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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Chaplain Lynn Wade

We all have met unforgettable characters during our life.  One of those outstanding humans for me is Chaplain Lynn Wade.  My first knowledge of Mr. Wade came from tough sailors with whom I came into contact in church.  They learned to trust in Christ because of the influence of Chaplain Lynn Wade while they were stationed on  the island of Guam.  It seems he confronted men with the gospel in the most militant ways imaginable.  He was not a roughneck himself.  I remember him as tall and trim--even wiry. He wasn't a buff bruiser, but his voice was strong and demanding.  He was military in personality.

Once when he preached in our little church in Eagle Rock, his tithing sermon was from the text in Malachi that says, "Will a man rob God?"  He made his point indelible by reaching over the railing at the stage, grabbing a handful of money from the offering plate and shoving it into his coat pocket.  Change went jingling and rolling across the floor.  But not a soul who was there missed or ever forgot this message.  Well, at least we didn't forget the illustration.

We were a very small congregation, and I'm afraid we had become a bit lax in our prompt attendance, especially for the evening service.  One night we arrived two minutes tardy (maybe three) for evening service, only to find Rev. Wade's note pinned to the door.  "I was here at worship hour and evidently you cancelled it without giving me notice, so I went elsewhere to worship."

We were so impressed by his zeal for the gospel that we even named one of our sons for him.  Paul Wade Keller was our third son.

I was told by someone who was there that Lynn Wade once rode his motorcycle on the sidewalk in Philadelphia when he was in Westminster Seminary.  When I brought it up to him, he didn't seem to think there was anything funny about it.

During the General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, held in Denver, CO, many preacher's kids were in attendance, and they wanted to have fun.  When Mr. Wade discovered that one of the kids had filled the sugar container with salt, he rose to his feet in the dining hall and bellered out a brief sermon, rebuking whoever it was that had wasted God's good provisions.  It was his own son who had pulled the stunt, however, and I don't think he ever confessed.  It can be tragic when such an intense person cannot balance his life with a sense of humor.  I cannot pretend to know how things developed in their home.  I do know that the children were made to memorize the catechism rigorously.  But I also know that his children rebelled when they had the freedom to do so.  I hope they repented and came back to the Lord in later life, but I just don't know.

Lynn Wade was suffering with cancer and radiation treatments when I drove him to a speaking engagement.  He was lovable because he loved Jesus, and so do I.  But I didn't have to live with him.  He said that the treatment was sometimes worse than the disease.  I think that was the last time we spoke in person.

It is my observation about Lynn Wade, and many other good men since, that gifted men are often also severely flawed men.  I'm sure Mr. Wade brought more men and women to Jesus Christ than I have in all my ministry.  I know that he made an impression on men who would never be fazed by my attempts to share the gospel.  God uses all kinds of people.  The good is all of grace, but personality is part of God's preparation for such ministries.  Martin Luther is a wonderful case in point.

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