From the pastor
Greetings in the name or our Lord Jesus Christ. We come to you with a thankful heart for God's blessings upon us. We have several new members and the Lord's presence is felt among us. I encourage each member to pray that the Lord will continue to add to our little flock and enable us to minister to their needs. These blessings followed our messages on ministering to one another as we learned that every member is a minister. I believe the Lord is well pleased when He observes members becoming more like Jesus Christ as they minister to one another. To be a Christian is to be like Christ. Jesus said, "Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many"- Matthew 20:28. To be like Jesus is to minister to one another.
It was during these messages that we spoke on the subject, "Termites of Tradition" as we noted some of the traditions that have ensnared God's people and altered their affections. Our text was taken from II Kings 18:4 where Hezekiah, the king of Israel, brake the brazen serpent. We recognized the brazen serpent had a purpose in its day. But the their focus was altered from the Lord to the serpent and they began to burn incense to it and worship it. Typical of God's people in all ages. We all tend to look to something that we can see and touch to give us security. Hezekiah was faithful enough to call it what it was: "Nehushtan", a thing of brass…..no god at all. That Sunday, I listed some of the traditions that have plagued our people: Not supposed to preach all the Bible; Some sins are unforgivable; Must preach one hour; Can't use notes; Can't use microphone; A baptistery is a modern invention of man; Women can't wear pants to church; Not supposed to be zealous; Leave at least one Sunday open so that members can visit around; Don't take your Bible to church or people will think you want to preach; Do not have a radio broadcast because Satan is the prince of the power of the air waves; No singing in church; Preachers are not to prepare their sermons in advance; Don't look up Greek words; Don't disturb the flock with sermons that bring an accurate account of world events. I must admit, I felt a little nervous as I read this list. It was not only well received, but several members added other items to the list. Some people have worshipped their building, their location, their steps, their doors, their furniture and the list goes on. The shining of the gospel light into this dark world by the spreading of the message of Jesus Christ and Him crucified must be the focus of the church. Perhaps something was given by God in the past for an intended use. Yet, let it not become an item that we worship when its use has expired. Let us call it what it is…no god at all.
I appreciate the response to these messages and the ministering I observe going on among our people at Donaldson.
I have several trips scheduled for this summer and I ask for your prayers. I have been invited to preach the Wednesday night service at Macedonia Church, at Delark on April 24th. Services begin at 7 p.m. Elder Harvey has been very blessed at this church. If you can attend any of these Wednesday night services, I know they would be glad to see you. Elder Ronald Lawrence has invited me to the annual meeting of Bethel Primitive Baptist Church, at Nashville, Tennessee the first weekend of May. Elder Lawrence has only been there for a few months. I hope to make a portion of these services and be back at Donaldson on Sunday morning. I have a very busy schedule in June. My family and I are planning a vacation to England from June 5th through the 13th. My father was stationed there during W.W.II and I am looking forward to seeing where he was stationed and enjoying the many historical sites. The great preacher, Charles H. Spurgeon, is buried in England and I hope to visit the cemetery where he was buried as well as the reconstructed Metropolitan Tabernacle where he once preached. During our stay, I also hope to visit one of the particular Baptist Churches in the area. I am scheduled to be with Elder Lonnie Mozingo Sr. during the fifth weekend in June for a series of appointments at the churches in his area as well as the church he pastors in Hattisburg, Mississippi. Elder Mozingo has been a special blessing to our church over the years. I hope to be with Elder J.R. Rakes the third weekend in July to preach at their communion meeting. I have had the opportunity to be with them for these services in the past and have always loved their fellowship as well as the special time with brother J.R. and Sister Estelle. Brother J.R. has been a special blessing to our church over the years and a great encouragement to me as a father in Israel. As I go on these trips, I feel as Paul when he wrote, "Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you"-2 Thes. 3:1.
It was over three years ago that I began to write articles for the Malvern Daily Record. Many times I have wondered if people were getting a blessing from them and if I should continue with the effort. Every time that I thought I may as well quit the effort, the Lord would drop some handfuls of purpose along the way and someone would come by the store or call me to share with me the blessing they received from our efforts to publish the truth. A few weeks ago, a college student read one of the articles and used it for an English assignment. Their assignment was to find an article in the newspaper and give their opinion of it. The students name is Josh Dilley, and here is what he had to say about our article entitled "Encouragement for the Bereaved": "I believe that in our society today, Americans are becoming less and less involved with Jesus and more involved with material things. If Americans do not wake up and smell the roses, Jesus might stop honoring us with His blessings in times of tragic events. So, I chose to write my paper on an article I recently read in the Malvern Daily Record. The Column was titled "Encouragement for the Bereaved", by Neil Phelan, Jr. I feel that this is an excellent column for many reasons I wish to tell about.
The paper is about the loss of loved ones and what happens to us when we die. The article tells us about the death and the resurrection of Jesus. The article also explains that part of the purpose of His life was to die so that we may go with Him and have eternal life after death. This article gives me great inspiration. This article hits especially hard because of all the troubles and losses going on in the world right now with the World Trade Center incident and the continuing war on terrorism. The words he speaks in the column give us all something to look forward to after this time of sorrow here on this planet. In life, it is comforting to know that after all the hard times there is light after the storm.
Not only is this story inspirational, the story is a very helpful column to those unknowing of Christ. If someone were to read this article that did not know the love and ways of God, they could be touched and moved to live for Him. The article is very educational. The column sites specific examples throughout the Bible where the people involved turned to Jesus for their strength. The times were tough but they were helped. This article teaches people to be faithful and true to the ways of the Lord. The article also shows that no matter how hard things get He will be there for us and that He is willing to help.
I am also very intrigued by this article for the mere fact that the article was written. Not so much in the South, but in America where we Americans sometime seem to have a negative stigma attached to religion and to our ways we chose to worship because God is no longer allowed in schools or school events. Congress also says that God cannot be in federal buildings unless He is in the form of decoration for the various holiday seasons. Many people even feel religious themes should not be publicized for fear of someone being offended or discriminated. Mr. Phelan looks past all these barriers and tells about what his heart feels and what his mind thinks. His writing is unbarred and true to his ways, accepted or not. I feel he is a good man for doing this.
People like Mr. Phelan and his columns are just what we need in our country today. They are both very helpful and inspirational. If everyone were to read his articles and live the way they suggest, I promise the world would be a much better place. That is why I feel that this is such and excellent article. Times right now are hard just like some of the times mentioned in the column.. Mr. Phelan said, "One of the greatest sorrows known to God's children is the loss of a loved one from this life". I believe that the article makes the people's lives nice to know that there is hope in the world and that people like Mr. Phelan are not afraid to tell us about God's ways. In the future, I hope to come across more articles such as this and more hope from the press."
I was greatly encouraged by this article and I share it with you for your encouragement as well, that you might know that our church is shining a light in this world. I appreciate young people who are willing to stand for the truth, even before college professors who may not agree with the truths of Jesus Christ and His word.
What is happening at Donaldson
We have been enjoying a season of revival at our church. We have rejoiced to receive four new members since our last newsletter. Charles and Mary Kelly came forth by confession of faith on the fourth Sunday in March and their baptism was the fifth Sunday. On the day of their baptism, Jimmy and Tonya White came forward requesting a home in the church. The church is still rejoicing. As this transpired, I was reminded of the words in Psalm 84:7, "They go from strength to strength, every one of them in Zion appeareth before God". God's people receive strength from one another. We are strengthened when we look around and see the sanctuary full and the song service lively. It seems, when one person makes a confession of faith, others are encouraged and strengthened who have felt the same need in their hearts. If all of us would do what the small still voice encourages us to do in our hearts there would be a great explosion in Zion. The source of this strength is the Holy Spirit which opens our hearts unto the truth and convicts our conscience. When this strength is put to use others are strengthened by it, thus, we go from strength to strength. Many times we do not recognize the encouragement we are giving to others. I have been encouraged at church by just a smile. As I write this, I realize how much we should tell each person that encourages us so that they would know their life has purpose and meaning.
Since our Church has been growing, I have felt a greater burden on my shoulders to minister to our new members. The more sheep that are grazing in the pasture, the more attentive the shepherd must be, more is required on his part. To do this I have put together a "New Membership Packet" to introduce new members to our faith and practice. This packet includes the following:
1. Welcome Letter from Pastor
2. Articles of Faith
3. Explanation of articles of faith
4. Harmony Rules of Decorum
5. Membership Responsibilities
6. Overview of Church Discipline
7. Copy of Phone Tree
8. Copy of Church Directory
Our new members have expressed their appreciation for this information and our meetings have been blessed. Their questions have stirred my heart to some areas that need to be preached. Some might think that this might discourage one from becoming a member of the Church. Yet, I believe those who are sincerely interested in being a faithful church member and growing closer to Jesus Christ would find a great interest in these materials at the beginning of their commitment. I have made a solemn vow to meet with each new member at least twice. The first visit is to introduce them to the information contained in the packet. The second visit is to go over this information and answer any questions they may have concerning our practice and doctrine. I believe this will be a great blessing to our church. I was a member of the church for several years before I knew we had Rules of Decorum and it was many years before I understood Church discipline. If any of our members would like one of the packets, please let me know and I will supply you with a copy.
Each Sunday, I have been staying at the Church after services to give the opportunity for any who might have questions or need pastoral counseling. Many times, questions and comments are posed as I arrive on the church grounds and there is insufficient time to comfort, counsel and address questions before services. If you need time with the pastor, this time will afford every member the opportunity for a personal visit.
Presently, we are preaching through the book of 1 Corinthians. It is amazing just how contemporary this book is to the day in which we live. The many themes that are found in this book such as worldly wisdom, church divisions, church discipline, doctrinal errors have made me realize how relevant the Bible is to our present day. I hope you will pray with me that the Lord will use this book to strengthen our faith and grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Last Sunday, we spoke from the third chapter on the subject of "Our Spiritual Appetite". Milk and meat were discussed as we, again, reviewed spiritual maturity. It seems to be an ongoing discussion among ministers as to what is milk and what is meat. To the Corinthians, meat was those principle that opposed the wisdom of God. Worldly wisdom had permeated their ranks. Yet, in my opinion, meat is anything that is in God's word that we spit up and are not mature enough to digest. For one, it may be the doctrine of election. For another, it may be the principles of giving of our carnal things. We found that there has always been a challenge on the part of pastors, prophets and preachers to feed a balanced diet to the church. Israel of old pressured the prophets to preach "smooth things", even "deceits" and lies. In the old day, when ships were at sea, rickets and scurvy would infest a ship without proper victuals. Some ships were even found afloat full of dead bodies. A balanced diet is important for the health of the ship. I am thankful for being the pastor of a church that loves the "whole counsel of God" and wants their pastor to preach it.
Our annual meeting began on Friday night, April 12th and continued through Sunday afternoon. The meeting concluded with Communion and feet washing services. Elder Lasserre Bradley, Jr. preached this meeting for us and was wonderfully blessed to bring God's word with power and demonstration of the Spirit. Elder Bradley was traveling with his eleven-year-old granddaughter, Emily Grace Tomlinson. It was a delight to have them both in our home. When I asked Sister Emily Grace where she lived, she said, "We live only forty-five minutes from the church." I could tell how important the church was to her and her response was a reflection of the importance her family placed upon God's house. Elder Bradley spoke on some very timely issues as well as the doctrines of grace. On Friday and Saturday night he said some things that I wish every young person could hear. I felt the communion services was one of the best I have ever been in as we partook of the emblems representing the body and blood of Jesus and washed the feet of the saints. Elder Gary Harvey was kind enough to come over and commune with us. We appreciated his comments very much.
On Sunday night, I traveled with Elder Bradley to Star City where he had an appointment to preach at "The Church". Their pastor is Elder John Fuqua. It seems that they heard Elder Bradley on the KAAY daily broadcast which airs at 11 a.m. on 1090am in Little Rock. They loved his preaching and the principles he stood for and after a personal visit by the pastor to Elder Bradley's home in Cincinnati, they invited him to preach at their church. This was the third time for Elder Bradley to visit them. The service was very blessed and I was invited to spend the night and attend the scheduled services the following day. One of the members, brother Layne Baugh, invited me to spend the night with him and his family. I enjoyed meeting his sweet wife and four children. The next service was at 6 a.m. the following morning. When we arrived at the meeting house, it was full of families, ready and eager to hear the word of God from God's sent man. There were about two-hundred people at the morning service. At least half of them were teenagers and children. I was greatly encouraged by their attendance and desire to learn from God's word. Elder Bradley preached sovereign grace and practical godliness and it was all received with much gladness.
Some people in their area have wrongly accused these brethren of being a cult because most of them live near their meeting house and have businesses together in their little community. Yet, their desire is to come out of the world and live closer to Christ. To me, their community resembles a day once known to God's people where members lived among one another in a small community. Each day, they help one another with projects and talk of the Lord as they do it. Their services are open to the public and simplicity is observed in their worship service. They treated me like one of their own and I hope to return the fellowship one day. May God bless these people.
We are now singing some songs out of our new song book, the latest edition of the Old School Hymnal. Next to the Bible, the song book is an item that has always been used for worship among God's people. A good song book and a Bible are staple items of worship in a family. If any would like a copy of the Old School Hymnal just let one of our deacons know. They are $9.00 apiece and would make an excellent present. P.S., there has been some talk of meeting the first Wednesday night of each month to learn songs from our new book. What do you think?
I have always wanted to do something special with our young people and I hope to one day have the opportunity to take them to the nursing home after lunch one Sunday a month to sing. By this they learn to minister to others. Parents, if you believe this would be a blessing for us, I need your help!
Our next outing is scheduled for the first Sunday in May. After lunch, we plan on going to Lake Catherine State Park for our annual picnic. This has always been a wonderful time for our Church as we enjoy the handiwork of God's creation. I hope you will mark your calendar and enjoy the fellowship of the Saints. A towel, sun-block and an extra pair of shoes would be a good idea because last year some people got WET!!!
Since we have a new songbook, I have chosen the book by Paul Drumond entitled, "A Portion for the Singers", for our book review. This book is well written and goes back into Primitive Baptist history as it tells of the compilation of many song books used among our people. You will find it interesting that Elder Wilson Thompson compiled his own song book. It cites the compilation of both books we use, "The Good Old Songs" and "The Old School Hymnal". We have some video tapes in our library that I hope to make available to our church soon.
It has been brought to my attention that we have several high school seniors graduating this year. Wesley Boyce, Spencer Burroughs, Richard Morrison and Neil Phelan. I ask our church to hold them up before God in prayer that they would always hold a special place in their hearts for the Lord, His people and His house and that they would remain faithful to His cause. Let us also pray that the Lord will bless the decisions they make for the future.
REMEMBER IN PRAYER
Sister Anita Loy has been suffering with heart problems which include an irregular heart beat. Latest report is that she is doing much better.
Sister Barbara McAnally has suffered from a broken tail bone.
Sister Judy Newman a broken ankle.
Brother Jack Clayton surgery resulting from a torn ligament.
p.s. Brother Jack and Sister Judy have matching cast boots!!!!
Sister Gloria Ledbetter has recently undergone gall bladder surgery. She is recovering at home as we write.