As I was readying myself this morning for my day, I began to consider what I would be writing today. Remember, I am writing every week on my blog. It is amazing to me how many different topics came to mind. I want to write about so many different things. So, with that said, it now begins.
As I am typing this morning, I am listening to Dr. W.A. Criswell, the famed Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas. He is preaching a message from his series entitled “Great Doctrines of the Bible.” This particular sermon is on the Doctrine of Predestination from November 20, 1955. This great doctrine is one that is maligned by other Baptist preachers, but not so with Dr. Criswell. What I appreciate more than anything about Dr. C., as he was affectionately called by so many at Criswell College in Dallas, Texas, is his stance on what he believed. When he preached, it was evident that he knew the Bible and that he believed the Bible. He was an expository preacher and would not mock the doctrines of the Bible, but rather he would teach the Bible and the doctrines he taught came from the Bible. He knew his subject well–any subject on which he preached. He was unapologetic in his stance on the Word of God. In the words of Jeremiah the prophet, “Sometimes I think, ‘I will make no mention of His message. I will not speak as His messenger any more.’ But then His message becomes like a fire locked up inside of me, burning in my heart and soul. I grow weary of trying to hold it in; I cannot contain it.”(1) (Jeremiah 20:9) This was Dr. Criswell: he had a message…nay…he had the Word of God within him in such a way that he could not remain silent, he could not keep the Word within himself, but he had to preach and teach this Word. And he did so without any reservation.
On a Sunday morning in 1983, my pastor, Kenny Lewis, asked my dad if he would take care of Dr. Richard Land for lunch and deliver him to the airport after speaking at First Baptist Church of Brownsville, Texas. My dad obliged as he was a fine deacon that served there. Dr. Richard Land, who was a Professor and a Vice President of Criswell College in Dallas, Texas, kept us enthralled during lunch as he was speaking to us. I have never seen a man who can eat so much and still carry on with a conversation as he did. Dr. Criswell referred to Dr. Land as “Smart Boy” and was proud to have Dr. Land at the College. It was after lunch on that Sunday afternoon, that my pastor asked my dad and me what we thought of Dr. Land. I was amazed with everything he spoke about. It was amazing because I do not think I have ever met someone with a mind that is quite as full of information–not just any information, but of information that is worth listening to–until I met Dr. Criswell. It was because of that lunch with Dr. Land that I chose to attend the Criswell College in Dallas, Texas. I am forever grateful for Kenny introducing me to Dr. Land.
When I arrived at Criswell College, I was on crutches. It was miserable as I was hobbling around with a stretched ligament in my left ankle. But I was excited. I was excited to be in a city that was huge to me because I grew up in a city with its tallest building at the time only being five stories tall (this was considered a skyscraper when I was growing up). It was there that I first heard Dr. Criswell preach. He opened the chapel season as the Chancellor of this great Bible College. His words amazed me. I joined the First Baptist Church of Dallas because of that chapel service. I knew right then that I needed to be under his preaching and teaching. Sunday after Sunday, Wednesday after Wednesday, for the first couple of years of my time at the College, I sat under his preaching. Week after week I listened and thought about what Dr. Criswell preached and taught, and week after week my faith grew like no other time during my school days.
It was September 2001. It was Founder’s Day at Criswell College. Jack Pogue, a Godly man who cared for his best friend, Dr. Criswell, brought the good doctor into the chapel service in a wheelchair. I had never seen Dr. C. in a wheelchair, but there he sat at the front of the Ruth Chapel. He was wearing a gray-pinstriped suit with a blue tie. Each of his cufflinks had a sapphire stone encircled with diamonds. His tie clip matched his cufflinks. His shirt was a crisp white. He was pale-skinned and his hair matched his shirt–some of the whitest hair I have ever seen. He was smiling as he often did whenever people were around him. I went up to Dr. Criswell, knelt down next to him, hugged him and kissed his cheek and said to him, “Dr. Criswell, thank you for following the vision that God gave you to being the Criswell College.” He looked up at me as I stood up and he said, “Preach the Word, preacher boy!”
It is a day that I shall never forget. When I began preaching and teaching in 1983 after being called into vocational ministry, I knew then that the Word of God is what is to be preached. Nothing else is worth preaching. The Bible is what Dr. Criswell believed, what Dr. Land believes, and what I believe. My dad and grandfather believed the Word of God and I am grateful that they taught me to know the Word of God.
So with this, I begin my writing journey…