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Thursday, 27 January 2011

A.M. Overton

In 1932, My grandfather, A.M. Overton, was a pastor of a church in Mississippi with a wife and three small children. His wife was pregnant with their fourth child but when it came time for delivery, there were complications and both she and the baby died. During the funeral service, the preacher officiating the service noticed my grandfather writing something on a piece of paper. After the service the minister asked him about it, and he handed him the paper with a poem he had just written which he titled, “He Maketh No Mistake”.

"He Maketh No Mistake"

My Father’s way may twist and turn
My heart may throb and ache,
But in my soul I’m glad to know,
He maketh no mistake.

My cherished plans may go astray,
My hopes may fade away,
But still I’ll trust my Lord to lead,
For He doth know the way.

Tho’ night be dark and it may seem
That day will never break,
I’ll pin my faith, my all, in Him,
He maketh no mistake.

There’s so much now I cannot see,
My eyesight’s far too dim,
But come what may,
I’ll simply trust and leave it all to Him.

For by and by the mist will lift,
And plain it all He’ll make,
Through all the way, tho’ dark to me,
He made not one mistake.
 
- A.M. Overton, 1932


A.M. Overton and FamilyBackground Info(Written by my Dad, Dr. Bob Overton in response to an inquiry by a researcher Wiley Fulton)

Thanks for your interest in my dad, A.M. Overton. I am glad to give you some information about him.  

He grew up in Toone, TN, the son of a farmer. He graduated from Union University in Jackson, TN, where he was a debate partner with J.D. Grey. He told the story that when they left college, J.D. said, "I am going to be president of the SBC," to which Dad replied, "I will probably be so far out in the boondocks that I won't hear about it." While a college student, I visited Dr. Grey at the FBC of New Orleans. He treated me royally and spoke most fondly of Dad. He also gave me some information about the poem. I knew something of the story but not as much as he told, which I will repeat to you.
First, Dad was pastor of the FBC of Baldwyn, MS, a small town in northeast Mississippi. While there his wife died in childbirth, the baby also dying. He was left with three children, two girls and a boy, ages about 8-12. During the funeral service, the pastor preaching the sermon noticed that Dad was writing. After the service he asked about it, and Dad gave him the words that are now familiar to many people around the world, "He Maketh No Mistake."

Shortly afterwards, he married a lady from Baldwyn and then became the pastor of the Fulton Baptist Church [now FBC], about forty miles from Baldwyn. Fulton is a county seat town just a few miles west of the Alabama state line, about fifty miles south of the Tennessee state line. He pastored that church until his death of colon cancer in 1952, at the age of 52. I was the oldest of four children born to that marriage in Fulton, followed by two daughters and another son. His preaching ministry was that of expository preacher. He almost always preached through books of the Bible, one on Sunday morning, another on Sunday night, and another on Wednesday night. [Sometimes I think that both Sunday sermons were from the same book.]

His activities were many. He began a radio program around 1945, a Saturday morning "Radio Bible Class." This grew into a network of several stations in several states nearby; then later he added some large "clear channel" stations in Texas and Mexico that covered a large part of the nation. He once received a letter of H.S. Ironside of Moody Church, Chicago, very well-known at that time, commending him for his good work. It was during that time that I played the piano as introduction and conclusion to his programs, traveling with him every Saturday to Tupelo, MS, where the broadcast originated, and once a month for a whole afternoon while he recorded four or five messages for use in the larger stations further away. I had no idea at the time that those experiences were making an enormous impact on me. When I arrived at Mississippi College, by his arrangement, shortly after his death, having just surrendered to preach, it dawned on me after two or three years there that I was miles ahead of my fellow ministerial students in knowledge of the Bible. The reason, of course, was that I had been under my father's strong Bible preaching three times every week all my life through high school, plus the untold numbers of radio messages. I must admit that I wasn't really "trying" to learn the Bible all that time, but much of it rubbed off on me anyway. A tribute, of course, to the grace of the Lord to me.

You will appreciate this little side note, especially given your name. He received mail from all over the country in response to his radio programs. He never, ever asked for money, but it came unsolicited and was the entire financial provision for the programs. His address was simply, A.M. Overton, Fulton, MS. He once received a letter addressed to A.M. Fulton, Overton, MS. Somehow, he got it! By the way, the Lord's provision of finances for the radio ministry was a story in itself. Countless times he came to the absolute last day that bills had to be paid, without sufficient funds to pay them, but the last mail delivery on the last day would always have the needed amount, often almost to the dollar!

As far back as I can remember, Dad published a monthly paper called "The Clarion" which went to hundreds of homes all those years. The radio ministry expanded the reach of it and it was sent to most of the states plus a few foreign countries. He published numerous gospel tracts on various subjects and these were sent all over the world. He published several books of the radio sermons and also, as you thought, a book of poems. But the book of poems was not promoted and never went very far. "He Maketh No Mistake" was in that book, entitled "Chimes of Dawn."

Perhaps a crowning achievement of his life was the beginning of a school for preachers which was housed in the church in Fulton. He was Dean and Teacher, and some pastor friends of his composed the teaching faculty. This lasted only a few years because it ended at his death, but for those years there were 20-30 students every semester. In our house we had two upstairs bedrooms and four of the students would live there, eating their meals at our table. I don't know how my mother managed this, but it just seemed like the way life was supposed to be for us kids. Table conversations were most interesting. Again, part of my legacy. These were the years I was in upper elementary school through high school, so mid-40s to early 50s.

His life was cut short, or so it seemed to us, by colon cancer that began in 1951. He had surgery at the Baptist Hospital in Memphis, TN, and later returned to the pulpit for a while, but after a few months the cancer resumed it relentless march through his body. He suffered much pain for several months before his death in July of 1952.  Looking back, it's hard to see how he could accomplish so much in so short a period of time. He was a tireless worker who never really took any time off. The church built for him a garage with adjoining office in the back yard of our house, which he enjoyed for many years. Part of his radio ministry became the sale of religious books which he stocked in that office. So I grew up with a ready-made "library" of Christian devotional books and Christian fiction for teenagers. Another part of my legacy.

Surely you have recognized by now that I have enjoyed writing these lines to you. I have never had occasion to do this before, so I thank you for the inquiry that set it into motion, and for my son's internet search concerning the poem that precipitated your inquiry. Apparently you are something of a "history buff" so maybe you have enjoyed this little trip down memory lane just half as much as I have.

Perhaps you would like to know that I was a Baptist pastor for 47 years, the last church being the Rice Temple Baptist Church in Houston, TX, where I served for 31 years. I began teaching for Southwestern Seminary's Houston campus in 1983 as an ad junct professor, then retired from the church and began work fulltime with the seminary in 2001. I greatly enjoy my work as Dean and Professor because it is an opportunity to make an investment in the lives of men and women who will be serving the Lord all over the world for many years. I continue to preach regularly, serving as Interim Pastor for churches most of the time.


Posted by: Rob Overton AT 10:44 am   |  Permalink   |  13 Comments  |  Email
Saturday, 01 January 2011

I was listening to my Pastor, Dave Gibson, preach a sermon based on Titus 2:2.  (2Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.)  He made the point that we who are the Body of Christ are constantly “read” by other people and we either demonstrate Christ-like attributes or we do not.  This started a flood of thoughts in my mind and prompted me to take it a little further.  Sorry Dave, but I probably missed what you said after that!

Not only are we “read” but in a sense we are tasted and experienced by the world. I began to think about how a wine connoisseur evaluates a bottle of wine.  Terms begin to swirl like bold, vibrant, earthy, acidic and the list goes on and on.  Now, I am certainly not a wine connoisseur!  If not for the spell checker feature of my software, I would not even be able to spell it!  But I have always been amazed at people who had so finely tuned their palette that they could give a thorough evaluation of a wine from only a taste or two.  They can easily spot an inferior wine with very little effort.

In a sense, society has been trained to be an expert in making quick assessments of other individuals with which they come in contact.  The evaluation metrics that they use are not always fair and are inconsistent to a degree, but they can generally give a pretty fair analysis of a person given enough exposure.  Of course without the exposure, there is no evaluation whatsoever resulting in zero impact.  (note to self: expand in a different post)  It seems that a wine review can be broken down into three basic parts: the first impression, general characteristics, and the finish.

With this in mind, I offer the following possible reviews of a Christian by a people connoisseur.  This is certainly not an exhaustive set, but hopefully enough to make a point.

Review # 1 – Highly acidic on the tongue resulting in a very unpleasant experience.   I could not bear to finish the glass.

I cringe when I think of all of the times when I have made my first impression to a person in an ugly and offensive way.  Perhaps it was when I was made to wait an intolerable amount of time at the bank, or when I was cut off by a careless driver.  Whatever preceded my poor first impression, it does not begin to excuse the way that I represented my maker.  Bottom line is that when the first impression is poor, there is no reason to look further for depth.  Impression formed, forever ingrained, an opportunity lost.  Testimony delivered.

Review #2 – A bright presentation with great mouth feel.  Wine disappoints as it has no real depth. 

How easy is this? I can remember to be gracious to the waitress at the restaurant after I leave church on Sunday, but have I made any impact?   How many times have I had a chance to share my faith, or meet a need, or just demonstrate compassion and I have just gone about my business?  I am humbled when I am in the presence of someone who reaches out when I do not.  It is also significant when those who are facing incredible adversity or loss manage to use the situation to demonstrate God’s goodness to the rest of the world.  These are people of great substance.  I want to be one of those.

Review # 3 – A very robust presentation giving way to earthy tones with good depth.  Unfortunately, the finish is somewhat weak.

I want to finish well.  I really do.  I love to see people like my father who has never let up and keeps pressing on, preaching the Gospel and defusing difficult situations.  I am talking about people who work for the kingdom as long as they have strength to do so.  I also admire people who find a new way of serving the kingdom when life situations and circumstances dictate a change.  I want to be one of the people who get older and manage to see it as just getting nearer to the time that they can actually be with God.

Review #4 – Good first impression giving way to great depth and complexity.  Prevalent notes of grace, mercy and compassion leading to an invigorating finish.  Truly, a life to savor.

So I have to ask myself, Am I living a life that makes people want to take a further look?  And when they look closer, am I living in such a way the depth of faith is observed?  And will I finish my life in such a way that Christ’s message never dims?  One thing is certain; we give our testimony many times in every day.  We either act as an ambassador for God's love, grace and mercy or we give a hollow or distorted representation of our master.

So... what am I going to taste like today?
Posted by: Rob Overton AT 06:26 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
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