HOW MUCH LIGHT IS ENOUGH TO OVERCOME DARKNESS?

By Johnnie Godwin
Contributing Columnist, Baptist and Reflector

light-at-end-of-dark-tunnelBeneath Godwin’s Mountain, I own a cave that the state of Tennessee refers to as a significant cave. When I was a church’s interim pastor, listeners heard me tell about the cave’s darkness, depths, and dangers — along with its magnificence. A deacon and a high school boy persisted in wanting me to take them on a cave expedition. Finally, I happily agreed to do that with strong caveats: namely, two powerful lights each, water, snacks, proper clothing, etc.

An expedition lacking in light. On a Saturday morning, the three of us drove to the cave. Before we entered the first room of the cave, I checked equipment. To my dismay, I found the deacon had only his grandson’s toy flashlight with no backup. The senior high boy had a flashlight with weak batteries and a backup birthday candle. I knew the cave well and had two powerful sources of light with fresh batteries so I decided to lead them an hour or so.  [Read more…]

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GODWIN HOUSE HAPPY RULES: HAPPY UP!

By Johnnie Godwin
Contributing Columnist, Baptist and Reflector

coffee-smile-faceWhen we were raising our three boys, one of them was particularly prone to say early in the morning, “It’s going to be a bad day!” Usually, some piddling thing had happened that brought forth that comment. Inevitably, I replied with authority, “Happy up! It’s going to be the kind of day you make it!” That rule was proverbial then and now. Exceptions do occur, but the proverb holds. [Read more…]

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WORSHIP IS NOT A SPECTATOR SPORT — PART 2

By Johnnie Godwin
Contributing Columnist, B&R

Johnnie Godwin

Johnnie Godwin

My home church was the First Baptist Church of Midland, Texas. We had a piano, electric organ, a choir, and a minister of music. It was a rare thing when we had any other musical instruments, and we never had an orchestra. I’m not against the majestic orchestras that lead us in music worship along with fine choirs and excellent sound systems. But let me give you an example of response in worship.

Getting singing out of the congregation. B. B. McKinney led one of our protracted meetings known as revivals. My dad wasn’t in the choir, but he loved to sing; and he whistled all the time. After McKinney led music the first Sunday of the revival, Dad had an opinion — which we Godwins tend to always have. Dad said, “You know, that ole man got more music out of the congregation than I’ve ever heard anybody get out of them before.” That congregation was already a singing congregation, but they got better during revival. [Read more…]

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WORSHIP IS NOT A SPECTATOR SPORT — PART 1

Editor’s Note: This is the first of a two-part series.

By Johnnie Godwin
Contributing Columnist, B&R

Johnnie Godwin

Johnnie Godwin

“You missed your chance!” That’s what our pastor said to our church just after he made the climactic statement of his whole message. In the world of sports, we would say he had just hit a grand slam home run. He had delivered the knockout blow! It was a hole-in-one. Response? None! The pastor exclaimed, “Amen! Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!” Then he sat down on the front pew and faced the pulpit. Church was over.

I’ve lived a long time, and I’ve never seen or heard of such a thing in all my church-going life. What had the pastor expected that led him to do such a thing? I’ve been a pastor and served on both sides of the pulpit, so I’ve got an idea of what led to such a stunning conclusion of that service.

Worship is not a spectator sport — but praise to God!  Pastors spend their lives preparing to preach. They pray, they plan, and they craft their Spirit-guided message the best they can. Then they come to the pulpit to plan to win for God. [Read more…]

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WHAT TO DO WHEN CHURCH MEMBERS GET CROSSWAYS

By Johnnie Godwin
Contributing Columnist, B&R

Johnnie Godwin

Johnnie Godwin

When I grew up in West Texas, everyone knew what it meant for two people to get “crossways” with each other. They were at odds and headed in different directions. However, dictionaries tend to focus on the literal meanings of crossways [also means “crosswise”]. Very literally, “crossways” means to cut across something that is going in another direction. But when people are crossways or crosswise with each other, they’re out of sorts with each other; they’re at odds; they disagree with each other. And that causes conflict. If God wants anything for His church, He wants it to be unified, cohesive, of one mind, and growing to maturity in its head (Ephesians 4:11-16).

Experiences of seeing churches get crossways. Since I’ve attended most church services where I belong for the last 79 years, I’ve enjoyed seeing a lot of unity and growth and love in Christ. But I’ve also seen a lot of church members get crossways with each other. When church members get crossways, it always negatively affects the relationships and joy in a church. It’s time to meet, greet, repent, and get right with God and each other. [Read more…]

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PEOPLE MUST DEVELOP THEIR OWN CONVICTIONS

By Johnnie Godwin
Contributing Columnist, B&R

Johnnie Godwin

Johnnie Godwin

God blessed me with birth in a Christian home. My parents instilled within me the culture of what it meant to believe in and live the Christian life. From my earliest days, I learned the core of the Christian faith. I accepted my inherited convictions and values from my parents; and we never missed attending First Baptist Church, Midland, Texas.

Step by step as I moved into childhood and adolescence, I learned that even though my parents were Christians, that didn’t mean I was. Quite the contrary, I myself needed to repent of sin and trust Christ as Lord and Savior. God, the Creator, loved me and gave His only Son that I might have eternal life. Salvation was something I could not inherit. So at age 7, I became a Christian. At age 15, I felt led to answer God’s call to lifetime vocational ministry and said yes to God. Then I shared with my church.

Forming my own convictions. So far, so good: the convictions I held were the ones I had inherited from my parents and also made on my own. But — besides church, Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, etc. — I had never personally studied the Bible and the Confession of Faith that we Southern Baptists had adopted in 1925. I had never really questioned anything my pastor or teachers told me.

figure-stand-out-in-crowdBut that changed one Sunday night. My dad was one of the best Baptists I knew. Yet, he got up from beside me and went forward to make some kind of decision known to the pastor and before the church. When the pastor announced the decision, I was shocked! Dad had come forward for baptism and church membership. No, his baptism wasn’t the complicated kind of whether he felt any kind of earlier baptism wasn’t in the right order or anything. Rather, Dad got saved by grace through faith in the rural Presbyterian church of his upbringing. And that church also scripturally baptized believers by immersion for the same reason Southern Baptists did. But that wasn’t good enough for the understanding of our church in that era. If you changed from one denomination to another, you had to get “baptized” again in our church. So for 16 years Dad had come with Mother and our family to the church, tithed, counted the offerings on Sundays, and was a great help. I thought Dad was a Baptist. He wasn’t.

You can only be scripturally baptized once; anything else is something else. Dad had been scripturally baptized. But my strong truck-driving dad had agreed to get dunked as a requirement to become a member of our Baptist church. A friend had known what I didn’t know and had talked Dad into it. That’s when I really began to form my own convictions in studying the Bible, church history, covenants, and confessions, and further study in majoring in religion and Greek at seminary.

Every person needs to form his own convictions. When I became a pastor, I ran across many people of all denominational persuasions and some who simply believed and practiced what they had inherited. Often, they were hard-pressed to give an answer from within themselves of what they believed.  As a young pastor, I got criticized for some of my doctrinal preaching. When I asked the critics what the biblical basis for their criticism was, they often couldn’t give an answer. One woman was typical: “Well, I can’t explain it; but if Brother John Doe were back here as pastor, he could explain it to you.” She didn’t own her answer.

Over many years, I’ve served as pastor, preacher, teacher, and denominational servant. In those decades, I’ve come across many people and churches who never really have formed their own convictions. Ask a pastor or deacon or church member what their church covenant says. Many have a blank look on their face. Ask them what “The Baptist Faith and Message” [1925; 1963 revised; 2000 revised] says about a particular doctrine or teaching. Many Baptists won’t even know what you’re talking about. So retreat to the Bible in your questioning; and many will be equally naïve or ignorant of what to answer. Yet, the Bible says, “Study to show thyself approved unto God a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (II Timothy 2:15). Peter wrote, “Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (I Peter 3:15).

My convictions remain biblical, Christian, Baptist (in that order). Article XVII. Religious liberty in “The Baptist Faith and Message” (2000), reads, “God alone is Lord of the conscience, and He has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are contrary to His Word or not contained in it” (p. 20). I know what I believe, and it sometimes differs from pastors, teachers, commentaries, and others. But I also know Whom I have believed. What I and other Christians differ on seldom deals with the heart of the faith of God as Creator and Christ as Lord and Savior and what the Bible clearly says. So we agree; and when we don’t, it’s time to be agreeable in spirit. Unity of heart and prayer for your pastor and others and yourself is the Christ-like way both when we agree and disagree. But the stewardship assigned to each of us is to come to our own convictions!

— Copyright 2016 by Johnnie C. Godwin. Write him via johnniegodwin@aol.com.   

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GREEN INK AND A DECISIVE MOMENT IN MY LIFE

By Johnnie Godwin
Contributing Columnist, B&R

Johnnie Godwin

Johnnie Godwin

At age 29 and on the cusp of 30, I made a momentous decision symbolized by the use of green ink. Everyone needs something like a green-ink moment of decision.  Some moments mean more than all the others because they mean arriving at a decision, forming a conviction, and color-inking all life with a constant reminder.  My green-ink moment of 50 years ago still indelibly tattoos God’s will on my soul!

Context for my green-ink decision. Before I go further, you need a context for what I’m about to say. For a summary and to save space, let me point out that Jesus was born in God’s chosen moment of time and didn’t start His formal ministry until about age 30. What did Jesus do for those first 30 years? The Bible lets us know Jesus was growing at age 12 and ready to get busy about the Father’s will. Though I was only human and sinful, at age 30, and still am, I too had been born in a moment of time, had become aware of God’s call, and prepared. So what? Within my young pastor’s heart lay a holy discontent and sense that my 30s were a time for me to re-map my understanding of God’s calling and live a G-O-A-L: a God/Goal-Oriented Life (Philippians 3:12-15). [Read more…]

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A MENU FOR BIBLICALLY MALNOURISHED CHRISTIANS

By Johnnie Godwin
Contributing Columnist, B&R

Johnnie Godwin

Johnnie Godwin

When I was a Bible curriculum editor, an outside guest led us to play “Baldicer” in a work retreat. The leader of the game explained most of the rules and what “Baldicer” stood for. The word itself stands for “Balanced Diet Certificates.” The overall object of the game is to deal with world hunger and how a leader from rich and poor countries might work together in an informal United Nations to feed the world. However, sparse rule explanations left us individual participants and team members in a quandary. We tended to use our given certificates to feed our own country and competed with other countries until our country won and wiped out the other country. [Read more…]

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2016 RESOLUTIONS? YOU NEED A TIPPING POINT!

By Johnnie Godwin
Contributing Columnist, B&R

Johnnie Godwin

Johnnie Godwin

You will never amount to more than you do right now unless a “tipping point” revolutionizes your life! In other words, your New Year’s resolutions and other resolutions are as futile as trying to keep all the Law to get saved. You’ll never get saved by trying to keep endless laws because salvation comes only “by grace through faith” when a person “repents” (Ephesians 2:8-10; Mark 1:15; John 3:1-18). That’s why one cliché stands out with truth: namely, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” As human beings, “inertia” is our spiritual nature: We tend to stay the same or change!

What I’m really writing about is repentance with the most literal meanings from its Greek word: which is “change of mind.” Until there is a change of mind so radical that it is like getting born again, we will likely keep on with old habits and old ways and the direction of all mankind cycle on till death. But besides the eternal tipping point of trusting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and getting saved by grace through faith, other tipping points can and have to occur if we change and move toward our potential. [Read more…]

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WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A SOUTHERN BAPTIST?

By Johnnie Godwin
Contributing Columnist, B&R

Johnnie Godwin

Johnnie Godwin

I recently performed the wedding ceremony of a granddaughter, who is also a marathoner. Both bride and groom had just completed serious courses on what Christian marriage means. In their ceremony of covenant marriage, here’s what I said: “Marriage is a marathon — not a half-marathon or a trial run in an ‘iffy’ thing called “a relationship.” Then the couple made their own vows to affirm the kind of life and death covenant commitment Paul described in Ephesians for church and marriage.

So what does it mean to be a Southern Baptist? Ask that same question to any one of almost 16 million Southern Baptists today, and you likely won’t get a specific, clear, accurate New Testament answer. As the name “Southern Baptist” has eroded in my lifetime, so has the general understanding of what it means to be a Southern Baptist. I know what it means to be a Southern Baptist historically and in covenant relationship with a local church. I was born into a Southern Baptist home 78 years ago, was saved at age 7, surrendered to preach at age 15, was licensed to preach at 16 and was ordained to the ministry at age 21. Since then I’ve gotten three degrees from Baptist schools. I served as pastor of Southern Baptist churches for 11 years and did many interim pastorates. I worked for an SBC agency for 22 years. I’ve taught the “Baptist Faith and Message” many times. I’ve written what it means to be a Southern Baptist. Now, like Paul, I’m not bragging; rather, I’m challenging all who wear the name Southern Baptist to know what it means both in belief and behavior. [Read more…]

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