invisible ant highway through the kitchen and up the table leg where he hoped to find a few crumbs of toast left behind. It was his job. He worked all day, every day, and would keep at it until the day he died.

Ant kept himself busy doing what he needed to do to feed his family, never dreaming that there was a world beyond what he knew. Why would he think beyond reality? He was busy in his own world; it was all that mattered.

There were times however, maybe better described as flickering moments, when the ant thought that maybe there were things bigger and greater than himself, his world, and what he knew. “Someday” he kept saying to himself, he’d find the time to ponder these things … but not today. Today would soon end and there was yet more work and even less time.

As Mom cleaned the kitchen and Dad walked out the door for the office, Timmy sat alone, his chin resting on the breakfast table, watching the little ant hurry back and forth searching. Like he did each morning, Timmy dropped a few crumbs from the crust of his toast for the ant to find. “Someday” he kept saying to himself, the ant would stop, look up, and thank him.

What is man that You are mindful of him, or the son of man that You take care of him? (Hebrews 2:6).


The Parable of Jasmine


She’d never known anything to really call her own. She couldn’t keep a job or a friend. There were men she thought she could confide in, but it turned out that they only wanted one thing from her. So desperate for acceptance, she gave in, but there was no love. Every time she gave the result was only greater emptiness.

One October morning she suspected and a test at a local clinic proved her suspicion true. The little one growing inside her womb needed her, and needed a chance like she’d never been given herself.

She brought the baby to term, but the past wouldn’t stop stalking her. The habits were bad, but the way of life and the self-destruction were even worse. As much as she loved her little Jasmine, she knew that for her daughter’s sake, Jasmine needed more than she could provide. She put Jasmine up for adoption.

Honestly, my first choice wasn’t a newborn, but when I received the long awaited call from the agency, I hurried into the city. Jasmine was as beautiful as any baby could be, and the moment she took my finger I knew … I just knew. She wasn’t expected, but she was selected. I chose to make make her my own, loved her as my own, treated her as my own, and gave her my name. Everything I was and had became hers that day.

Now, 23 years later, Jasmine is the most wonderful daughter any father could have, perfect in all her ways. Anyone who sees us together would believe I’m her father, because I am. To her, I’m Dad; to me, she’s my daughter, my precious and fragrant flower, my very own.

Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as children by Christ Jesus to Himself  (Ephesians 1:4-5).


A Responsibility to Help One Another

Americans are outraged at the number of poor living on our streets without food or shelter, yet individual acts of compassion are replaced with the question: why doesn’t the government fix this?

Over the past 100 years, the nations of the Western world have created extensive government programs of caring for the poor. The poor are still with us in even greater numbers despite taxpayer-funded housing, medical care, education, and even food, clothing and cell phones. No such government welfare existed in the ancient world.

In the Law of Moses, God required Israelite farmers to not harvest the edges and corners of their land. This food was to be left for the poor to collect. This system of gleaning (Lev 19:9-10) is expressed in the story of Ruth (Ruth 2:2-23). Individual Israelites had an individual responsibility to help one another.

In the New Testament, God also has a means of caring for the poor in the local church. If a congregation had the means, widows could be given food under strict guidelines found in First Timothy 5:3-16. A widow had to be: (1) married only once and her husband was dead; (2) without any other living relatives or financial means of her own; (3) over the age of 60 years; (4) known for her good works; (5) above accusation of sin in the community; (6) consistent in a life of prayer; and (7) trusting in God as her provider and not expecting others to meet the need.

Women younger than 60 are commanded to remarry (1 Tim 5:14), families are to care for their own relatives (1 Tim 5:4, 8), and a widow must also be active in meeting the needs of others (1 Tim 5:10).

Why is God so strict with His rules for the Church? Doesn’t He care about people? Of course He cares, He gave His Son to die for the salvation of sinners; but the primary work of the local congregation is the spiritual ministry of teaching the Word of God – not social welfare. His rules are strict to ensure the most needy are helped. Individual Christians have an individual responsibility to help one another.

Whoever has this world’s good, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth (1 John 3:17-18).


True and Righteous Justice

Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful (Luke 6:36).

There was an old preacher who hated to get his photograph taken. Every year he was required to get his picture taken for his new pastor’s identification card, and every year he refused. Finally the organization had enough of his disobedience and told him that if he didn’t get his picture taken, they wouldn’t renew his license to preach.

The old man reluctantly made an appointment for a new photograph. When the day came, he arrived at the photographer’s studio with a scowl etched on his face.

The photographer did all he could to make the preacher smile. Nothing worked. Finally the photographer sat down and asked, “Sir, why are you so grouchy today?

I don’t like to get my picture taken” he groused.

I’m sorry to hear that. So what’s the problem with getting your picture taken?” asked the photographer.

The preacher gnarled, “Pictures never seem to do me justice.

The photographer looked carefully at the preacher, then stood back up behind the camera. “Sir, it’s my professional opinion that you don’t need justice … you need mercy.”

You are mistaken if you believe you will ever find justice in this world. Flawed and sinful man will only ever dispense flawed and sinful justice; true and righteous justice comes only from God.

To this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: “Who committed no sin, nor was guile found in His mouth”; who when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously (1 Peter 2:21-23).