I just chuckled to myself after I hit the “place order” button on Amazon. I hesitate to even write this post because you are going to think that I am absolutely out of my mind. I didn’t want to order the book, but I couldn’t stop myself. For the first time in a long time, I ordered a book – and I don’t mean a Kindle edition – I mean a real book – from Amazon. No, not just any book. Some dense tome called “Understanding End Times Prophecy: A Comprehensive Approach” by Dr. Paul Benware.
On hindsight, I can’t believe that I really did it. Prophecy is one of those subjects, about the ultimate reign of Christ, that is about as complex a subject as one can study. And the greatest theological minds of all time still hotly debate what will happen when the endtimes come – that period in the future when the eternal reign of Christ begins. And I need another book on prophecy like I need another hole in my head……
Now that you’ve heard the end of the story, I’d like to share how it all began. Because the day started out like any other day – preparing for meetings and heading down to the cafeteria to have a normal day; speaking with vendors, reviewing financials, making calls and learning more about the business. I also prepared for a huge training session that I am conducting on Friday.
And then, around 12:15, as I was getting ready to go downstairs in the cafeteria for lunch, I had a yearning to head over to the seminary I attended, about 10 minutes away from where I was working, to see my old school buddies. I called to make sure the guys were around, jumped in the car, and headed over. Now I don’t mean the students, I mean my friends who are now professors, pastors and the other leaders of the school. While I always try to see Paul, President of the school and Dr. Loder, the Greek scholar, I almost get a little giddy when I think about having lunch with Dr. Branine, the kindly old gentleman under whose teaching I sat for three years while I learned theology.
Biblical theology, Systematic theology, Angelology and Demonology, Ecclesiology (history of the church), Trinitarianism, Soteriology (doctrines of salvation) and Eschatology (study of the endtimes) were all courses that I studied under Dr Branine. And now, in his mid-eighties, he still loves teaching and conducting research in an effort to continue to train young men and women who are interested in a life of service to Christ. The man is a walking encyclopedia of biblical knowledge and yet, one of the most humble servants of God I have ever know. A real treasure….
As soon as we saw each other, I could tell it was going to be a wonderful lunch. We went to the student union and stood in line next to each other. We exchanged pleasantries and sat down to eat with a group of other men from the school. They are always so gracious when I come to lunch. Everyone is always talking about praying for me and the effort at the cafeteria; and I get to fill them in on the leadership things I am doing with the training of my various clients across the country. It’s just a wonderful time; I almost just can’t describe it. Nothing over the top mind you; just wonderful fellowship with some of the most authentic folks I have ever had the pleasure to know.
Well, one thing led to another, and after all the current news was shared, Dr. Branine started sharing the miraculous stories of things that are happening at the school. Then, he moved on to the problems he is encountering with faulty theology and several strains of thought that have permeated the more conservative schools across the country. He went into obscure views on covenant theology (don’t even ask what that is), and before I knew it, he was making comparisons about the theological beliefs of the early church fathers, including Origen and Jerome. Now I studied all this years ago, but here it was, big as life, once again right in front of me.
Next up, he lectured on Dr. Pentecost, who wrote “Things to Come”, one of the landmark works on prophecy, Dr. Branine’s favorite area of study. Then, thoughts on my cousin, Dr. Stanley Toussaint, also of Dallas Theological Seminary, and other similar scholarly minds. Before I knew what hit me, I was back in class, with Dr. Branine holding our attention like nobody else can. Then, on to comparisons of the Catholic church doctrines vs. the Protestant views of endtime theology. On and on and on it went. I won’t bore you with the details, because you would have to be a nerd to really like this stuff, but I was hooked.
More than the material, I was still in awe of the man and his countenance. You just don’t get a Dr. Branine too often in your life – I have been honored to know him. Then, he got me – I asked a question, and he was off to the races again, deeper and deeper into the recesses of obscure theological battlefields – and I was gasping for breath – way out of my depth. So he recommended a book – yep, the one I ordered this evening. What can I say? I love the man, and if he recommends it, I have to give it a go….. I trust him…..
The verse that pops into my mind as I write this is a familiar one, from 2 Tim 3:16, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness…” Well, Dr. Branine has trained me for years now, and he’s still doing it. My encouragement is that you will continue to study the Bible and learn more about the greatest book ever written. And my prayer is that the Lord will put a Dr. Branine in your life to help you on your journey to better understand the will of God and to assist you to be drawn into a deeper relationship with Him. Grace and peace, and thanks once again, Dr. Branine…