Posts Tagged ‘Brethren’

My Trio of Troopers 2

“And three of the thirty chief men went down and came about harvest time to David at the cave of Adullam, when a band of Philistines was encamped in the Valley of Rephaim.” (2 Sam. 23:13; ESV)

Not only am I blessed to have a fellow soldier like Chuck, the Lord also added blessing upon blessing by placing my dear brother Frank in my life. Frank grew up in a nominally Catholic family and by the time he reached his teen years, sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll and brawls filled his life as a gang member. Incidentally, Chuck too was headed down the path towards the gangster life before God sovereignly saved him. Perhaps this is why God is more real to them than to me …

After God delivered Frank from the bondage of sin and Satan, he told me he would spend hours each day on his knees in prayer and in the Word. He would often experience “demonic attacks” which drove him to even more prayer. I met Frank in a “Brethren” assembly (not the same one where I met Chuck) and his reverence/hunger for God drew me to him. Eventually, Chuck got to meet him too, and I can remember fond times of fellowship with both of them.

Though the world (and sadly some Christians) may look upon him as just a lowly janitor, God used Frank for His glory. Chuck and I gave him some advice on books to aid in his study of God’s Word, and God has opened doors for him to feed the Lord’s sheep: at this point, he has preached over 300 sermons in various assemblies. But it’s not how many times he’s preached; it’s what he’s preaching. Though I’ve only heard  him preach a few times, his sermons always have a devotional quality to them, an aroma of Christ that the saints can savour and be nourished with.

Frank also has a heart for the elderly saints and he would often drive them to meetings and have sweet fellowship with them at their homes. In fact, for over 20 years, he has been meeting at the home of a widow with a few other elderly saints every Sunday evening for spiritual conversations. These are not your typical “tea and cookies” get togethers that so often passes for Christian fellowship; no, no—there would be earnest prayers, singing and sharing of the Word and food, encouragement and exhortation, and lots of laughter and love too. It’s just church in its simplest form. No wonder Frank would be positively glowing as he recounted for me what he learned from the lives of these dear saints.

Being around older believers, it is inevitable that he would see his share of suffering, sorrow and death. Indeed, he has spoken at more than one funeral; in particular, how difficult it must have been a few years ago when he preached the funeral sermon for a sister-in-the-Lord: a dear friend who was like a mother to him. But he’s also had to watch a former gang member friend die of AIDS, comfort a brother who lost both arms due to an industrial accident (and whose plight was largely ignored by his Christian employer) and a young father die of cancer shortly after his wife gave birth to their daughter, among many other stories of tears and tragedy.

When I strayed from the Lord for many years, not a day passed by that Frank did not but intercede for me, pleading with God that I might turn from my rebellion and return to the Author of my salvation. He would call me frequently, saying that God had moved him to pray specifically about something the Lord had laid on his heart—and the thing is, often it would be when I was very discouraged or about to do something I shouldn’t be doing.

While other Christians were rather blasé in their response to the good news that the Lord had restored and revived me, Frank responded like the prodigal’s father. A few weeks ago I paid him a visit to retrieve some of my books I had given him when I began my downward slide many years ago. As soon as he greeted me and welcomed me into his apartment, he said, “Paul, before anything else, let’s pray” and he promptly got on his knees and lifted his voice to his Father.

The entire time I was with him, there was no levity; the conversations centered on God and the blessings of our salvation and the spiritual warfare that we are engaged in. He would spontaneously interrupt our conversations and pray. He would share of his struggles and confess his sins in my (and God’s) presence. He would thank me for the books I gave him, even as he handed back many of them to me, saying it was time for me to use them.

Prayer is a priority and a reality for both Chuck and Frank; I am doubly blessed to have their example to follow. Without them in my life, where would I be today? I owe so much to their example, intercessions and encouragement. Our God is good!

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My Trio of Troopers

“And three of the thirty chief men went down and came about harvest time to David at the cave of Adullam, when a band of Philistines was encamped in the Valley of Rephaim.” (2 Sam. 23:13; ESV)

As I look back on my life, I am grateful that God put three dear brothers in my life who have shaped me and encouraged me: Chuck, Frank and Rob (not their real names). What a blessing their friendship and fellowship have been to me these past 20+ years!

How I met Chuck: I had finished reading A.T. Pierson’s wonderful biography of George Mueller. Most Christians, if they’ve heard of him at all, know him for his work of caring for orphans. They may not realize that he was part of a “restorationist” movement that history later dubbed the “(Plymouth) Brethren movement”, which was an attempt to return church life to its apostolic simplicity. This aroused my curiosity, so I made it a point to find such a church.

Since denominational labels are shunned by these churches, I did not know how I was going to locate one of these churches. As I flipped through the phone book under “Churches” I stumbled across some names that sounded “different”, e.g., “Woodland Drive Gospel Hall”. Aha! Maybe this is what I’m looking for! So I picked one that was near my home and made my way there one Sunday morning. I got there early and paced nervously back and forth outside the plain looking building.

Suddenly the door opened and a young man came out; Chuck saw me, smiled, waved and walked briskly towards me. Welcoming me warmly, he invited me in. Turns out I came too late for the “worship service” which they call “the Breaking of Bread” meeting (more on this when I begin my series on the Lord’s Supper). What followed was the “Bible Reading” meeting; which, as the name hints at, was essentially a Bible study, where any brother could share their insights or ask questions of the passage under consideration (women were to keep silent). Chairs were arranged around the room in two rectangles (inner and outer) to facilitate discussion. As we opened our Bibles to the passage, we smiled as we saw all the underlining and annotations in each other’s Bible. I knew then that Chuck and I would become good friends.

Yes, indeed, Chuck and I quickly developed a deep bond of friendship and fellowship in the gospel. I have many fond memories of how we shared our lives in Christ together:

  • feasting on the Word: it was a joy just to sit and dig into the Word together
  • building our library together: Hebrew/Greek, theology, commentaries, apologetics, biographies, etc.
  • evangelism: Chuck has the passion for and the gift of evangelism; we spent Sat evenings downtown with a few other brothers; Chuck would take his turn at giving a short gospel message while I would pass out tracts. We both also had opportunities to preach in the Sunday evening gospel meetings at different Brethren assemblies in the city (more so Chuck than I)
  • the thrill of discovering David’s mighty men: Calvin, Owen, Brooks, Sibbes, Whitefield, Edwards, Rowland, Rutherford, Gill, Spurgeon, Warfield, Lloyd-Jones, etc. and the doctrines of grace that they loved
  • our ministry: at one point, we published a quarterly newsletter, Sovereign Grace Herald, distributed tapes (Sovereign Grace Tape Ministry) and even organized a conference where a few of us young men spoke on the need for reformation and revival
  • we’ve also walked through the valley of darkness together; indeed our lives are parallel in so many respects
  • praying for each other and praying together for revival

In Chuck, I found someone who was earnest about following the Lord, studying the scriptures, passionate about sharing the gospel, and seriously seeking to live his life soli Deo gloria. In other words, a kindred spirit! Not only that, he cared enough about me to inquire often as to how I was faring spiritually and would encourage or exhort me as called for. This is something sorely lacking in most (all?) churches today; just listen to the conversation as the saints “fellowship” over “coffee and cookies” after the solemn preaching of God’s Word. I am truly blessed to have this brother in my life!

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