Dangerous Theological Assumtions

During my tenure as a pastor/shepherd I’ve seen theological heresies come and go, some causing major strife before they are squelched while others seemingly fizzle before they get started. But it’s been my experience that these heresies, as damaging as they are, have been outdone in a sense by something much more common and ostensibly benign; I call it “common theological assumptions”. It indeed has been my experience that these “assumptions” have caused incredible damage and have been extremely difficult to stamp out.

These theological assumptions take on many forms but are most often manifested in quaint, folksy sayings that have been passed down for generations, sometimes from well-meaning family members or friends who simply want to help. The problem is that these assumptions are just that…assumptions, and have never been substantiated by Scripture! I believe the greatest culprit is this assumption, most often voiced like this, “God has promised that He will never place more on you than you can stand!” We’ve all heard it; some of you have even said it, thinking that it will bring comfort to someone who is in the midst of great difficulties, believing invaluable biblical advice is being offered up. But there’s a massive problem, it’s not found in the Bible!! As a matter of fact, the principle behind that advice is actually foreign to Scripture, even the antithesis of it!

I suppose this thought derived from a verse of Scripture that has nothing to do with trials, but with temptations, No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13, ESV)

This is indeed a wonderful promise, God will never allow you to be tempted more than you can bear, which is a liberating thought… but the subject is “temptation”, not “Trials” or “hard times”! Nowhere in the Bible does God ever promise that He will not place more (difficulties) on us than we can bear! Fact is, time after time in the Bible you see God doing just the opposite; He gives people far more than they can handle, He puts them in proverbial pressure cookers and turns up the heat, sometimes for long periods of time! Why would He do such? So we will trust and rest in Him! We are weak and frail creatures and cannot handle trials on our own…we must depend on and rest in the Almighty God. When we depend on and rest in Him through Christ, He is glorified and we are filled with joy, even in the midst of trials and difficulties! This is God’s plan! He places more on us than we can bear so we will turn to Him as our burden bearer through Christ! So…when we tell someone that “God will never place more on us than we can bear”, we are doing great damage and stealing God’s glory…so don’t do it!! When someone is bearing the overwhelming weight of difficulties, point them to Jesus!! Tell them that He alone can bear their burdens… that way God is glorified and those who turn to Christ are at peace even in the midst of those hard times! That’s God’s plan…

“Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.”

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Categories: false assumptions, false doctrine, heresies, http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post, Scripture | 1 Comment

Looking beyond the physical crucifixion

Once again we approach the day designated to celebrate the sacrificial death of Jesus on a cross.  Obviously, and with great reason there is much anticipation, joy, sorrow, and a plethora of other emotions around the thought of the crucifixion of the Christ.  These emotions run the gamut, from disgust at the thought of the bloodshed and carnage of the actual process of crucifixion and the assertion that God the Father not only allowed this to happen, but willed it and took pleasure/delight in it, to feelings of glorious and overwhelming heights of humbleness that the King of glory would take the wrath of His Father in our place.
My purpose today is not focused on debating my way into the hearts and minds of non-believers, that’s God’s place; rather I simply desire to cause believers to delve into the crucifixion of Jesus a bit further, beyond the physical into the spiritual.

Many pastors, including myself have spent many pulpit hours striving to describe the horror of the crucifixion, at least from a physical standpoint.  Most of us do that so our hearers will better understand the suffering that our Lord endured to please His Father and redeem his church.  I certainly do not regret those many hours proclaiming the great physical price of Christ’s suffering, but my desire is that the church will look even further into His death.  What really happened during those six hours?  Was the suffering physical alone and was the physical aspect of His death the crux of the sacrifice?

Everything about crucifixion was designed for maximum pain and each step leading up to the cross was designed to build on the previous steps.  It was so gruesome the Bible says it was difficult to recognize Jesus as a human,
As many were astonished at you—
chis appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance,
and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—
(Isaiah 52:14, ESV)

Could there be anything worse than this?  What, if anything could trump his physical suffering?  I believe the “spiritual” suffering of Jesus, leading up to and while on the cross was even grimmer than his physical suffering.  Consider these two things, while on the cross Jesus endured the weight of the sin of the world, and in some super-natural fashion God the Son and God the Father were separated.
First, strive to imagine the weight of the sin of the world,
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
(Isaiah 53:6, ESV)

I can’t even bear the weight of my own individual sin!  One sin weighs upon me in unspeakable ways!  That’s ONE sin at ONE time!  Try to conceive all of your sin, the guilt and shame from it being placed upon you at one time!  As difficult as that is, think about Jesus on the cross…He bore the sins of us all…at one time, those before us, those living now, and those in the future.  This is mind-boggling!  How could He do it?  We cannot fathom this, for it is indeed super-natural.   Yes, it is super-natural but it is real!  But it gets even more mind-boggling!

Scripture quotes Jesus from the cross,

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
(Matthew 27:46, ESV)

What on Earth, or should I say in Heaven is going on here?  How could the Father “forsake” the Son?  There’s never been and there never will be a more intimate relationship than the one between God the Father and God the Son.  That relationship is on display throughout Scripture, but I think especially in John 17.  So how/why would the Father “forsake” His Son?  I believe it’s because of our sin which was placed upon him,

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
(2 Corinthians 5:21, ESV)

This had to happen in order for those who would believe to be justified and made righteous, for the Father cannot entertain sin.  So when Jesus “became sin” his Father had to, in some way that is beyond us, turn His back on His Son!  This is nothing short of astonishing!   What could cause more suffering to God the Son than God the Father turning His back on him?!?!?  
Ponder on these things as we once again mourn and celebrate this most startling day…Good Friday!  Soli Deo Gloria!

Categories: bible, crucifixion, good friday, http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post, Jesus | Leave a comment

A New America?

Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.  (1 Peter 4:19 ESV)



   

This is the last verse in the fourth chapter of the book of 1 Peter.  In a real sense it summarizes the entire chapter and even the entire book/letter of 1 Peter.  It also summarizes what is now or soon will be the society in which we live. 

Anyone with their ear to the ground …actually, anyone with an ear at all has heard reports which tell of our “rights” as Christians that are being tested; some even blatantly seized.  The America of 20-50 years ago is definitely not the America of today.  That America was one in which “Christians” basically pulled the strings, and they did it by pulling the lever in the voting booth.  We voted for leaders who would stand for what we believed and would promote “morality”.

But like a child that gets everything he wants and cries and throws temper tantrums if he doesn’t, we too had gotten used to the government catering to our wants and cowering to our wills.  But those days are gone…and the sad part is we are not realizing it, nor are we, at least in my estimation responding properly.  We are acting and operating as if it were still the good ol’ days in America…  But it’s not! America is different now, and Christians need to comprehend that most important fact.

I am certainly not saying that we should help usher in an anti-Christian era by lack of action on our part.  Yes, we should “stand up for our rights” (at least the few we have left), vote for leaders who will glorify God, etc… but we have to think differently now; we have to think like the believers in 1 Peter were instructed to think; we have to think as if we are aliens in this land (we are), we have to think like God wants us to think when He has brought persecution upon His church.
This is what I will be writing about in weeks to come.  No, I don’t think for a moment that anyone is salivating at the thought of me writing, but for my own sanity and edification if nothing else, I will share some biblical thoughts on how those alive in Christ can and should respond in an anti-Christian society.
Thanks for tagging along…
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Booting God out of politics?

Ok… for those who live to respond to political blogs, here’s your opportunity.  There won’t be many of those opportunities with me because I simply do not discuss politics much; not because I don’t care or am politically passive, but because (as cliché as it may sound) my trust lies not in man but in God’s sovereign plan.  Nonetheless, actions at the recent Democratic National Convention and the response by many Republicans and others compel me to share my thoughts.

Most of you know what took place; the Democrats officially omitted “God” and “Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel” from their platform; then, in what appeared to be an “uh oh” response, they moved to reverse that decision, probably thinking it was not a wise political move.  I think the Democrat powers that be assumed that all would be well if they voted to replace the language, but they were surely surprised when the vote wasn’t nearly as positive as they assumed it would be.  It was actually difficult to determine which way the vote went!  It was ruled positive although many disagreed.  From that moment on many Republicans, Independents, Libertarians, etc., were appalled at the humanistic actions of the Democrat party.  News story after news story featured Republicans snarling at and mocking the Dems as if to say, “See!  We are the party of God!” or “God is on our side”. 
  
Here’s my take on it (I’m sure you’ve been waiting with baited breath).  Those of you that know me may be surprised but I commend the Democrats!  Let’s face it; the Dems were simply being true to what they hold to.  Yes, they may have seen the political hand writing on the wall which made them vote to place the language back in their platform, but those who voted against adding it back in were merely being honest, which is admirable.  I simply appreciate honesty. 
On the other hand you have the Republicans (of which I happen to be one).  It seems to me as if the Republicans strive to claim themselves as the party of God; holding to the mindset that if you are for God then you must be a Republican…don’t make me puke.  If that’s truly the case, then which God are we talking about?  When’s the last time you heard an official of any party, including and maybe foremost the Republican Party, pray at an event; not only pray, but pray in the name of Jesus.  They know they would pay a huge political price for doing such; so most of them try to sound somewhat religious by acknowledging “god” without offending anyone.  So, what’s more honest, taking God out of your official platform or claiming to be the party of God while watering God down to be whatever anyone wants Him to be?  On this I side with the Democrats…did I really just say that?!?!?

I point this out to make a couple of points. First, don’t place your trust in a political party! Second, don’t place your trust in a political party!  Yes, this includes Libertarians (amazing…I know)!  Again, I’m certainly not saying to be politically passive, I’m simply saying that if you trust in a party that takes God out of their platform, then places it back in for political gain, or if you trust in a party who is pseudo spiritual or moralistic alone then you are simply foolish. 

Final word…This is to those who claim to be Christians…vote for the party of your choice, one that will help Americans get to work, protect us, and protect the Constitution, but trust in God alone.  And if your team loses, relax and let God handle it…He is capable (even without Ron Paul). 
Categories: Christians, politics, trust God | Leave a comment

Mentioning my Mentors – Ron Bryan

This is the last of my blogs on “Mentioning my mentors”.  There are many more that have had an incredible impact on me but I’ve chosen to focus on the ones that have been in a pastoral role in one way or another.  This blog is dedicated to Ron Bryan, my pastor at Southside Baptist Church from 1992-97 (approximately).
“Pastor Ron”, as we called him, came to Southside at a crucial time in my life.  Ramona and I had been married a few years and were expecting our second child.  The church was in the midst of a difficult time, a handful of bozos trying to grasp power and glory in the church; obviously they couldn’t obtain it elsewhere so they were relegated to the church.  I had no idea at that time how much pressure pastor Ron was under; there seemed to be a constant onslaught of power plays and glory grabs, but he persevered.  Looking back, it was during that period that I learned a lot about the realities of pastoral ministries…good and, well, not so good.

I watched as Pastor Ron patiently and compassionately ministered to an old, established church that was set in its ways; not the entire church of course, but a large enough proportion to make things extremely difficult.  In spite of the odds against him God used him there to do some truly great things.  It was during his tenure at Southside that God called me to be a Pastor.  I eventually, under Pastor Ron’s guidance, enrolled at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) in Wake Forest, NC.  Southside averaged about 200 people on any given Sunday, but there were five of us enrolled at SEBTS!  That is an incredible percentage and speaks volumes of Pastor Ron’s influence and spiritual guidance.

After I acknowledged my call, Pastor Ron spent much time with me, warning, exhorting, admonishing, teaching, and equipping me to be a good Shepard.  I remember one of the first things he said to me; “If you can do anything other than pastor…do it!”  I’ll be honest, at first I was a bit taken aback and even confused by his statement, but after spending time with him ”in the field” I quickly began to understand it.  He was simply telling me that ministry is more than anyone can handle…more than a man without a call can handle.  In other words, if God had truly assigned me to it, He would seal it in my heart, equip me, empower me, and not allow me to do anything else…sage like wisdom form a seasoned man of God indeed!

One of the greatest, most beneficial things I learned from Pastor Ron was the importance of Exposition of Scripture.  This was all new to me…I was used to more Topical sermons…the idea of using proper hermeneutics, understanding what the writer of the text was intending to say, and relaying that to the hearers was fascinating to me!  Pastor Ron was simply telling me to tell the people what God was saying; nothing is more important than people knowing what God is saying, and that is done through expositional preaching!  I soon fell in love with exposition of Scripture…I certainly haven’t mastered it, not even close, but thanks to Pastor Ron, I understand the importance of it and have strived to make it a priority in my ministry.

Exposition of Scripture is indeed high on the list of important things I gleaned from this man, but there are many more.  Obviously I have not the time nor space to name them all, but I must list a few, including having a well-balanced ministry, true pastoral visitation, healthy ecclesiology, Christ-centered corporate worship, a Godward evangelism, etc.  He also taught me the value of wisdom, and I saw it manifested in this man more than anyone.  Again, all those things are priceless, but I must also mention his genuine love for the people that God had called him to shepherd.  He would consistently tell me, “Love your people”.  I was amazed as I watched him lovingly minister to his flock, even those who so fervently rose up against him.  There was nothing fake about this man…he truly loved his people, even as some were plotting his demise in the church.  He modeled Christ as he loved a people who were sometimes very unlovable and I was forever changed by that.

A million “Thanks” can’t begin to repay what Pastor Ron invested in me, but I want to world to know that God poured much grace on me by placing me under Ron’s leadership and mentorship, and I want Pastor Ron to know that I am joyfully indebted to him and his precious family.  He is one man that can be assured that God used him to change someone’s life…
Categories: mentors bible pastor teach ron bryan | 1 Comment

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Mentioning my Mentors – Royce Williams

I’ve had a great time blogging about my mentors recently; it’s been therapeutic recalling and dwelling on the memories and the lessons they taught me.  That will certainly be the case today as I remember yet another person that I label a mentor, Royce Williams.

Surely I could write a volume on this man and it wouldn’t come close to describing the impact he’s had in my life; but I have neither the patience nor the time to write a volume, and people wouldn’t read it anyway, so a prolonged blog will have to suffice. 

I met Royce after I started dating Ramona, now my wife, for those who don’t know.  At the time Ramona was a member of Southside Baptist Church in Wilmington for many years and Royce was her “Youth Minister”.   I had only attended Independent Baptist Churches my entire life and was pretty uncomfortable with the thought of even visiting another denomination; but a pretty blonde was tremendous inspiration to try something new!

The moment I arrived Royce Williams made a point to befriend me.  I wasn’t the most outgoing guy to say the least, and being older than most in Ramona’s Youth group I was not looking forward to silliness that is some youth programs.  Royce seemed to sense immediately what I was thinking and knew exactly what to say to make me feel at home.  His humor kept me in stiches constantly, even though “I kicked the slats out of my cradle the first time I heard those jokes”.   But it wasn’t his great personality, his humor, or even his singing (and man can he sing!) that made the greatest impact on me. 

The thing that impacted me most about Royce Williams was how he lived his life.  It was obvious to me after getting to know him that he loved God and God’s Word, and that was the driving force in his life.  I watched as he steered the young people at Southside Baptist Church toward Jesus, not only through his intense Bible studies, but through the music that he sang and led them in, the compassion that he showed to people, and most of all his desire to glorify God in his life, even in difficult situations; and at times that can be the most testing time to glorify God.

I saw this first-hand on two specific occasions.  The first was when he was called to the preaching ministry.  Remember, Royce was the Minister of music and Youth (or as he called it, “Minister of Miscellaneous) at Southside Baptist.   Not only did he have a thriving Youth ministry, he was quickly becoming the foremost “music man” in Wilmington and surrounding areas.  There was no real reason for him to leave and go to seminary…there was no reason for him to leave what he had in Wilmington…except God had called.  He had a major decision to make that would have major implications on his family, his church, and himself for the rest of his life.  I watched Royce as he struggled with this decision and finally surrendered to God’s call.  I was extremely impacted, impressed, and encouraged by his desire to do what God had called him to do.    

Royce packed up his family and moved far away to study at Mid America Theological Seminary.  It was in the midst of his studies there that he would face an even larger crisis, one that no one, especially one in the “Ministry” ever desires to experience; yet Royce trusted God through it all.

What the trial was is not as important as how he handled it.  Initially, as we all would be, Royce was stunned by this turn of events.  To make a very long story as short as possible, Royce trusted God, sought guidance from godly men, and continued his theological education back in NC.  He has since pastored and spent many years in vocational Evangelism.  Through it all it was clear to me that Royce sought his strength from God and strived to glorify Him through those grim times.  During this, I watched intently and learned a tremendous amount that would help me when I faced major challenges. 

I must back up a few years…When Royce was a pastor in Roper, NC; he was the first to ask me to preach at his church.  I will never forget that moment…I remember it in great detail, where I was standing, which phone I was talking on (it was a wall phone with an extremely long cord…gave me the ability to pace), and how nervous I got when he asked me.  It completely overwhelmed me that someone would entrust me with their sheep that they were responsible for…truly an amazing thought to me.  I preached many, many times at Oak Grove Baptist Church in Roper thereafter.  The things I learned from Royce and his church during that period were and are invaluable to me and I am indebted.

Some other things I learned from Royce Williams include, a love of exposition of Scripture, importance of wisdom, laughing, integrity, family, ecclesiology…and I could go on and on…  Royce has been, is, and will continue to be a man that I pattern my life after and I am so very grateful for his investment in my life and the life of my family.  A simple thanks isn’t much in the grand scheme of things, but it will have to do until I can buy him a boat with a motor that runs, or a Martin guitar to replace that dadblame Guild!
Thanks Royce!!!
Categories: royce williams mentor scripture youth minister | Leave a comment

Mentioning my mentors, J.W. Long Jr.

This is my second blog in a series regarding the mentors God has placed in my life over the years.  There have actually been many, but I’m mentioning just the ones that happen to be or have been in vocational ministry.  My last blog was devoted to my first pastor, Worley G. Hawthorne.  This one is devoted to my second pastor, J. W. Long Jr.

My first memory of pastor Long was when I was still a member of Park Avenue Baptist Church where Rev. Hawthorne was the pastor.  Several Independent Baptist churches in the Wilmington area had an “Attendance contest” which lasted several months.  Rev. Long’s church won.  That’s not surprising now, after later observing his competitive spirit and “can’t quit” attitude.   After being declared the winner pastor Long and his church, Community Baptist in Carolina Beach, along with all the other churches involved in the contest gathered at Park Avenue Baptist to enjoy a celebration dinner.

As young boys do, my brothers and I were in the church yard playing when Pastor Long and his family arrived.  He had a large family, 8 including himself!  I watched, intrigued as they all quickly yet with the precision of a military unit exited their station wagon.  When Pastor Long got out of the car and started towards the tables where the food was, he glanced over at us, stuck his index finger high in the air and said, “We’re number one!!”  In response, and not knowing any better I barked, “We’re number two!!”  That was my first memory of many.  Sometime later, after some internal problems at Park Avenue Church, my Mom decided to start attending Community Baptist church; Rev. Long had become my pastor.
    
I loved Pastor Long’s family, and still do…they all were very gracious and friendly to me…more than they will ever know!  It was clear that they had been raised with a high view of God and His Word, which speaks highly of their Father…and their incredible mother! 

I’ve tried to think of one word that describes this man best…some that have crossed my mind are, passionate, zealous, fervent, enthusiastic, animated, faithful, hardcore, even fanatical… None of those fully encompass the personality and passions of this man, although he epitomizes each of them at times.  He loves God’s Word.  That’s one thing that was evident from the beginning and remains with him today.  He instilled in me a passion for the Word of God and a desire to hide it in my heart.  That was huge with Pastor Long!!  He pushed us to memorize Scripture…to know it by heart…to be able to recall it whether we had a copy of it in our hands or not.  That was priceless.  His compassion for people drove him to be a passionate evangelist.

His preaching style was unlike anything I had ever heard…loud, passionate, and unreserved.  He certainly wasn’t worried about what people had to say about him.  He seemed, at times to invite controversy; but through it all he was faithful. 

I suppose the greatest influence he had on me was his emphasis on Scripture.  He consistently and constantly spoke of the importance of Scripture and why we should take it not only literally, but seriously.  I will forever be grateful for that!  His passion for the Word of God was infectious indeed!  That is a huge reason why I love expository preaching now…I believe the Bible is God’s Word, and since it’s God’s Word we should certainly consider it priceless and handle it properly.

Pastor Long is in his twilight years now; he still preaches on the radio, and I suppose other places when he can.  His family still carries on his charismatic personality (that’s a good thing), and I still have an extremely high view of God’s Word because of J. W. Long.  There’s so much more I could say, but for now I simply want to say…Thanks Dr. Long, you made a difference in my life…

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Grace years

Last Friday I spent a few minutes at the Wilmington area “Relay for Life” with my daughter Blair and some close friends who are survivors of cancer.  At this venue were thousands of luminaries, each one representing someone who died due to the blight of cancer.  To say the least, it was a sobering experience; an experience which tends to make you re-evaluate priorities, desires, etc. 

I am approaching 48 years old; that can be sobering as well.  I didn’t say depressing…I said sobering.  Getting older doesn’t scare me or depress me at all…as a matter of fact, the older I get the more excited I get, knowing that this sin laden life will be gone…forever…no longer will I struggle with the flesh.  More than that, I will be in the very presence of Jesus.  I’m sure that that sounds trite and unoriginal to many, but I could not be more thoughtful in saying it.  The thought of being with the one I treasure makes all other things pale in comparison…seriously. 

Even though I’m not freaked out over the thought of nearing fifty, I am a bit burdened by it.  I am burdened, thinking of all the self-absorption, disobedience, and wasted time over those 47 plus years.   How much time have I wasted…how much have I focused on myself?  I know better.
 If God sees fit to allow me to live the average life span then I have about another 20-25 years.  In the grand scheme of things that’s not very long.  My overwhelming desire is to live every moment of the time I have left for the glory of my gracious God… I want to be consumed with Jesus.  God has stripped away things from me, even spiritual seeming things, to the point where there’s nothing left but Him…it’s taken nearly 50 years…

I don’t want to spend the years I have left pleasing the flesh…the thought of that sickens me.  I am completely satisfied in Christ; nothing else can satisfy like my Savior.  So if that means working as a bi-vocational pastor…so be it.

I will pour my efforts into glorifying God in that job and introducing people to Him through that job.  If that means being the pastor to a handful of people then so be it.  I will love those people and thank God that He has allowed me the overwhelming privilege to minister to them.  If He takes that away so be it.  I will love my incredible family and strive to model Christ’s love for His church.  I want my mind to be set on Jesus at every moment… I will not allow other things; temporal things to capture me.

Every second of life is a gift from the giver of life…to be used to give Him glory and enjoy Him.  God grant me a few more years to do that…better than the past.

Therefore…  “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain”. 
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Mentioning my Mentors

I recently began reading “For the Fame of God’s Name, Essays in Honor of John Piper”, graciously given to me by Chris Canuel.  The book is a collection of brief but moving stories or essays from men who have been impressed, encouraged, and educated in one way or another by John Piper. 
Reading this book has reminded me how fortunate I am to have had men to mentor me over the years, even when I didn’t realize it was happening.  My point in this blog and several to follow is to mention those mentors and publically thank them for sharing their knowledge, wisdom, and themselves with a very undeserving beneficiary…me.
It was in the early 70’s when my family began attending Park Avenue Baptist Church in Wilmington.  I was between 5 and 7 years old.  The pastor, at least in my mind had a funny sounding name, Worley G. Hawthorne.  His appearance was even funnier than his name; he was easily 6’ 8” tall (which served him well when he played basketball for the University of Kentucky) with white hair, and an old suit; and he bobbled his head when he sang hymns.   In spite of how very odd he seemed to me, I was drawn to his kindness, gentleness, and genuineness.  I was a pretty shy kid (that’s a huge understatement) during this period of my life, but Pastor Hawthorne always made me feel like he was genuinely interested in me, consistently looking for something to compliment me on and encourage me.  Looking back, that was priceless!  But it was much more than his kindness that impacted me.   I didn’t realize it at the time, but those attributes stemmed from the gospel that dominated his life. 

Sunday after Sunday I heard the gospel; in simple yet profound terms I heard the gospel. He didn’t preach like some picture an Independent Baptist preacher; he was soft spoken, rarely raising his voice, pointing his finger, or pounding the pulpit; he simply exposed the Scripture and preached the gospel.  He never had a large church, a television show, or even an article in the local paper, but he was faithful in preaching the gospel.
   
Sunday after Sunday the gospel stirred my soul and gripped my heart until I could no longer resist.  It was a Sunday evening as I recall that I approached Pastor Hawthorne and told him that I was ready to surrender my life to Jesus.  He led me to his office, opened the Bible, and strived to explain to me what God was doing in my life.  He pointed the tip of his long finger to John 3:16 in his giant KJV Bible and read it like this, “For God so loved Joey, that He gave His only begotten son…”  The gospel became personal to me at that moment. 

I certainly didn’t understand the depths of the gospel, for that matter I will never fully grasp the depths of it, yet I knew that God had done an amazing work in my life.  I had been made alive spiritually.  God was the author of my salvation; He gets all the credit and glory indeed, but He chose to use a man that is dear to my heart because of his obedience to His sovereign God, to share the gospel with me, and I am eternally grateful. 

Pastor Hawthorne continued to faithfully teach me the things of God from the Word of God until God took us in different directions and ultimately called him home.  I have used the things taught to me by Pastor Hawthorne to equip the saints in the churches that I have pastored; nuggets of biblical truth that I gleaned from a faithful man many years ago.  I wish I could stand before him and say thank you…one day I will.
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