“Christian Verses” Podcast: Proverbs 11:1

A recent headline from the world of baseball involves the Houston Astros, who won the World Series in 2017, cheating on their way to that title. In this week’s podcast, Malcolm and I use that as just one of multiple illustrations that deal with real-life issues that call for integrity. Does integrity (honesty) matter to God? Did Jesus have anything to say on the subject? These are the kinds of questions we answer in an easy-going conversation that centers around Proverbs 11:1. To listen to the discussion, just click on the link below:

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The Sensibility Required Regarding Doctrine

“Right Doctrine For Right Living” series: (post #5)

There are certain doctrinal teachings that are absolutely fundamental to authentic Christianity. Stating the matter bluntly, if you don’t believe these doctrines you can’t be a Christian. The hard part, however, is deciding upon an exact list of what those doctrines are. If you don’t think coming up with such a list is hard, try doing it yourself.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the so-called “higher criticism” that was most closely associated with Germany and had already discredited and demoted the Bible enough to decimate Christianity over much of Europe began to make its way into America’s colleges, universities, seminaries, and pulpits. The supposed goal of this “higher criticism” was to apply a cold, strictly scholarly, historical approach to studying the Bible in order to get at the original context and meaning of each passage. While on the surface this goal seemed commendable, the problem with “higher criticism” was that the men who were driving the movement were for the most part atheists who did not believe in anything supernatural, including the supernatural revelation of scripture. To them, the Bible was little more than a dead literary corpse whose history merely needed to be clinically dissected, antiseptically analyzed, and neatly categorized. They certainly saw nothing of God about it.

In response to the looming threat of “higher criticism,” various groups of Christians in America set themselves to the task of stopping the movement in its tracks. The group that made the most impact in doing this was a group of 64 Christian authors, a veritable “who’s who” of leading theologians and ministers, who wrote a set of ninety essays that attempted to set forth a list of doctrines that were fundamental to the Christian faith. Between 1910 and 1915, these essays were published quarterly in twelve volumes by a publishing company in Chicago, Illinois, and hundreds of thousands of copies were mailed free of charge to ministers, missionaries, seminary professors, and many other Christian workers. The project was funded by Lyman Stewart, the founder of Union Oil, who was a devout Presbyterian. A couple of years after all the volumes were published, The Bible Institute of Los Angeles (Biola), which was founded by Stewart, republished the essays into a popular four-volume set entitled The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth.

The end result of the whole project was that certain “fundamental” doctrines were presented as being indisputable for the Christian faith. Unfortunately, because the essays weren’t originally written or published in a systematic order, compiling a numbered list of these doctrines proves problematic. This explains why various lists of these “fundamentals” don’t always match up perfectly. Basically, however, the essays proclaimed the importance of the following doctrines:

  • the virgin birth of Christ
  • the deity (divinity) of Christ
  • the reality of the miracles of Christ
  • the substitutionary death, literal burial, and bodily resurrection of Christ
  • the atonement of sins through the shed blood of Christ
  • the visible, bodily return of Christ
  • the inerrancy of the whole Bible, both the Old Testament and the New Testament, by means of the verbal, plenary (full), divine inspiration of scripture

You’ll notice that there is nothing on this list about the color of the carpet in a church. There is also nothing there about how often The Lord’s Supper (Communion) should be observed. Neither is there anything about:

  • whether or not a church should hold Sunday evening services
  • whether or not a church should buy a new church bus/van
  • how often a church’s business meetings should be held
  • what Bible translation the pastor should use
  • how much salary the pastor should make
  • what youth programs the church should offer
  • how much money the church should give to missions
  • how many deacons the church should have
  • what type of Christian songs (traditional or contemporary) the church should sing
  • whether the church should have a choir leader or a praise-and-worship band

What I’m trying to get you to understand is that everything that goes on in our churches doesn’t fall under the heading of “doctrine.” Admittedly, “doctrine” can be a subjective type of thing, but we at least have a basic framework for it set down in scripture. You see, whatever role The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth played in keeping “higher criticism” from undercutting the support beams of Christianity in America, those essays didn’t actually create or formulate Christian doctrine. All they did was lift that doctrine from the pages of the Bible and expound upon it.

I want you to keep this in mind as we head for the next post, which will be the last one in this series. That post will be entitled “The Separation Over Wrong Doctrine.” Yes, if a Christian’s church situation or denominational situation becomes egregious enough in terms of doctrine, God would have that Christian to separate himself or herself from that situation. The Bible makes no bones about that. With that said, though, we must do our best to keep clear lines of distinction between what is doctrinal grounds for separation and what isn’t. After all, the denial of Christ’s virgin birth is one thing but the order of service as printed in the church bulletin is another. And while I’m sure that most of us understand this, I did want to offer a word on the subject before I move us into a post about separating over wrong doctrine. This post, I trust, has accomplished that task.

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The Scope of Wrong Doctrine

“Right Doctrine for Right Living” series: (post #4)

How wide is the scope of wrong doctrine? Phrasing the question another way, just how prevalent is wrong doctrine? The answer is that scripture indicates that wrong doctrine is everywhere. The Bible doesn’t only offer numerous passages that speak of the importance of right doctrine, it also provides a multitude of passages that warn about all the wrong doctrines that are out there. Here’s a list of seven of those passages (all using the N.K.J.V.):

  1. In Matthew 7:17, Jesus says, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.”
  2. In Matthew 15:9, Jesus says of the scribes and Pharisees, “And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”
  3. In Matthew 24:11, Jesus says, “Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.
  4. In 1 Timothy 4:1, Paul says, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons…”
  5. In 2 Timothy 4:3-4, Paul says, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.”
  6. In 2 Peter 2:1, Peter says, “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.”
  7. In 1 John 4:1, John says, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

As we can see from these passages, the danger presented by wrong doctrine is real, constant, and very much present in our world. False teachers who promote wrong doctrine dot the map. Some lurk in the shadows, but others are on the internet, television, or the radio. Some are blatantly offensive, but others are smooth, slick, and sweet. Some preach in blue jeans, but others wear expensive suits, robes, or even dresses. Some are backward, but others are refined and polished. Some preach in heavily guarded compounds, but others fill denominational pulpits. Some are extreme right, but others are extreme left. Still, the end result of these false teachers is always the same: wrong doctrine.

By the way, did you notice in my list of passages that two distinct categories of false doctrine are named? One category is mentioned in 1 Timothy 4:1, that verse that serves as #4 on my list. In that verse, Paul warns that in latter times some will depart from the faith by giving heed to what he calls “doctrines of demons.” These are doctrines that come from the minds of demons (fallen angels). A parallel passage concerning the preaching of the “doctrines of demons” is 2 Corinthians 11:13-15, where Paul says:

For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works. (N.K.J.V.)

Be sure to catch what Paul throws there. He says quite plainly that Satan has human ministers who masquerade as apostles of Christ in order to work deceit. These men and women present themselves as ministers of righteousness but they are in reality ministers of unrighteousness. Obviously, many of the doctrines these false ministers of “light” promote can be classified under the heading the “doctrines of demons.”

As for the second category of wrong doctrine the Bible names, Jesus mentions it in Matthew 15:9, passage #2 on my list. In that verse, He references a prophecy from Isaiah 29:13 to say of the Jewish scribes and Pharisees:

And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. (N.K.J.V.)

It is noteworthy that Jesus didn’t even bring Satan and his demons into the mess of this category of doctrine. Instead, He called these wrong doctrines “the commandments of men.” The false commandments He had in mind were all those the Jewish religious leaders had added to God’s Old Testament law as supposed ways of interpreting and applying that law. The fact is, though, that men (and women) today are still cooking up new “commandments of men” and passing them off as right doctrine. 

Actually, there is undoubtedly a lot of overlap between the doctrines of demons and the commandments of men. I say that because anyone who devises wrong doctrine is certainly not being led by God to do so. To the contrary, that person is being led by Satan. And anyone who is led by Satan is easy pickings to be used by Satan’s demons as a vessel to devise and teach wrong doctrine.       

At any rate, whichever category any version of wrong doctrine fits, the point is that such doctrines are pervasive in our world. This has been the case since virtually the dawn of the church age, and the status quo will continue as long as demons still roam the earth and people still create their own ideas about God and religion. Surely even now we are living in the time of which Paul warned Timothy, that time when people will not endure sound doctrine but will turn their ears away from the truth and be turned aside to fables. Obviously, in a world like that it’s hard to keep yourself from falling under the sway of wrong doctrine. There is, however, something you can do to help yourself in that regard. I’ll identify that something in my next post, and so until then I’ll ask you to please stay tuned….

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The Significance of Right Doctrine

“Right Doctrine for Right Living” series (post #3)

The Christian realm today is dominated by an attitude known as ecumenicalism. Since I realize that’s a big, scary word, let me define it for you. Ecumenicalism is the attitude that says that professing Christians should lay aside all their doctrinal differences and work together for the greater good. It focuses upon love rather than doctrine, fellowship rather than separation, and unity rather than division.

The typical area-wide crusade is a classic example of ecumenicalism. Such a crusade might bring together professing Christians who are: Methodists, Presbyterians, Southern Baptists, Pentecostals, Catholics, Independent Baptists, Lutherans,  Charismatics, Episcopalians, and non-denominationals. The idea is, “Let’s get all of the area’s professing Christians together and focus upon our commonalities instead of our differences.”

Now, let me say that I don’t have a theological ax to grind against anybody. I’m for love. I’m for unity. I’m for Christian fellowship. But I also understand that we can’t just treat right doctrine as an insignificant, meaningless, disposable thing. As one preacher has said, “People will forgive even poor theology (wrong doctrine) as long as they get out of church before noon.” Sadly, he seems to be right.

To showcase the high significance that God Himself places upon right doctrine, let’s see what His written word says. Here are ten selected passages (all from the N.K.J.V.) from a sizable list of them:

  1. In John 7:16-17, Jesus says, “My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me. If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.” Here we see that Jesus taught that knowing right doctrine and doing God’s will are inextricably linked. Basically, you’ll have a hard time doing God’s will if your doctrine is wrong.
  2. Acts 2:42 says the early Christians “…continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine…” Notice that those Christians didn’t continue in just any doctrine. It had to be the doctrine preached by Christ’s apostles.
  3. In Ephesians 4:14, Paul encourages Christians to stop being children (spiritual babes) who are “…tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine…” That means that Christians should anchor themselves to right doctrine so that they will not be blown about by the winds of wrong doctrine.
  4. In 1 Timothy 1:3, Paul urges Timothy to remain in Ephesus and make sure that others “…teach no other doctrine…” It’s noteworthy that Paul didn’t stop at telling Timothy to teach right doctrine himself. Even more than doing that, he took the subject even further by telling him to make sure that others didn’t teach wrong doctrine.
  5. In 1 Timothy 4:13, Paul says to Timothy, “Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.” Telling Timothy to give attention to reading, exhortation, and doctrine is not the same thing as telling him to give attention to unity, love, and ecumenicalism.
  6. In 1 Timothy 4:16, Paul says to Timothy, “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine.” The doctrine that Paul has in mind is obviously the apostles’ doctrine, right doctrine.
  7. In Titus 1:9, Paul talks to Titus about the importance of an elder (pastor), “…holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.” Notice that if a pastor wants to preach a message that either exhorts, convicts, or both, he should do it by making it a message built around sound doctrine.
  8. In Titus 2:1, Paul tells Titus to, “…speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine.” You see, that’s different than telling Titus to speak the things that will unite all the people and not offend any of them.
  9. Hebrews 13:9 says that Christians should not be “…carried about with various and strange doctrines…” Even in the days of the early church, there were a multitude of wrong doctrines to tempt Christians to unanchor themselves from right doctrine and be blown away from God’s truth.
  10. In Jude verse 3, Jude says that his purpose in writing his short letter (epistle) is to exhort his readers to, “…earnestly contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” It is important to note that we are to contend for the faith. And what is the faith? It is that body of doctrinal teaching that was delivered to the church once and for all.

The common thread in each of these passages, and several others we could cite, is the importance of not only clinging to right doctrine but also defending it against those who teach wrong doctrine. Yes, right doctrine really is a big deal with God, and anytime we minimize or downplay its significance we venture out onto potentially dangerous ice. If the likes of Paul, Jude, and even Jesus Himself made a point of singing the praises of right doctrine, it’s not our job to come along in this modern era and change the tune to say, “Surely now we’ve reached a place where we’ve gotten past all those divisive issues.” All I can say to such an opinion is that if we have reached such a place, we’ve no doubt gone too far in the wrong direction. Right doctrine has always mattered to God and continues to matter to Him, and so how can our lives be pleasing to Him if it doesn’t matter to us?

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The Source of Right Doctrine

“Right Doctrine for Right Living” series: (post #2)

When you are looking for a church, what should be at the top of your list of criteria? The size of the church? Nope. The location of the church? Nope. The church’s decor? Nope. A pastor who preaches the way you like? Nope. Your type of singing? Nope. A vibrant youth ministry? Nope. The first question to ask is always, “Does this church teach right doctrine?”

Admittedly, the answer to this question can get confusing because all churches claim to teach right doctrine. Think about it, have you ever heard a church advertise itself by saying, “Hey, if you’re looking for seriously messed-up doctrine, we’re the place for you”? No, you haven’t. Even cults purport to teach the truth.

So, if you can’t trust what any church says about the correctness of its doctrine, where can you go to find right doctrine? Oh, the answer to that question is easy. If you are looking for right doctrine, the river’s head source of it is the Bible.

Someone might ask, “But what about a church’s or a denomination’s statement of beliefs? What about Christian colleges and seminaries? What about commentaries and study Bibles? What about Christian websites and publications? What about big-time preachers on t.v.?” Well, it’s certainly possible that all of these avenues might present doctrinal truth, but it’s equally as possible (and seemingly increasingly more so) that they might not. A correct understanding of the Bible, on the other hand, will never lead you astray.

In 2 Timothy 3:16, the Bible says:

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (N.K.J.V.)

You might want to take a moment and reread that verse, this time making sure to notice the first item on the list for which God-inspired scripture is good. That would be doctrine. Surely that is God’s way of telling us, “Of all the Bible’s uses, the gleaning of right doctrine is its most important.”

Of course, the problem that we have is that even those who teach wrong doctrine usually supposedly back up their false teachings by using Bible passages. What allows them to do this is the fact that the Bible is so incredibly diverse and rich that you can use it to “prove” just about anything. For example, did you know that the early Christians owned a Honda automobile? Sure they did. Acts 2:1 plainly says: “When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.”

Okay, okay, maybe that wasn’t a serious example. So now let me offer a legitimate one. Let’s say that I want to take the Bible and “prove” that bigamy/polygamy is doctrinally sound? Is there a way for me to do that? You bet. All I have to do is use two passages. Watch this:

And God gave Solomon wisdom and exceedingly great understanding, and largeness of heart like the sand of the seashore. Thus Solomon’s wisdom exceeded the wisdom of all the men of the East and all the wisdom of Egypt. (1 Kings 4:30-31, N.K.J.V.)

And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart. (1 Kings 11:3, N.K.J.V.)

You see, all I have to do is go to the pulpit, read those two passages, and say, “Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived, and he understood the wisdom in having hundreds of wives. His only mistake was in that he married the wrong women, women who turned his heart away from God.” For that matter, I could even add in that other great men of God such as Jacob and David also had multiple wives.

But now let’s say that I want to go to the other extreme and preach that it is never God’s will for anyone to marry. Can I find any Bible passages to support this doctrine? Yes, I can. My “proof” text can be the words of Paul, who was unmarried, as found in 1 Corinthians 7:7-8:

For I wish that all men were even as I myself. But each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that. But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: Is is good for them if they remain even as I am. (N.K.J.V.)

For good measure, I might also throw in Proverbs 21:9:

Better to dwell in a corner of a housetop, Than in a house shared with a contentious woman. (N.K.J.V.)

If I really want to drive home this point, I can also add in that the words of Proverbs 21:9 are actually repeated in Proverbs 25:24 for double emphasis. Oh, and I might mention too that since the book of Proverbs is primarily attributed to Solomon, and since he had the experience of living with all those hundreds of wives, he was the perfect candidate to write Proverbs 21:9 and 25:24! Do you see how it all fits together?

So, I guess I need to start preaching that it is never God’s will for anyone to marry, right? Wait a minute, if I do that then I’ll have to start cherry-picking some passages for a follow-up sermon that “proves” that sex outside the bounds of marriage isn’t a sin after all. After all, if I don’t preach that follow-up sermon, it will be impossible for the human race to propagate without sinning.

Can you see how easy it is for wrong doctrine to get started? This is why we must study the Bible as a whole, in its totality, to really get at what it teaches. In 2 Timothy 2:15, Paul calls this “rightly dividing the word of truth.” Obviously, if there is a way to rightly divide the word of truth, there must a way (actually many of them) to wrongly divide it. Such faulty dividing is all that is required for wrong doctrine.

As evidence that merely reading the Bible and even knowing it isn’t enough, allow me to present Exhibit A: the Sadducees. In Jesus’ day, this wealthy, educated, highly influential religious group of Jewish rabbis controlled the priesthood at the Jewish temple. Because they believed that only the first five books of the Old Testament were fully authoritative, they knew those books forward and backward. And yet when these men asked Jesus a question about marriage in the afterlife, He rebuked them by saying, “You are mistaken, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God” (Matthew 22:29, N.K.J.V.). This shows that it is possible to read the scriptures without being able to rightly divide them.

The group we need to be like were the Bereans. When Paul and Silas came to their city preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, not only did the Bereans give them a fair hearing, they devoted the next several days to searching the Scriptures in an effort to discern whether or not Paul and Silas had preached right doctrine. As Acts 17:11 says of those Bereans:

These were more fair-minded than those of Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. (N.K.J.V.)

Ah, there’s what each of us needs: an open mind that is kept in check by an open Bible. Unfortunately, if we just have the open mind we’ll fall victim to wrong doctrine for sure. Therefore, I encourage you to multiply whatever amount of Bible study you are currently doing. False teaching definitely abounds, and it takes a ton of Bible study to gain the discernment that is needed to identify it. The good news, though, is that once you’ve put in that study and gained that discernment, not only will you keep yourself doctrinally straight, God will be able to use you to help others get there.

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Biblical Truth is Narrow

“Right Doctrine for Right Living” series (post #1)

Denominational differences have long been the norm in the ranks of Christianity. Even among sincere Christians, the same passage of scripture can produce starkly different interpretations and applications. Typically, we file such disputes under the “let’s just agree to disagree” category and don’t bring them up in polite conversation.

It should be understood, however, that truth isn’t relative. It is, to the contrary, downright narrow. 1 plus 1 always equals 2, not 3 or 4 depending upon the situation. Water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, not 35 degrees if the conditions are right. George Washington died on December 14, 1799, not any other date.

Biblical truth is narrow as well. The Bible either teaches that Christians are eternally secure or that salvation can potentially be lost, but it doesn’t teach both. It either teaches that the Rapture and Christ’s millennial reign upon the earth are literal events or it teaches that they are symbolic, but it doesn’t teach both. It either teaches that Jesus died for the sins of the entire human race or it teaches that He only died for the sins of the “elect,” but it doesn’t teach both.

Far too many Christians exhibit a blase attitude toward doctrinal disputes. Basically, we have replaced the pursuit of correct doctrine with the pursuit of superficial unity. But a fair question to ask is, what good does it do to be unified around wrong doctrine? Furthermore, how can we possibly make any headway in the cultural wars that swirl around hot-button topics such as abortion, homosexuality, capital punishment, and the role of women when we ourselves can’t even reach a consensus agreement on what the Bible teaches regarding those topics?

It is with all this in mind that I offer this post as the first in a new series I’m calling “Right Doctrine for Right Living.” My purpose with this series is not to attempt to name each form of wrong doctrine that is pervasive these days and offer my opinion about it. Instead, I just want to use the series to point out some important things the Bible has to say about doctrine. Truthfully (no pun intended), I think you’ll be surprised at not only how much the Bible says about doctrine but also what it says. That’s why I hope you’ll get on board with this series as the train is pulling out of station, and I trust that God will use the series to remind us all that He really does place a great importance on right doctrine.

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Eulogy for my Dad

(After years of declining health, most acutely during the past couple of months, my dad died Monday morning. That explains why I haven’t written any blog posts this week. The only thing I wrote this week was his eulogy, and as one final way of honoring him I’d like to share that eulogy here as a post. I preached this virtually word for word the way I wrote it.)   

What I’m doing tonight is a one off. I got one father in my life, and this is the one time I’ll preach his funeral. So, I’ve had a lot of different things on my mind and my heart, and if you’ll permit me I’m just going to run with this and see how it goes.

Some of you know who Miranda Lambert is. For those of you who don’t, she’s a country music star. A few years back, in 2007, she had a hit song called “Famous In A Small Town.” The gist of that song was that everybody who spends their life in a small town becomes so well known in that town that they are famous (at least for that town) when they die. Well, Bakersville is a small town, Spruce Pine is a small town, Mitchell county is a small county, and daddy was famous. People either grew up with him, were kin to him, went to school with him, played ball with him, ran around with him, drag-raced him in his legendary ’62 Ford with the 406 engine, played youth- league football for him, or worked with him during one of the 283 jobs he held in his lifetime.

I’ll give you a few examples of what I’m talking about. Randall Mckinney is suffering from the effects of Lou Gehrig’s disease, so much so that he can no longer speak. When he heard that daddy had died, he wrote on a piece of paper the word “undefeated.” Then he started writing out the names of his teammates that had played on one of daddy’s youth-league football teams, a team that had gone undefeated.

Tonya and I were in Ingles Monday night buying a few groceries, and Tony Hoilman (one of the managers there) came over and started talking. He said, “I was sorry to hear about your dad.” Then he told me that daddy was the only coach he ever had who had let him try out for quarterback. He said daddy let him play quarterback for a week. Just the fact that daddy gave him a shot at the job meant enough to him to talk about it years later.

Here’s another example. My first day of Driver’s Ed. class at Mitchell High School (I guess it was 1982), Leroy Ledford, the Drivers Ed. teacher, called roll. He came to my name and said, “Russell Mckinney.” I said, “Here.” Then he stopped right there in the middle of class, looked at me, and said, “Your daddy was in the first drag race I ever attended.” Then he went on to tell me how the law had showed up and how he had had to jump over a fence and hide in a ditch. I thought to myself, “Well, it’s important that a Driver’s Ed. teacher knows how to handle himself at a drag race.”

But that’s been my life. Over the years, I couldn’t even begin to tell you how many conversations I’ve had that started with the question, “How’s you daddy?” Daddy just had that way about him. He had a natural charisma and likability. In some weird way, even if he did you a wrong turn, you still liked him.

And he was so talented in so many areas. He was well known for being (in his prime) the best mechanic in Mitchell county. For years, I thought it was only the people of Bakersville who knew him that way. But when I went into the ministry one of the elderly preachers who took a liking to me was Preacher Cassity from Spruce Pine. And once he figured out who I was, he said, “Oh, I know Lloyd. He used to work on my car when he worked at the Ford place.” Then he told me how good a mechanic daddy was.

And daddy wasn’t just a great mechanic with cars; he was a first-rate diesel mechanic, too. That was how he earned his living during his later years. 

He was a good athlete. He was the co-captain of his Bowman High School football team along with his buddy Emmitt Burleson. He played baseball, too. He played 3rd base and was a power hitter who hit in the middle of the order.

He knew how to put out a garden. He knew about guns. He used to ride around Mckinney Cove with a rifle hanging on a gun rack in the back window of his truck and look for groundhogs way off in the fields. When he would see one, he would pull over, sight in that rifle, and shoot at that groundhog just for the marksmanship challenge of it.

He could fish. He and a bunch of his friends went to the beach one time to deep-sea fish, and daddy caught the biggest fish of the trip.

He could drive a tractor-trailer. He made his living doing that for years. He drove the west-coast and just about everywhere else. His brother Buddy was talking the other night about how it seemed like daddy had a photographic memory for interstates, roads, and highways. Long before g.p.s., you could plop him down anywhere in the United States and he wouldn’t be lost. He’d know exactly where he was and how to get to where he needed to go. If you ever went on a long trip yourself, he could tell you interstates, road numbers, exit numbers, and how many red lights were in a town. He really was unbelievable that way.

I’m telling you, when it comes to natural talents and abilities, I’m not half the man daddy was (and I’ve known few people that were). I would describe it this way: He had a gear in him that was uncommon. And if you ever saw him operating in that gear, you were impressed. But here’s the part that was so frustrating, so maddening, so illogical about him: He simply could not or would not always operate in that gear. He would show it to you (let you see a flash of it), and then he would do something completely contradictory to it.

For example, yes, he was a great mechanic. But when he went into business for himself running the Texaco station in Bakersville (Mckiney Texaco), it wasn’t too long before he went belly up. Why? It was because he had no interest in the responsibility of laying in there day after day, working on cars, and running a business. All the skills were there, but he just wouldn’t let that side of him become successful owning and operating that business.

That was daddy. He was a walking contradiction. If you were around him consistently, he could show you the best times of your life, but the same man could also show you the worst times of your life. I mean, he was never just anything or always anything (either for the good or the bad). Whatever you saw in him, either something good or something bad, all you had to do was hang around him a little longer and you’d see something completely opposite.

It was like his personality had ten different sides to it. Two of them would make you want to be his friend. Two of them could be successful at just about anything. Two of them would want to ride the roads, have a big time, and blow money. Two of them would want to go to church every time the doors were open. And two of them would make you want to swing at him or kill him. How do you preach the funeral of a man like that?

I do want to say one thing about him. And to get me into it, I’ll use a verse of scripture: Ecclesiastes 12:1. That verse begins by saying: “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth…” Then the verse goes on to describe the days of youth in the following way: “…while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them.”

You see, that verse teaches that when you become an adult, your days become “evil.” That’s the word the King James translation uses. Other translations translate the original Hebrew as “days of trouble” or “days of adversity.” The point is that when you are young, you don’t have to worry about being to work on time, paying the bills, which insurance plan you need to enroll in, how you are going to pay for the new roof your house needs, etc., etc. All you have to do is enjoy being a kid. 

And daddy (with momma’s help) gave me the opportunity to have a wonderful childhood. The first house I remember us living in was the one they rented in Bakersville, the little stucco house on the hill across from Charles Blevins’ house. Then we moved from there up to White Oak, where they rented the farm house that was part of Ed Wilson’s dairy farm. Then they built the house over in Mckinney Cove. That was the house I grew up in.

We had the best Christmases there. Daddy loved Christmas. I think it was his favorite time of the year. I’ve thought for years that he loved it so much because, in a lot of ways, he never really grew up himself. A big part of him was always that little boy growing up in Green Cove, the youngest of 7 kids, the one who was petted rotten.

We opened our presents on Christmas Eve and then Santa Claus came later that night while we were asleep. One year, after I was older and had figured out the Santa Claus deal, I asked for a little pinball machine as a gift. That Christmas Eve, way past midnight, I woke up to the sound of Santa Claus playing that pinball machine in the living room. I told momma the next morning, “I heard Santa Claus playing my pinball machine last night.” She replied, “The whole neighborhood heard Santa Claus playing your pinball machine last night.” But that was daddy, and I will always, always be indebted to him for all that.

Let me give you an illustration that he would appreciate. He loved old westerns. They were his favorite thing to watch. Gunsmoke was his favorite show of all time, but this illustration comes from an old Western called “The Rifleman.” Some of you remember that show. It’s the one that starred Chuck Conners as Lucas McCain. In one episode, the townspeople leave Lucas alone to face four outlaws, and when Lucas tells his young son Mark to go home to the house, Mark objects by saying, “Pa, ain’t I old enough now that I can stand together with you and help you fight?” Lucas’ answer to that is, “No son. You’ve got the rest of your life to do man things. Right now you still need to be doing boy things.” Well, whatever else Lloyd Mckinney did or didn’t do in his life, he worked and did his part to ensure that my brother Richie and I had good days growing up as boys. We got to do a whole lot of boy things, and they are good memories.

Was he perfect? If you knew him, you know the answer to that question. And I can tell you that he had a lot of regrets. One night a few weeks ago, when he had been in Spruce Pine Hospital a couple of days, he was totally clear minded. It was about 10:00 at night, and he and I were in his room all alone. And we talked about things that he (under normal circumstances) would never have talked about.

It started with him, more or less, wanting to know what I thought was going to happen to him. Did I think he was going to die? Did I think he was going to end up in the Brian Center? I told him that I didn’t know but that he was in bad shape and that something was going to have give some way or another. To that, he said, “Well, I believe you reap what you sow, and I guess I’m reaping what I’ve sown.” Again, under normal circumstances he would never have admitted that or acknowledged it. But he did that night.

I said, “Well, yeah, I guess you are.” He continued, “I’ve done a lot of bad things in my life.” I said, “Well, we all have. I know that I’ve done things that I regret.” That’s when he looked at me, gave me one of his looks, and said, “You think you have.” That was the closest I ever got in 53 years to hearing him be down-to-the-bone honest about his life. Normally, if you asked him about any of that kind of stuff he’d say, “What’s it to you?” or “Who wants to know?” But that night he was real.

-Was he saved? Was he a Christian? I asked him that question one night not too long after that when he was in the Brian Center. He was telling me all about how he wanted his funeral to be and where he wanted to be buried, and I said, “Now wait a minute. Before you leave us let’s just make sure that you’re ready to go. Are you ready to meet the Lord? Have you got that covered?” He took great offense to that question, and blew my hair back with the answer, “Yes, I’m ready to meet the Lord. I settled that back in 19…..” I said, “Alright, I believe you. I was just making sure.”

I do believe he was saved, and I believed that even before he told me that. He grew up in this church (Roan Mountain Baptist). He made of profession of faith in Jesus, got baptized, and became a member of this church. During the years that daddy and momma were married, he was a member of Mckinney Cove Baptist. At one point later, when he was dating Rita, he was a member of Cane Creek Freewill Baptist.

He sent money to the Billy Graham organization. When we cleaned out his apartment Tuesday we found all kinds of Billy Graham “Decision” magazines that he had kept. We also found a Charles Stanley daily devotional book and that classic daily devotional “Streams in the Desert.” He had three or four Bibles, one of them falling apart from use. He had a whole bunch of southern gospel albums, cassettes, and c.d.s., too. 

He loved southern gospel. When I was growing up, on Sunday mornings at our house when he was in from trucking, he would play the Inspirations, the Primitive Quartet, the Hardin Brothers, etc. That was his worship music.

-There was a time in my life when I started a church (Disciples Road Church), which I pastored for eight-and-a-half years. And in the our final years there with that church daddy attended faithfully.

Somebody might say, “Well, I hear what you are saying, Russell, but I know for a fact that Lloyd did this, that, or the other thing.” Well, I believe you. You could tell me anything about him, either for the good or the bad, and I would believe you. Really, the great tragedy of his life was what he could have been if he had ever come fully and totally under the lordship of Jesus — not just get saved — and let Jesus mold him and shape him and guide him. But that didn’t happen.

-Still, though, the Bible teaches that we are not saved by our works. Ephesians 2:8 says: “For by grace (grace is God’s undeserved, unearned favor) are ye saved through faith (that’s faith in Jesus Christ), and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” Friend, you can’t do one thing to earn or deserve a gift. The moment you earn it or deserve it it’s no longer a gift; it’s pay. The only thing you can do with a gift is accept it or reject it. And the gift of salvation is all wrapped up in Jesus Christ. So, you either accept it by placing your belief in Jesus as Savior or you reject it by rejecting Him as Savior. There is no third option.

I’m not going to fight about this or get into a theological debate about it, but I do believe the Bible teaches eternal security (once saved, always saved). In John 10:29, Jesus says that no one is able to pluck His sheep out of God the Father’s hand. 

2nd Corinthians 1:21-22 says that God has given the Christian the indwelling Holy Spirit as the earnest. That’s an old English reference to “earnest money.” Nowadays we call it “downpayment money.” So, God has given the Christian the indwelling Holy Spirit as a downpayment on salvation, and God always pays His bills in full.

Romans 4:8 teaches that God will never again impute sin to the believer, and that word “impute” means “to charge to an account.” The teaching is that God will never again charge any sin to the Christian’s heavenly account.

John 1:12 teaches that the person who receives Jesus as Savior becomes the child of God. Once that heavenly Father-child relationship is established, it cannot be broken. I am a father to Ryan and Royce, and they will always be my children, regardless of their moment-by-moment, day-to-day behavior.

And then here’s one more that I really like. In Romans 8:38-39, Paul talks about the love of God. It is, however, a very specific type of the love of God. Paul calls it “the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Those words “Christ Jesus our Lord” show that he is speaking to Christians. Then, Paul says about that love of God: “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels (that’s a reference to good angels/unfallen angels), nor principalities (that’s a reference to bad angels/fallen angels/Satan and his demons), nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature (and that includes even us ourselves), shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

And so, ladies and gentlemen, based upon that passage, these others I’ve mentioned, and several others that I didn’t take the time to mention, I believe in the eternal security of the Christian. That means that if Lloyd Mckinney, at any point in his life, placed his belief in Jesus as his personal Savior, that was enough to ensure that at the moment of his death his soul departed and went to heaven.

That’s why I really can’t grieve all that much tonight. I can’t grieve because I know what his quality of life has been for these past few years (in particular these past couple of months), and I know what his quality of life became became this past Monday morning just before 6:30 a.m.

So, in closing, the family and I thank you so much for all that you’ve done these past couple of days. Thank you for the prayers, the phone calls, the texts, the comments on Facebook, the offers to do something to help, and the attendance tonight. Also, I personally thank you for your indulgence as I have preached what has been the longest eulogy I’ve ever delivered. Normally in doing these things I keep things kind of short out of consideration for the family, but for this one the family is me. But right now our church choir is going to do a song, and then I’ll come back and close the service with a prayer.

Posted in Death, Eternal Security, Fatherhood, Personal | Tagged , , | 12 Comments