Jump Start # 2918
Hebrews 11:4 “By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks.”
To all of us he was simply Dee. And, my did we love him. He was your friend. He was my friend. He was everyone’s friend. And that just wasn’t a saying, it was the way he treated you. He knew exactly how to be a friend. The young, the old, the known and the unknown—it didn’t matter to him, we were all special to him.
Last Thursday, beloved Dee, our Dee, passed through that door of death to be in the presence of his greatest friend, Jesus Christ. Dee was special. He was unique, gifted and understood life. He could tell a story like no one else. As he talked about West Texas as a kid, you could just see those tumbleweeds as he put that picture in your mind. And, preach, my could he preach. His sermon about the road to Emmaus put us right there with his Cleopas, and you’d think that Dee and Cleopas were life long buddies. His preaching was effective because he understood how to connect with an audience. He could just stand in the pulpit and without saying a word just smile. Within seconds, the entire audience was smiling along with him and every person felt that he was only smiling at them. He could tell that story of the Velveteen Rabbit from memory and tuck that into a powerful and moving invitation. Not only could Dee connect, but he could communicate. He was a master of the English vocabulary and often broke words down into such a simple fashion that we’d never forget.
But that’s not all. My could he write. And, write he did. From the pages of Christianity Magazine for sixteen years, to sharing his journal entries in his books, Dee could take words that would touch our hearts and fill us with encouragement and hope.
Let me share with you three things that our beloved Dee did. And he did these things just being Dee. He never sat out to make himself known, have a name or be famous, but those things came because of his humble and encouraging manner which he carried himself.
First, in a season of gloom, Dee taught us that the Gospel is good news. It seems that some had forgotten that. When an audience heard Dee preach they went home walking on the clouds, They understood that it is wonderful to be a Christian. Dee presented Christianity the way our Lord did. It was filled with hope, joy and promise. Folks loved to hear Dee preach. It made them realize that they were doing right and he assured them of that. There was nothing to be ashamed about. We were following Jesus, and that filled our hearts.
Second, Dee restored the honor of preaching. He made preaching good. He taught us preachers to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. “Storming the will” was a Bowmanism. And, as polished and near perfect as his preaching was, he never promoted himself. It was never about Dee Bowman. It was always about Jesus. When pride enters a preacher, he loses focus and he becomes concerned more with a following than his own following the Lord. When preachers heard Dee preach, and most times the audiences were full of preachers, we’d go home wishing we could preach like that. But if he ever heard that, he’d have no part in that. He’d build us up, encourage us and be our best cheerleader. Preaching is honorable. Preaching is hard work. Preaching is pouring all that you are into your work. That’s how Dee looked at it. That’s how it looked when he preached. We preachers had no better friend or supporter than Dee Bowman.
Third, Dee was a master of encouragement. That is such a necessary aspect of kingdom work. Hand written notes from Dee didn’t just lift your spirits and make your day, they were treasures that you saved forever. His smile. His kindness. His joy. His interest in you. It reminded us that preaching is more than lecturing about facts, it was building people up. He showed us that what you do out of the pulpit is just as important as what you do in the pulpit. And, audiences left with a determination to do better. They had within their hearts the longing to help their fellow man. They understood the value of a kind word, a warm handshake and a quick smile. In a world of despair and darkness, Dee had a way of showing us the sunshine peeking through the clouds.
There comes, not very often, sometimes only once in a generation, someone that changes things. Elvis did that for Rock ‘n Roll. Mickey Mantle did that for baseball. And among the people of God, Dee Bowman has done that for us. My life has been touched and made better because of him. I have known him for nearly forty years. He has stayed in my home and I have stayed in his home. I remember getting ready to give a lecture and in walked Dee and Norma and they sat on the front row. Nervous, I thought I was going to die. When it was over, he was the first to speak to me and how kind and comforting he was. There was a time many years ago when some malicious hearts were writing and saying some mean and ugly things about Dee. It was intense. Much of it was coming from an area where I lived. How did Dee react to those attacks? Just as we expected he would, as a gentleman and as a man of God. He showed that often the best answer to a critic is silence. And, that some skirmishes are not worth fighting.
Dee has helped so many of us. He has changed the landscape of preaching. He is our friend. And, I expect this past Sunday, all across this land, the most used invitation was, “If you miss Heaven, then you’ve just missed it all.”
He called me just a few days before he died. He told me that he loved me. My final words to him, as I have often said, “You are my hero and you will always be my hero.” We are a blessed people to have known this wonderful disciple of Jesus. There will come a time when a new generation will not have known him. But in many ways they will because of the way he taught us through the Scriptures to do our part, to help one another and to be Heaven bound. His spirit will live on and on within us as we carry the saving message of Jesus to a new generation.
As Abel, though dead, still speaks, so our beloved Dee, now dead, will continue to speak. For that I am thankful. His words, his example, his character, his heart will remain alive to all of us who loved him and were loved by him.
God bless his dear, dear family, Norma, Russ, and Denise. Thank you for sharing him with us. Thank you Lord for putting in his heart a love for his Creator. May we all do better, love deeper and long for that heavenly home.
Thank you, my friend.