Ohio preacher mines depths of Bible at
Douglas Meeting

    Reprinted from the Blackstone Valley Tribune –July 23 edition.
    DOUGLAS — The annual Douglas Holiness Camp Meeting is a combination of strong gospel music and some fairly original preaching in a unique, natural setting.
    There were weekends back in the 19th century when as many as 7,000 people came out for a Sunday night service in a tabernacle since rebuilt on a hillside surrounded by trees. That meant that several times the population of Douglas traveled from Connecticut, Rhode Island and other places in Massachusetts to participate in a series of Bible study, gospel singing and hearing preachers brought in from all over the world.
    Although the camp has moved along with the times, putting up some new buildings and using the latest in sound systems, the core of the evening activity is still the preaching.
    Anyone who says the sermons are routine evangelical is probably unaware of how perspicacious many of these preachers are. For one thing, they all seem to know the Bible like the backs of their hands. And they seem to concentrate their texts on the Old Testament, sometimes assuming everyone already knows sometimes assuming everyone already knows the New Testament.
    They often seem especially well endowed to convey fresh understandings of Old Testament texts while also giving personal testimonies.
    The Rev. Claude Nicholas of Ohio maintained that kind of tradition as he preached to perhaps 150 Sunday, July 19 in the spacious tabernacle.
    He did something not often done these days — he spoke about the nature of God.
    For Nicholas, God is intensely personal in a one-on-one sense. While that goes somewhat against the grain of modernist interpretations of the Christian faith, it is a clarion call among the traditionally orthodox evangelicals.
   Nicholas had the virtue of not simply mouthing platitudes about salvation, but of talking fervently about God as a person and of His relationship to each person.
   Rather than seeming like the typically understood severe God of the Old Testament, the God Nicholas portrayed was and is the provider of blessings.
   But this was where Nicholas parted company with many conventional reward-oriented preaching.
   He spoke of how believers sometimes concentrate too much on God’s blessings to the neglect of acknowledging the Source of all gifts. “I grew up with a terrible concept of God,” Nicholas said. “Oh, he was the Sovereign Creator, and all-powerful. But he was just waiting for me to mess up. That’s not the God of the Bible. That’s man’s concept.” “He (God) always comes looking for something to bless,” the minister continued. “He wants to bless us more than we can ever imagine. If He finds something in our lives not [bless-worthy], He talks to us about it.”
   Referring to “Revelations 2,”Nicholas said “there is no one hidden from God’s knowledge.” Nicholas relayed the idea of Christ telling the Ephesians how He liked their selflessness, their service to others. “I’m excited you’re not selfish and you’re sound in doctrine,” he characterized the words of Jesus. “You are not weary of well- doing.”   
     “Then,” in verse four, “there’s a sadness as Jesus says to that church: ‘Yet there is some- thing I need to talk to you about. You have left your first love and don’t even know it. You have lost your intimacy with God.’”
   Nicholas said the word “left” as in “You have left your first love” connotes a decision toward separation rather than something unintended.”
    It does not matter about sacrifice, service to others, and working for the Kingdom of God, Nicholas said Christ implies, if the priority of one’s heart is not centered on God.”
   You can obey and still not have a heart to love Christ,” he said.
   The Rev. Nicholas sometimes used God, Jesus and Christ interchangeably, and of course the Trinity includes God, Christ and the Holy Spirit in Christian theology. But the weight of Nicholas’ references seemed to center upon God the Father.
   He warned about prayer becoming routine repetition.
   As for losing one’s sense of intimacy with God, Nicholas said The Lord’s Prayer is instructive. He said the line in that prayer — “Give us this day our daily bread”— is meaningful not only in reference to receiving bread, but on a daily basis. He said “daily”is important because the faithful need a daily touchstone with God, “a reminder of our need for the love of God.”
   The preacher warned of putting trust in other things.
   “The greatest dangers (to intimacy with God) are the blessings of God,” Nicholas said.
“We can shift our attention to the blessings, not to the Blesser.”
   Nicholas pointed out we pray most earnestly when we face things that threaten us. “That is when we feel the need for God,” he said.
   Referring to the first commandment, Nicholas said God was not just demanding first place among gods, but an entire separation from the notion of status or comparison. “God is not asking us to give Him a place,” Nicholas declared. “You want all of my life, all of my heart,” Nicholas interpreted. “I thought I was a good Christian because I gave God a place.”  
   “Jealousy is the fear of misplaced love,” Nicholas said, referring to a word that is often in quotes of divine sayings in the Old Testament. “Real idols are anything I put my trust in that only God can do,” he added.
   He spoke of people who “spend their souls to get money.” Noting we try to amass money to protect ourselves against what life can bring, he said“ real security or freedom never comes from our will, but from an intimate relationship to God-a God you can commit to who will not fail.”
   Nicholas referred to several measurements of having left the first love — that of God.
   “When I look to anything but God to answer my needs. Jobs, salary should not be the focus.” You and I are only as rich as what we have that can’t be taken away.”
   Another sign of spiritual peril is evident,  he noted, when “my delight in God is no longer an excitement.”
   “I’ve been throughout the country,” Nicholas said, “and nobody wants to talk about Jesus.”
   “We no longer get excited about what God is doing in our lives,” he added. “The early Christians had a passion for God.” Another sign of a faith problem,  he indicated, is “when my soul does not want fellowship with Jesus — the presence of the Holy One.  How long has it been since you had a love feast with Jesus.”
The Bible is not a rule book,” he said, acknowledging that it does include many rules, “but (in a larger sense) a love letter.”  
Article also included a outside shot of the  tabernacle with the following caption:The doors of the tabernacle were open last Sunday evening at the Douglas Camp Meeting.
There was a second photo of the inside of the tabernacle with this caption:” Worshippers stand while singing.
Thomas Mattson photo.