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Thanking God for HD McCarty, A Spiritual Mentor for Over 60 Years

By Dennis Rainey

Shakespeare wrote, “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child.”

I’ve honored my parents for how they raised me, and this month of thanksgiving finds me giving thanks for a man who was a “spiritual father” and mentor to me. HD McCarty ignited a spiritual fire in my life that continues burning brightly today.

Recently I was asked to speak to about 300 friends at a banquet in honor of HD, who had just turned 90, and his wife Shirley. This journey today was prompted by that banquet and my need to express thanks to my spiritual mentor. To do that let’s go back a few years …

In 1968 I was a new student at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Arkansas. I didn’t know a single person in Fayetteville, but I did know God and sensed He was directing me to the hills of Fayetteville.

I pledged a fraternity, Sigma Chi, and after I moved in I noticed that there was a church almost across the street: University Baptist Church (UBC). I wandered over to the church just to check it out, and there I met HD, a young aspiring pastor.

I didn’t realize it at the time but God had ordered my steps right into the spiritual epicenter of what He was doing in the lives of thousands of students at the U of A. And I learned that 25 percent of the student body attended or visited UBC every year. Most were coming to a weekly “spiritual bonfire” led by HD.

I’m reminded of what the great English preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon once said, “If you are on fire for Jesus, then someone is going to come to watch you burn.” HD’s preaching was riveting and challenging, with every sermon having two things in common. He brought the Bible alive to the issues that students were facing and, and he brought you face to face with Jesus. HD boldly proclaimed the teachings and life of Jesus Christ and the forgiveness of sin that He paid for by His death, burial, and resurrection.

After classes, I recall attending HD’s Tuesday afternoon “Chalk Talks.” There were a couple of dozen of us gathered in a room where he taught us the ABC’s of walking with Christ, His mission, and the Great Commission that He gave to us. I would come to those meetings with my flickering flame and would leave feeling like HD had poured gasoline all over me.

HD ended up recruiting me to become collegiate pastor of UBC. I mistakenly thought that I was some kind of spiritual leader under his wing, but actually I now understand that he hired me to carry chairs for all those students who came on Sunday morning to the 11 a.m. service! I’m convinced my arms are a couple inches longer because of carrying all those chairs. To do the job of collegiate pastor he paid me $50 per month, and later in life told me that I was vastly overpaid!

In the process of my service at UBC he became a mentor, which he still is to this day. HD taught me many lessons, but four stand out:

1. He continually encouraged me to make much of Jesus Christ and His claims about Himself … surrender to Him, obey Him, follow Him, and boldly proclaim Him. HD explained God to me, and in the process of developing a right understanding of God and His word I learned what A.W. Tozier said: “The most important thing about you is what you think about God.”

2. He modeled a tender love for his wife Shirley and his family. For over 60 years HD has said, “I STILL DO!” It reminds me of what Winston Churchill said: “My most brilliant achievement was my ability to be able to persuade my wife, Clemmie, to marry me.”

3. HD was an overcomer, and an incredible shock absorber. As a young boy the devil of hell tried to destroy him when his father struggled with depression and ultimately committed suicide. And then he lost his son Kevin. And when HD struggled with depression, he didn’t cave in. (HD gave me permission to share this story).

He was and is no victim. His faith in the living Lord Jesus led him out of some very dark places.

4. He remains uncompromisingly on mission, declaring Christ’s forgiveness and redeeming work to all who would listen. Dante said, “The hottest in hell is reserved for those who in a time of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.” HD is a lot of things, but he’s never been silent about those issues that matter for eternity. He’s never been neutral, but compassionately truthful.

He embodies A.W. Tozier’s exhortation:

Moral power has always accompanied definitive beliefs. Great saints have always been dogmatic. We need right now a return to a gentle dogmatism that smiles as it stands stubborn and firm on the Word of God that lives and abides forever.

The Old Testament prophet Daniel promises us there will be rewards in heaven for those who have made much of God and His redeeming work: “And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, will shine like the stars forever and ever” (Daniel 11:3). HD’s fire is not going to be extinguished, but his stars are going to be brilliantly shining for eternity.

Thanks, HD, for making a difference in my life.


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