February, 2023 (Vol.57-No.2)

Preached by Dr. Gene Scott on January 16, 1977
     Where there is no vision, the people perish.
     Proverbs 29:18
     . . . the house of God, which is the church of
     the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.
     1st Timothy 3:15
     PROVERBS 29:18 SAYS, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” The Hebrew word being translated vision literally means sight, so this verse may be translated, “Where there is no sight, the people perish.” You find a reference in the Old Testament that in Samuel’s day there were times when there was “no frequent vision” for the people of God (1st Samuel 3:1). Here, the expression means that there was no regular prophetic voice to bring to them the Word of God to give them direction. But the passage in Proverbs refers to that which is seen and the eyes to see it. One translation has it, “Where there is no purpose, the people perish.” But that goes a little beyond the meaning of the Hebrew word. The revelation of God’s will through His Word once seen does give us purpose, but that is the result of the speaking forth of the Word.
     The Hebrew word for perish is very interesting, too. It could best be translated as “to fall apart.” Where there is no clarity of sight into what God wills for a people, they fall apart. They disintegrate. In modern colloquial terms, they come unglued. When you find strife, divisions, inconsistencies, the opposite of togetherness and with-ness, it is easy to know why: the people have departed from “Thus saith the word of the LORD.” The people have returned, however subtly, however inconspicuously, however small may seem the departure, to that trait which Isaiah characterizes as sin: we have turned to our own way, no matter how we cloak it, no matter how much we justify it. There is only one unifying element in the church: God’s way.
     You might say, “Well, I thought the Holy Spirit binds us together.” The Holy Spirit will only continue to flow where God’s way, revealed in God’s Word, rules supreme. The Word is life, as well as the Spirit. Don’t be confused about that verse, “the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life” (2nd Corinthians 3:6). Jesus is the Word and He is alive. Where there is no fixation, clarity of sight, unfolding, flowing revelation of God’s will, the people disintegrate because they start wanting it their way. The church of the Living God is a people who have turned from their way to His way. They no longer ask what they can get for themselves; they want what He wants. That is why repentance always brings revival. Repentance, literally, is to turn from your way to His way.
     With that introduction, I turn to the writings of Paul in 1st Timothy. Paul has already given Timothy many instructions up to this point and then, after giving these instructions, he says, “these things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly: But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God . . .” (1st Timothy 3:14-15) That doesn’t sound overly democratic, does it? Who does he think he is? Paul is talking to a young preacher to whom he said, “Let no man despise thy youth” (1st Timothy 4:12). “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2nd Timothy 2:15). “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort . . .” (2nd Timothy 4:2) Paul is addressing this young preacher that Timothy, in turn, might keep the house of God, in order that the house of God might know how it ought to behave.
     The word house can mean several things and be used in many different ways. It can be a building you live in, a household or it can become a dynasty. In this case, it speaks of the people of God, which is the house of God, which is the church. That word church translates the Greek word ecclesia, which simply means “out-called ones.” It is a word with three parts: ek, out; kle, called; and sia, ones. We get our word ecclesiastical from it and make it something fancy sounding and remote. In Paul’s time, people could be called out for a number of different activities: an argument, a political rally or anything else. Paul was talking about the out-called ones of the Living God, who were chosen by God and bought with the precious blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. The out-called ones are His possession, turned from the way they were going; they are literally “bond slaves” with no rights, called out from the world. Jesus said in John 15, “If you were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world . . .” Christianity is not complicated or super-mystical, it is just tough.
     Paul is talking about the out-called ones of the Living God, who knows the thoughts and intents of our hearts. Paul goes on to describe them as the “pillar and ground of the earth.” G. Campbell Morgan taught on the meaning of this verse using familiar analogies, like Lord Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square in London. The pillar is that elevated column that raises the person’s monument above the crowd. The ground is not the same as the foundation; it is that which connects the pillar to the foundation and holds it steady. So we have the pillar, the ground which holds it, and then the foundation. The pillar and the ground are those elements designed for the purpose of creating an elevation on which a personality is placed. We see the same structure in a lighthouse: there is an elevated portion, and that which connects it to the foundation. Or have you see “Cleopatra’s Needle?” It is a high spire with great exploits of history written in it on every side: a pillar and ground.
     In every case, the analogy is very simple. I am sure that Paul, who traveled across that land, saw these kinds of structures all the time. The pillar and the ground exist to lift something high, to lift a person that he might be the focus to be seen above the crowd, to lift a light to give direction, or to lift the truth, a word to be seen, to be read, to be absorbed. Paul said, “. . . which is the church of the living God.” That is literally the which-is-ness of the church of the living God. What is the which-is-ness of it? To lift high a Person, a Light, a Word!
     No pillar is built simply for its own sake; it would have no meaning. A pillar should not be high for the sake of being high; it should not exist only for the sake of being seen. Too much of what is being elevated today exists solely to focus attention on the architect. There are pillars rising all over this country that make you stop and say, “What in the world does it mean?” It means that the architect figured out a way to be different and to get attention thereby.
     The church is a pillar and a ground, but not a pillar and a ground in order to be a pillar and a ground. It does not exist for its own sake. We are weaving a simple, yet profound, truth that is saying what God says over and over in His book. It amazes me why it has to be said so many times; but it must be said, because the result does not come forth. Inevitably, the church will be viewed by the bricks and the nails and the timbers and the masonry and the stone and the metal and the glass, for its own sake.
     What do you expect from a church? Everybody is a born expert on the church. Everybody is an instant judge on what goes on in the church and what we ought to be doing as a church. The tragedy is, seldom does the viewpoint come from God’s Word. We look at the church in terms of what we think and in terms of what it does for us. Our language gives us away: we say, “It is our church,” or “It is my church.” Only One Person can truly say, “It is our church,” or “It is My church.” Only one Person can truly say, “It is My church,” and that is Jesus! Now, before this day is over, at some point I will slip and use the expression, “our church.” We are conditioned; we are slaves to our frame of reference.
     “Where there is no vision, the people come unglued.” We need clarity of sight to see God’s Word. How many times do you find the Old Testament prophets coming up with new messages? They must be the most boring, repetitious kind of preachers who ever wandered around in shoe leather. “Repent!” “Repent!” “Repent!” “Repent!” “Repent!” The word repent has a theological ring to it, but all it means is “turn from . . . to.” It means you turn from your way to His way.
     The problem has always been the same. Every prophetic voice had to say that the problem is that you want your way; and the answer is that God has to get His way. It has never changed from the first day until now. The prophetic voice is the voice of God’s vision that forever says, as uncomfortable and as painful as it is, “You are wrong, mankind.” God’s way awaits a people who will be a part of a pillar and a ground that are designed for His purpose.
     “Ye are his workmanship,” Paul said to the Ephesians (Ephesians 2:10). That message can be lost in all his other glorious pronouncements: we are seated with God in heavenly places by faith; the wall of partition has been broken; we have become the habitation of God through His Spirit. Paul prayed that we might understand the height, the depth, the breadth, the magnitude of God’s love which is beyond understanding. And God has given to you ministers, starting with the apostles, followed by prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Paul unfolds the grandeur of a hope that we could literally be made over in “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” We are told then to walk worthily of the calling, and to stand and fight. But the bedrock foundation of everything is summed up in one phrase: “Ye are his workmanship.”
     The Greek word for workmanship is the cognate of our word poem. You are His poem. But who ever heard of a word in a poem talking back to the poet? Sometimes I want to: “I like the letter s, it’s a prettier letter than an x. An x gives me a feeling of being canceled out, or crucified; one or the other. So I want to be a word that that is multiplied with that plural sound of an s. I don’t want to be canceled out; I want to be multiplied. I think that I will put an s on my word. I’m going to improve the poem; make it revolve around me.”
     God is the Poet; we are His workmanship. He is hammering us, shaping us, bending us. Rutherford said, “Thank God for the hammer, the file, and the fire.” We begin to understand that “God enters into all things and worketh His good” (Romans 8:28). Paul knew whose hand was on that hammer; he knew who was doing the shaping.
     The true church of the Living God is not your playhouse or mine. It is not a place where I come to get what I want. It is a place where I am fitted into that living temple not made with stones, written onto human flesh, that we might become the pillar and the ground, not to be seen of men just as a pillar and a ground.
     God said, “Where is the place of my rest?” The glorious sound of a choir does not bring God down. He has angels singing. Only one thing will make our song different: it is the song of the redeemed. He said to those who would build a temple that would justify His presence, “heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool . . . For all those things hath mine hand made.” He is the God who made the galaxies of this universe. We cannot impress God or get His attention with the works of our hands or our performance. “But to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit” (Isaiah 66:1-2).
     God has been looking for that man from the beginning, and I am not talking about the polished, practiced, learned humility. It has been said, “A truly humble man does not look back to see if he was humble.” Humility is not something you get by trying to be humble; it is a relationship with God that comes to a realization of how great He really is. What a wonder it is that He would even let us be the pillar and the ground that He is building, that He would let us be the instrument by which He achieves His purpose.
     The truly humble man is like Isaiah. All the kingdom of Uzziah faded when he saw the Lord “high and lifted up,” and all the distance between himself and every other person around him dimmed, and he said, “Woe is me! For I am undone” (Isaiah 6:5). The closer the true saint gets to God, the more he is aware of his own unworthiness. The degree of your sense of adequacy is the mark of your distance from God.
     If there is any one thing that marks Jesus with divinity, it was His sense of complete moral adequacy for the task that was given to Him. In John 17, Jesus said, “I have finished the work you have given me to. Restore me to the glory that I had.” Every other saint of God, when called, would say, like Jacob, “I am not worthy of the least of all thy mercies” (Genesis 32:10). Abraham said, “I am but dust and ashes” (Genesis 18:27). Moses said, “Who am I, that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11). Gideon said, “I am the least in my father’s house, from the smallest tribe” (Judges 6:15). David said, “Who am I . . . and what is my house, that thou has brought me hitherto?” (2nd Samuel 7:18). And Jeremiah said, “I cannot speak: for I am a child” (Jeremiah 1:6).
     How do you view your place in the church? Where is the focus of your commitment today? The pillar and the ground are elevating instruments, meaningless without the person on top, the light to shine, or a word to be read. That is why the church exists: to lift Jesus, to let that Light shine to a dark world, to herald His Word. And here is the glorious paradox: even as the pillar becomes worthless without the Person, the Light and the Word; the Person, the Light, and the Word cannot be seen without the pillar and without the ground.
     Amazing grace! God deigned to be seen through us. If doctors who don their sanitary garments prepare so carefully for surgery, or people who handle radioactive material exercise the utmost care, how much more ought we to recognize our importance: we literally become the bearers of Jesus! We become a new incarnation as the living Word, through us, is seen as the living epistle to the world. We become the only light to a darkened world.
     God must sit up there frustrated with the playhouses called “His church.” But glory to God, it “behoved Christ to suffer,” die, be buried, and rise the third day, according to the Scriptures. The Greek word translated behoved allows no deviation from the flow of its purpose; that same word also applies to Jesus’ following words, “And ye shall be witnesses” (Luke 24:45-48).
     That word witness has come to be used disparagingly to describe some “champion soul winner,” like a hunter who runs around bagging souls like scalps to hang on his belt. But in the New Testament, the word literally means martyr. It costs something to win the lost. It is not easy; it cannot be done with Madison Avenue techniques. God deigned in His covenant that we should be martyrs. How many martyrs are sitting in front of me today? I am not talking about people who do missionary work in the South American jungles. I am talking about backing up and kicking the selfishness out of our system and looking at the church of God in terms of His witness and His testimony.
     God gave to His church a wondrous privilege. Every day, as we awaken to the wonder that God would assign us to a foundation laid in agony and in tears and in faith, we face the temptation in the flesh to crawl under our covers and just hide out from the day. Mixed with that is the wonder of what God has assigned us as an opportunity, if we would just get it together. Where there is no vision, the people disintegrate. God has already declared His purpose for His church, and it is harder to get out of God’s will than it is to stay in it, if you want to stay in it. The church of the living God is the pillar and the ground of the Truth. Every other need is supportive. Every other need is auxiliary. A church is God’s instrument to work His will, and His will is to bring forth and elevate Jesus, the Light of the world, the Truth that is eternal, “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).
     Reprinted with permission from Pastor Melissa Scott

Born: July 12, 1940
     Promoted: January 3, 2023
     I am sad to report that my father, Bob McDaniel passed away on January 3, 2023 at the Lexington Correctional Center. He had been battling cancer that began in his prostate, and which had already spread throughout his entire body before it was known to him. He was 82 years old.
     I did not get to spend much time with my father while growing up. He went to prison when I was at a very young age. My last childhood memory of him was when I was about 4 years old, sitting on his lap drinking an orange soda at the Federal prison at El Reno, Oklahoma.
     We did not meet again until I was 24. Both of us were doing prison sentences in Oklahoma. I had been sent to Joseph Harp Correctional Center for a law seminar. This was in 1983 and back then all of the prisons would send their law clerks to Joseph Harp yearly for a one week law seminar. Dad was also a law clerk at Stringtown and was brought up for the seminar. We got to spend a week together at the seminar getting to know each other a little. As fate would have it (and I believe that God arranged it) my sentence was commuted by the governor on a Friday in June, which just so happened to be the last day of the seminar. As I discharged the prison and walked thru the sally port to my freedom, I got to wave goodbye to my Dad who was at the last session of the seminar in the visiting room. It would be over twenty years before I saw him again.
     As a young man my Father was not a good person. In his later years he would be the first to admit this. He did a lot of really bad things and so, outside of a couple of years of freedom in the late 1980’s, he wound up spending over 55 years in prison.
     But I saw my Dad change into a fine, decent man during the last thirty years of his life. He was a devout Catholic, which caused many theological debates between the two of us. But no matter, I knew that he loved the Lord and that God had finally gotten a hold of him (like He did with me) and was changing him into the man that He wanted Him to be.
     I could not be more proud of my Father, despite his past. We all have done things that were wrong. This is evidenced by your current incarceration, and God knows I was a horrible, miserable soul who did bad things and continually rebelled against God. But we know that we are sinners, and God can work with people like us. It’s the “holier-than-thou” bunch who set in the church pews judging everyone that God cannot work with. You have to realize what you are, then repent (turn from your way to God’s way), and then God can begin His work in you.
     I will miss Dad. He and I could talk about anything. He had a world of knowledge and wisdom to share with me, and we found ourselves agreeing on almost every subject (except the Catholic Church ). But the suffering is over and I take great comfort in knowing that he is now with the Lord.
     I want to share the following, which is something that Dad wrote to me, just shortly before he passed.
     - Rodney
     NEW ME
     The man you once knew no longer exists. I’ve buried him and all his bad behaviors. I now see all the hurt that I’ve caused you. I was reckless with God’s blessing.
     I was giving you the worst of me. I apologize for all that I have done. The old me is dead and gone. Here in prison a new man was born: to give you compassion, empathy and to love, support and serve you. It’s time to forge new bonds with you.
     I’m thankful for your forgiveness all the times that I have done wrong. Now I’m building up the new man that I have become.
     The past is over. You all deserve the best of me. I realize that I have much to give you.
     Praise Jesus, my Lord and Savior! Because of Jesus I realize how much we truly mean to each other.
     When we meet on the side I hope and pray that you perceive this new me.
     - Dad

Dad always wanted to come to Baca Mountain and asked that his cremated remains be scattered here among the pines. So we are preparing a beautiful burial spot for him which is in our little Pine forest cemetery just a couple hundred yards from where our house is. We have other prisoners there who over the years wanted to come here, as well. It is the place where I plan to rest some day myself.
- Rodney

“When the time comes for you to die, you need not be afraid, because death cannot separate you from God’s love.” ~ Charles H. Spurgeon

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God which in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

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