My Funeral Message for My Dear Brother Jimmy

For those who might be interested, here is a transcript of the sermon I preached at my brother Jimmy’s funeral.

Funeral Message for Jimmy Stallard
by Mike Stallard
Calvary Baptist Church, Smyrna, Georgia
March 16, 2018

Note: I preached this sermon from an outline except for the opening statement. I have written it here from memory the best I could trying to fill in the details and smoothing things over with a few additions. It was by far the hardest sermon I ever preached. But a young girl raised her hand at the end saying that she had prayed to receive Christ. I know Jimmy is happy about that right now. I am grateful for the large crowd that filled the church that day. The congregation ministered to my family more than they know.

Introduction
They say that I look like Jimmy. Even my mannerisms and voice are like Jimmy’s. I’ll try not to spook you out. I wish I could be anywhere but here. I wish I did not have to do this message. If I could, I would give a kidney and a lung to my brother if only he could be the one standing here instead of me.

Death is obscene. It is a great enemy. Unless the Lord comes back, death will take us all down. BUT, death is a defeated enemy, a defeated foe because of what Jesus Christ has done for us. If you know Christ, you will hug Jimmy’s neck again. So many suggest that the Bible, Jesus, and Christianity are irrelevant for our modern times. They are wrong. At this moment, our faith is the most relevant in this cruel world.

Memories of Jimmy
Stephen, you did a good job of talking about your Dad. I’ll say a few words about Jimmy and then share some Scripture.

As the family was waiting to come in, my Mom reminded me of her Facebook post: “Mike and Jimmy are in a relationship with gravy and biscuits.”

When Jimmy and I were saved at West Huntsville Baptist Church in Huntsville, Alabama, we began to notice a young girl named Eileen. We actually talked to each other about which one of us would ask her out for a date. After things were serious between Jimmy and Eileen (who became his wife), Jimmy and I concocted a humorous story to tell her which we used for a few years from time to time. We told her that Jimmy and I flipped a coin — and Jimmy lost!

I remember a time in Eufaula, Alabama along about the second grade. Jimmy and I played our guitars in front of a filled high-school gym in an elementary school program. Together we sang the old Burl Ives sad love song “A Little Bitty Tear Let Me Down.” The applause was so long that we did not get to do the second song we were scheduled to play and sing. Mom and Dad were proud of their boys that day.

I remember the Stallard Fantasy Baseball League from 1966 to 1970. Jimmy was the American League. I was the National League. We used Strato-Matic Baseball as Stephen mentioned. We played whiffle ball in the driveway and yard to do the league games. We kept meticulous and complete statistics. Hank Aaron led in homeruns in our league as he should have as we tried to make things realistic.

We also loved bowling. What many of you may not know is that Jimmy represented the state of Alabama in 1971 in a bowling for college scholarships in Washington, D. C. I was proud of him and bowling was one of the great joys of our youth.

But not all memories are good. The only person I ever had a fist fight with in the world was my brother Jimmy. One time – I think I was around 11 years old – I got so mad at him that I picked up a pencil to stab him. But in my haste and anger, I picked up the wrong end of the pencil! I stabbed him with the eraser. It did not have the desired effect. I was holding the lead end in my hand. When I stabbed Jimmy, it drove the lead end of the pencil into the palm of my hand. To this day, I have a lead coloration mark in the palm of my hand that reminds me of the dangers of arguing. It also reminds me of Jimmy. Read the rest of this entry »

When Prayers Change Quickly

On the way down to Atlanta from Philadelphia to see my brother Jimmy who was fighting stage 4 kidney cancer that had spread to his lungs, I was praying like I had the last several weeks. Lord, please work a miracle and save my brother from this horrible disease. Remove it from him and give him his ministry back. But when I got there to the hospice facility, I was confronted with Jimmy’s suffering. I was overwhelmed by his physical pain. Immediately, my prayer changed. Lord take him home and stop the suffering. He died about 24 hours later. I have cried more tears this past ten days than perhaps the rest of my adult life combined. It is not a sorrow with no hope. I will hug Jimmy’s neck again. But the power of the reality of physical suffering jerked me to speak to God in a different way even about the most important thing close to my heart at the time. Prayer can change quickly when confronted with reality even if the desires of your heart want to go in a different direction.

Memories of a Kind Heart

One memory I have of my brother Jimmy was in the first year after we came to Christ. We were 21 years old. A bunch of young men, including Jimmy and me, were playing tackle football in a field — something we probably should not have done. One young black man (I don’t remember his name but I’ll call him John) was with the rest of us young white men. In the game, John went down with a wrenched knee. Jimmy had been witnessing to him about Jesus and the gospel of eternal life. When John went down, Jimmy was the first one over to him to put John’s arm around Jimmy’s shoulders so John could be helped to a car. As I was standing there watching, I thought of the kind heart of my brother Jimmy. I believe Jimmy may have loved more deeply than me.

My Twin Brother Jimmy Goes Home

My brother Jimmy was born on October 13, 1953. That was five minutes after I was born. I watched my twin breathe his last breath on this earth around 10:45 am on Monday, March 12, 2018 after battling kidney cancer that had spread to his lungs. His entire family was gathered around him. Sunday and Monday (March 11-12) were probably the hardest days of my life. He was 64. For the first time, I have lived in this universe without him being an email, text, or phone call away.

I have posted memories of him in Facebook but will begin to copy them to my blog for those who do not access to those posts.  As of the original writing of this post, I am trying to keep myself together as I work on the funeral sermon I will preach on Friday, March 16. Jimmy was a great evangelist and a great brother. He is still alive in heaven and is no longer suffering as he was the last few weeks. I look forward to the time when Jesus will come and begin to make all things right.

“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4

The NFL and the Star-Spangled Banner and the Desire for Freedom from Criticism

Like most of you, I have been somewhat riveted by the debate of recent times spawned by the refusal of some NFL players to stand and show respect for the US Flag during the national anthem before games.  The President waded into that debate over the last weekend, perhaps unwisely, but time will tell.  What I want to concentrate on here is tangent to the debate, but still important.  Jim Harbaugh, the Michigan football coach, responded by telling the President to read the Constitution.  If I understand his statement correctly, he was suggesting that the President was violating the free speech rights of the NFL players given in the First Amendment.  But this is patently untrue.  It is a fallacy we all fall into sometimes.  When we are debating someone else, especially if that someone else is a good debater, we resort to a false challenge.  This happens a lot from those on the Left side of the political spectrum but they are not by themselves.  What they are really arguing for is “freedom from criticism.”  The First Amendment does not say we have freedom from criticism.  NFL players who are unhappy with America have the right to criticize by kneeling down during the national anthem.  Others have the right to criticize those players if they disagree.  Even Presidents have freedom of speech, although we can criticize them and even vote them out of office.  As a Pastor and Seminary prof, I received plenty of criticism.  If we are supposed to be free from criticism, I want to pass the offering plate again.  Somebody out there owes me something!

Gospel-centered, Jesus-centered, God-centered, or Glory-centered?

There is much emphasis on “gospel-centered” in the evangelical culture and scholarship of our day.  I have written here and in other forums that this is not where I am.  I have suggested that “Jesus-centered” is a better way to go since such an approach encompasses all that Jesus does, past-present-future, on our behalf.  While the gospel of eternal life serves as a foundational truth for past accomplishment, present experience, and future blessing, it is not broad enough to integrate all that Jesus is and all that He does, from the creation of the world, provision of salvation in the Cross and Resurrection, setting up of a kingdom when He comes again, and the ushering in of a new heavens and new earth in the end – all of which combined offer more breadth than the simple gospel.  This should not be taken to minimize the strategic role the gospel plays in history or in our theology.

Last week we had our annual Council on Dispensational Hermeneutics.  The topic was “Dispensationalism and the Glory of God.”  Much profitable discussion centered on a doxological unifying theme of the Bible (Ryrie).  The Niagara Conference men of an earlier generation said the same thing but would be comfortable with the words “doxological purpose or purposes for biblical history.”  I think the presentation is legitimately biblical.  However, the Niagara Conference men also treated this doxological purpose for history as focused on Christology.  That is, it was “Jesus-centered” as I have mentioned above.  My paper on Arno C. Gaebelein at the Council was the illustration I used for this point of view.

When we ask if the Bible or biblical history or Christian life (or however we word it) is primarily soteriological (gospel-centered), Christological (Jesus-centered), theological (God-centered), or doxological (glory-centered), we are in danger of skewing the truth if we are not careful.  All of these things are so tightly intertwined that to diminish one may be to diminish the others in our theological discourse.  But if I had to choose, I would believe in a doxological purpose to biblical history with a Christological center.  Jesus-centered to the glory of God.

Council on Dispensational Hermeneutics 2017

The 10th annual meeting of the Council on Dispensational Hermeneutics is being held in Jackson Hall on the campus of Clarks Summit University and Baptist Bible Seminary.  The dates are September 13-14, 2017.  Our group is a discussion group for traditional dispensationalists who try in an irenic way to discuss hermeneutical and theological issues among ourselves.  It is a discussion group more than a presenter group although papers are, of course, the basis of our discussions.   The meetings are primarily for Bible college and Seminary professors and pastors but others interested in what we are doing may attend.  There is no charge to attend but all travel, lodging, and meal costs are up to the attenders.  The theme this year is “Dispensationalism and the Glory of God.”  The schedule is below. Read the rest of this entry »

Homegoing of Another Close Friend

I have not posted in my blog for quite sometime.  Transition to a new ministry has sidelined me quite a bit in this matter.  I have been traveling a lot internationally for my ministry at Friends of Israel.  In the last year, I have been to Poland, Germany, New Zealand, Australia, Israel, and Argentina.  I hope to bring some regularity to my blog (once a week?) in the days ahead.

The reason for my blog today is not pleasant.  I have lost another friend who was with me during my days at Baptist Bible Seminary.  Dr. Bill Arp has gone to be with his Lord.  The gain is heaven’s.  The loss is ours and it is deep.  Bill was one of my closest friends on the faculty.  The wisdom flowing from his longevity at the school helped me much as I negotiated the ups and downs of academic life.  When I flew up to Clarks Summit, PA in April 1994 to interview to teach at BBS, the first home I was in was Bill and Joanna’ s.  I remember the lovely dinner and the lively conversation.  But most of all the family warmth.  I spent numerous times in Bill’s home over the 22 years I was at the seminary.  His love of family was apparent.  It was a pleasant place to be.

Bill was a quiet scholar who knew his area of expertise (Greek & NT) quite well.  He also had some breadth as we discussed issues of theology and ministry.  Above all, he was a praying friend who cared for me and my family deeply.  He was an easy man to love.  I will miss him greatly.  His legacy continues. Please pray for Joanna and the family he leaves behind.  We take great encouragement from the promise of resurrection given by Jesus:  “because I live, you shall live also” (John 14:19).

Leaving Baptist Bible Seminary for Friends of Israel

Many people already know. But I need to make an announcement here just in case. I have resigned my position as Dean of Baptist Bible Seminary effective June 1 and have accepted the position of Director of International Ministries for Friends of Israel.

I worked for BBS for 22 years. Never been treated better any place I have been. So I am thankful for the many paths the Lord has led me down in the best ministry I’ve had to this point in my life. When I think of my students at the seminary and the students from the college that worked with me in Mission Scranton, I have no regrets. God has been more than gracious to me.

But a new challenge awaits. I hope I am up to it. Cindy and I will live for the time being in Clarks Summit.

Reflections on the Life, Ministry, and Influence of Dr. Charles Ryrie

RyrieWord has traveled widely about the home going of Dr. Charles Ryrie. As someone whom he befriended and who has defended his overall approach to the Bible, I thought it appropriate for me to share my thoughts here.

I came to Christ in 1974 partly through the ministry of a local church – West Huntsville Baptist Church in Huntsville, Alabama. It was that church and the pastor of that church, Dr. Sam Wolfe, who pointed me in the direction of reading books by “Dallas Seminary men.” Dr. Ryrie was of course one of them.

Early in my Christian life, I was an aerospace engineer/computer programmer who shared an office with a Reformed Presbyterian friend Mark Scot. We swapped resources. He gave me a copy of G. I. Williamson’s Commentary on the Westminster Confession of Faith and I gave him a copy of Ryrie’s Dispensationalism Today.

I have never left my traditional dispensational roots although I have grown in my faith and in understanding the Scriptures. When I went into ministry and eventually became a pastor, seminary professor and then Dean, I found increasing opportunities to use some of Dr. Ryrie’s insights in my teaching. I have for over 20 years used his book on dispensationalism as a text in a course I teach on dispensational premillennialism. I have defended some of Ryrie’s points (such as the famous sine qua non) at conferences, in sermons, in print, to my students, and in conversation with other Bible scholars.

I had the wonderful honor to be a speaker at conferences where he also spoke. He came to our Baptist Bible Seminary on at least three occasions to do lecture week or special conferences. When we started the Council on Dispensational Hermeneutics in 2008, he came to help support our beginning steps. He was gracious and humble and always let us know that he was not a pastor but a lay teacher.

He graced me with his presence in my office and let me pester him with theology questions. While some of the scholarly world viewed him as oversimplifying biblical truth, I found him committed to the Reformation cry to get the Bible in the hands of the common man so he can understand it for himself. He wrote and spoke so people could understand him. His approach was, in a word, refreshing.

In my presence, I never heard Dr. Ryrie make a disparaging mark about anybody. Disagreement, yes. Disparagement, no. He was a quiet and unassuming man. He was flawed like all of us are, but not fatally flawed since he had trusted in Christ as payment for his sin. He was in love with Christ and His Word. He has helped many of us find the Bible more approachable through his teaching.

Dr. Ryrie supported my school financially from time to time as he did many ministries across the world. But that large heart also cared for individuals like my own children who still remember the humor he showed in a lunch we all had together. It is hard to think of him gone from us. It is easier to think of him as with his Lord. The world has lost a great man. It is a loss for me personally. “Dispensationalism today” will never be the same. But many of us believe in the literal promises of the Bible like Dr. Ryrie did – promises for both Israel and the Church. And as long as there are folks like us who do, Dr. Ryrie’s legacy will continue.