Do You Love the Lord?

Years ago, when I was preaching in Jefferson City, TN, I arranged for our congregation to conduct worship services every Sunday at Jefferson County Nursing Home to accommodate a member we had staying there. One lady with whom I became acquainted while doing this each Sunday was Ms. Perna Noland, a sweet and gentle southern woman. Ms. Perna loved to see a man wearing a suit, and, because I wore one (as was typical for preachers in the South back then), she complimented me every time she saw me. While she was not a member of the church of Christ, she was a woman who respected the Bible and came to every service she could before she passed away.

In Ms. Perna’s possession was a copy of a book written by her daughter, Ms. Ersa Rhea Noland Smith, entitled Flyin’ Bullets & The Resplendent Badge. This book is a biography of the late Mr. Ray C. Noland, who was Ersa’s father and Perna’s husband.  The internet has become a much more informative place over the last decade and a half, but I remember after learning about the book at the time searching for “Ray C. Noland” on the internet and finding very little, even after specifying “sheriff” (Mr. Noland’s former occupation) and “Sevier” (the county in which he was formerly sheriff). No matter what treasures the internet now holds, I’m sure that Mr. Noland’s memory lives on primarily in the hearts and photographs of his family members and friends, and in his biography, which originally had only 1,000 copies in print.

One Sunday, as I stopped by Ms. Perna’s room, I was saddened to learn that I had missed my opportunity to bring her to our worship service. She had transferred from her wheelchair to her recliner, a difficult process that was not good for her to repeat often; she could not go to services, as she needed to rest. In her hands though there was something that caught my eye; it was a copy of the biography of her late husband. As I looked at the roughly 500-page book, I could see that it had been put to good use: several pages were loose, having come away from the binding; all the pages were frilled from past readings; the cover was as dog-eared as could be. I asked her about the book, and she explained its origin and its contents, and even that the cover had been replaced by her daughter. The tattered and torn cover in my sight was not even the original!

I didn’t take in the beauty of this picture until after I left her room. I realized then that the state of the book in Ms. Perna’s hands stood as a testament to her enduring and steadfast love for its subject matter. Though her husband had died, her love for him was far from dead.

The title of this article, if you’ll remember, is “Do You Love the Lord?”. Before you answer that question, you have to answer this one first: How much time do you spend with His biography? The Old Testament is our Lord’s Family Tree, the photo album of His ancestors. The Gospel accounts contain His life and teachings. Acts and the epistles are the story of His children in the faith and of His last will and testament. Revelation portrays the victory of His family over all else and the bright future he has in store for that family, His church. The Bible is Jesus’ biography.

Are the pages of your Bible worn? Have you read it time and time again? Or are there pages to which you have never turned, verses you have never read? Worse still, is your only copy of the Bible one of those sad Bibles that spends most of the week in darkness, waiting inside the auditorium of the church’s building to be read and used? Ms. Perna probably could have told you the story of her husband’s life without opening his biography once. Could you do the same for your Lord? Now let me ask you – Do you love the Lord? “Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day” (Psalm 119:97).
-Patrick Swayne  
patrick@tftw.org

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