Semi-Retired Pastor Jeremy Stopford

Shared at Smyrna Baptist Church Smyrna, NY

July 25, 2021 11am

STOP THE PRESSES! HOLD YOUR HORSES! GIVE A LISTEN! Just WHERE is this week’s edition of the “Sermon on the Mount” study? Sorry, dear people. The study in Matthew has been set aside for at least one week for a very important announcement: Yesterday in church, I had the privilege of sharing about an amazing event which will actually take place sometime tonight (July 26, 2021). Are you ready?

My life is divided into 2 sections: BC and AD. BEFORE Jesus and AFTER coming to Jesus. For me, that was BEFORE age 19 and AFTER.

Before age 19, I believed in God. I remember that when I was younger, I used to lay flat on my back on the grass. Then I would look up at the clouds – and do what? I would have conversations with my unknown God!

Dad retired when I was 13. At that time we moved from our home near New York City down to our new home in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. All that led up to that fateful day when I was 17. My best friend Jim and I were swimming in my parents’ pool when Jim said, “I got saved at the revival at church last week.” IMMEDIATELY I told Jim, “you keep that stuff to yourself.” But for the next 2 years I watched Jim. I watched his changing and changed life. Jim was going from “old things were passed away” to “behold, all things become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

When I was 18 years old, I worked as a counselor at a boys’ camp in New Hampshire, the same camp where I had been a camper for 3 summers in the 1960’s. One of the counselors, named George, asked me to watch his cabin of boys one night while he was taking one of his 2 nights off we were given per summer. When I walked into his cabin I saw a stack of brand new Bibles, individually wrapped in plastic, located on his bureau. When he came back from his night off, I asked, “George, can I buy a Bible?” He wisely said, “No, I’ll give you one in the morning.”

The next morning at breakfast, George gave me the Bible. Inside the front cover he wrote that he was giving me the Bible at the boys camp. With that summer’s date. THEN? Then he wrote on the cover page 2 verses: [read from that Bible:]

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness…” 2 Timothy 3:16

The September after I came home from camp, George sent me a 4 page letter explaining how I needed to know – and how I could know – Jesus as my personal Savior. [I still have that letter!]. Included in that packet was a book entitled, “Now That I Believe,” by Robert Cook – former president of Kings College in New York. I set both letter and book aside.

We need to advance to when I was 19 years old, just over a month removed from my high school graduation. One night I couldn’t sleep. Ever have one of those nights? So for whatever strange reason, I was led to re-read that letter I hadn’t looked at for 10 months! And then I started reading that book, “Now That I Believe.” It wasn’t too long before I came to an HUGE conclusion: I DIDN’T believe in Jesus as my Savior.

I knew Jesus had died on a cross. That was HISTORY.

I DIDN’T know that He had died on a cross FOR ME!!! Now that was a MYSTERY!

That night, as best as I knew how, I asked Jesus to be my Savior.


Within 2 months, while a freshman at St. Lawrence University in upstate New York – REAL UPSTATE, like a few miles from the Canada border upstate – I started attending a Baptist church under the pastorate of Rev. Herman Underwood, who would soon become my spiritual mentor to the day he died some 40 years later!

Within one year I had transferred to a Bible College in Canada.

That first day of school, I met a girl from central NY. Let’s see if we have this straight. A guy from Ft. Lauderdale goes out of the country to Canada and meets a girl from central New York! The next story in my new adventures in Christ? Within 2 years of my receiving Jesus as Savior, Thuvia and I were married! And that counselor, George? He would be one of my ushers! He served with Tim, a fellow student at Bible School. AND he served with David, one of Pastor Underwood’s sons! Pastor Underwood’s daughter Kathy would be our organist. My best man, a fellow named Allen Carpenter, would go on to serve the Lord as pastor in about 5 different churches before he got called to be with the Lord at a very young age.

Within 15 years of my receiving Christ, I would begin serving as pastor of my first charge, a church “in the middle of nowhere”. How in the middle of nowhere? Several years later a friend asked for us to host her and her boyfriend’s wedding there BECAUSE: it was a plain colored church, built in the mid-1800’s, “in the middle of nowhere” – for her, a perfect setting for a Civl War themed wedding!

And as unbelievable to me, about that same time I began my 27 year career working as a parking enforcement officer with the City of Norwich (NY) Police Department.

Years later, a missionary friend who served for many years in Pakistan wrote a book with a title taken from many of the psalms: “WHAT GOD CAN DO”!

And that’s what God has done – and continues to do – for me! He faithfully works in me to draw fresh attention to Himself. Wow! What God can do!

OH! The date I came to know Jesus as Savior?

JULY 26, 1971


What God can do for me, He can do for everyone!

“…whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13)

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy burdened, and I will give you rest!”

(Matthew 11:28)

Close in prayer – and praise!

EPILOGUE After the service, my wife and I went to our car to prepare to go home for the day. As we got into the vehicle, the thought suddenly hit me. I said to her,

“Weren’t you saved at the Bible Camp when you were 8 years old?”


“That means you were saved during the summer of 1961…

“That means you received Jesus as Savior 60 years ago this summer!

I know the date I received Jesus as Savior. My wife knows how old she was and where she was, but she doesn’t know the exact date.

But you know what? GOD KNOWS THE HEARTS!


Have YOU received Jesus as YOUR Savior?

Do you know anyone who needs to trust Him today?

Catch the eternal vision of men and women, boys and girls, in the “valley of decision” (Joel 3:14)