One of my heroes was John S. Palmer, the father of John M. Palmer, who was the pastor of New Life Assembly of God in Athens, OH when I started following Jesus as a graduate student. Rev. Palmer Sr. was pastoring the A/G church in nearby Jackson, OH, with his wife Ruth at the time. They had three children: John, his younger brother Jim, and their older sister Marilynn, all of whom are great examples of Christ-likeness and consistent fruitfulness. I have benefited from the friendship, example, and generosity of John and his wife Debbie, and Jim and his wife Renee.
But I want to talk about the influence of their dad on my life.
Read Psalm 119:105-112.
John S. Palmer loved the Word of God. I was able to spend time with him as a young Chi Alpha minister when he invited me to speak to his church. He and Ruth would invite me over for a meal after the service and ask how Barbara and I were doing as newlyweds, as well as the growth of Chi Alpha at Ohio University. I recognized the opportunity I had with this amazing older couple and asked a lot of questions about ministry and living life well.
One question I ask people who have been in ministry longer than I were books they had read that had an influence on them. Rev. Palmer said, “I can’t imagine a day without the Bible. The Scriptures are the primary reading material that describe to me who God is, what His creation and plans are, the challenge of good and evil and human nature, God’s redemption of the human race and all of creation, and the work of the Spirit in today’s time to accomplish His purposes.”
Mrs. Palmer added, “We have been pioneering and growing churches for a long time, Mike. We have faced difficult circumstances such as people not interested in God, towns not willing to let us rent space for a church meeting, and spiritual isolation where we did not have people around that we could open up to and pray with. John and I had each other, of course, and our children. But we learned how to rely on the Holy Spirit and the many promises in the Scriptures about God’s trustworthy character.” Rev. Palmer said, “That’s why our Bible was so important to us. Even though we were alone at times as the sole Christians starting another church in another town, we felt God’s presence in incredible ways and He would empower us to press on.”
Rev. Palmer told me stories of how the Bible opened the door of opportunity so he could witness to town leaders and homeowners as he went door-to-door to meet everyone he could. He said, “If Jesus could go to the cross for the whole world, I can go to every business and home in a town to introduce myself and ask if they are interested to hear and discuss the greatest story ever told.”
I had the privilege of being a pallbearer at Rev. John S. Palmer’s funeral in 1986. I reflected on the way the Scriptures had been a “light” and “lamp” to him (see Psalm 119:105). I wrote in the margin of my first Bible that he read the Bible through every year as a habit and had read the New Testament over 450 times. The Bible is powerful force in a believer’s life. It brings each of us to the truth of God, and, it brings God to each of us. I learned many things from John S. Palmer – but one truth was that I needed to read (and live) God’s Word every day. I continue to hide God’s Word in my heart through hearing, reading, studying, memorizing, and meditating.
Grow devotionally. A Christian cannot survive without the nourishment of the Word of God.
Love is a verb,