By Allan C. Oggs, Sr.
Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.” He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.” He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep”
Jesus is a personal God. It is true He died for the whole world, but I’m glad He is a personal God. When I begin to read these verses I become caught up in the rhythm of how personal the Lord is. I find myself expecting Him to say, “Simon, son of Jonas, on third street, second house down from the corner, the one with the white shutters.” He is so very careful and so very sure to make Simon understand that “I’m not talking to just any old Simon, but I’m talking to the Simon who is the son of Jonas. I’m talking to you.”
Do you really love Him? Love is a very powerful thing. We have lived to see and enjoy a time when we have become adapted to various skills at building or manufacturing new words. I remember reading a full page ad in the newspaper sometime ago, advertising a new dictionary. It said, “This is the one you want to buy. The reason you should buy this edition is because all the new words and the new word groupings or phrases can be found in this, our new edition.” We have learned how to build and put together new words.
They tell me that shortly after the atomic bomb exploded in Hiroshima, the government called together a panel of scholars and educators. They said, “We want you to go into a room and close yourselves in, stay there until you can build for us a word. This word must belong to us, for no other people have suffered what we have suffered. Put in that one word, somehow, the smell of flesh cooking, the mushrooming clouds of smoke, the screaming sounds; make us feel the heat. This they did. They put together a word not found in the vocabulary of any other people.
We have learned how to build words. Not only have we learned how to build words but we have acquired the talent of writing new definitions to old words. Words that meant one thing fifty years ago don’t mean the same now. Then Mary could wink at Tom. Tom could be all the way across the living room, and in between could be Mama and Daddy and all the brothers and sisters. But still it used to be that when he finally got the signal to her, and let her know that he loved her, it meant a great deal more than it usually does to a lot of people today.
We have learned to write new definitions for real love. I tried to counsel a man one time who had already messed his life up, and was in the process of destroying another family. He was much older than I, and I was trying not to appear as being some smart guy. I sat there and tried to tiptoe around, and was, at the same time, trying to save people from all the agony that this man was putting together. I could tell that all my diplomacy was having no effect at all. He could not read between the lines. He just would not catch on. So I squared my shoulders and I said, “Sir! The truth is you don’t know what love really is. If you met it you wouldn’t recognize it. You have no idea what love is.”
When I said that, you could see that I had insulted him. Oh! he flared up quickly. He looked at me as some poor old Pentecostal preacher that hadn’t been any further from home than last summer’s youth camp. He said, “You’re telling me that I don’t know what real love is?”
I said, “Yes, and I’ll prove it if you’ll sit still long enough.”
He said, “You’re telling me? Let me tell you something; you are looking at a man who knows all there is to know about love.”
I said, “Really!” He said, “That’s right. In fact I have fallen in love as much as three times in one week, and you’re telling me that I don’t know what real love is.”
I said, “The truth of the matter is that you have fallen, but not in love.”
I wonder. Do I really love Him?
The first time I really thought I was in love, I went home and told my folks, “Don’t get alarmed, but your baby boy has had it; I’m in love. I know it has to be love, because every time I look at Helen I just … you know its just got to be the real thing.” I thought it was the real thing, too. I told my folks not to get excited but that we were planning on marrying. We had decided to wait until after I got my education and got through school. I said, “Everything is going to be all right. Helen loves me and I love her.” I just felt like I was in love.
One day when I came home my mother sat me down and said, “Son, I’m going to tell you the quick way so I can get it over with. Helen is not longer your girl.”
I said, “Mom, forget it, I love her and she loves me.”
She said, “No she doesn’t; she got married today.”
I just couldn’t believe it because I felt like it was real love. I couldn’t understand, unless she felt like she couldn’t wait ton me to finish school. She was twenty-three and I was eleven yeas old. I really though that this was the real thing. I thought I was in love.
That was not love. It was not the real thing. I wonder if I really love the Lord? Am I “winking at Him and carrying on with Him,” or do I really love Him? Solomon said that real love was so very powerful and strong that many waters could not quench nor drown it. What he was saying is that love will be lasting after the storm passes by. After the adversary goes back to his river beds, real love will be just as vigorous and beautiful as it ever was. According to Paul, if you sing like Michael and talk like Gabriel, and don’t have love, you are nothing. All your tongue-talking doesn’t mean a thing. You see, real love is a powerful thing.
I would like for each of us to ask himself tonight, “Do I really love Him?” Love is a powerful, powerful thing, and a tremendous motivator. It will take a man and fling him beyond the lines of caution. It will make a timid, quiet man a boisterous and courageous man in a moment’s notice. There is something about love that is a tremendous motivator. I read one time about a woman who rushed into a flaming building, and big, strong men, two or three of them, wrestled her to the ground trying to keep her back from the flames but those men could not hold that little mother down. Real love is a powerful motivator.
I talked to a woman who stood on a beach and watched her husband and her youngest son go out in a boat. It was at a picnic, between Sunday school and the evening service. It was a time of real fellowship. She stood there and watched the boat go toward the horizon. There was just a note of pride as she viewed the companionship between the father and her son. As she stood there, the boat made a peculiar twist. The husband went over one side of the boat, and the son, the other side. She knew in an instant her son could not swim at all and, at best, her husband would be fortunate to swim all the way back to the beach, for he was a very poor swimmer. She told me how she stood there and fought with the thought. There was a bitter expression down inside. She longed to cry out to him, remind him, “You can’t swim well. You might make it by yourself, but if you try and bring the boy with you, there is no way. There is no way that you’ll make it in.” She stood there, battling, trying to somehow tell him to at least save himself. But that man came up out of the water and, about the same time, that little head came bobbing up. The man did not pause to tread water. Just as soon as he heard the bubbling sounds of his son, he went straight toward his boy. He wrapped his arm around that boy. He was just fighting and splashing. He tried his best to swim back to shore. She stood there on the beach and watched them go down … one time, two times, and the third time; and they found both of them several hours later.
There was something deep down inside of that man that made him forget he could not swim well. He forgot caution, he forgot to be careful. All of a sudden he was glued to that boy whom he loved so much.
Love is a powerful motivator. It will make you fast when you don’t feel like it. It will make you faithful to the house of God when you are weary and tired. It will make you pray when you don’t want to pray. Real love is a powerful, powerful, motivator. You are supposed to say, “Lord, you see I am motivated by You. I go where You tell me to go. I do what You tell me to do. I stay where You tell me to stay.” Real love is just that kind of stimulator. It is a tremendous motivator.
Not only does it motivate, but real love ties a very tight knot. Real love has a tremendous bonding quality. There is something about real love that can so entangle lives that absolutely nothing can unravel them. In sickness or health, in poverty or affluence, for better or worse; real love has a way of tying a tight knot.
I went to see an old pioneer preacher several years ago. I was pastoring in New Orleans, and he was dying in a New Orleans hospital. He had pastored the same church for forty years. He had been married to the same woman for forty-five years. They had just had their anniversary. I walked into that hospital room and I felt so awful. I felt like a private class having a meeting with the general. I thought, “Of all things; me trying to encourage you!” He had been down the road for so many many years.
I walked into that room and there, sitting with him, was his lovely wife. She was dressed in a bright red dress. Her smile was as bright as her dress. She sat there on the edge of that bed, and that room was absolutely lit up with her real good attitude and her cheerful spirit. I knew he was dying, and I’m sure she knew he was dying. I joked with her and said, “How are you doing? I pastor in this town, as you well know, and if there is anything I can do to be of any help, I’ll feel so honored.” I was doing all of the proper things.
Then I noticed out of the corner of my eye his wife began to sneak her hand along the edge of the mattress, and it was obvious that she was headed for her lover’s hand. I thought, “After forty-five years this little wife is going to hold hands with her husband.” I could tell that they didn’t want me to see, so I just kept looking at the patient, but I was watching what was going on out of the corner of my eye. (You would be surprised how much your pastor sees without even looking.) I just stood there watching, and, sure enough, she looked at him and in the special kind of way; and finally she got almost to his fingers and let her hand lie there. When she thought no one was looking, she reached over and squeezed his finger, just one finger. She squeezed it two or three times. I looked her way, and she pulled her hand back. It looked like when Mama would catch our hands in the candy jar. She just jerked her hand back quickly. I thought, after forty-five years she was letting him know: “It doesn’t need to be gloomy; you still have me, and after all these years I still love you just like I loved you forty-five years ago.”
Real love is a tight knot. Real love cannot be separated. That’s why the Apostle Paul said there was nothing that could separate you from the love of God. Regardless of the circumstance, nothing can separate you from God if you really love Him. You say, “I belong to You, I am supported by Your power, I belong to You.” It’s like some kind of a trade where you are mine and I am yours, and we belong to each other, and you mean it when you say, “I really love God.” Let each of us ask himself the question, “Do I really love Him?”
Men had gone out to catch fish. This was not a pleasure trip, this was a business fishing trip. These men had to catch fish to pay their bills and to take care of their families.
The Bible said they fished all night, and it was a calm, hot night. Hour after hour they toiled, yet they still showed no fish for their labor. They tore off their fishing coats, their brows began to shine in the night with the sweat. Those well-tuned bodies, strong men, men who were used to labor, pressed on. They knew how to fish, where to go and how to do it, but still, after hours of labor when the sun began to rise the next day, the cash register had not rung one time. There wasn’t any fish in the well of their boat. The sun rose the next day and all these men were worried. You see, this is how they paid their mortgage note, how they bought their food, their sandals; this was their livelihood. All they had to show for their labor was weary backs, wet faces and sighs of disappointment.
As they began to gather their nets one more time, they were close to the shore. A man standing on the shore called out to them and said, “Children, do you have any meat?”
The reply was, “We don’t have any meat; in fact, we have absolutely nothing. We don’t even have a minnow to brag about.” They all felt the same way; they didn’t have a thing to talk about.
The man standing on the beach called back to them and said, “Well cast your net on the right side.”
There was so much room for debate. They had never seen this man cast a net, they could have stood there and debated the issue. “Who are you to tell us how to fish? We know where the holes are, we know where the holes are, we know where the sand is, and we have been here lots of times!” But there was no debate. All they did was to lift the net and throw it on the right side of the boat. When they did, immediately there was a strain that began to pull on the cords of the net. There was quick excitement, bordering on hysteria. They wrestled, all of them, these well tuned, strong men, yet these men together could not lift the weight of the net. Finally they did lift it high enough to see what was in the net.
Can you imagine, after being bogged down with the wet seaweed of disappointment all night, suddenly they lifted their net high enough and they were looking down, and there was a large number of fish in the net looking up. The men were looking down at money. They were looking down at revenue. This is what they all wanted. They pulled and strained, but it weighed so much that they could not lift it.
Somebody nudged Peter and said, “Listen Simon, that man yonder on the beach knows too much about this lake.” (And really I guess He should have known all there was to know about the lake.) “As much as He knows, He must be the Lord.”
Simon Peter got all excited, jumped in the water and splashed all the way to the beach, but when he got there he had a surprise waiting for him. When he got there, the Bible said fish were already on the fire, bread was being baked. It just smelled like a fish dinner anyone would enjoy going home to.
When he got there, Jesus stood looking at him. (And I want you to know, He knows how to look at us.) He looked at Simon Peter, and said, “Simon …. ” By then they had drug the net upon the beach and were counting fish in the net. Jesus said, “Simon, son of Jonas, do you love me more than these?” I don’t believe He was saying, “Do you love me more than James and John?” He was referring to the fish (what the fish represented) and said, “Do you love me more than these?”
Simon answered quickly, and said, “Lord, you know I love you.”
All the while they were counting the fish, 125, 145, 149 and 150. You could just imagine Simon’s thoughts. You see, these fish represented affluence. These fish represented security. Old Simon looked at them, and in his own mind he was probably thinking, “I’m back in business after all. You know, last night I was just about to be in distress, and bankruptcy was my aim. But now, you don’t think I don’t know how to do it. Take a look at my pile of fish.” He looked at those old scaly fish, and thought, “I’m going to throwaway the old holey net and buy a new one. You see, I’ve got something to show for my labor. If you don’t believe I’m great by what I say, take a look at my pile of fish.”
Then Jesus tapped him on the shoulder, and said, “This is what I would like to talk to you about: Do you love me more than these?”
The second time Simon said, “Yes, Lord; you know I love you.” Simon was a real good wiggler, and that’s about all he was doing.
For the third time, Jesus asked, “Simon, do you love me more than these?”
There the wording was all changed. The Bible says that on this third time Simon was grieved in his heart. Something down deep on the inside began to turn, conviction began to growl in the pit of his stomach. Suddenly, Simon was grieved in his heart. Up to now he had always said, “You know I love you,” but this time he said, “You know all things.” What he was saying was, “I tried to hide some things from You; I tried to give You a part of my life, and still fish. I tried to hide from You some things that I cared for very much, but You knew all things. And then He made that great commitment. He said, “I love you, I love you, I really love you more than these.”
Does it really make a difference? Oh yes! It always makes a difference. Simon Peter was a coward at Golgotha, but on the day of Pentecost, after he made that big commitment, he was a hero. It always makes a difference. When we come to the place where we can say, “I love You more than houses and lands, and silver and gold, and folly and clothing and tables and cars and dishes and reputations and… I love You more than these,” IT MAKES A DIFFERENCE!
Thirty-eight years ago the doctor took my dad by his arm, led him out into the hospital hall and told him that if he was going to insist on praying, that he ought to pray not for his baby to live, but that he should pray for his baby to die. I had just been born, and my birth was such that it absolutely tangled my body until my spine was shaped like an inverted horseshoe and the back of my head literally touched the back of my heels, my spine was so curved. He explained to my dad (my mother didn’t hear this for weeks; in fact she thought for some time that I was really dead, and that she was so weak they were afraid to tell her) what they had just concluded, that I would not live, and if I did live, I would never be able to walk, never be able to talk, and never be able to see. They said there was no future at all for me. There was no hope, nothing they could do. So he said, “You ought to be praying that your son will not live.”
I don’t know why God was so merciful, but they called the pastor of the church, and Brother Thomas came. They gathered in that room, and they began to pray. After they prayed, the nurses’ and the staffs mouths kind of dropped open and their eyes got a little big, for that little infant body began to move just a little bit. By the time they got through praying, I had discontinued my moving, and by the time I stopped moving, my spine was just as straight as it is right now.
I don’t really understand it. I haven’t questioned God, not the first time, but in all that God did for me the miracle He performed on my body. He, for some reason known only to Him, chose to leave me a little bit, just a little whisper of that very serious condition, and why, I don’t know. Frankly, I could care less, because I could never have more fun than I have had anyway. This is the way He left me-partially handicapped. Because He did, my parents (they were wonderful people) and many people who loved me, and made such great investments in me, told me, when the time came that I got old enough to understand that there were two things I would have to do. Two things that I would have to attain in order to live a happy and independent life.
My father said, “First of all son, you must give your heart to God. You have to be filled with the Holy Ghost and baptized in the name of Jesus Christ and live for Him.” I heard that every day. My dad was a preacher.
The second thing was also very good counsel and equally good advice. He would say, “Son, because of your physical disabilities, you are going to have to study hard. You are going to have to find you a vocation or profession in some area of life so that you can take care of yourself.” They felt, and I agreed, that college would be the avenue I had better take. I knew there were some things I could not do. I realized there would not be much future if I pursued a career in being a rope walker, so I grew up with this real desire a dream, and a challenge (to me, life has always been a challenge, and it is still a challenge; it is one contest after another).
I would suffer my little defeats at times. And quite often I would be defeated as a human being. But I would go to my room at night, and I would lie there and weep and wet my sheet with tears. They were not tears of shame or pity. I would lie there and talk to myself (I highly recommend talking to yourself). I would lie there and weep, say to myself: “Oggsey, you may have lost a few battles today, but the war is not over yet.” I would grit my teeth, and then I would just close my eyes and dream of all the things I was going to do. I had a real desire to be a doctor and specialize in the field of my own handicap.
There was a time that I didn’t have any equilibrium. Someone would give me a little bump, and down I would go. Well, then I couldn’t get back up. You know how boys are; they are the same everywhere. They would knock me down and all gather in a circle and then I would entertain them. I’d get half way up, and then down I’d go again, and they’d all laugh. But I have to admit to you that I did have a little bit of ham in me. I didn’t really have to fall as hard as I would fall, but I wanted them to laugh. I wanted them to stay there laughing, because I had a brother five years older than I, and I just knew if I could keep them there laughing long enough, he would be coming, and when he got there, it would be my turn to do the laughing. I would dream dreams, I would build boats, and I would see visions. I could close my eyes and just see that plate glass door with my name on it: “Allan Charles Oggs, M.D., PHD, Fiddle Dee and Bumble Bee.” You wait! You wait and see! I will make my mark, there will come a day when people will be knocking on my door. I used all of these ways to prove to myself that I could make my way, that I could just make my place.
On May 3, 1951 God filled me with the precious gift of the Holy Ghost. I’ll never forget it. I went home that night and said, “Mom, I am halfway now; after all these years I have just been filled with the Holy Ghost.”
Just a few short weeks after that, the Lord began to talk to me about getting myself ready, and preparing myself to preach the gospel. I was never so confused. I explained to God that He had a pretty good record un¬til then, but that He had made a mistake, and I was just as serious as I could be. I just felt like this: “Now, Lord, You have seen my dreams and You have watched my life, and You have seen me put my building blocks all together, so I beg You, don’t mess up my game plan, because it’s set for all time.
Then the reality of the finances of my family began to be evident; we could not afford college. I certainly did not warrant any kind of scholastic scholarship, and it just dawned on me that the money wasn’t there. It was a lot less expensive to go to Bible school than it was to go to college. It wasn’t a surrender, it was not a dedication, it was not a consecration, but it was the decision that was the result over a very carnal spirit. I finally said, “All right, I’ll go to Bible school.” But in my heart I did not want to go.
Would you believe that the next day after I said it, in high school they called my name on the sound system and said, “Send Allan down to the office right now.” I went down the hall thinking, “What in the world did I do this time?” I went down to the office, and sitting there was a man about five feet tall, and just about that wide. He was the most unusual man I have ever seen. When I met him I thought, “If I have done anything, I hope I didn’t do it to him.”
About five minutes after I met him, he walked me to the office door, shook my hand and said, “Son, I hope you understand what all this means. It simply means that if you qualify for our financial assistance (and he said we would have some testing to do), and we feel like you will qualify for this program, all you have to do is tell us where you want to go to school and we’ll pay your room, your board, your transportation, your fees; everything you need, we’ll pick up the tab.”
I squeezed his big fat pudgy hand and said, “Mr. Landrey, I’m going to call you back in three weeks, and I’ll let you know which university or which college I want to go to.”
He said, “Hurry up, the decision must be made fast.”
I left that office, and I felt like everything had worked out so nice. I went sailing down that old board floor hallway and got almost to my home room when the Lord spoke to me. It seemed to me like it was in an audible voice. He said, “Do you love me more than these? Do you love me more than these?”
I wrestled for three weeks, then called the man back and told him I didn’t know where to tell him, and would he give me some more time. It went three weeks and three months and five months and six months, and I was flirting with losing everything. But I was trying desperately to explain to God that everybody ought to be entitled to at least one fish. I sold everything else, I gave You this, I’ll give You that, and I’ll give You everything but this one fish. I felt like it belonged to me. God wasn’t fair to ask me to give it up.
I woke up one morning, and realized I was just about backslidden. It was a fact. I wouldn’t pray, because praying involves listening, and I didn’t want to listen. I got up that morning, and I had a prayer meeting. I got down to pray, and I said, “Lord if You want me to preach, You let them call me to be the speaker at the next Youth Rally. When I said that I thought, “Why didn’t I think of this a long time ago, because I had never testified fifteen words in my life that made sense. I would just get up and turn white and sit down. I said, “Lord if they do ask me to speak (I don’t believe they will but if they do), and You want me to preach some day in the future, I want You to turn that place upside down.”
When I got up off my knees, I thought if I ever had it made I had it made then. You know what happened? You talk about a coincidence, that same day they called me and said, “We want you to have a fifteen minute sermonette at the next rally.”
I was so carnal and so filled with my own “fish,” that I told my mother, “Mom, the strangest coincidence just happened.” When I told her the story, all she did was kind of raise her eyebrows and sniff a bit. Didn’t say a word.
I went to service that night, and the place was absolutely packed. Preachers were there whom I thought just one notch lower than God. Great men of God. They all sat there, and that, in itself, was enough for me to get all upset. I stepped up to the pulpit, and I had tutored myself. I was ready for a failure. I was hoping for a failure. I went to the pulpit with one line on a page of paper that said, “Let your light so shine.” I read one verse of Scripture and that was all I had to offer. I was scared to death, and I had fifteen minutes to go. I read my text and looked over their heads, and said, “Folks, I am going to talk to you about letting your light so shine before men,” and that was the extent of my pain. I lifted my head, and when I did I felt something touch the crown of my head and go all through my body. It was the first time in my life I felt the sweet anointing power of the Holy Ghost.
I don’t know what I said, but whatever I said, it took me forty-five minutes to say it. The Lord moved, and all the people were out of their seats. They were bawling and crying and shouting and dancing. Everybody was surprised, but no one was more surprised than 1. I’ll never forget it. I backed up, and when I did you can imagine the folks who had watched me through most of my life, and how they all wanted to show their affection. But there was something I felt like I needed to do a lot more than accept their compliments. I escaped and went to a back Sunday school room where I taught every Sunday, locked the door behind me and knelt and prayed in the dark. I said, “God, I don’t know what in the world You hope to do with something like me, I don’t have much to offer, and what r- have to offer is not very strong, but Lord, I want you to know that I’m going to love you more than I love all of these fish.”
It means something to really love Him. I wonder if you really love Him. We all have our own molds and dreams and ambitions, but do you really love Him above all? The beauty of the whole story is how God expects you to love Him more than things. Then when you do, He turns around -and He gives to you things. It’s such a beautiful circle. He said, “Give up all your things and seek me first and my kingdom and my righteousness, and then all these things (other things) I will give to you.”
I’m glad that one day I surrendered my life to Him. I’m glad that I said to Him, “I love You! I love You! I love You!”
This article “Do You Really Love Me?” by Allan C. Oggs, Sr. is excerpted from his book Today Is The Beginning, 1974.