…the Glendower Railway by Dennis Parker.
…do You have one?
Everybody in his neighborhood in Tucson, Arizona, knew him as “The Can Man, Charley.” Every day he had a route of about 6 miles where he walked to collect recyclables. But you didn’t meet Charley for very long without realizing that money from the cans didn’t just go into his pocket, supplementing his retirement income. He was really about something else. And everyone that he met on his route was offered one of those other somethings: a no-nonsense gospel tract. You soon would learn that the sale of the cans kept the tract supply going.
And if you followed him a little while, you found a complex system of ministry in this tiny little man. And it started early. Charley remembers the Holy Spirit prompting him to praise God while playing toy cars with his friends. Later, in World War II, the Lord erected a sudden wall of protection against an enemy attack that should have killed him.
Back home, working in the steel industry, Charley began buying tracts and sharing the gospel. He organized outreaches for his church covering specific neighborhoods with repeated visitations leaving a different tract each time. Over the years, his consistent passion for God’s word deepened his ability to follow up the tracts with strong personal ministry.
Retirement freed him to expand his vision. To him the tracts were just an opening where personal ministry began. His consistency in reaching out to others built confidence in his contact with the Lord and strangers began approaching him with additional questions about their relationship with God and their concern about eternity. With hours of personal Bible study each day, he seldom was at a loss for an appropriate biblical answer to their concerns.
His can collecting not only provided funds for more tracts, he became well known to the businesses on his route. They began saving cans for him and he would leave stacks of tracts on their counters, replenishing them on the next visit.
His wife, Dot, says he would frequently come in from his route with a little bigger smile and more spring in his step, to announce: “One more led to the Lord, today.” Maybe it would be the homeless man who was begging by the supermarket or someone he had met on the street. Occasionally, someone driving by would recognize him and pull over for a chat.
His obituary reports that, after he was saved in 1961, he logged over 285 cover-to-cover trips through his Bible. “Seldom was he at a loss for a scripture to share with anyone who might have a question,” says Dot.
Only the Lord knows how many tracts he actually handed out in his lifetime, but in the last 10 years of his retirement, Chick Publication’s records show well over 125,000 tracts bought, mostly with money from sale of his cans. As friends on his route learned how he financed his ministry, they offered money to help. At first he refused until Dot convinced him that it was not for him, but so that more tracts would reach more people for Christ. At 87, his eyesight and hearing was fading and his gait slowing. One morning in October the Lord welcomed him home from doing what he loved, crossing the street while walking his route. The driver of the SUV saw him too late, but some of his tracts will still be pointing people to the Lord for years, perhaps until Christ returns for us all.
—By David R. Stokes
Christmas is more than a day in December — it is a season. Reminders of this are all around us — the weather, the gatherings, the music on the radio. It is not unusual for savvy media outlets to saturate their formats with all things Yuletide for a few weeks at the end of the year. It puts us “in the mood” — not to mention puts money in their accounts.
What’s your favorite Christmas song? Some like to hear about chestnuts roasting on an open fire — others love to think about bells jingling. Yet others tear up (with good reason) thinking about a Holy Night so long ago. They may even want to fall on their knees.
A case can be made that the greatest Christmas song ever written is one with no familiar music. The tune is no longer available to us. But the lyrics — ah, those lyrics — well, they’re actually inspired. As the Apostle Paul was writing to young Pastor Timothy about everything from order in the church to the dangers of greed, he gave us an easily overlooked but enduring Christmas nugget.
It may be not be a toe-tapper like I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus — but it completely captures the essence of Christmas. That essence is incarnation. This means that God became one of us so that He could reach those of us willing to surrender to Him.
As the Apostle winds up a series of thoughts about the church and those who serve and lead, he pauses to reflect on a larger issue. Strategies and structure are not ends in themselves. They are secondary to powerful ideas. While he may have felt the need to give Timothy some practical advice about how to do his important job, he never lost sight of the why in all of it — nor should we. There can be many controversies in life — macro and micro. All of them require attention. Some of them require systems and structure. No doubt, this was something with which Timothy wrestled. Therefore, his wise mentor, Paul, offered his advice.
Things that tend to polarize people often have little to with objective truth. Instead, subjective experience is allowed to play too large a role in our lives and passions. When this happens, Paul’s writings suggest that we need to stop and sing. And we should sing something very specific — the most beautiful of all Christmas carols — though it is highly unlikely that we’ll hear the words blended with any seasonal music.
We are not told the style of music, nor are we told the instrument or instruments used to express it (if any). We are given just the words. They are inspired — and they have endured. They are ancient words, yet ever new.
The first Christmas Carol is introduced in scripture this way: “Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great…” (I Timothy 3:16 NIV).
Communities of faith throughout history have wrestled with many things. But Paul reminds us all these centuries later that there are some no-brainers for the faithful. First and foremost is that most powerful of all ideas is that God has come to the earth — the Word has been made flesh.
So, this season, let us reach back for one of the forgotten “oldies” — a first-century worship favorite. They likely sang it in places like Ephesus, Thyatira, and Philippi. There were no ornate cathedrals or padded pews, no multimedia presentations to tantalize the eyes — just words, powerful and profound. Go ahead and make up your own music — but don’t mess with the words. They are from God. They are a Christmas gift from the one who gave us the reason for the season.
“He appeared in a body,
Was vindicated by the Spirit,
Was seen by angels,
Was preached among the nations,
Was believed on in the world,
Was taken up in glory.”
– I Timothy 3:16 (New International Version)
David R. Stokes is a minister, author, columnist, and broadcaster.
Just keep moving on if you’re easily offended…
I used to be in the Christian Music industry and one thing I can attest to is that they only get two out of three right…it is music and it is an industry but it certainly works hard to be anything but Christian. In light of my experience I rarely jump on a new group’s band wagon and, in this case, am only posting the one video as it is a powerful, bare knuckles picture of the Prince of the power of the air.
Their other song is typically veiled, with no direct references to God, Jesus or the exclusiveness of the Gospel Message. How well I remember a Stryper tune that could just as easily be sung to a prom queen in the backseat of her date’s car. As with other groups in the past, I’ll wait this out to see what kind of fruit falls from the tree, before I go recommending them to anyone.
The sad truth is that most Christians are as celebrity oriented as their unsaved neighbor…the mere mention of God and the fact that the music doesn’t contain a vocabulary that could peel wallpaper seem to be the only qualifications for CCM sainthood nowadays.
…look no further than here…
…very nice set at a very nice price.