A good friend went home last month. He was a part of this blog from the beginning and was nothing but a support from the start, almost six years ago.
Every follower of the Lord needs someone like Don. He only ever had an encouraging word and a smile, and was willing to consider any truth. He left many messages here, in comments spread throughout my many posts.
He was a gentle man but strong, and much loved by his family and so many friends. I don’t think it was even possible to not like him. Having already raised a family, he was still working at his profession into his mid-seventies. I met him and his wife at the end of a church service right before I created this site. He was pretty much my only reader in the beginning. I remember I kept plugging away. In my first year I wrote over a hundred posts and was still much invisible, but Don was always there.
We would get together for Bible studies at his place. He even let me teach on many occasions. We had a good time. After I returned from a few years working on the oil rigs, we continued to meet every week or so, having informal study sessions, which is actually a euphemism for Don allowing me to talk. He was a great listener. He understood, I think, that I had a lot to say and few to say it to, but it’s always been that way. He would add, though, many wise words, even though he was not all that proficient or up to speed on all the voluminous spiritual knowledge we have available to us today.
The Lord made me a teacher from the beginning with an anointing to search and seek out knowledge and truth, especially of course, His truth. I could never get enough and still can’t. I joke with people that I’m glad eternity is forever because I have so much work to do and so much to learn. Don would always allow me to tell him about all the recent revelations I was receiving from heaven’s downloads. He didn’t understand sometimes but never allowed that to be a cause of rejection. He was a traditionalist, I think, at heart, and had a disciplined west Texas upbringing, one of those kinds of raisings that so many Americans received, in which the number one rule was to serve the Lord in the light they had, in the way they felt was right. The second rule was to survive.
This is a dynamic that so many have lost touch with. Back then and for so much of the history of America it truly was always a matter of survival. You had the Lord, if you did, and then you had some family and maybe a friend or two. And you had your wits and an understanding that life is very hard and only the strong survive. There was no government, for the most part, back then. There was, but it was so small, and it was distant, and for most Americans it had little effect. They were on their own. There was no nanny state. America was still very far apart and far away and distant horizons were everywhere. Those days have long since passed.
Americans sprinted out west and then backwashed to the center and America became a place where all the detail started getting filled in and everyone started building out everything that could be. In time it became the equivalent of a person turning inward and then America began experiencing all levels of mental constructs and the problems that ensue when people lose their dreams and their way.
Yet, it was only eighty years ago when there was still a frontier in places and so much yet to discover. The famed Route 66 began in 1926. People had an insatiable desire to seek out a good life with much energy and joy. Families stayed together. They had to. They needed each other. Their focus wasn’t on themselves.
Then the whole thing blew up. The devil invaded with an evil agenda and most Americans didn’t know it was him. He would do his usual dividing and destroying and generally just deceiving everyone and bringing temptation and the resultant sin to epidemic proportions. Many American Christians continued to remain loyal to what they had always done, not understanding that the battle had expanded far beyond what it was before and would require much more Lord Jesus and much more of His Holy Spirit.
The Lord obliged. He knew what we would need. And as always He was way ahead of us. It began about 1960. I have written about the phenomenon here several times. And while the 1960s were blowing up on the political front and on university campuses and in the streets, the Lord was bringing forth new spiritual life on a level never before seen and doing the impossible. Christians from all denominations were experiencing a new spiritual time in this country. Many Christians didn’t see it and most rejected it. But the Lord was proven right.
My friend Don was on the cusp of all this. He felt more comfortable in his traditional beliefs and approach though he certainly progressed into the future. It had made him what he was. Yet, in my experience, he was one of a kind.
Our many informal sessions are over now. There will be no more spontaneous Bible studies or talk sessions out on his driveway or in his garage. I think he understood that though I often engaged in much of the verbiage that it was what I needed. I needed someone to listen and gain positive feedback. It was a form of silent counseling on his part, yet he most often was always listening and open. He told me on occasion how much I had done for him and how much he had learned. This was truly real koinonia in action. We both attended to our callings and both received a spiritual benefit that would otherwise never be possible. Here was an older brother listening to a much more informed and knowledgeable younger brother. His hair had long since gone white. Mine was on the way.
And now he’s gone. This is the fate of us all. Summer always gives way to fall and falling leaves, and an inevitable turn to dark winter skies and gently blowing snow.
Yet, the winter is going. The annual rebirth is underway. Spring is almost here. Life is being born again yet again. The Lord is trying to tell us something. We must cross the spiritual frontier in the here and now and receive all He has for us and needs us to have, for His sake and the Gospel.
Life is short and for some it is shorter than others. Though we possess God’s blessings and strength in the here and now and live to serve Him, and though life is often wrought with pain and tragedy, there is something good at the end of this temporary and often heart-rending realm for those who stay in faith.
That’s where Don is.
© 2017 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.
If a real Christian has anything at all, he or she has a backbone, and will never back down.
Why would a person surrender their very life in exchange for a belief? Why is a belief more important than one’s life? The law of self-preservation dictates that above all things we must protect and defend our greatest possession—our life—against any attack or threat of attack. Yet, real Christians have historically chosen to choose death rather than choose to discard something they believe in.
There must be something more to Christian belief.
If a parent is given a choice to lay down his life or substitute the life of his child, what should be the proper choice? Is it somehow more moral or socially acceptable to choose one over the other? The answer exists in the simple fact that many parents (I would hope every parent), would choose to die and allow their child to live because it is both the obviously correct choice and they would not be able to live with themselves if they chose otherwise. Even though they could protect their life, their life afterwards would no longer be worth living.
And this is the crux of the distinction: One’s life can be devalued and even greatly devalued by making such incorrect choices. Why? Because healthy, sane people have a conscience, and one’s conscience will put forth a prompt reminder than one has chosen incorrectly.
Otherwise, human beings could do whatever sinister thing they may wish and never be bothered by the choice they made. In the natural world, for example, animals make choices that often have bad consequences according to the moral beliefs of humans, but the animals that make the choices don’t seem to be bothered by them. If a wild animal, for example, attacks and injures a child, the wild animal probably has no moral conscience regarding the act, does not get depressed by the act, and will likely repeat the act. This can possibly be attributed to instinct or hunger, but the animal’s choice nevertheless causes an injury to a helpless child, and this cannot be construed as a good thing. So we often deem animals as innocent, in that they don’t know any better, but human animals are a different story.
Therefore, for those who have a conscience in good working order, it will override mere self-preservation, especially when it comes to one’s offspring. Using the natural world as an example once again, even wild animals will protect their offspring with their lives. Many an animal mother will protect her young using whatever extreme measures she deems necessary, and becomes decidedly ferocious in those instances.
But what is in the conscience of a real Christian that causes him to give up his life rather than surrender his beliefs? It is not so much about giving up his beliefs as it is turning his back on his best friend. The Lord Jesus claimed,
“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” [John 15:13]
The word “friends” in this usage indicates the most dearly beloved in one’s life. But the absolute most dearly beloved of all people in the life of a real Christian is His Lord and Savior—the One who purchased his life—and the One who first gave His own life to save the ones He considered His most beloved. This is why a real Christian could never surrender his beliefs, because it also means betraying the One who loves him the most.
What good is life without the One who made life possible? For example, the person who betrayed the Lord to those religious authorities who intended to murder Him had been deceived into thinking he was doing the right thing. He did not know his act of betrayal would result in the Lord’s death. In fact, Satan had possessed this man and essentially blinded him and animated him to act against his conscience. And even though we know Judas was a thief, he still had a conscience in good working order, because after his diabolical act, after the devil went out from him, after clear thinking returned, and after he saw what he caused, he immediately killed himself. There was no way he could live with the knowledge on his conscience of what he had done. His life was no longer worth living. It had become greatly cheapened by his terrible choice. Self-preservation went out the window and the only salve for his horror was the opposite.
This knowledge should cause a person to immediately reflect on the great love of the Lord, in that though our conscience does the same thing to us when we sin, and though we deserve all that Judas got in the end,
THE LORD FORGIVES US AND SILENCES OUR CONSCIENCE—OUR CONSCIENCE IS APPEASED BECAUSE A SACRIFICE HAS ALREADY BEEN MADE.
We don’t have to run out and find a tree and a rope, because the Lord had already appropriated a cross!
The Lord Jesus allowed to have happen to Himself what Judas did to himself, and what we should each receive for ourselves. Our conscience convicts us as guilty, but through an act of legitimate repentance on our part, we display a contrite heart and express sorrow for our sin. We hate what we did and never want to do it again. And through this act of knowing we did wrong and being remorseful for it, and because God will not despise a broken and contrite heart,  our sin can be washed away by the miraculous cleansing power of the blood of the Lamb.
Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. [Hebrews 7:25]
The Lamb of God, through His incredible love and forgiveness, actually acts as a defense attorney on our behalf!
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. [Romans 8:31-34] 
This is why so many persecuted Christians the world over always choose to die rather than surrender their beliefs. They know they are loved by God, and they love Him—with all of their heart. He proved His love by giving His life. They prove their love by doing the same.
And it is not as if they are purposely trying to prove their love, as if they had an agenda to display to the world. No, it is simply because Jesus first showed His greatest love for them while they were yet sinners, and He pursued them, and gave His heart to them, and won their hearts, and they loved Him in return with the greatest love and gave their hearts to Him also, and could not possibly do otherwise.
Real Christians would never recant in a million years. They would never turn away from their faith because they would never turn away from their Lord. His life is infinitely more important than their own and they always choose to lay down their own life for His.
The greatest love is funny that way.
© 2014 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.
 Psalm 51:17
 Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.