Saturday, July 29, 2017

Forty Years A Christian by David R. Kenney

Page 1 of "The Voice of Truth" church bulletin which was then completed by Ralph Miller.

Page 2 of church bulletin with the announcement of David Kenney's baptism.  Bulletin from the personal collection of Warren F. Kenney

Page 3 of New Philadelphia, Ohio church bulletin.

Page 4.  Some of these are still serving the church on Commercial Avenue faithfully.  Some have gone onto their rewards.  Precious memories of precious people.

Forty Years A Christian
By David R. Kenney

July 29, 2017 marks 40 years ago that I was immersed into Christ by my dad at the church of Christ in New Philadelphia, Ohio. My dad was the first to congratulate me, then Ralph Miller, then other brothers and sisters in Christ who assembled that Friday afternoon. The church on Commercial Avenue remains dear to my heart even though we had lived in several places prior, and there would be several places to follow. Hopefully without sounding pretentious, I would like to share some thoughts I have been having reflecting upon.

The Plan of Salvation Is Easy to Understand. Some have made the plan of salvation a confusing matter to some by their misplaced emphasis on grace (alone) or faith (alone), but the plan of salvation is not difficult to understand if one reads the New Testament. Being a preacher’s son, I knew the plan of salvation from a very young age. I could draw the “steps”, give you “book-chapter-verse” for each one, and quote each passage from the KJV. Before I became a Christian, I could name all the books of the Bible and more through the fortification of my mother’s instruction too. It seems that some have trouble knowing what to do because they have had their minds cluttered with various teachings and concepts of men; but an honest reading of the book of Acts will remove that clutter! Never be ashamed of taking time to explain to others the steps they need to take to have eternal salvation, and never shame someone for taking the time to do so either.

Avoidance of Hell Is Motivational. I have heard some say preaching about Hell is not only unpopular but also an improper form of motivation. There is an old country term for that theory–hogwash. Should we be motivated by God’s love? Absolutely. However, different things motivate people at different times. I have no problem admitting that a healthy dose of fear of the second death provided me with additional motivation to obey the gospel. Perhaps some fail to realize that Jesus preached and warned about Hell more than anyone else in the Bible. The writer of Hebrews certainly believed in this warning–“For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.” (Hebrews 10:26–27 NKJV). Will the desire to avoid Hell motivate someone during their complete Christian walk? Maybe not all the time, but it would be unwise to dismiss this motivational force on those who may need to come to their senses on the spiritual condition of their souls.

Deciding to Be Baptized Is Not Exactly Easy. Now, I just said that learning the plan of salvation was easy; however, making the decision to be baptized was another matter. Some may say “You’re a preacher’s kid. It had to be easy,” but they would be mistaken. Did my parents want me to become a Christian? Absolutely, but they did not want to make that decision for me. They respected that it was my decision. When I made the decision, I did not know how to tell my mother (not to mention my father.) She knew something serious was on my mind, and eventually I was able to tell her. She was excited. I told her I did not know how to tell dad. She asked if I thought he would not be excited. I assured her I did, but I just did not know how to broach the subject. She told me to go to his office (which was across the breezeway to the church building), and she would call him and tell him I was on my way to talk with him about being baptized. It may sound rather silly, but remember several dynamics were in play here. I was ready to become a child of God, but I was also still a young person in the care of my parents. Be patient with your children and let it be their decision.

Staying Faithful Can Be Easy If You Keep Your Decision. Do not underestimate the power of making a decision on one’s ability to remaining faithful. We never had a discussion in our house whether we were going to attend evening worship services or midweek Bible Study. Some may be tempted to say “Your father was a preacher, so you had no choice but to come.” (Such comments may reveal an unhealthy view of preachers and their families.) But when my wife and I were married, I worked in the business world. Even then, my wife and I did not have discussions about whether or not we would attend services. Why? Because we had both made that decision back when we became Christians.  Making a decision and making it with commitment is a powerful force to remaining faithful when difficult days come, and difficult days will come.

Becoming Unfaithful Can Be Easy If You Allow It To Happen. The writer of Hebrews stated: “Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away” (Hebrews 2:1 NKJV). The word for “drift away” (παραῤῥυέω pararrhyéō) includes the idea of slipping away or getting away from us.  Such is easy to do, if you allow it. How? Well, everyone has demands on their time, even teenagers. For me, I allowed school, work and the circle of friends from these two areas crowd out service to the Lord and the circle of Christians. I allowed Christianity to be crowded out by things that were not bad, but left little room for faith. The more faith was crowded out, the further I slipped away. When I graduated from Centralia High School, I just let work dominate my schedule. Soon I had other commitments, other friends, and other things to do. I had not exactly forgotten, but like a boat that is slowly moving away from shore and out of my reach, I was allowing the important matters, the eternal matters, slip away.

The Church Is A Perfect Institution Made Up of Imperfect People. This is a phrase my father taught us.  My parents tried to shield us from what some call “church politics,” but some matters are impossible to protect against. Sometime we are not as careful about our interactions with one another as we ought. We may be unaware that, as my parents often said, “Little ears are listening.” We need to be more careful that we emphasize the perfection of the church by minimizing our view of the imperfections of one another (cf. Proverbs 10:12). If you think children are not watching and listening, then you are gravely mistaken. It could be one of the reasons that children leave the church and want nothing more to do with it—we have overshadowed the perfect with our imperfections.

Christians Help Christians Grow. My parents wanted me to go to Freed-Hardeman College so much. They knew I was having difficulty, and I knew I was too. But I just did not know what to do about my future.  I kept on pushing aside the question “Why don’t you go to FHC and find what you want to do there?” Dad even came back from the Bible Lectureship and told me that President E. Claude Gardner, whom I had never met and did not know, said I could come to FHC and they would find a way to make it possible. Finally, my mother asked me after several weeks “Do you have anything better in mind?” I did not, so I agreed to go. It was the place I needed. I was able to find a Christian wife and make lifelong Christian friends.  I was able to develop skills I would need in the business world, but I was also able to see Christianity in a new light. I saw a depth to Christianity that I had underestimated. It was not that my parents did not teach me; it was just that I allowed peers to cloud my vision. When I had a new set of peers, Christians, my perspective changed. It is sad that parents say they are willing to do anything for their children except when the tuition bill comes due. Parents sometimes make the mistake of going with price over value when it comes to Christian Education, and by the time they realize the mistake it is too late. Thankfully my parents did not make that mistake.

How Can I NOT Preach the Gospel And Serve the Lord. I have had a “career of careers.” One of the reasons I did not want to preach was all the relocations our family had experienced. So, I decided to major in Management. Wanting to be a preacher, just like my father, my whole life was a difficult matter when I decided otherwise because of circumstances outside of my father’s control. What I found was I still was over worked, laid off, misrepresented, displaced due to corporate relocations, nearly fired for trying to do the right things, and more. While this was going on, I noticed the church was struggling, and I just could not stand by and do nothing. Don’t take this wrong. I do not consider myself any kind of “Champion to the Cause.” I just know that I am somebody, and as somebody I can do something. My wife and I decided it was time to do what we could for the advancement of Christianity in our part of the world. Many may accomplish more than we have, but sadly there will be many who never try. We are trying, and it has made the difference to ourselves and our children. Am I saying one has to become full-time minister to serve in the Kingdom? No, but one has to serve where they are at. Are you serving where you are at? Service matters–not only for others but for you too!

Forty years being a Christian! Saying it sounds impossible!  I can honestly say I have never regretted that decision. I may not have been consistent. I certainly had my share of mistakes. But looking at the lives of others outside of Christ has shown me how important it is to have life with Christ.

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