Monday, March 3, 2014

Lord, I Believe - In Memory of John Baxter

My long-time preacher and spiritual advisor, friend and brother in Christ recently passed away.

I think one of the things I will miss most about John Baxter is hearing his voice amdist the rest of the congregation as we praise God in song. I don't know that this was among John's favorite hymns, but it was certainly one of my favorites to hear him sing.

I was honored to be asked to speak at John's funeral.  Below are some of the words I shared:

Regarding his successes and achievements in life, Sir Isaac Newton once said, “If I have seen any further, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.”

In my life, and surely the lives of so many others, John Baxter was such a giant.  I can confidently say that without John’s example and influence I would not be the person that I am today and my life would be very different.

For over half of my lifetime, John served as the preacher at Northside and later Science Hill church of Christ.  He was an exceptional spiritual advisor.  Any time I had any questions concerning the Bible or matters of faith John would eagerly lend a listening ear, impart the wisdom I sought, and supply a verse that lent some perspective to a particular situation.

John taught me how to lead public prayer.  John baptized me.  John trained me in how to properly outline and preach a sermon.  John encouraged me to lead singing.  When it came time to select someone to officiate my wedding, John was the only choice.

John was for many years (before I was even born) a Chemistry teacher, a man of Science (John was actually a candidate to participate in the Challenger shuttle mission in 1986, but, thankfully, that was not meant to be).
John taught me that science and faith are not mutually exclusive, that the two inform and enrich the other.  John taught me to look at the beauty of the outdoors and the complexity of natural processes and recognize God's wise, creative hand in it all.

John was one of the most intelligent and eloquent men that I have ever known and yet he was also very humble in his ways, never flaunting his intellect.  He didn't “talk down” to anyone and was always careful to voice his opinions on a matter in a well-worded, diplomatically tactful fashion.

John was a very quiet, private man, but you never doubted that he cared for you.  In his own quiet way he always managed to show his love and admiration for others.  He often bragged about his beloved grandchildren and was always eager to tell everyone about their latest accomplishments.

John was an excellent song leader.  I dearly loved to hear him lead a song.  As I mentioned earlier, I suppose that one of the things I will miss the most is hearing his voice praising God in song.

Finally, John was a great preacher.  I wish I could adequately describe just how John preached.

In attempting to do so a verse that came to mind was Matthew 7:29 in which the people were astonished at Jesus’ teaching, “for He taught them as one having authority.”  Certainly, Christ taught in such a way because He was indeed the very Son of God.

In a different way John also taught “as one having authority.”  John’s authority came from a sure and unwavering faith.  He was always purposeful and concise. When John taught from the Word of God, there was no doubt that he was a man that was confidently firm in his faith.  This is something that I have strived to emulate in my own preaching.

In Matthew 22:31-32, Jesus said “But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying,  ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’?  God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”

Jesus essentially says here that – in spite of their physical death – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are still living in eternal spirit because of their faith.

What should be most comforting to us at this time is the knowledge that this “God of the living” is the God of not only Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but certainly also the God of John Baxter.

John, we will miss you but our loss is your gain.

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