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Monthly Archives: September 2013

We Live If Ye Stand

Pastor Roy Johnson

Pastor Roy Johnson

Last Friday night, God called another special man home to heaven. Dr. Roy Johnson was my first pastor. Of course, I was completely unaware of the fact at the time, but his influence was far-reaching. The Lord saved my parents a month before I was born at Messiah Baptist Church in Wichita, Kansas, where Dr. Johnson pastored. We were only there for a year, but God used his ministry to give my parents a solid foundation in biblical teaching that gave them a good start in spiritual discernment.

We came back to Messiah years later, during the first of my teenage years, but Dr. Johnson had retired by that time. Our fellowship was renewed when he joined the church my parents were members of a number of years ago. Over the past few years, I’ve been blessed by letters, an occasional phone conversation, and visits. I’ve had opportunities to talk to him about ministry issues, and just life in general. 5 years ago, Dr. Johnson was on my ordination council when I began pastoring Grace Baptist Church. I’m grateful to have been influenced by a man who has served the Lord faithfully for many years.

Dr. Johnson

Dr. Johnson

I was blessed to be able to take part in his funeral service yesterday (September 12). I played the piano for the congregational music, and my wife and I sang “New Grace”. The preacher who gave the message mentioned Hebrews 12, where it is said of Adam, “he being dead yet speaketh.” He asked all the preachers in the audience to stand. There were probably 30 preachers and missionaries in attendance whose lives had been touched by Dr. Johnson! That’s only a small sampling of all the others scattered around the globe. As I thought on this, I was once again reminded of a verse that holds a special place in my heart.

“And now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord.”

     — I Thessalonians 3:8

One of my greatest memories of my time at Crown College in Powell, Tennessee was the baccalaureate service on the Sunday evening prior to my graduation. It was a great relief: 4 years of schooling were over! I learned much in those years, developed many friendships, and met and married the love of my life. Out of hundreds (maybe thousands) of hours of listening to Bible classes, sermons, etc., the message Clarence Sexton brought that night from I Thessalonians is the one that has stuck with me since. Maybe it was the timing of the service, but I think it was the content of the message that made such an impact. I remember the outline he used (I may have a word off, but I think it’s the same!).

Pastor and Evangelist Forrest Keener

Pastor and Evangelist Forrest Keener

The point is this: As long as we remain faithful to the things we have been taught, those who taught us continue to live. Paul could not remain constantly with the Thessalonians. But while they heeded his instruction to take heed for the coming of the Lord, and continued in faith and charity, he would remain with them through their obedience. I’ve been blessed to have known many faithful preachers of the gospel who have passed on. I think of several college professors who taught me much: Keith Kiser, and his love for the Word of God; Richard Worsham, and his tenacity and desire for God to work through the ministry of the church; Forrest Keener, with a steadfast focus on the great truths of God’s Word; Jim Gaylor, and his tenderness for God’s people; Roy Johnson, with a real pastor’s heart; and others that have been a personal encouragement to me.

If we are to be faithful, how must we stand?

Stand Convincingly.

There are many who are wishy-washy in their beliefs. They never want their positions to be nailed down.

When it comes to the great truths of the gospel, we must be grounded in conviction. There are too many issues of great importance that require a solid biblical answer. When dealing with the world, we must take strong positions on the issues of our day: child murder, the desecration of marriage, the culture of death, the glamorization of sin, etc. Even among believers (and professing believers) we must be willing to stand on important things: the centrality of the gospel, the sufficiency of Christ, the authority of the Scriptures, the nature of God and man. We must seek to establish scriptural convictions and drive them a mile deep.

Stand Compassionately.

Far too often, those who lay claim to strong convictions are unable to draw the line between those who are active rebels and scorners, and those who are simple fools, blindly following the culture. Jesus was not afraid to castigate the religious hypocrites who made their proselytes two-fold children of hell, but never fail to take note of the mercy he expressed to sinners. Yes, there are times when faithful Christians must be bold in condemnation of wickedness. There are also opportunities to minister by compassion. That does not indicate a need to compromise biblical conviction, but requires an understanding of the fact that the people of God are to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. We must stand with conviction, but may we do so with great compassion as well.

Stand Continually.

There are many who begin. Take the parable of the seeds and soils. Many receive the Word with joy, but soon the enthusiasm is choked out by the cares of the world. One who stands fast must have a life marked by patient endurance. Demas started, and seemed to be strong. But he soon forsook the ministry, having loved the world. Judas was one of The Twelve. The other disciples seemed to have trouble believing that he would be the betrayer. Yet he had a part in the crucifixion of our Lord. But consider the testimony of those who endure to the end! Jeremiah was told that his preaching would be resisted. Yet it is Jeremiah who writes of mercies that are new every morning toward the end of his life! Job was assaulted by great trial. But he recognizes God’s hand in it all: “Though he slay me, yet will I trust him.” Joseph endured years of mistreatment before God lifted him up. Moses experienced 80 years of the school of hard knocks before God used him to deliver Israel. Abraham waited 99 years for the son of promise. Yet in each of these, God proved Himself faithful.

You see, the emphasis is not on the perseverance of the man. We are certainly instructed to apprehend. But we must not be focused on the fact of our faith. Rather, our life is tied up in the OBJECT of our faith. We can stand continually only because Christ has gone before us! It is he who, for the joy set before him, endured the cross, and is now set down on his throne. Because He lives, we too shall live. What mercy it is that he has not only given himself as an example, but also given us faithful men for us to follow as they followed Christ.

I’m grateful for each of the special people that have influence my life. Some have gone on to glory. Others remain on this earth. May we stand fast in the Lord, that the cloud of witnesses may live on through our faithfulness.

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2013 in Bible Study

 

No Fault Found in Him

daniel-in-the-lions-denI’ve been thinking a lot lately about our relationship to the government. Early this year, there was a big brouhaha over gun control, which, thankfully, did not result in greater restrictions. Yet. No doubt that will happen at some point, but I’m grateful for our current liberty.

Most recently in my thought process was the New Mexico Supreme Court decision, in which it was stated that a photographer has no right to refuse services to a “commitment ceremony” involving two homosexual participants based on religious conviction. Justice Bosson stated in his opinion that religious compromise is “the price of citizenship.”

Certainly, numerous other examples could be stated which challenge every Christian. We have been commanded to be in subjection to the authorities God has placed over us. At the same time, we ought to obey God rather than man. This is a difficult topic for all believers. It is not one which should be approached lightly, and deserves much prayer, study, and prior determination.

Peter writes that governments are appointed for the punishment of evildoers. Throughout history, that has largely proven true. Even godless governments tend to enforce laws that uphold the Ten Commandments: do not murder, do not steal, etc. Granted, they do not uphold them for the right reason (glory of God), and they are selective by ignoring the First Table of the Law, but they do punish genuine evildoers. Paul also writes in Romans 13 that rulers are not a terror to those who do good works. Once again, that is generally true. Obedience to the law, as a whole, means that one has nothing to fear from his government (political considerations aside for the moment!).

Ultimately, what is the responsibility of Christians? I believe the basic principle is stated clearly in the book of Daniel. The young Hebrew had been given much authority and influence in the kingdom. By the reign of Darius, Daniel’s wisdom and spirit had been noted by many in positions of power, especially the king. Daniel 6 notes that Daniel was placed at the top of three presidents who were directly accountable only to the king. Yet he was hated by those under him. This was certainly because of his heritage as one of the exiles. As a foreigner, from a conquered country, how could he rise to such prominence above natives of the land?

Those other governors did their absolute best to trap Daniel. They watched his life, no doubt with the lawbook in hand, seeking to find him in violation. But they could find no fault in him. His lifestyle was blameless, both in moral character and in obedience to the laws of the land. Yes, he perfectly followed the legal system of a pagan culture. And we complain about our laws! He was found faithful, not by a group of peers, but by his enemies. What a testimony he had.

Since the princes could not find Daniel in violation of the law, they had to find another way to snare him. Daniel 6:5 tells us of their plan:

We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God.

Ultimately, the only fault they could find in Daniel was by manufacturing a law that would punish Daniel’s faithfulness. They recognized his absolute conviction by recognizing that a law in contradiction to God’s would force Daniel’s disobedience. They went to Darius and tricked him into signing a law against petition to any but the king. The law was signed, Daniel was found in violation, and he was cast into the den of lions. We know how God chose to deliver Daniel and glorify Himself.

That should cause us to consider our own lives. If we are honest, most of us would have to admit that one trying to find fault would probably not have to go to these lengths. That’s a convicting thought! On the other side of it, using the same tactics the princes used with Daniel may not work simply because we would obey the law rather than suffer the consequences.

May God grant us the wisdom and character of Daniel.

Then the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him. Then said these men, We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God. (Daniel 6:4-5)

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2013 in Bible Study, Daniel, Devotional

 

Oklahoma History Lesson

After having dug to a depth of 10 feet last year, New York scientists found traces of copper wire dating back 100 years and came to the conclusion that their ancestors already had a telephone network more than 100 years ago.

Not to be outdone by the New Yorkers, in the weeks that followed, a California archaeologist dug to a depth of 20 feet, and shortly after, a story in the LA Times read: “California archaeologists, finding 200 year old copper wire, have concluded that their ancestors already had an advanced high-tech communications network a hundred years earlier than the New Yorkers.”

One week later, a local newspaper the Sterling News reported the following: “After digging as deep as 30 feet in his pasture near Sterling, OK, Bubba, a self-taught archaeologist, reported that he found absolutely nothing. Bubba therefore concluded that 300 years ago, OKLAHOMA had already gone wireless.”

 
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Posted by on September 6, 2013 in Funny

 

A Chiastic Structure of Redemptive History

I’ve been doing some thinking on the chiastic structure of the Bible. If you’re not familiar with chiasmus, you should be – check it out on Wikipedia. It is a fascinating device that is often found in the text of Scripture, and can help clarify difficult parallelisms. 

A     Before time – the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world to redeem a people to Himself

     B     At the beginning of time – the Garden of Eden, in perfection, with man who was created in the image of God, but with the ability to sin

          C     During time – God reveals a covenant to save His people – progressively [to the Jews] through Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and the prophets

               D     The Law demands perfect righteousness

                        X     The center of all History is the event of the Lamb slain

               D’     The perfect righteousness of the Law is fulfilled

        C’    During time – the New Covenant, as the fulfilment the old, is fully revealed to the people of God, Jew and Gentile alike through the writings of the apostles

   B’     At the end of time – the New Heavens and the New Earth, where that “Garden” is restored, and our nature is restored, this time lacking the ability to sin because of that Lamb slain!

A’     After time – the eternal worship of the Lamb slain by those whom He redeemed

 
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Posted by on September 4, 2013 in Bible Study, Doctrines of Grace