Tag Archives: Jerry Falwell

WHAT’S YOUR TOTAL?

We are the persons that the sum of our decisions has made us—for good or for bad. For some folks, that isn’t so bad. However, for a few people that isn’t such a good thing. What do I mean?

Years ago, the late Jerry Falwell and I were on a plane from Lynchburg (VA) to New York City. Before reclining his seat and sleeping, Falwell made this statement: “Dale, it’s more important to learn how to make decisions right than it is right decisions.” While Jerry slept, I scratched my head, wondering what in the world he meant!

The moment our decent began, Jerry sat upright, reached for his electric razor, and began buzzing away the five o’clock shadow. Immediately I asked him to explain exactly what he meant by his statement.

Basically, he explained, life is a series of decisions. Since none of us can or will make them all correctly, it behooves us to learn how to correct them—make them “right”—as we journey along life’s road … which brings me back to my hypothesis—we have become the people that the sum of our decisions has made us.

Unlike inanimate objects, humans have choices, and in some senses, more than ever. Have you shopped in the breakfast cereal aisle?!?! Things don’t make choices—people do! The computer on which I am typing is a wonderful piece of technology, but the person who is typing decides whether it is used for “good” or “bad.”

The same is true for the use of everything, although some people never seem to understand this concept, sadly. Across America several millions of gun owners collect thousands of guns, never harming anyone, while a few thousand people choose to misuse an inanimate weapon to maim or kill. Unwise people focus blame on the weapon rather than on the person who chose unwisely.

But, before we get to the end, let’s start at the beginning, which already presents a problem—we’re all bad! As Rush Limbaugh says, “Don’t doubt me on this!”

There is none good, no not one … For all have sinned and come short … (Rom 3:10, 23)

Just don’t focus so much on the beginning that you forget that the ending doesn’t have to look the same as the beginning. You have choices. You can make decisions that can change a bad beginning into a wonderful ending!

For whoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. (Rom 10:13)

The greatest “good” decision that an individual can make is to admit that he/she is “bad,” and trust the one and only “good guy” (Jesus Christ) at His word: Whosoever cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out. (John 6:37)

BTW, do you pray? Have you ever asked God to do for you that which you cannot do for yourself—give you everlasting life? If not, would you make the choice to do so right now? Tomorrow may be too late … but right now never is!

Seek the LORD while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near. (Isa 55:6 NLT)

For those who have made the decision to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, you do understand that a lifetime of decisions is still yours to make, right? You will not make them all correctly, so why not ask for God’s help each day to guide you in making wise decisions as well as the wisdom to correct the bad ones along life’s trail?

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They Were All Here; Now They’re All There!

The Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year holiday season is an especially difficult time to experience the death of our loved ones.  I know this from both personal and vicarious experiences.  For example, I preached the funeral of my own mother just three days before Christmas 1980.

A few days ago, word came to me that former classmate from college, ministry colleague, and friend Ed Dobson of Grand Rapids, Michigan, had died just one day after Christmas 2015, following a fifteen-year battle with ALS.

Pastor Ed Dobson  is debuting a new film series called Ed's Story through local producer Flannel.  (Cory Olsen | The Grand Rapids Press)

Pastor Ed Dobson

Yesterday, my elderly friend and mentor of almost forty years, Dr. A.V. Henderson, passed from this life to the next.

avhenderson

He was the last of my unofficial board of mentors—ministry men to whom I turned for advice and counsel.  Suddenly, I find myself thinking, “Now where do I turn when I need an experienced human being to suggest a course of action when I have questions?”

Today, and relative to that, the thought that continually circles my mind is this reality: They—that is, my mentors—were here, but now they are all there—that is, heaven.  From the multitude of those thoughts, I find reasons for reflection and for gratitude.  Perhaps quite by “accident,” I have been blessed from my early adulthood with marvelous mentors.

Soon after getting married in 1970, my young bride and I moved from hometown in the southern city of Knoxville (TN) to metropolitan Detroit.  From the first Sunday at Temple Baptist Church of Detroit, their pastor G. B. Vick took us under his wing, treating us as if we were his very own.  Old time Temple members will appreciate this statement—I have eaten many lunches at Snow Whites’ in Detroit, whether I wanted to eat there or not.  If Mister Vick said, “I’ll see you at Snow Whites,” it meant that we were going to Snow Whites!

If I had ever missed the example from my own father, Dr. Vick was to me what a Christian gentleman should be.  While there were other men in America whose churches were larger than Temple in the mid-70s, there was no larger ministry example in my life than the gracious G.B. Vick.  Although he died in 1975, I miss him sorely.

During my three-year tenure as a student at Bob Jones University in the late 1960s, I was privileged to be on stage with one of the world’s leading Shakespearean authorities—Dr. Bob Jones Jr.  His father, Bob Sr. died during my freshman year at the school.

Perhaps it was in an early rehearsal of The Merchant of Venice, that Dr. Bob and I first became acquainted.  He played the role of Shylock, while I was a lowly jailer with no lines at all.  But those hours on stage together afforded me opportunities to spend time with a very personable Dr. Bob.

Through the years, we disagreed on a few ministry personalities and philosophies, but I cherish to this day many conversations and correspondences.  Once, after making some bold statements to him, I waited for him to virtually dissect me.  Instead, I received the most grandfatherly advice and warm affection, not the tongue-lashing that I feared might come. Those are things one doesn’t catch from a pulpit on the platform.

The name R.O. Woodworth and Baptist Bible College have been synonymous since the inception of the college in 1950.  For decades “Reg” was the business manager and taught personal evangelism, among other courses.  One cannot talk for more than a few minutes with any graduate of BBC and the name Dr. R.O. Woodworth not be mentioned!

Because I had married into the Woodworth family in 1970, he was just Uncle Reg, and his wife—Mrs. Woodworth—who had tended the bookstore at the college, was Aunt Dorothy.  I can still see and hear my oldest two children—when they were young—crying in fear that Uncle Reg was going to die in our living room!  Why? Because he was standing on his head, trying to prove to them how young and strong he was (in his 80s!), and his face had turned 20 shades of bright red!

Although I haven’t lived in Paducah (KY) for more than 25 years, I still miss his annual stops in Paducah, breakfasts together, and his passionate preaching in the church where I was pastor.

Of all my mentors, I probably spent the least amount of time with Dr. Lee Roberson, long-time pastor of Highland Park Baptist Church in Chattanooga (TN).  Our paths crossed numerous times through the years, usually at conferences in the 1970s-1980s.  I seldom asked for his advice directly.  However, anyone who ever heard or read his sermons received practical advice in short sentences.

Without disparaging other pastors for whom I worked, and without listing the many reasons for this statement, Dr. Jerry Falwell was the greatest pastor I’ve ever known.  After my first six months in Lynchburg, I was discouraged, thinking, “Jerry doesn’t even know who I am!”

Jerry_Falwell_portrait

One Sunday evening, as I headed to a side entrance to the auditorium at 701 Thomas Road, a black Buick Electra 225 screeched to a halt in the parking space beside me.  Out jumped Falwell, tickled no doubt that he had startled me.  He slapped his arm around my shoulders and with that voice of authority said, “Dale Peterson!  I just got off the plane from De-troit, Michigan!  You know, not one person asked me about Liberty Baptist College or Thomas Road Church or Old Time Gospel Hour, but everybody I met asked me about you!  We’re glad to have you onboard!”

I learned through the years that Jerry truly loved everyone.  He could walk away from a sound stage or studio after interviews by celebrity types, but he was just as interested in the cameraman or the lady calling the lights as he was the Phil Donahue’s!  Another excellent illustration of his love for people was in my church office one morning.

Before walking into an auditorium filled with pastors one day, I asked Jerry to hang on for a minute, and we let everyone else leave the room.  My youngest daughter Joy—12 years old at the time, wanted to interview Falwell for a class project.  His attention instantly shifted to Joy.  He asked if she had her tape recorder ready.  He had her sit in my chair while he made himself comfortable on my desk.

Joy had her questions written on 3-by-5 cards, and asked them one by one.  Jerry Falwell treated her like she was a contemporary of Barbara Walters or Katie Couric!

I would like to think that some of those noble characteristics rubbed off on this pastor.  Few days have gone by since Jerry’s death that I haven’t missed him.

B.R. Lakin, like all the others named, was a true friend to preachers everywhere.  I had listened to and read his sermons for a few years before finally meeting him in Southgate (MI) in the early 1970s.  Shortly after hearing him in person, I invited him to speak to a youth rally in southern Michigan.

LakinPrinceCover

Picture this, if you can—2400 high school teenagers and their youth leaders sitting spell-bound listening to an old southern evangelist from Fort Gay, West Virginia.  I still meet people who attended that meeting—and they all remember the lights suddenly going out and Dr. Lakin quickly saying, “Just hold!  It’ll go out quicker than that for some of you one of these days!”

Then, just as quickly as they had gone out, the lights came back on.  I will refrain from divulging the name of the young man who hit the master light switch in the control room at Temple Baptist Church.  A few minutes later, after finishing his sermon, Dr. Lakin invited young people to come to Christ, and dozens were saved that evening.

Three years after entering vocational youth ministry, I accepted the role of youth pastor under Dr. Tom Malone Sr., founder of Emmanuel Baptist Church and Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac (MI).  Malone was a preaching machine—a preacher’s preacher, with a style all his own.

tom malone sr

I asked Doc one time, “Doc, how do you get your sermons?  I know you don’t just subscribe to The Sword of the Lord, and get other preachers’ outlines because that publication usually prints yours!”  I’ve never forgotten his reply.  Without going into lengthy detail as I tell it, he outlined for me how he read the Bible each morning, and continued reading until God had spoken to him.  Then he said, “ … and I have found that what God uses [to do those things in my heart], He will use in the lives of others.”

The one mentor who influenced my life over the longest period of time was Dr. John Rawlings.  My first introduction to Dr. John was in the late 1950s when I listened to his national radio program—The Landmark Hour.  It was the live broadcast of the evening services from Landmark Baptist Temple in Cincinnati (OH).

As a child, I loved to hear Dr. John preach because he told a lot of stories as he spoke.  As I listened to those messages, it never entered my mind that this man would one day become a dear friend.

Dr. John & Dale

Dr. John & Dale

Finally, the last of the old-timers to hang up his sword is my friend Dr. A.V. Henderson, whose passing has prompted my reflections today.  As I write these words, I am trying to book hotels from Michigan to Texas.  A younger pastor friend from Waterford (MI) and I are planning to make the journey to attend the memorial service in Haslet, Texas.

BTW, do you pray?  If so, would you pray for our safety as we make this unscheduled trek?  Further, and perhaps more sobering, let me ask this—whose lives are you influencing for the cause of Christ?  While we’re praying, let’s ask God to use us to positively impact others for His glory.

The men mentioned above are a handful of the men and women whose lives have touched and encouraged my personal and ministry life.  With whatever inherent faults I have, these are people who helped make my life more Christ-like because they cared about others, including me.

One of my prayers—since childhood—could be summarized in a song that George Beverly Shay used to sing.

If I can help somebody, as I pass along,
If I can cheer somebody, with a word or song,
If I can show somebody, how they’re travelling wrong,
Then my living shall not be in vain.

My living shall not be in vain,
Then my living shall not be in vain
If I can help somebody, as I pass along,
Then my living shall not be in vain.

If I can do my duty, as a good man ought,
If I can bring back beauty, to a world up wrought,
If I can spread love’s message, as the Master taught,
Then my living shall not be in vain.

My living shall not be in vain,
Then my living shall not be in vain
If I can help somebody, as I pass along,
Then my living shall not be in vain.

 

Well, no airport intercom announcement calls me to board a flight, but common sense tells me that I’d better go pack my suitcase for Texas.  Thanks for praying with me!

Battle Ended

The two and one-half hours slipped by so quickly as the three of us sat at a high-top in the Starbucks in Stone Mountain, Georgia.  Just a few months ago, we were catching up on each other’s lives and ministries, sharing insights on life, and discussing concepts for impacting unreached people groups.  There was only one thing unusual—periodically our conversation turned to the subject of personal health.   

You see, my friend of four decades—Roscoe Brewer—and I seldom ever discussed our personal health through the years, but on this particular day as Roscoe, his wife Margaret, and I sat sipping our coffee, the subject surfaced a few times.  Although Margaret and I were drinking coffee, Roscoe drank a cacophony of vegetable juices that he had brought with him, to help in his battle with cancer. 

Yet, in spite of this battle, in spite of feeling poorly, and in spite of the fact that he was on his way to yet another doctor’s appointment, Roscoe’s focus was still where it had been for the vast majority of his life—on reaching people with the Good News of the Gospel. 

            The first time that Roscoe and I ever met and ministered together was in Detroit, Michigan, when he came with a team of SMITE Singers from Liberty University (then Liberty Baptist College) to speak for a regional youth rally—the Southern Michigan Youth Fellowship.  At dinner that evening, we discussed our individual ministries involving young people and global evangelism. 

By the time we went our separate ways that Saturday evening, we had made plans to minister together a few weeks later in Querétaro, Mexico with a children’s ministry team from Liberty.  The ultimate result of that ten-day evangelistic excursion was a plan that Roscoe and I hatched to open four regional SMITE (Student Missionary Intern Training for Evangelism) offices around the country. 

Our plan for regional SMITE offices never materialized, because when Roscoe returned to discuss the strategy with his senior pastor, Dr. Jerry Falwell, the plan changed!  Instead, my family and I moved from Michigan to Lynchburg, Virginia, where Roscoe and I worked together for the next three years—living out our ever-changing plans to impact our world for the cause of Jesus Christ. 

Today, when I received the news that my friend Roscoe’s battle was over—that he had stepped out of time and into eternity, my heart became heavy.  The heaviness is not for Roscoe.  Heck, he’s better now than he’s ever been!  The heaviness is for his family, who will miss him dearly, as will his many friends who are scattered around the world.

Perhaps more than any other characteristic, Roscoe’s focus on global, strategic evangelism, will forever impact and inspire my own focus for targeting specific people groups with the ministry to which we are called.  Speaking of impact and inspiration, what is yours?  What kind of impact are you making for Christ?  Whose life are you inspiring to greater effectiveness? 

And, BTW—do you pray?  If you do, why not pause now to ask God for greater wisdom in using you within the circle of your own influence.  Everyone has a circle of influence—some larger, some smaller, but we all have that circle.  And while you’re praying, would you also pray for Margaret Brewer and her family during their “journey through the valley,” experiencing the void left behind by Roscoe’s absence?

The Old Testament character Jonathan, son of King Saul, said to his dear friend David, (1 Samuel 20:18 KJV), “ … Tomorrow is the new moon: and thou shalt be missed, because thy seat will be empty.”  There will be an empty seat at the Brewer household now—the seat of a husband, of a father, of a friend.  And Roscoe will be missed.

As you read this, you may be going through a “valley” of your own.  Would you like to be encouraged and strengthened along your journey?  You can find this kind of benefit in my recent book, Leave a Well in the Valley, at www.dalepeterson.org, or if you prefer a Kindle version, www.amazon.com.