Friday, January 15, 2016

Everything starts with the Book!

... they told Ezra the scribe to bring the book... (Nehemiah 8:1)

Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. (Psalm 1:1-2 NKJV)

Without the Book, nobody comes to Christ!

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17 NKJV)

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. (Romans 1:16 NKJV)

I read once of two men who were riding together on a stagecoach and struck up a conversation. One man was a Christian, and the other an atheist. Upon learning this, the Christian quoted a verse of scripture to the atheist. "Do you believe you will convince me of your God by quoting from a book I don't accept?" asked the atheist. The Christian simply quoted another verse. This pattern played out throughout their journey, with the Christian taking every opportunity to quote the Word to the lost man. Their journey ended and they parted ways. Years later the Christian was walking down the street when he was approached by a man with a familiar look. It was the atheist, now saved, who had sought out the believer to let him know the words he had quoted so incessantly had never left his mind, and he had eventually turned to Christ as a result.

It is the Book that brings revival!

Here is a challenge for you, reader. Study the revivals that have happened throughout history. When
you do, you will discover that they all coincided with a renewed emphasis on the Word of God. Great preaching of the Word brought great revival. Consider Luther, Wesley, Whitefield, Edwards, Moody! All saw multitudes won to Christ and multitudes revived in their love for Christ through an emphasis on preaching the Word.

I pray for revival often. Do you? How we long to see our church, our homes, our community, our nation and our world turn back to God. There is only one way! "Bring the Book!"

The state of your home is dependent on the role of the Book therein!

Parents... moms... dads... if you allow your children to live a life that centers on the world, do not be surprised when that is the life they choose in adulthood. If the Bible is not a central figure in your home (more so than the television and Facebook and any other worldly influence), then don't be surprised when your children show no interest.

It is so common to hear parents of adult children regretting the fact their children moved away from home and now they show no interest in church or the things of God. Small wonder, Dad, since every Sunday you taught them by your actions that church was ok, as long as nothing more interesting happened to be going on! Small wonder, mom, since every evening they saw you watching "Desperate Housewives" and can't remember a time they ever saw you pick up your Bible except to carry it like a decoration to church.

Godly homes start when we "BRING THE BOOK!"

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4–9 NKJV)

Your personal walk with God depends on your personal dependence on the Book

True success does not come from education... or upbringing... or even from hard work. All of those are valuable and encouraged. But ultimately, true success comes when we "bring the Book" into our daily lives.

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. (Joshua 1:8 NKJV)

If these people were to become what they could be for God, they needed to be a people of the Book. And so, they said to Ezra, "BRING THE BOOK".

(The above is an excerpt from "Digging Into Nehemiah" by William E. Johnson, available now for your Kindle on

Any Value In Last Words?

(Following is an excerpt from "Dying Words, Living Words" by William E. Johnson, available on and in bookstores everywhere.)

Last words. They are the "period" at the end of the sentence that was a life.

We are often fascinated by a person's last words. "Thomas Jefferson still survives," said John Adams, the second President of the United States right before he died on July 4, 1826. He didn't know it at the time, but Jefferson had actually died earlier that same day. Jefferson's last words were, "Is it the Fourth?"

Sometimes last words reveal surprise at a life taken before it's time. "Et tu, Brute?" was the last question from the bloody and astonished lips of Gaius Julius Caesar, who was assassinated in 44 BC. "My God. What's happened?" said Diana (Spencer), Princess of Wales, moments before she died in a tragic automobile accident on August 31, 1997.

Last words can be sad... poignant. "I have tried so hard to do the right," said Grover Cleveland just before dying in 1908. "All my possessions for a moment of time," whispered the dying Queen Elizabeth I in 1603. And "Lord help my poor soul," were the sad last words from the poet and writer Edgar Allan Poe on October 7, 1849.

Romance even comes out in last words. "Josephine..." breathed Napoleon Bonaparte with his final breath in 1821. "I love you Sarah. For all eternity, I love you," said James K. Polk to his wife just before closing his eyes on earth for the last time.

And of course, last words can even be humorous to a point. "They couldn't hit an elephant at this dist...." said General John Sedgwick, Union Commander, just before being killed in battle during the US Civil War.

But of all the last words ever spoken, none compare to the last words of the dying Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ. Many books have been written, and sermons preached, on the seven sayings of Christ from the cross. This book is another attempt to mine the treasures found in those seven sayings.
But Jesus' last words were not spoken from the cross. Jesus rose from the dead, and appeared to His disciples during the ensuing 40 day period. He then spoke with Mary Magdalene and several other women. He spoke with Peter, James, and with the eleven. He spoke with two disciples on the road to Emmaus. He spoke with over 500 disciples at once on one occasion, and He spoke with Saul of Tarsus on the Damascus Road. And those sayings are just as instructive and worthy of our study as the seven sayings from the cross.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Crocodile Tears

(Following is an excerpt from Beth Johnson's book entitled "Farmer Girl: A Harvest of Faith", available on and in bookstores everywhere.)

One day in the month of February many years ago, when my daughter was 11 and my son was 9, we found out that we were going to have a baby. This was very exciting news for our little family. We had prayed for a long time to have another child. As the days rolled from one to another, anticipation of a baby lightened our hearts. The kids and I would talk about names and the fun we would have with a new baby. It was a very exciting time.

One morning, I made everyone a nice breakfast. I happily packed lunch boxes, brushed my daughter’s long blonde hair into a pony tail, zipped up my son’s winter jacket and watched them get on the yellow school bus. I cleaned up the kitchen, made all the beds, did some laundry, planned my menu for the next grocery trip, and enjoyed the beauty of the winter morning outside my kitchen window.

But just a couple hours later, Pastor Bill and I were on the way to the doctor’s office.

Something was wrong. I was having some unfamiliar pain. These were not normal symptoms of an early pregnancy. It took what seemed like forever for my doctor to direct me to the hospital. Yes, I was having an ectopic pregnancy. My trusted doctor’s words were, “This baby will not come to full term.” There could not have been any harsher, more devastating, and colder words said to me at this time in my life. We checked into the hospital. The blood work and ultrasound confirmed my doctor’s prognosis. I would have to have emergency major surgery.  

I had lost the baby. I would be in the hospital for 5 days. There would be a lengthy recovery at home. I would remain at home with empty arms and a broken heart.

The caring nurse moved me into a private room at the hospital. It was early afternoon. My doctor would perform this emergency surgery when he had completed his office hours. The nurse kindly pulled up a reclining chair for Pastor Bill to sit beside me. They drew the curtains and turned on some soft music. There in a painful semi-dark hospital room, we waited for surgery. There were no words, only holding of hands, and exchanged looks of deep sorrow. Finally the tears began to appear. I cried and cried. I wept for the loss of my baby. I wept for the pain and sorrow that my daughter and son would soon experience. I cried for the fear of surgery and the long recovery. I cried for the emptiness in my heart I knew I would remember every year in the month of February.

Everyone has a "drowning in tears" story in their life. A story that you can’t even share because your throat tightens up and your words won’t verbalize. The uncontrolled big full tears flow down your warm cheeks and roll onto your collar. These are the stories that we don’t share. These are the stories that we revisit infrequently. They are too painful.

As I was reflecting on this story in my life, I'll never forget how God carried me through. He gave the strength I needed to make it through every day... one day at a time. He saw every tear that dropped onto the crisp white hospital pillow. He saw every tear I shed in the privacy of our home. He knew my heart was broken. He felt my sadness. Those tears and feelings were real. I wasn’t crying crocodile tears. They were the real deal… the genuine heartfelt kind. He gave me the words to comfort Pastor Bill, my daughter and my son. He had His hand on me that February and He holds me this February. God wants us to be real with Him. He wants to bear our pain and sorrow. He loves us more than anyone else ever will or could. He wants to know how we feel. He wants us to share our genuine heart with Him.

You number my wanderings;
Put my tears into Your bottle;
Are they not in Your book? (Psalm 56:8)

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Learning To Weep

Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. (Romans 12:15 NKJV) 

One of the greatest lessons I learned from losing  my wife is to talk less and empathize more. Sometimes experience is the only way we can learn what Paul means in the second half of this verse.

I'm reminded of a scene from the movie Forest Gump, in which Forest is taking a walk through the  old neighborhood with his lifelong girlfriend, Jenny. Suddenly they find themselves looking at an abandoned shack, which Jenny recognizes as a place from her childhood - a place filled with painful and abusive memories. She looks at it for a few minutes silently, and then she drops to her knees, grabs a handful of rocks, and hurls them at the house. She repeats flinging rocks at the shack until she falls to the ground exhausted and weeping. Forest looks at her quietly and then says, "Sometimes there just aren't enough rocks."

And sometimes there aren't any words. You can hurl word upon word at a situation and it will help little if any. Sometimes what a person needs is not words. Those are the times Paul refers to here - times when we ought to weep with those who weep, and keep the words to a minimum.

Job went through some things, if you recall. And after he had lost his health and his wealth and his family and his reputation, some of his friends came to comfort him. They started out so great:

Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this adversity that had come upon him, each one came from his own place—Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. For they had made an appointment together to come and mourn with him, and to comfort him. And when they raised their eyes from afar, and did not recognize him, they lifted their voices and wept; and each one tore his robe and sprinkled dust on his head toward heaven. So they sat down with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his grief was very great. (Job 2:11-13 NKJV) 

What a great start! But then they opened their mouths and it all went downhill.

When a brother or sister hurts, our words are not as important as our tears. Be there. Weep along with them. Weep with those who weep. They will get far more from your tears than your words at times like that.

(For more on the topics of grieving and ministering to the grieving, please see William E. Johnson's book "MY Grief Observed", available on and at bookstores everywhere.)