On Death and Dying

There are seasons of life.  As one gets older, the opportunity for losing good friends to the vicious enemy of death increases. I have experienced the death of five friends in the last year or so:  Bill Quick, Patsy Hayes, Dick Engle, Rod Decker, Belva Donahue.  Names on a page.  Representing people that many of you reading this do not know.

Bill Quick was a friend who had a complicated past and an interesting sense of humor.  Part of our church, his testimony was that the Lord had changed him, but he, like all of us, worked through the issues of life.  He served faithfully in our church on the Praise Team and the Lord used him.

Patsy Hayes was a dear believer in my local church.  She was in the hospital for around eleven months fighting some form of skin disorder and other issues.  She eventually came out of it.  We were excited about seeing her back on her feet again.  She was a person full of energy and a heart who knew the Lord but wanted to know Him more deeply.  However, he chose to help her go deeper by calling her home.  She died of a heart attack when we thought things were going so well.

Dr. Dick Engle was for many years one of the Old Testament and Hebrew professors at Baptist Bible Seminary.  He was a man that never said a bad word about anybody in my presence.  He was a kind, gentle spirit who loved deeply.  He showed patience toward me as I tried to help him with his computer many times.  And he loved the Bible, especially the First Testament as he called it.  The Lord took him this past spring.

Dr. Rod Decker was a close, personal friend.  In fact, he preached the funeral of Dick Engle mentioned above.  Recently (a few months ago), cancer took my friend Rod before his time.  The loss stings me, although I am sure not as much as it hurts his own family.  Rod was a great scholar and taught me much.  I will always remember the conferences we attended together and the conversations as we traveled.  He will be missed much.

Belva Donahue is the one on the list that was closest to me.  My mother-in-law.  She feigned anger at my “mother-in-law” jokes from time to time, but the truth was she was the best mother-in-law the husband of a daughter could ever want.  She was kind yet feisty.  She had her opinions but did not hate.  And she shared her faith in God to the end, when she passed away this summer at the age of 89.  She will be remembered.

All of these folks had put their trust in Christ as Savior.  I will see them again when I get to heaven.  Death, that great enemy the Bible tells us, has been conquered through Christ (1 Cor. 15:54-57).  Its sting is only momentary.  Its attack futile.  The sorrow is only for a night.  Eternity awaits…in glory and grandeur.  The true believer has a special relationship to death.  Dying is not our destiny (Rev. 21:4).



A Harsh Winter in Northeast Pennsylvania

IMG_0263IMG_0259We have had a brutally cold winter this year with more than the average snowfall here in northeast Pennsylvania.  I have provided a picture looking out from my front porch out into my   front yard recently.  We are expecting another heavy snowfall in the next couple of days.    I have friends who love this kind of weather and are into cold, outdoor sports like snow skiing.  That is the way they want heaven to be.  Others want heaven to maintain the four seasons of North America.  For me, I believe there is a demon behind every snow flake.  The picture of palm trees I have provided from my recent trip to Orlando, Florida shows where my allegiance lies.  As a Southern boy, I vote for global warming every time it comes up.

Why I Never Changed My Mind About the Millennium — # 2

# 2

In two earlier posts, I gave some introductory remarks responding to Sam Storms’ blog entry entitled “Why I Changed My Mind About the Millennium” along with my initial response to his first reason why he can’t hold to the premillennial position – the idea that death in the kingdom, from Storm’s point of view, can’t be harmonized with the alleged truth that Jesus ends death at the Second Coming.  I will deal here with his second reason.  It is somewhat helpful that Sam Storms’ book Kingdom Come has recently been released.  Although a more complete analysis will come later, it will prove helpful here at filling in more detail than his outline given in the blog at the website of the Gospel Coalition.

The second reason that Storms gives is that if you are a premillennialist, “you must necessarily believe that the natural creation will continue, beyond the time of Christ’s second coming, to be subjected to the curse imposed by the Fall of man.”  He goes on to affirm that, in conjunction with this idea, “the natural creation is set free from its bondage at the parousia.”

The basic idea is that premillennialism cannot be right since it teaches that Christ’s Second Coming does not end the curse on the natural created order.  This particular argument is actually a variation of the one I responded to in my last post about the end of death since death is the primary result of the curse.

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Why I Never Changed My Mind About the Millennium — # 1

# 1

In an earlier post I started this series responding to Sam Storms’ Gospel Coalition post on why he changed his mind about the millennium (from premillennial to amillennial).  In that post, I dealt with some introductory things.  Starting with this post, I will make one post each for the six reasons he gives to allegedly prove that premillennialism is untenable.  Hopefully in a friendly way I can make some assertions that help to defend the premillennial understanding of the end times.

The first reason that Sam gives is that if you are a premillennialist, “you must necessarily believe that physical death will continue to exist beyond the time of Christ’s second coming.”  He goes on to couple that statement with the words “death is defeated and swallowed up in victory at the parousia.”  Sam’s post is just giving general statements and not the detailed arguments that will naturally be present when his book Kingdom Come is released soon.  However, I would like to take a stab at responding to the general statement here.

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Another Homegoing of a Great Christian Man

Roy ZuckMany blogs started to go up over the weekend when word was received that Dr. Roy Zuck went home to be with the Lord late Saturday.  He was Academic Dean at Dallas Theological Seminary for most of the time I was a student at DTS.  I thought it was appropriate for me also to share my memories of a man of such character as Dr. Zuck.  He is greatly loved and respected, especially by those in the DTS family, but also by many evangelicals outside the seminary family who appreciated his contribution to teaching, theology, and publishing.

I was a New Testament major in my STM at Dallas.  Having obtained an M.Div. at Liberty Baptist Seminary, I did not have as many opportunities to have contact with Dr. Zuck as did the DTS Th.M. students.  In fact, I never had a formal for credit class with him (which is disappointing).   

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Why I Never Changed My Mind About the Millennium

IntroductionDTS Stearns Arches

With this post I am beginning a series of seven posts giving response to the testimony and basic argumentation of amillennialist Sam Storm.  Storm, whom I have never met to my knowledge, took advantage of the opportunity that the Gospel Coalition website gave to post testimonies of evangelicals who had changed their minds about some doctrine.  His well written summary gave some testimonial information about his experience as a student at Dallas Seminary 1973-77,  his wrestling with tenets of dispensational premillennialism (especially the pre-trib rapture), and six essential arguments showing biblical information that he insists cannot be handled within a dispensational framework.  I had intended to respond when I first saw the article by Storm a couple of months ago, but I came down with an illness and then my heavy travel schedule for Baptist Bible Seminary in February moved it off my table for a while.  It is spring break now, so I am picking it back up.  In doing so, I want to treat Storm with respect and hope he will do the same for me.  I have no basis by which to judge him as something other than a fine brother in Christ, who simply disagrees with the position that I hold.  However, our differences do matter for theology and ministry in the churches.  I will use his first name below to highlight friendship in Christ in spite of our differences.

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Homegoing of a Good Friend

Couch MalOn February 12, 2013, my good friend Dr. Mal Couch went home to be with his Lord and Savior after a long battle with cancer.  I had done an audio interview with him not long ago that has been distributed on CD.  Apparently, he was busy for the Lord’s work until the very end of his life on earth.

I met Mal and his wife Lacy in the early 1990s.  I was the pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas and was looking for a good female biblical counselor to whom I could refer the women of my church.  The women in my church were not sufficiently mature to do such counseling except perhaps for one or two, but none were trained in biblical counseling.  I did not like to do a lot of counseling of women.  I don’t remember how I found the BACA Counseling Center which Lacy Couch was running, but it was located over in Ft. Worth only a few miles from my church in Arlington.  When I went over there to meet her and talk to her I found something I did not know existed! — Tyndale Theological Seminary.  Mal had started the seminary in light of a perceived decline in theological education in his view.  He was a graduate of “Old Dallas” (Dallas Theological Seminary).  He was not in favor of changes that were bringing about a “New Dallas.”   I was a Ph.D. student at Dallas when I met Mal.  So our conversation was an interesting one.

Perhaps my fondest memory of Mal was his generosity.  For several years in a row he paid my way to the Dallas–Ft. Worth area to speak at the Conservative Theological Society annual meeting which he had started.  This is where I presented some of my first exegetical papers in a conference setting and where I explored some issues related to traditional dispensationalism, something that Mal and I agreed on in the general sweep of things.  To be sure we had some specific differences.  For years he would introduce me at his conference as his good friend but a congregational Baptist and used the moment to teach elder rule at my expense!  I once told him and the conference attenders I could follow elder rule as long as I was the elder!  We had some fun with our differences but I will remember Mal’s generosity which allowed me to fly half way across the country to Texas and participate in these times of theological discussions.  I will always remember him also as a man who loved the Word of God.  I will miss Mal. But because of the truth that both of us believe, I will see him again at the resurrection.

Another National Title for BAMA

“We won!” — as if I had anything to do with it, other than my strong wishes and yelling at the television.  I “feel” like I had some impact.  But if they lose, “they” lost it.  Alabama, my team, on January 7 won the national college football title casting away past demons of loss to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, a team with a great heritage.  The score of 42 to 14 was surprising at least to me.  I expected something like 21 to 17 or 17 to 13.  It caught a lot of people by surprise.

At my house, we had about 18 people, family and good friends, who all rooted for Alabama.  But the main thing was using the game as a time for a party.  Everyone there was a Christian.  Before the game, we prayed a blessing on the great food spread and asked God’s favor for our fellowship.  And if our team had lost, we would have been extremely disappointed…BUT we would not have pouted long. Football is a game.  I know it is big business, even at the college level.  But there are things in life a lot more important than football.  Football can give discipline to the players.  It can keep them off the streets and maybe keep some fans off the streets.  The hold of football on our culture, however, seems to be something deeply ingrained in us.  It holds great attraction and at times can distract us from other things.  We must be careful not to let it consume us while we partake of the joy that it brings, a joy that nonetheless can never match the joy of knowing and serving Christ, who died to take away our sins.

Glory to God in the Highest

Here is a picture taken at my home a couple of days after Christmas.  My son David and his family (wife Brielle and daughter Ella) came up on Dec 27 to spend some time with my wife Cindy and I and others who had gathered.  Here I am reading the Christmas story from Luke 2 for my extended family.  Sitting next to me helping me hold the Bible is my two-year old granddaughter Ella.  Such moments are beyond special.  Ella is about the age that the oldest of the little boys in Bethlehem were when Herod’s evil henchmen came to destroy their lives.  But Jesus escaped, having gone down to Egypt.  Later he escaped the hold of death in the grave on Resurrection Day.  He came into the world as a babe, left as a glorified and resurrected Savior, and is returning as a Warrior Lamb to make all things right.  It is such truth that makes moments with my granddaughter as I read the Bible really special.  Glory to God in the Highest.

Frigid Winter Has Arrived

Many here in northeast Pennsylvania say they are happy to have four seasons of weather and would not want things to be like the South where I originally come from (Alabama).   When it snowed during my childhood, it was nice, but it was nicer that it would go away in just a few days!!  Here in northeast Pennsylvania, the snow comes and often stays on the ground for several months.  The temperature stays at or below freezing enough to make this happen.   I prefer it warmer so I have said that snow looks pretty on a postcard, not in real life.  So I have provided a winter freeze picture of ice on the rhododendrons just off the front porch of my house — taken a couple of days ago.