Dreams and Visions
October 4th, 1970 @ 10:50 AM
DREAMS AND VISIONS
Dr. W.A. Criswell
10-4-70 10:50 a.m.
On the radio and on television you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the twenty-sixth anniversary message entitled Dreams and Visions; not as a text to be expounded, but as a subject, as a background from the message of Simon Peter at Pentecost. “This is that which was spoke by the prophet Joel” [Acts 2:16]. Then he quotes Joel 2:28-29:
It shall come to pass, saith God, I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.
And that is the basis of the title. “And your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams” [Joel 2:28; Acts 2:17]. And maybe if I could be both today: winter is on my head, but springtime is in my heart. As an old man to dream dreams, and as a young man to see visions: Dreams and Visions. If the Lord tarries and He does—gone to a far country, He said, to receive a kingdom [Luke 19:11-12]—if the Lord delays His return, there are great assignments for us in the earth. It is like Jeremiah who wrote to the captivities in Babylon:
Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, unto all that are carried away captives, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem unto Babylon;
Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them;
Take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may beget sons and daughters; that ye be increased there, and not diminished.
And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for peace thereof.
While they were strangers and sojourners and captives, the prophet said, “Work, build houses, plant gardens, build homes, and seek the peace of even that city whither I have caused you to be carried away captive” [Jeremiah 29:4-5, 7]. So I think about us as the Lord delays His coming; we’ll be busy.
A man asked an old farmer, “Sir,” he said, “if you knew that Jesus was coming in fifteen minutes what would you do?”
And the old farmer replied, “I’d finish plowing this furrow to the end of the row.” So until the Lord returns, we’re going to be at it. We’re going to get with it. And when He comes at noonday, at twilight, He will find us working.
Now in the dream and the vision, I’ll not speak of these things that usually we include in a circumference of our church life, our educational ministries, of Sunday school, Training Union, our mission ministries, our music ministries, our recreational ministries, our visitation ministries, so many of the multi-faceted work of the church. I’ll not speak of it. But there are dreams and visions that come to my heart, and I speak of them this hour.
First, we shall establish here in our church a Bible Institute. They are calling it the Criswell Bible Institute. And when I inveighed against it, a committee of men came to my study and said, “The reason we’re calling it Criswell is because, in the nation and in the whole world, that name has become identified with a ministry that believes the Bible, and it is more descriptive of what the institute would be than anything, or any appellation, or any epitaph that we could give to it. So we are calling it the Criswell Bible Institute.” And when some of them suggested a hesitancy of the word institute, to call it the Criswell School of the Bible, it was pointed out that in the institute, in the aggregate, there is to be a conservatory of music, a music conservatory presided over by the music staff of our church. And there will be many courses offered in church life, pragmatic, empirical, practical ministries. So an inclusive word as of now is the Bible Institute.
Tomorrow night our deacons without exception ought to be present; we shall adopt tomorrow night the Articles of Faith of that institute. And then if our people can be present Wednesday night, seven-thirty, we shall adopt those Articles of Faith upon the recommendation of our deacons—what we believe, and what we’re going to teach, and what the institute stands for—and it’ll be located across the street in the Riley building, the Bible Institute. There is a drift in our Southern Baptist Convention that is appalling and tragic to me. I see it in our schools. I see it in our seminaries. And the drift is toward a theology that compromises God’s revealed Word, and it leads to dead denominations and to dead churches. And here in this church, we’re going to gather as many people as will come, and with able, consecrated, gifted and learned professors, we’re going to teach the living Word of the living God, and His living church, and how to quicken it into a thousand faceted ministry.
Then also, we’re going to have a week once a year of what we shall call the School of the Prophets. In the days of Samuel he presided over a school of the prophets [1 Samuel 10:5, 1 Samuel 19:20], and through the centuries past they kept the faith of Israel alive, presided over by Elijah, presided over by Elisha, the school of the prophets. And we shall invite the pastors of our Southern Baptist Zion and their staffs to come here and spend a week with us. And there we shall sermonize, and look at study habits, and visitation programs, and all of the things that enter into the building of a great church; visions and dreams.
Not only that but we shall organize here in our church a Christian Businessmen’s luncheon. And we shall invite all the men of our church to come down here on a Thursday and break bread together. We’ll charge a dollar for the meal, cheaper than you could eat a lunch anywhere else, and you can bring your friends. You can bring your prospects, and we’ll have the snappiest program that you ever shared in, in your life. It’ll sparkle. It’ll scintillate. It’ll glow. There’ll be no club downtown, or out of town, or on the fringe of town, or anywhere near town that has a program like ours. We have dedicated and gifted people who can do it. And the program will march. We’ll start on the dot. We’ll close on the dot. We’ll have a fine music presentation. Some of the most gifted men in the world are right here. We’ll have a gifted music presentation and then a brief message from the pastor and a prayer unto God to bless us. And we’ll get acquainted with one another, and we’ll use these thousands of men in our church to make possible this vast and enlarging program. We’ll stand back of it, with God’s help, and see it through.
Then we shall organize in our church a properties management council. This will be a group of learned, and knowledgeable, and experienced, and dedicated men who will receive all of the properties of our church and under their surveillance use them spiritually and profitably. There will be an increasing number of people who will give to us, for this task and assignment, estates, and insurance policies, and remembrances, and gifts, and bequests. And all of the properties of the church, these that we now possess and these that shall be given us will be under the careful care and keeping of this Properties Management Council. And they’ll use it for the finest ends under God that human genius could contrive.
For example, whether we like it or not, or choose it or not, our church is in the parking business up to our necks and up to the hilt. We are in the parking business, and instead of sticking our head in the sand and hiding ourselves from it, why don’t we come out in the open, lift up our heads, pull back our shoulders, and say, “We’re in the parking business!” If these men are to come down here on Thursday, there has to be a place for them to park. They’ll be driving in from the ends of this metropolitan area. When we have Women’s Missionary Union days, and when we have Vacation Bible schools, and when we have the conservatory of music and we have our institute, there must be places for people to park. We’re in the business. We recognize it, glad of it, appreciate the challenge that goes with it. And we’re going to build buildings, and we’re going to provide room. We have no parking problem on Sunday. You can put fifty thousand cars in downtown Dallas on any Sunday because the city’s empty, but it’s during the days of the week that a growing, teeming city will squeeze and choke you to death. We’re in the parking business. Let’s get with it.
Dreams and visions, assignments for the Properties Management Council; why don’t we take some of these properties and build on them three tremendous towers forty stories high? Why not? They do it. They do it for money. They do it for merchandise. They do it for a thousand reasons. Why don’t we do it for God? One of those towers there’ll be retired people and elderly people who’d like to live in the middle of things. They don’t want to be out there on the fringe, out yonder in a colony, out there separated and apart. Some of us, who get old might like to stay in the traffic, might like to stay in the stream. We might like to live where things happen. That tower would be for elderly people and retired people so they could go to all the services at the church. Twelve hours every day services down here at the church, something going on, and all they got to do is just fall out the window and fall into it. Great power for elderly people, and retired people, and older people close by the church.
And a tower, good looking one, and a tower for youngsters who come to the city to live here. Oh, I can imagine, and when I get a telephone call as I did just a few days ago, a father called me from Alabama, and he said, “My boy is going to Dallas to get him a job. Would you take care of my boy?” Well I said, “Sir, as far as I can, I’ll be responsible to God and to you for your boy.” There are thousands and thousands of young people coming from the village and the town, and the father and mother there in that little community see that boy and that girl march away. They’re all headed to the big city to get a job. And how the pastor would be encouraged, and what a comfort it’d be for that father and mother if they could send them to us. “Here’s a glorious place for you to live. You don’t have to go out yonder unknown, unnamed, indescribed. Here’s a magnificent place for you to live in.” When you come to Dallas, here’s an apartment for you. And here are fine Christian young people for you to know, a place for them.
And the third tower, there might be people who get tired of some of the places that they’re living in. Some of them brawl, and drink, and carry on half the night. Here’s a place for Christian people, a Christian community, and if you’d like to come down and live in a Christian complex, this tower is for you; a properties management council, taking advantage of what we can do to help people love God and serve Him in His church.
Dreams and visions; a vision of a ministry of helpfulness in the church. Employment; I could not name the number of people who come to me sometimes in desperation. “I need a place to work.” Why not our help? Do you need a Christian boy? Do you need a Christian girl to work for you? Do you need a Christian man, a Christian woman, would you like to have one work for you? Call us. Call us. An employment helpfulness, a council, a committee, an office, somebody to help our Christian men and women and young people find a good place to work.
And think of what it would mean if we could help financially. Sometimes we fall into big troubles and heavy difficulties. Maybe we had some place to turn to, they could help us. Right now our church does many of those things through our mission ministries and somewhat through our student fund. Why don’t we pool it all together, put it together, pool it together, and this is our program of financial helpfulness. Here’s a student and he wants to go to college, but he has no way. Here’s a boy giving his life to be a preacher. He has to get ready, but he has no support. Here’s a sweet girl. God’s called her to be a missionary. She has to be trained, but there’s no way for her to go to school. We can help. Think of the blessing that God might make through us, encouraging people who are financially hurt and hurting.
Then we could have down here a throne room of intercession. There’d be somebody in there praying twenty-four hours a day. And there’d be a telephone in that room, not only the dial-a-prayer phone, but there’d be an open line in that throne room of intercession, and any time day or night anybody needed help, or encouragement, or a prayer, or sympathy, or a listening sympathetic understanding heart, just call. There’d be a minister available. There’d be a minister there. There’d be somebody to pray. There’d be somebody to offer hands of help, and many times, what we need most is just a word of sympathy and the knowledge that somebody cares—a throne room of intercession open twenty-four hours every day.
And some kind of a grouping of our single adults in a social context. So many of our young adults are unmarried. These boys go abroad, marry foreign wives, sometimes they don’t come back, lying in graves offered to the god of Mars. And sometimes falling into the deep slough of despond and despair because of a broken home and a broken marriage. What could be finer than for our church to have in a context these single, young adults where they could meet one another? “Pastor, you just thinking about a marriage bureau?” I’d have no apology for it, none at all. I don’t know anything finer than introduce a sweet Christian girl to a splendid Christian boy. And I don’t know anything finer the church could do than to help build Christian homes. Why not? Dreams and visions.
And then last of all of a thousand other things, our youth program; I think the day is coming when for the Christian youth to survive; he will have to live and find his friends, and the quickening motivation of his life, in a Christian community, in a Christian context. There is a disintegration on the part of the order of modern life that is almost unimaginable. Christian ideals and Christian ethics are assailed on every side. They are disputed. They are contended with. They are flagrantly denounced. The academic community more and more is teaching our youngsters that they are nothing but naked apes, and that’s the quote of one of the famous books of recent days, The Naked Apes. They are taught that they are animals, and concomitant to that interpretation of the meaning of human life are all of the moral codes of the alley and of the jungle.
As we face that flood tide of the destruction of Christian ethics, you will find your courts sustaining it. Upon a day a man came to my study here and lay out on my desk pornographic literature. I had not seen it before, laid it out on my desk. And as I looked at it, the homosexual act and all of the other things that pertain to the aberration of Christian morality, the man said to me, “Nor is there a court in the land that will say this is pornographic.” And the president will appoint a commission, and in the name of psychiatry and psychology and sociology, they will avow to us that such filth and such smut have no particular effect upon the minds of the young or the moral well-being of society.
This is a beginning. As I came to church this morning, into the auditorium for the eight fifteen service, Dr. Fowler who attends the early service put in my hands this passage, pericope, cut out from a newspaper. The Reverend William Metcalfe, rector of such and such church in England, writes in his parish magazine that, “If the church is going to communicate successfully today, its buildings will have to be psychedelic pads, its choir girls topless, its hymns bawdy, the Scriptures omitted and replaced by pot, and the vicar a well known spokesman or rock singer. Then the church will communicate with the world and make contact with spiritual things we have lost.”
You don’t know, not unless you look and see what the drift of modern society, because when you lose your moorings from the Word of God, and when you repudiate Moses and Jesus and Paul, you’re adrift. You’ve lost that innate sensitivity to God. We’re not made in His image. We’re animals. And there’s no ultimate responsibility, just however one chooses for himself, and the result lies in a filthiness, and a dirtiness, an uncleanness that increasingly is seen in the whole world in the unwashed, and the unshaved, and the uncut, and the unkempt, and the ill smelling, and the filthy, and the promiscuous, and the prostitute, and the free lovers, and the pimps, and the procurer, and the dope addict, and the pusher, and the whole dissolution of the fabric of society!
Against a background like that, in the dream and in the vision, I think to survive there has to be a Christian community in which context the Christian boy or girl can live. In the dream I envisage a school. I’ve always hoped we could have a high school here in this dear church. Then the youngsters could come from anywhere in the city or the metropolitan area, but again, to build here a youth conglomerate, everything in it, a large, large, large area and in it a glorified hamburger joint. Now you can call it some nice name like Lee Roy gave to the Rectangle, but it’s still a joint. A big one, a spacious one where the teenagers can come; they can have a good time. And in that complex a Star Bright Theater, seat about five hundred. And when daddy asks mother, “Mother, where is Mary?” Mother says, “Why, she’s down there at the Star Bright.” And when the mother asks daddy, “Daddy, where’s Johnny?” “Why, he’s down there at the Star Bright.” There are wonderful films. There are movies. There are picture shows that are magnificent, and we can show them. And the youngster can come to the Star Bright Theater, and mother and dad will know he’s all right. And in that theater we can have the youth, and the blessedness of these young people who love dramatics, forensics, and all the things that pertain to acting and speaking. They can give plays, fine Christian plays, and we can be there and be blessed by them; a whole conglomerate for young people.
As I go around, and Dr. Bagwell says, going around too much, that’s what he meant by reading all that. And as I listen, I see these coffee houses and other things that they call by name. And they’re out there trying to reach the hippie, and the yippy, and the dope addict, and the prostitute, and the peddler out there, and I say that’s fine. But as I look at it I think how much finer is it to try to get that boy and to get that girl before she becomes a prostitute, or a dope addict, or a drunkard. Ah, once in a while our little boy growing up in our home will say, “Granddaddy, what you staring at me for?” We’d be seated at a table, and I smile and shrug my shoulders and don’t answer. But he’s going to hear now some of the things that I think of when I stare at him because sometimes when I look at him real hard these things go through my mind.
He’s a boy like other people’s boys, and he could be a drunkard. He could be a dope addict. He could be a robber, a thief, a murderer. He could be in the penitentiary. And as I look at the boy, I think what a blessed ministry to try to lift up and out the dope addict, and the drunkard, and the pusher, and the robber. But as I see him, “Oh dear God, how much better it is, how infinitely better if we can keep him from it and keep him strong in the faith and committed to the Lord.” Have you heard this?
‘Twas a dangerous cliff as they freely confessed
Though to walk near its crest was so pleasant.
But over its terrible edge there had slipped
A duke, and full many a peasant.
So the people said something would have to be done
But their project did not at all tally.
Some said, “Put a fence around the edge of the cliff,”
And some said, “Let’s get an ambulance down in the valley.”
Well, the cry for the ambulance carried the day,
For it spread through the neighboring city.
“A fence may be useful or not, it is true,
But our hearts overwhelmed with pity.
For those who slip over that dangerous cliff.”
So the dwellers in highway and alley
Gave dollars and gave cents not to put up a fence
But to buy an ambulance for the valley.
Then an old sage remarked, “It’s a marvel to me
That people give far more attention
To repairing the results than to stopping the cause
When they’d much better aim at prevention.”
“Let us stop at its source all this hurting,” cried he,
“Come, neighbors and friends, let us rally.
If the cliff we will fence, we might almost dispense
With the ambulance down in the valley.”
“Better guide well the young, then reclaim them when old.
For the voice of true wisdom is calling.
To rescue the fallen is good, but ‘tis best
To prevent our young people from falling.
“Better provide a way from temptation and crime,
Than to deliver from dungeon or galley.
Better put a strong a fence round the top of the cliff
Than an ambulance down in the valley.”
[adapted from “The Ambulance in the Valley,” Joseph Malins]
Oh, to set our hearts to building a community, and a complex, and a conglomerate for young people that keeps them close to the heart of God!
I have to close. And in it all, and above all, just to love the Lord and to ask God to give us an enlarged soul and life to magnify and to serve Him.
My Jesus, I love Thee.
I know Thou art mine.
For Thee all the follies of sin I resign.
My gracious Redeemer,
My Savior art Thou.
If ever I loved Thee,
My Jesus ‘tis now.
I love Thee in life.
I love Thee in death.
I love Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath.
And say when the death dew
Lies cold on my brow.
If ever I loved Thee,
My Jesus ‘tis now.
I’ll love Thee in heaven
With its mansions so bright
I’ll adore Thee forever
In God’s sweet delight.
I’ll sing with the glittering
Crown on my brow.
If ever I loved Thee,
My Jesus ‘tis now.
[“My Jesus, I Love Thee,” William R. Featherston, 1864]
Giving our hearts and our lives to God, would you do that this day? In the balcony round, on this lower floor, down a stairway or into the aisle, “Here I am, here I come. I’ve decided for God today. I’ve given my heart to the Lord today, and I’m coming.” A family you, a couple you, or just one somebody you, on the first note of this song, step out into that aisle and down here to the front. “Here I come, pastor, and here I am.” Do it today. Make that decision now, and when you stand up, stand up coming. God bless you and angels attend you as you come, while we stand, while we sing.
DREAMS AND VISIONS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. If the Lord tarries (Jeremiah 29:4-7)
B. He will find us workingII. Criswell Bible Institute
A. My objection to the name
B. School of the ProphetsIII. Christian Businessmen’s luncheon
A. Time to get acquainted
B. Exciting program and messageIV. Properties Management Council
B. High-rise apartments downtownV. Ministry of helpfulness
C. Throne room of intercession
D. Single adult programVI. Youth program
A. A school