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Mason's Message

Footprints on the Sands of Time


Henry Wadsworth Longfellow reminds us that:

“Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;”


A young minister and his wife were returning from a meeting such as this. He was feeling pretty good about the sermon that he had preached. Many people patted him on the back and told him what a great sermon it was and the worst thing about it was that he believed all the comments.

While driving and rehearsing in his mind all he had heard he asked his wife, “How many great preachers do you think we have in our brotherhood?

The wife understood what was going on and wisely answered him, “One less than you do!”

There is an obvious lesson there, but there is another lesson incased that should also be heeded.

For in that question was an over-used word. The word “great” is used to describe almost everything.

“How are you feeling today?” GREAT!
“How was that Pizza?” GREAT!
“How did you sleep last night?” GREAT!
“How did your 7-year-old do at his piano recital?” GREAT!
“How was the baseball game last night?” GREAT!
“How was your week of Junior Camp!” GREAT!
“How was your vacation?” GREAT!
“How is your job going?” GREAT!
“How’s everything at church?” GREAT!

If you think of the conversations you have had today you just might realize that you have used the word “GREAT” at least once and maybe even more than once.

The word “great” is a comparative word. In fact, it is comparative to a whole flock of other words, but it usually is comparative with “GREATER” and GREATEST. Similar to good, better, best is great, greater, greatest. So, when we use the word GREAT the question should be asked, “compared to what?

If you recall, the Disciples argued about which of them would be the “greatest” in the Kingdom of God. Jesus let them know quickly that the greatest was the one who served. Did you hear that? Greatest is the one who served.

Jesus also used the word “greater,” when He spoke of John the Baptizer, “among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist.” (Matthew 11:11).

There is not a whole lot of comparing in the Bible. There is some, but not nearly as much as we do in our century. But there is comparison in the Bible.

2 Samuel 23 and 1 Chronicles 11, tell us of the comparing of some of the men of David with other men of David. And the writer points out that there were three that just seemed to be above others. They were called David’s mighty men (either 30 or 37 of them) but three of them seemed to be more mighty than the others.

1. Josheb-basshebeth a Tahchemomite (if you say it fast enough no one will notice that you don’t know how to pronounce his name) was the chief of the three. In other words, he was, in our vernacular, “greater” than the other two. Why? What did he do? He was in a battle and with his spear he killed either 300 or 800. One number is “3” given in 2 Samuel and the other in 1 Chronicles. I have an idea that there were 800 killed in the battle and he killed 300 of them. I’ll clarify that when I get to heaven and talk to him.

2. The second was Eleazar the son of Dodo. He was with David when the Philistines tried to take a field full of Barley. An army travels on its stomach. This was an important field. If the Philistines win they will fight with full stomachs and David’s troops will be weakened from hunger. But Eleazar stood in the middle of the field and would not allow the Philistines to take it. Many of the Israelites had already fled the battle, but The Bible says that the Lord worked through Eleazar and saved them and gave a great victory. It also says that Eleazar fought so long and so hard that his hand froze to his sword. He gripped it for so long and so tight that he couldn’t open it at the end of the battle.

3. The third mighty warrior was Shammah, son of Agee. He also stood in the midst of a field, this time of Lentils and saved the field from the Philistines. In both the case of Eleazar and Shammah they almost stood alone. The Bible tells us that the Israelites fled from the Philistines. That is important. These two men were willing to stand alone to win the victory.

Other men are spoken of in these passages, but it always says something like, “he was renowned, but did not attain to the three.

These three mighty men did one more thing that put them at the top of David’s mighty men. David and his men were camped, and the Philistines surrounded them. One day, David said longingly, “I wish I had a good cold drink of water from my hometown well in Bethlehem.” Your hometown water, which you grew up drinking, usually seems to be best. He didn’t command anyone to get the water. It was probably an off-the-cuff remark as the men sat around talking about their homes.

But these three men heard that and one night, slipped out of camp, through the lines of the Philistines, got water from Bethlehem’s well and took it back as a gift to David. They loved him and they were willing to risk their lives for their commander in chief.

David was so taken by this gift of love that he took the water and poured it out on the ground and didn’t even drink it. This may look to us as wasteful of David, and ungrateful, but as one commentator says, it was a gesture that showed great value. The commentator goes on to say that David likened the water to the blood of his men and for David to drink the water that they got at the risk of their lives would have been to look upon the blood of his men lightly. But by pouring it out before the Lord, as a gift, was to say that he was not worthy of it, so he would give it to the Lord. “Drink Offerings” were often poured out before the Lord.

The real lesson here is that these men loved David and would risk their lives for him. That helps us understand why these were among David’s mighty men who ranked higher than some of the others.

I think that all of us tend to rank people at least in our minds. Not that these people are any better than others, it’s just that we tend to think of them differently than others. Now don’t jump me and say that we ought to treat all people the same. I’m not talking about treatment; I’m talking about admiration. There are some people that we just admire more than others. Do you admire all people equally? No, you don’t. If you did you would buy everyone you know a birthday gift and Christmas gift and invite them to your house for Thanksgiving.

I want to share with you today 3 MIGHTY Men who you may not know but they ought to be on your list of Mighty Men.

I. The first may surprise you. He’s a lawyer. One of the men I admire, in my 3 mighty men is a lawyer.

By the way, do you know How many jokes there are about lawyers? Just one. The rest are true!

His name is Luther Doniphan Burrus. He was called the “Red-Headed lawyer from Kentucky.” He served as a Trustee at the CRA from 1954-1986. Before he resigned, he was given the title of Trustee Emeritus.

This was a brilliant man. After his death, I found out from his niece that his I.Q. was 188, which is higher than Albert Einstein’s. Harvey Bream said of Burrus that if anyone ever came to the Kingdom for such a time as this, it was Don Burrus.

The Disciples of Christ denomination sought to control and even own our independent churches. They took fourteen of our churches to court trying to win a case so that they would have law precedence and eventually own all of the independent church properties. They wanted to put the independents out of business.

But thankfully there was a Christian lawyer named Luther Doniphan Burris!

When a suit was brought against one of our churches, Harvey Bream, Lewis Foster, and Don Burrus would go to the cities involved for the trials and try to help the churches. Don would sit down with the lawyer who the church had hired and teach him what the real issues were. Many of the lawyers had no idea what was really the issue and what was at stake.

In one case, the three of them had just checked into their hotel and Don said that he was going to go out and scout out the town and see if he could get any information that would aid the case for the church. When he returned, he told Harvey and Lewis that during that trial they should never refer to him by his first name of Luther. They asked why to which Don replied, “I found out that our judge, in this case, is a good Catholic.”

Once, when the Disciples of Christ had their convention in Louisville, Don took out a full-page ad in the Louisville Courier-Journal so that convention-goers would see it, explaining to everyone what the Disciples stood for and what they were doing.

Due in large part to the brilliance of Don Burrus, every case that went to the court of Appeals, was won by the independents. You probably aren’t aware that your church building belongs to your congregation because Don Burrus was a watchman on the wall. Why were the Disciples suing for the church buildings? Well, how much is your church building worth? Multiply that figure by 4000 (at the time) and you begin to see what the Disciples of Christ really wanted.

(Sidebar) Some of you church leaders are playing Russian Roulette with your church properties by borrowing from some of our brotherhood agencies where the President of the organization makes more per year than the President of the United States. Please don’t think I’m being hasty in what I am saying. We have lost several Bible colleges and congregations already.

II. Our Second Mighty Man is Lewis Foster.

This brilliant, yet unassuming scholar, held 7 academic degrees including 2 from Yale and a Ph.D in History from Harvard. He was a man who, as Academic Dean of the Graduate School at CBS would still teach freshman Bible Survey because as he said, “There were certain things I wanted all of the students in the school to know.”

This man was chosen by scholars from across “Christendom” to help translate the New International Version, a decision he later regretted, and the New King James translation. He also had influence with some study Bibles and even though he fought he didn’t get everything he wanted. Here was a man who most often at his own expense lectured and taught literally around the world on mission fields.

Yet, here was a man who, with all of his scholarly learning, and responsibilities, would take time to write a letter to a young boy every year, from the time that boy was 8 years old, to encourage him to attend the Seminary.

Here was a man who was unafraid as he took classes at both Yale and Harvard from men who translated the perverse Revised Standard Version of the Bible while his father was writing and publishing reviews of that same work pointing out the heresy and saying that the translators were unbelievers.

Here was a man who was invited by the preachers in Cincinnati, to appear on a panel at a ministerial meeting, held at the YMCA, where there was a Disciples of Christ minister and Carl Ketcherside from the A capella group also speaking. Lewis was invited to participate but his dad advised him against it saying that even though there was supposed to be a half-hour for Q and A, that would not happen. His father said Lewis would have to speak first, the Disciples guy second, and Ketcherside third and there would be no time for Q and A. When the day arrived, the program started a half-hour late, (there went the Q and A time) and sure enough Lewis spoke first. But he was ready. When he spoke he said, “This is what the Disciples of Christ say, and this is what they mean by it.” Next, when the Disciples preacher spoke, he said exactly what Lewis said he would say, but we already knew what he meant when he said it.

III. Our Third Mighty Man is Harvey Bream.

Harvey’s parents had attended Bethany College, the college started by Alexander Campbell. He said that later in life, when his mother would speak of Bethany she would weep thinking of what it had become and how far it had fallen.

Harvey attended The Cincinnati Bible Seminary because he knew his parents wanted him to. He wanted to go to college and learn about agriculture. Instead, he learned about sowing the seed of the precious Word of God and harvesting souls.

Harvey became a preacher. He worked many revivals as the song evangelist and later the preaching evangelist. He loved to win souls to Christ by simply opening the Word and showing people what it said.

There came a time when Burris Butler, editor and publisher of Standard Publishing encouraged Harvey to take a job as an understudy to R.E. Elmore at the CRA. Butler told Harvey, “Study the man. Take in everything he says. He is a gold mine of information.”

Harvey did that and served as a CRA evangelist until Elmore’s death when Harvey became Executive Director. He served for 9 years in this capacity until his Alma Mater called him to serve as President, a position he held for over 16 years. As an evangelist, he won thousands to Christ. He held over 452 weeks (most of them full weeks, often 2 weeks long) revivals. Revivals where Souls were saved. (Let me tell you a secret. The reason that souls were saved during revivals back then was because calls in homes were made and teaching was done. Here is a truism: Where souls are saved, calling has been done. If there is no calling, there will be no souls won.) As a teacher of Evangelism at CBC for 22 years, he tried to reproduce soul-winners.

He only left the Presidency of CBS because the supercilious trustees looked for a scapegoat to cover their own maleficence. He stood tall when others were ducking for cover.

He had prayed, when looking for a wife, that he would find a woman who loved the Lord more than anything and that he would live long enough to care for her all of her life. He said that his prayer was answered when he found Mary Ann and they were married for 69 years before her passing. The second part of his prayer was also answered as he died just 46 days after her passing.

These three mighty men loved the Lord and cared little for their own popularity.

It was 1966, the property of the Clarkesdale Christian Church in Mississippi was challenged in court by the Disciples of Christ. The Disciples were tired of losing cases so they brought in their biggest guns for this case. The Disciples brought in an attorney who had run for governor in the state of Mississippi and had served as President of the state Bar association, and everyone knew him. They brought in their expert witnesses in Dr. A.T. DeGroot, the dean of Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University and author of a history of the Disciples of Christ that was being used as a textbook in many schools. They also brought in a Dr. McAllister from Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis along with the top legal counsel from headquarters in Indianapolis.

Don Burrus prepared the lawyer of the local church. He was a Southern Methodist who had also served as President of the State Bar Association. When the trial began, Lewis Foster gave his usual brilliant testimony concerning the history of the Restoration Movement and trends that had developed. Harvey’s task was to chart the violation of restoration principles and the doctrinal apostasy of the Disciples scholarship and leadership. To do this, he quoted verbatim and at length from the books and writings of the Disciples of Christ, telling what the Disciples believed but not saying where his information came. Mainly he had memorized and quoted from a three-volume set of Disciples books entitled “The Renewal of Church.” These were chapters authorized to be written by Disciple Scholars and published into three books by the Disciple headquarters.

After Harvey testified, Dr. A.T. DeGroot, this famous Disciples history scholar was called to the stand to rebut everything Harvey had said. The lawyer for the church asked Dr. DeGroot what he thought of Harvey’s testimony. He said that Harvey was undoubtedly a sincere man but was mistaken in what he had said. With that, the lawyer produced the three-volume set published by the Disciples of Christ and asked DeGroot if he was familiar with them. Of course, he was and even had a set in his library. He was asked if he had read the books to which he replied that he got partway through the first volume but had gotten bogged down and never finished it.

The church attorney had DeGroot identify the book, chapter headings, the authors and asked if he knew the authors, most of whom he did. He then had numerous passages marked and asked DeGroot to read the marked passages out loud and into the court record statement after statement from these Disciples of Christ men in their own publication. These were the things that Harvey had quoted that said what they believed.

The longer DeGroot read what the Disciple scholars had written, the more ashen he became as he realized that Harvey had spoken the truth. The Disciples lost the case, never appealed the finding and never brought another case.

Those three men stood in the middle of the field when the rest of the troops had vanished. They fought valiantly. And they saved the brotherhood. They were three Mighty Men.

Oh, how we need men like that today. Men who will stand when others flee. Men who will fight when others have turned tail and run. Men who will take the time to become informed as to what the real issues are. Men who will saturate themselves with God’s Word and have no fear.

David’s mighty men were such because:

  1. They had prepared themselves for battle.
  2. They were willing to fight when others ran.
  3. They were willing to risk Everything for someone they loved in that case David.

The three mighty men of which I have spoken were such because:

  1. They had prepared themselves for battle. Don Burrus knew the law.
    Lewis Foster knew the history of the Disciples of Christ. Harvey Bream knew the New Testament and could recognize imposters.
  2. Burrus, Foster, and Bream educated themselves in the issues and what was at stake, while many were ready to give in and compromise with the liberals.
  3. Burrus, Foster, and Bream were willing to risk their reputations as far as some of their friends were concerned because they loved the Lord more than their lives, popularity, or their reputations.

Where are the mighty men of today?

Ten righteous men could have saved Sodom. Just 10. That’s all it would have taken. Ten Righteous men were needed but they were not to be found. Thousands perished because 10 Righteous men could not be found.

I wonder how many it would have taken to saved C.B.S?

I wonder how many it would have taken to save the North American Christian Convention?

I wonder how many it would have taken to save the Standard Publishing Company?

I wonder how many it will take to save the Restoration Movement?

During WWII, Britain sent troops to France. After some time, the Nazis pushed the Allied troops to the English Channel. The troops had to be removed to be saved to fight another day.

But Winston Churchill did not like it. And in a speech before the House of Commons he applauded the success at Dunkirk in removing the troops, but he soberly added this six-word comment that may have been his greatest line… “Wars are not won by evacuations!

Did you get that? “Wars are not won by evacuations!”

Let that sink in. “Wars are not won by evacuations!”

Churchill continued: “We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.’”

Wars are not won by evacuations!”

Our great Commander in Chief said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

“Wars are not won by evacuations!”

Teddy Roosevelt once said: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who come short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory or defeat.”

“Wars are not won by evacuations!”

James Russell Lowell penned those hymnal words:

Once to every man and nation,
comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth with falsehood,
for the good or evil side;
Some great cause, some great decision,
offering each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever,
’twixt that darkness and that light.

Then to side with truth is noble,
when we share her wretched crust,
Ere her cause bring fame and profit,
and ’tis prosperous to be just;
Then it is the brave man chooses
while the coward stands aside,
Till the multitude make virtue
of the faith they had denied.

By the light of burning martyrs,
Christ, Thy bleeding feet we track,
Toiling up new Calv’ries ever
with the cross that turns not back;
New occasions teach new duties,
time makes ancient good uncouth,
They must upward still and onward
who would keep abreast of truth.

Though the cause of evil prosper,
yet the truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scaffold,
and upon the throne be wrong;
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
and behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow,
keeping watch above His own.

What kind of footprints are we leaving on the sands of time?

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