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Monday, June 11, 2007

A Personal Hero


hero: a man (woman) admired for his achievements and noble qualities

Aside from Jesus, there is one person who lived on this earth whom I admired greatly. He was the Reverend Charles G. Dennison, former pastor of Grace OPC church in Sewickly, PA. I consider him a "hero" because of who he was in Christ Jesus! Charlie, as every one called him (except for myself, whom I always called Mr. Dennison, because I had so much respect for him), was the first man I met who truly was not ashamed of the gospel and in all of the sermons I've heard him preach, he was truly heavenly-minded in how he shared Jesus Christ and in how he instructed us to live on this side of heaven.

The one word I would use to describe Mr. Dennison's whole being is "stout". When Mr. Dennison was up on the pulpit, his presence was known. He was strong in character and also in appearance. I remember he would walk up to the pulpit, place his hands on each side of it, look out into the congregation, and just stand there and smile from ear to ear. This was the church's signal to listen to God's Word and I remember the whole church building becoming instantly silent, even the babies knew, and one could hear a pin drop. Yet, though to me he was a "stout" man in character and appearance, he displayed such a submissive character to our Lord Jesus Christ.

"Pray with me...Our God, even now in distant places, your people are taking heart because of your Word. And Father, it is pleasing you to establish for yourself a witness to the power of your name and the glory of your Son. O God, build your church even as you have committed yourself to build it in and through Jesus Christ and that by the Spirit. Hear us, O God, that we would not be left behind in the matter of edification, but rather Lord, be encouraged all the more as we see others, as we hear about others, built up in the faith. May this come as refreshment to our souls and may we delight, O God, in such a way that our joy is joined to theirs, even as they celebrate your goodness. O Lord, hear us, for we would have your work in our souls, even the work of your Word to the full. We pray this through the One who is the living Word, Jesus Christ. Amen."

My fondest memory of Mr. Dennison were his personal trips to Geneva College, where I attended college at that time. Geneva was also Mr. Dennison's Alma Mater and since Grace OPC was near-by to the campus, Geneva was a great place of outreach for the church. I was an engineering major and the Chair of Engineering at that time was an elder from Grace OPC. Dr. Gidley's ministry was a weekly Bible study. Other members of the church, who lived locally to the college, made it their ministry to welcome the college students by opening up their home on Sundays after the service to provide a haven away from home. Mr. Dennision's ministry was to come and personally visit student visitors to Grace and to come alongside us as a friend and to help us grow in our faith.

I was a relatively new believer at that time. I was saved during my Senior year in high school and so when I transferred to Geneva college in 1995, I was only 3 years old in my Christian walk. Mr. Dennison helped guide and focus my walk. It wasn't necessarily by his personal visits that I grew in faith. Mostly, I was guided and focused through the sermons he preached every Sunday. Yet, his personal visits just made his sermons come alive because by his visits he displayed how he lived what he preached.

There are 2 occasions I fondly remember about Mr. Dennison. The first occasion was on one evening while I studied on the front lawn of the small college campus under a maple tree. Out of no where, Mr. Dennison strolled out and sat down under the tree next to me. He visited with me for just a short time. He asked me how I was doing. We didn't get into a big theological discussion. He just genuinely wanted to know how I was doing. I was really touched by that because as a transfer student and as an engineering major, it was very difficult making friends as many already had their "cliques" and "groups" established. When people asked how I was doing, it was normally out of courtesy, and no one really took the time to hear about how I was doing. So, I remember this occasion fondly because Mr. Dennison just took the time to find out how I was doing...The second occasion was on another evening when Mr. Dennison made an appointment with me to personally talk about my church membership. It was probably my second year at Geneva by this time and I was interested in becoming a church member of Grace. Mr. Dennison personally took the time to come and visit me to speak to me about my concerns. Our talk had gone past dinner and so we went to a near-by deli where he paid for my dinner. It was an inexpensive dinner, but I was still overcome by Mr. Dennison's generosity in his time and money.

...And I was not an exception. Mr. Dennison was like this to all those he ministered to. He walked alongside those he shepherded, just like Jesus.

When I graduated from college, I often went back to Sewickly to visit Grace and to hear Mr. Dennison preach.

Sadly, at the end of 1998, Mr. Dennison was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and was already in his last stages.

It was at the end of 1998 that I met my DearHubby to be and so we frequently went back to Mr. Dennison for godly counsel about our relationship. In the beginning of 1999, Mr. Dennison passed away. DearHubby and I had gone back to Sewickly one last time before his passing in February 1999 and it was at that time that Mr. Dennison took DearHubby aside and gave him his blessing. That meant so much to me as I looked at Mr. Dennison as a father and although DearHubby asked my biological father for my hand in marriage it was actually because of Mr. Dennison's blessing that I was at peace to accept DearHubby's hand in marriage. In addition, because of my fond memories of Grace OPC and the Word of God's grace preached there, part of DearDaughter's first name is "Grace...".

Well, even at the end of his life, Mr. Dennison was still stout in his character and his appearance. He was always his strongest when he preached on that pulpit.

I will end this Monday Memory with an excerpt from one of my favorite sermons, preached on November 17, 1997, Ephesians and Glory.

Scriptural text: Ephesians 2:1-10
1As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. 4But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast. 10For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

"Paul clearly means, therefore, for these saints in Ephesus and us through them, that we are to realize the environmental and atmospheric change, which by grace, has been brought about because of God's work in Christ. Because of our union with Chrsit we have entered into this new heavenly environment and atmosphere. And it is this heavenly environment and atmosphere which is the primary arena for our existence. No, it is even the prior arena for our existence. We live in and from heaven and all our activities bear the stamp of the transcendant culture of glory, even as we give ourselves back to life in this world. And that, an imitation of Christ himself, in manifest servanthood for sacrificial labors in this world to the glory of God. Be it in worship or work, labors of necessity or labors of charity, graciousness and clear-eyed wisdom for my home, or responsibilities with respect to my job, whether I am a wife, or a husband, a child or a parent, slave or a master. The pulp of origination is heaven not earth. We must begin from above. You must start from the end and you work backwards and you work down. Any other direction is the contradiction of grace. You are forfeiting what has been given you in Christ. If you don't start with heaven, you don't get there. Because what you are saying is you can actually work yourself in some fashion to that destination. Attaining unto the resurrection and gaining glory is merely coming into possession of what we have already been given. That's the irony of the gospel and that is its power. It is not then, you see, that the apostle Paul is caught up in what some have said is a heavenly-mindedness that makes him of no earthly value. That is far a field from anything that the apostle Paul would recognize as belonging to the gospel he proclaims. Do you see what is happening to the man? He realizes that in the death, resurrection, and ascension, he, an object of God's love has been so united to Christ that he actually participates in those events and that he presently is seated with Christ in glory. But who is this one to whom he is bond? It is the one who bears the wound marks of His own humiliation. The one who gave up his position in glory and made himself of no reputation, taking upon Himself the form of a servant and gave Himself back into the world that He might bear suffer the death of the cross. What then might be expected of us, who are united to this Christ? We are united to the One who bears the wound marks of His own humiliation and we are compelled by that to give up whatever position we have and whatever claim we have to sacrifice ourselves by condescension back to this world for service in it unto God's glory..."

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1 comment:

Norma said...

What a blessing to have such a hero of the faith in your life. He will live on in the lives of others you touch, even here on the internet.