Philadelphia, brotherly love. A city of Lydia in Asia Minor, about 25 miles southeast of Sardis. It was the seat of one of the “seven churches” (Revelation 3: 7-12). It came into the possession of the Turks in A.D. 1392. It has several times been nearly destroyed by earthquakes. It is still a town of considerable size, called Allahshehr, “the city of God.” In the verse I have mentioned, the one Christian Church of Philadelphia was highly recommended.
A sign on the byway of Route 335 told us of a revival in the church I don’t even believe I knew existed. The very well-scripted sign spoke of a revival all week long. One of the guest speakers, Rick Arthur, is a minister of the first church we attended in our journey to visit all Scioto County churches. So we picked an evening, deciding to learn more about a local church that might perpetuate that spirit of Philadelphia and brotherly war. Other than Rick Arthur, I do not believe any of those attending had any clue of our mission or the possibility that their church may be featured in a column in local papers, their photos plastered in my blog found in medium.com. Search Randy Rucker there if you would like to see pictorial views of our visits.
In the far reaches of White Gravel, Beverly and I dropped into a service of the Old Philadelphia Tabernacle. Lonnie Gembill opened a song service with his guitar, singing some very old beautiful hymns, and a lady named Judy Alley later joined him. But first there was a prayer that Lonnie led, with the congregation praying simultaneously. Songs included “When the Role was Called up Yonder,” “Send the Light” and I believe the last one may have been “I’m So Glad Jesus Lift Me/Walking with the King.” (On occasion I don’t get the name and have to check it out, sometimes successfully and sometimes probably not.) The songs, however, were beautiful, and the talent was apparent.
Lonnie then spoke of the upcoming Memorial Day. Following, there was another song, “A Heaven to Gain and a Hell to Shun.” From researching a bit, I believe it was on old hymn titled, “Highway to Heaven.” This is what I found: “The old preacher man stood there in the pulpit, The church house was empty almost; His eyes filled with tears, his mind filled with memories, of not long ago. When the church house was full, not one pew was empty, The altar was stained with Saint’s tears; As he stands there this morning and sounds out the warning; Once again letting them know. There’s a Heaven to gain and a Hell to shun; The way is still straight, there’s a race to run. You can live as you please, but you must pay the cost; And the highway to Heaven still goes by the cross.”
During an evening revival, Beverly and I attended this meeting of the Old Philadelphia Tabernacle, located on Slusher Road, which is off of White Gravel Road in Minford. The pastor is Maurice Pierce, and he spoke at times throughout the service. His wife, Garnet Pierce, participated at times, as did others. It was a very spirited evening, with a pastor/evangelist, friend of ours Rick Arthur scheduled to give the message. It was Rick’s church where we conducted our first visit as we had determined we would take on the mission of visiting every church in Scioto County. That church was Tick Ridge Baptist Church. Has the project become bigger than we imagined. Well, that answer would be yes. We have been encouraged and blessed in the frequent accompaniment of Chris and Stephanie Neff. Though on this evening, we were on our own.
[As we go along, I blog and photograph the experience, and then frequently the story shows up in local papers as you may be reading it via this medium now. No pun intended, as my blog site is medium.com and all you have to do is search my name to follow me, being able to see photos of our local churches attended. I note that some churches may be uncomfortable with my photographing services, though no one has called me out on doing this yet.]
There was a prayer I called Family Prayer, but, to be honest with you, I cannot find in my notes why I said that. They had a piano player by the name of Paul Ward. There’s much talent in this church, that’s for sure. Several good stories were told, but my notes just fail me, so I have to forgo the stories for a better place in my notes. No one ever said taking notes on church services would be easy. And you know what, I only have one chance to get it right. So I tell it like I remember it. I have had some ask, “How do you get all of this?” and my common answer is, “Well, if I don’t remember, I make something up.” Let me assure you here, that is not entirely true, but I do carry a sense of humor now and again, though my family may not agree.
Healing within the church was a common subject throughout the evening. The pastor said he once had a bad shoulder, but he didn’t pray for himself often, though on one occasion a lady in the church came forward complaining from a shoulder injury. The pastor said he prayed over her. Upon saying within his prayer to the Lord that if anyone has to have this ladies pain, “let it be me.” He said the woman’s arm was healed, and a wave of healing went through his arm, and he never had any trouble with it again.
He spoke of another time extending a prayer cloth to a child suffering colic, and the parents said later the child was healed. The pastor proclaimed, “What the Lord did for her was amazing.” Others within the congregation testified about some healings that had occurred in their lives. She was told by a doctor that she had a melanoma in her arm. She was expecting radiation treatments, but after coming before this church for prayer, she returned to hear the doctor say there was no sign of melanoma now existing in her arm.” There were other such testimonies too numerous to quote them all. Following this segment there was another group prayer.
Then there was a prayer by the pastor, and the song “Almost Home” was sung by the congregation during the offering collection. Jessica Groove, a child who greeted us at the door, took up the offering and was active in the service. Church Deacons came forward and extended a prayer at this time. A testimony by one lady said, “I prayed to the Lord that He give me a Christian husband, and one day, her husband came home with a glow in his expression and around him, and I knew he had found the Lord.”
Kind points in a church service should probably not be missed, and the gentleman sitting in front of us walked over to a container holding cold water bottles, and he brought one to both Beverly and me. His name I later found to be Manny Jenkins. There were numerous testimonies from the church congregation. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the names of all who participated in the next singing service. I did get that Wayne Goble sang the opening song with accompaniment. That song was “In My Dreams.” Then was the old hymn, “I Came to the Garden Alone” and “Because He Loved Me.” There was a request for a song that may have been called “If That Isn’t Love.” The next song was “Because He Lives.” The last song was “We’ve Got the Power.” What a beautiful hymn. YouTube it to the catch all the beautiful melody and words. I got to enjoy it again by doing so myself. It goes something like this, “We’ve got the power in the name of Jesus. Give me your hand, let’s agree together. That all of our enemies will tumble at our feet. For what we have bound on earth, shall be bound in heaven. At the name of Jesus, Satan has to flee.”
Then it was time for visiting Pastor Rick Arthur’s sermon. He said he had prepared a sermon, but after getting on his knees to pray about it, the Lord delivered him another message that he shared on this night. He spoke of his child falling from a cart at the old Rinks store in Wheelersburg. The child was obviously affected by the head injury, and they had hurriedly loaded his daughter in a car and rushed to the old Mercy Hospital in Portsmouth. Along the way, he said he spotted a bumper sticker that said, “God has everything under control,” and upon seeing that, he said a great peace came over him. Praying along the way, by the time they got to the hospital, they thought their daughter was OK and they might not even need to take her in. But they did. Seeing that his wife also seemed to be at peace, he said to her, “You saw the bumper sticker, too, didn’t you?” She had.
God takes care of all things. He told the congregation to turn to James 3, start at verse 1 and read to verse 12. If you can find some time to do so, look it up and do some self study. Rick said that when he was a boy, he had a pony, probably a lot like the cantankerous pony my brothers and I had as young boys. He said he would go anywhere as long as I kept a bridle bit under his tongue. That was probably better than our pony that would only move fast when we were facing a downhill slope and he wanted to get rid of us fast.
Rick said the Lord expects us to control our tongues, as the way we use our tongue can hurt or affect others. The Lord expects us to use our tongue in the way he used His tongue while on earth, saying good and serving. He said there is no way to be saved but through Christ. There is no other way. There is only one church, and we need to be ready. Give your whole being to Jesus Christ. Just as we give ourselves a bath to stay clean, we need to stay clean with our tongues and in the way we live our lives. Stay away from filthy communication. He pointed out that the average person speaks 750 billion words living to the age of 65. (I don’t know how they came up with that.) He also said the number to be 11 million words a year. In how many of these words do we tell people about Jesus.
Rick said he got to thinking about a boat. As a child, he and friends would build a boat out of scrap. With a string, we could control our boats. A large boat has a rudder, which is used to turn a boat left or right. With other references, Rick was pointing to maintaining a rudder in our life that would direct us in our words and actions. He spoke a story about a man within the community who always said something good about a person at a funeral. He was known for doing so. Well, there was a particulary mean and obnoxious man in a community who had passed, and some of those attending were awaiting comments of this fella. What could he say good about this man? Well, finally it happened, as he said, “Boy, he sure could whistle good.” It goes back to something my own mother used to say, “If you don’t have anything to say about someone, don’t say anything.”
Rick pointed out the old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” But he said you can hurt me with words. What comes from the tongue can hurt the heart. If we listen to God’s words, our heart will take heed to it. And in thinking of the biblical David, he was said to be of God’s own heart. God is love. David was a man after God’s own heart. Rick spoke of Proverbs 18-21 — there’s another to study. Death and life are in the power of the tongue. Misrepresentations, lies, gossipings are some of the worst things to be found in the church. Don’t mingle with tale givers. God gave Solomon more wisdom than any other man. God used him in pen through many of the proverbs. Our words was one of the large topics Solomon covered in Proverbs. He specifically mentioned Proverbs 16 through 28. Let me end with saying that the name Solomon is a Hebrew-derived surname and given name. His name is fittingly related to the word Shalom (peace).
As believers, let us share the good news of Jesus Christ as Savior of the world. Each one, reach one. See ya in church.
Reach Randy Rucker at [email protected]