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Tim Challies

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October 2003

October 28, 2003

Dr. W.A. Criswell (1909-2002), long-time pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, was once traveling by airplane on a trip across the country to attend a speaking engagement and was thrilled to recognize the man in the seat beside him as a well-known Christian theologian. Criswell admired this man and wanted to strike up a conversation with him. After the plane left the ground and settled into cruising altitude he introduced himself and the two began to speak.

The theologian told the pastor how he had recently lost his four-year old son to a terrible illness. The child was sent home from school one day with a fever. At first the parents thought it was a typical childhood illness, but as the child’s condition continued to worsen they took him to the hospital. After the doctors ran a battery of tests they told the parents that their son had a virulent form of meningitis and that there was nothing they could do for him. The child was going to die.

The loving father did the only thing he could do, which was sit with his son in a death vigil. It was the middle of the day and the illness was causing the little boy’s vision began to fade. He looked up at his daddy and said softly, “Daddy, it’s getting dark, isn’t it?”

The professor replied, “Yes, son, it is dark. It is very dark.” And for the father it was very dark.

The little boy said, “I guess it’s time for me to get to sleep, isn’t it?”

“Yes son, it’s time for you to sleep,” said the father.

The theologian explained to Dr. Criswell how his son liked his pillow and his blankets arranged just so and how he put his head on his hands while he slept. He told how he helped the child fix his pillow and how his little boy rested his head on his hands and said. “Good night daddy. I’ll see you in the morning.” With that the little boy closed his eyes and breathed his last.

The professor stopped talking and looked out the window of the airplane for a good long time. Finally he turned to Dr Criswell and with his voice breaking and tears spilling onto his cheeks said, “I can hardly wait for morning to come!”

Though it may sound like merely the cry of a grief-stricken parent, the father’s words speak of far more. They speak of a profoundly beautiful truth. His words echo those of King David who, after his son died said, “I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.” (2 Samuel 13:23) The father believed that life does not end with death – death is just the beginning! His words are an awesome statement of faith. He had faith to believe that Jesus’ words were true when he said, “I am the way, the truth and the life!” Only through Jesus can we have the hope of eternal life that sustains the grief-stricken father. Only through Jesus can we have assurance that he “will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying.” (Revelation 21:4) God offers us this assurance if only we will believe in Him.

Do you believe in Him? Give God the opportunity to be real to you and to give you the faith to believe that there really is life beyond death.

October 22, 2003

Thom Rainer is president of Rainer Group Church Consulting as well as founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. As such, we would expect him to have many interesting insights into church growth. He does not disappoint. In Surprising Insights From The Unchurched Rainer presents the results of a fascinating study he performed over two years. He decided that perhaps the best way of learning what principles of church growth work best would be to interview people who had only recently become Christians and begun to attend church on a regular basis. He and his team spent thousands of hours interviewing 353 of these people. And the results, as is obvious from the title of the book, are quite surprising. In the second half of the book, the focus turns to pastors of successful evangelical churches and seeks to understand what they do to bring success to their churches.

October 16, 2003

In writing Robert E. Lee: The Christian, William J. Johnson sifted through hundreds of letters written to and from Lee as well as accounts written of him, seeking to find evidence of this Civil War general’s faith. Having found ample evidence, the author concludes that Lee’s correspondance “reveals him as a man who lived in the presence of God; who looked to God continually for guidance and strength; whose mind and heart were saturated with faith and trust in God.” The nearly 300 pages of this book are dedicated to showing example after example of Lee’s obvious love for and trust in his Creator.