Archive of ‘OBSERVATIONS’ category

BUILDER BOB

I am sure each of you has heard of Builder Bob, the cartoon figure for the little kids. I admit I don’t know much about him or his character, never watched the show but I have seen his toy merchandise in the stores. A little round guy with a hard hat on, Bob goes around building stuff I suppose and entertains your children. There is probably a little Builder Bob in each of us. We all are building something, maybe a home, a family, a career, relationships. We all build daily in some area.

I have done a little renovation in my time. Some of the jobs were small projects with little or no effect on the structure of the house. They were primarily cosmetic or replacing something that had worn out or broken. Then there were bigger building jobs. We did a very large renovation on our house a few years ago. Although there were professional contractors involved, some projects my wife and I decided to take on by ourselves. We built and modified upon the very structure of our home. The foundation that was laid some 60 years ago, we built upon it, making changes that altered it permanently. Yes, I have done some building, construction, in my time. I may not be a vocational builder but I do build daily. We all do. We all build on something everyday.

1stCORINTHIANS 3:10-13    “According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw– the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done.” NRSV

When Paul was writing this letter to the church he had planted in Corinth, his intent was to help correct some factions within the church. Specifically the verses quoted above were to help the church there to see that they added or built very carefully upon the foundation Paul laid for them, the foundation of Jesus Christ. In their pursuit of following a particular teacher, they must take care not to improperly build upon the true foundation.

When we were building- renovating our home it was imperative to stay within the confines of the foundation already established. We built, but we were careful with what was added upon the existing structure which had been tried and tested. Not only the materials used were important but the manner in which they were attached was just as important. If lesser materials were used or attached improperly to the foundation, the entire structure would be put at risk.

Although Paul was primarily interested in doctrinal, teaching matters of division within the church of Corinth with his writing, it occurred to me that this same advice had merit in other situations. In his instruction to be careful how we build on the foundation of Christ, that would be true in all areas of building.  As I said earlier, we all build. We all are building something daily. It may not be our job to build doctrine or give instruction to the church, but we do build upon a foundation that was built in Jesus Christ. Jesus through his life and teaching laid foundations for how we as His disciples should live our lives. The Word of God, which Christ embodied, is the very foundation for the life we live.

In our daily activities and interactions we add upon or build onto that foundation laid in Christ with every thought, action, and behavior. As Christians our actions and interactions with others represent what we are building upon the foundation of Christ. At times we will use fine materials, golden in nature to build upon a relationship with another. Many times we will use only the wood or straw in our building. We usually pick out the materials we choose to use in a given circumstance or action. I would venture to say that I am well aware that the material I have chosen may not fit the foundation already laid within me in Christ with some of my behavior or interactions with others. Some of my attitudes or words are ill constructed and to not add to the strength of the relationship.

Yes we all build daily. We interact with others. Our actions build what they may see as Christ-like behavior or not. Our words and deeds can build up another or lay the groundwork for hurt.  Even if we are building homes, careers, or our education, the manner in which we build is visible to others. The testing will reveal if our additions are true, worthy, and Christ-like, or just hay to be burned and discarded. How we build on the true foundation of Christ does matter, to us as individuals and to others who see our work. Paul did not say when or if you build, he knew we all build daily. What he wished to convey is be careful what you choose to build.

You don’t have to wear a hard hat and have a tool belt to be a builder. If Christ has laid the foundation in your heart as one of His own, then believe Paul and me, you are building, something. Carefully choose your materials when adding to Christ’s foundation. The straw, wood, and the hay all get burned up under fire of testing. Your envy, quarreling, and behavior toward another to suit your own selfish motives present a woeful addition to Christ’s foundation. Go out and be the Bob the Builder you were intended to be in Jesus, build carefully and use the good stuff. It will last.   

 

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY

I hope each one of you is given the opportunity to express and to receive love today as we once again celebrate Valentine’s Day. Whether it be your spouse, significant other, close relative, dear friend, or your children, take the initiative and the opportune occasion to let them know you love them. May you also be blessed and favored with an expression of their love for you. It really doesn’t matter if it is a thoughtful card or a well spoken word, let that person dear to you know that they are loved. A smiley text message will even convey the thought to your dear one. There will be plenty of flowers and chocolates exchanged today, but the most important transfer you can make is love from your heart to theirs.

We all need love. Without love there remains very little purpose or meaning to our lives. I am not just talking about romantic love shared by husbands and wives or sweethearts. There is the love we can share with our families, friends, and all of God’s children. On this special day that we celebrate love, be sure to express your love to your spouse. They deserve special recognition for putting up with you in love for another year. Let the kids, grown or small, know they are important to you and love continues. Take a minute to relay your affections to your close friends, so they too will know their worth to you. And finally on this day love one another with kindness and a smile.

Once more what began as a Christian celebration in the church has been possessed by the secular world. The church sought to honor a third century saint, martyred for his expressions of Jesus love, in communion and feast. In the middle ages, poets began to take the celebration of St.Valentinus death on February 14, as a day to express romantic love in their verses. By the 18th century the idea of giving Valentine’s cards to a loved one had taken hold in society. Fast forward to modern day, and the exchange of candy, flowers, cards, and jewelry has become the normal activity to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Commercially, I am sure Valentine’s Day represents one of the major holidays in terms of consumer expenditures. It is the norm, the expected between couples. The airwaves are inundated with commercials intended to remind or guilt you into purchasing something for your loved one.

I am not bashing Valentine’s Day. I have no problem giving or receiving chocolates and beautiful cards from my wife. It is at least one day that I can remember to tell her how much she is loved and appreciated. What I want to suggest is that as Christians we take back the holiday. We started the celebration, long before the world got a hold of it. The church idea for celebrating St.Valentine’s Day was a way to honor Christ’s love through one man to his fellow brothers and sisters. The world capitalized on the holiday by turning it into a narrow expression between lovers. It is not all that uncommon, in fact it may be rather the norm for the world to take what God has established to honor Christ and twist it just enough to make it all about man. You do not have to think much past Thanksgiving or Christmas to see the point.

So as a counter revolution, let us as Christians take back the holiday. No, it doesn’t mean you don’t need to give your wife a card or chocolates. What I mean is that as a Christian let’s make the Valentine’s Day celebration what it was intended to be, an expression of God’s love through Christ through each of us to another person who needs to be loved. And as we stated earlier, we all need love, to receive and give. The holiday began as a broad expression of God’s love to all not a secular gift exchange. We can express our romantic love to our spouse on Valentine’s Day. We can also express God’s love on St.Valentine’s Day to our families, friends, and all we encounter today. If you are not sure how to give God’s love away to people you meet, just ask. I am positive that Jesus will show you how, even if it is only a smile or a kind thank you.

Psalm 133:1 “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!” NIV There could not be a better day to practice living together in unity and love one another than St. Valentine’s Day. I hope you have a great Valentine’s Day. I hope you receive an expression of love from those that love you. I pray that you will give love to those dear to you in some form or expression today. I also pray that you take back our holiday and express God’s love to those you meet today. Happy Valentine’s Day!

BLAMING EVE 2

We left our first session of Don’t Blame Eve with the knowledge that Eve probably wasn’t the problem. Adam was the one God left in charge of the garden (family home). He was the one given the instructions personally. Adam was also the one God called out for an accounting of what had happened. The serpent and Eve were were held in judgement for their part as well, but sin was introduced into the garden by one man, Adam. (NIV, Romans 5:12) In a terrible trade, the first man in his selfish prideful desire to think he could take care of himself, traded simply trusting God for worldly wisdom. He thought if he could have the knowledge of good and evil, his dependency on God would not be as necessary. He was wrong, we still are if we depend on the world view and worldly wisdom.

Before we continue, I do have a few very pointedly statements to address the men reading this bible study. 1) Man, you were put in charge to lead your family. God intended you to hear and know the rules. You lead the way in interpretation of God’s principles to your family. If you don’t someone else will, usually a snake. God does hold you accountable for not following His guidelines, remember Adam’s story. 2) All of your reasoning and thinking for being disobedient to God’s principles, laws, and statutes are just excuses. Those imaginations and thoughts come from your love of the world and the things in it. In plain words you reason out your excuses, blame someone or something else, and love your world more than you love your God. 3) This world only offers three types of sin. There are only three classes of temptation for the love of this world and you can and must be aware of them in order to overcome them through Christ.

1 John 2: 15-17

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world- the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life- is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” (NKJV Emphasis mine.)

Do you remember the description of the garden when God placed Adam in it?The trees were good for food, pleasing to look at, and give life. Do you remember the temptations Eve had before she ate the fruit of the forbidden tree? It was pleasing to eat, looked good, and promised prideful knowledge. Adam was not deceived, he knew the rules and ignored them. Did his love for the world overshadow his love for God. Is it our own thoughts and desires that tempt us to love the world more than our desire to please God?

The point of all this is the story of the Garden of Eden and New Testament scriptures reveal truth about our problem today. We tend to love the world and the things in it more than we love our God. This love for the world leads us to thoughts, imaginations, and reasoning’s not of God. These lead to disobedience and sin. Sin is what separates us from God and all that He is. Sin was the same in the beginning as it is today. If we examine the types of sins more closely, we are more able to name our shortcomings. This will better prepare us to take those thoughts and imaginations captive in obedience to Christ. (2Corinthians 10:5 NIV) In doing so we conform not to the world but transform our minds, so that we may not sin but walk in obedience to God as found in Romans 12:1-2.(NIV)

LUST OF THE FLESH: Described as cravings for sensual gratification in the Amplified Bible. Also referred to as desires for sinful sensual pleasure in the NKJV. The detailed description as works of the flesh found in Galatians 5:19-21 as noted in the KJV of the Dake’s Reference Bible.

LUST OF THE EYES: Described as greedy longings of the mind in the Amplified Bible. Also referred to as covetousness or materialism in the NKJV. The KJV of the Dake’s Reference Bible lists the following: lust for women, eyes full of adultery, covetousness, all things desired, idol worship, and all kinds of evil.

PRIDE OF LIFE: Described as assurance in one’s own resources or in the stability of earthly things in the Amplified Bible. Also referred to being proud about one’s position or achievements in this world in the NKJV. Described as vain boasting of all kinds in the KJV of Dake’s Reference Bible including: self-righteousness, positions, power, riches, beauty, strength to war, and vaunting one’s self in the pleasures of life.

I purpose in this writing to help each of us become more aware of the temptations to do evil that have existed from Adam even until today. Our reasoning’s of something not being all that bad, or everyone else does it, or it is culturally acceptable in our time, or my favorite I have free will to make my own choices are all wisdom of the world. God’s wisdom lies in the fear of God, adherence to His principles, and humble thanksgiving for grace and mercy given through the blood of Christ.

I hope not to condemn anyone but only shed light on what God sees as sin, so as to help us be more aware of the world’s temptations. It is the Holy Spirit and the Word of God that will convict you of any transgression that God is wanting your attention. If this does occur, I have one more scripture for you.

1John 1:9 ” If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just (true to His own nature and promises) and will forgive our sins and [continuously] cleanse us from all unrighteousness [everything not in conformity to His will in purpose, thought, and action].” Amplified Bible

Be blessed. If you desire to look a little deeper into this world and the sin in it from a Christian perspective, read Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis.

Donald Williams

 

STAN the MAN

I can’t say I was shocked when I heard the news that one of baseball’s most famous players Stan Musial had passed away last week at the age of 92. I can say I was sad. His death does mark a great loss to baseball and its fans. No, I didn’t know Mr. Musial personally but I did understand what a powerful influence he had been to the sport and to all those that played it at any level. Stan the Man as he was known was one of those rare sports figures that left a good feeling in your heart about the game and the people who played it.

Stan Musial played his entire career for the St.Louis Cardinals during the 40′s and 50′s era. He achieved many awards and set several baseball records during his playing time with the Cards. He was also voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on his first year of eligibility. He was a great baseball player. He was also more than that. He was a renown sports figure that displayed all the qualities for a youth role model.

I cannot write of Mr.Musial’s personal life and very little of his professional life, I didn’t know him that well. I am sure there will be even more stories, articles, and books written about him by people that actually knew him on both levels. I hope they do. I believe it will support this writing that he was one that could be looked up to by the youth of today. He was not the only one, there were several in his era and have been several since, but they are harder to find.

No, this will not be one of those bash the sports figures of today for their sloppy lives or moral mistakes. Again others with more knowledge of the actual events and people will have plenty to say about the failings of our sports models of today. I am not even attempting to say that Mr.Musial was a perfect man. We all know scripture says we all sin and fall short of the glory of God. I am sure he had his failures too. So, if my intent is not to compare sports heroes of today and yesterday, and not to idolize Mr.Musial. What is my intent of this story?

I was sad when I heard the news that one of my sports heroes from my youth had passed away. Did having Stan Musial play baseball during the era when I was growing up have a dramatic affect on my life? Probably not, but he represented a time in my life that is held together only as a memory now. With the passing of each of those famous persons of that era, I am forced to stop and remember the times and the people in my life.

It was June, 1959. I was a nine year old less than star rating outfielder for the Scottsville Little League Reds baseball team. I was still new to the adventure of organized baseball. I know I had a difficult time managing those looped knee socks. On me they wanted to keep sliding down. It could have been they were two sizes too big, or at that age I was two sizes smaller than most of the rest of the team. My big brother was on the team as well along with many of my friends from our church. One of my friend’s dad was the coach and my dad helped some too.

That year as a special treat the Little League organization, comprised of four teams, the Reds, Cards, Cubs, and Giants, their coaches, about 60 or so players took a trip to a major league baseball game. The league directors had solicited tickets from the major league teams closest to our area for a discount rate for all the players. The league paid for each player and borrowed the buses from the local school district. From central Kentucky there were only two directions to go, north to Cincinnati or west to St.Louis. Each town and ballpark where about 3 hours drive away.

June, 1959 the Little League Reds, Giants, Cubs, and Cards traveled to see the Major League teams St.Louis Cardinals at home play the visiting Chicago Cubs in Busch Stadium. The star player for the Cardinals was third baseman Stan the Man Musial. On the opposing team was Ernie Banks, prize shortstop for the Chicago Cubs. Every little league player worth his salt traded Topps baseball cards at that time. The gum was good, the five pack trading cards for a nickel were great. Each of us had a treasured old shoe box under our bed filled with the picture cards of our favorite players. Everyone on that bus knew the name of Stan the Man Musial and probably had one of his cards.

Now you are expecting some intricate tale of our experience that day. Sorry, but I can tell you I saw Stan the Man Musial play third base that day. I also got the opportunity to see Ernie Banks play that day. I don’t remember any famous catch or hit of the day. I do remember how excited I was to be in a major league ballpark with my friends in our little league uniforms. You might have thought we were the back up players in case someone didn’t show. I have the memory of being there that day. I can still visualize the old ball park and the great third baseman so far away on the field. I couldn’t see his face too well but I knew who he was and now I remember who he was. Thanks Stan the Man for another pleasant memory. You will be missed.

One of my friends who made that trip with me, the one whose dad was the coach of our Little League Reds, passed away also last week. I was sad to hear the news. I remember him as well. Thanks for the memories, you will be missed.

DON’T BLAME EVE !

Session One:

Scriptures from NIV

SIN, we all do it (Romans 3:23); a sin nature, we all have it (Romans 1:18). So where did all this rebellion and disobedience toward God get started? Romans 5:12 tells us it all started with one man, Adam. The first thing Adam did when he got busted was blame Eve, we as men have been doing the same thing ever since. We can always find an excuse for our sinful ways or blame someone or something for our disobedience. Well before we lay all this blame on Eve lets examine the facts. Eve may not be the problem, it could be her man. That reasoning or excuse we give may not be the problem; it could be, the man.

Lets read from Genesis 2:7-9 and see what happens there.

v7 “the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. v8 Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. v9 And the Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground- trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”

Did you notice the descriptions of the world that God originally gave to man? Pleasant to the sight, good for food, and God also supplied the tree of life, which we will come to see as man’s total dependence on God alone.

Lets drop down to verse 15 and read 15-17.

v 15 “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. v 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; v 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”

There are a few questions we must answer in order to fully understand what was just given to us in the previous verses. In the first verses we discover that God made this beautiful place that would meet every need that the man he created would ever need. In the prior verses we see God’s goodness because He places the man within this garden. The man is given instructions and work to do to maintain his new home. God placed Adam in charge and gave him the rulebook with very specific instruction. “. . . you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” It was a simple to understand rule and it was given to Adam, the man.

We will go on to Genesis Chapter Three, verses 1-13. Due to their length, I will ask you to read these verses in your own Bible then return here for further study.

In verse 13, Eve says, ” The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” Eve readily admits she was deceived and by whom. The serpent twists the words of God and raises doubt as to their truth beginning in the first verse through verse five.

In verse 6 we find Eve standing by the forbidden tree. What things about the fruit from the forbidden tree were tempting for Eve? She first saw that the fruit was good for food, just as God had intended for the trees of the garden to be. Secondly, Eve saw that the fruit of this tree was also pleasing to the eye, again similar to God’s intent for the trees of the garden. The third observation Eve made was that the fruit was also desirable for gaining wisdom. This was not in God’s original intent for the trees of the garden. By eating of the fruit from this tree Eve was expressing the desire to be made wise. She traded the tree of life for the desire to be wise. This trade for the knowledge of good and evil, prideful wisdom, was exchanged for total dependence on God found in the fruit of the tree of life.

Although verse six sounds very condemning to Eve in its beginning, the information we are given in the conclusion of verse six reveals the real problem. We know Eve was deceived. Where was Adam? The scriptures clearly state he was right there with her the entire time. He was listening as his wife was being tricked into not believing God. He watched her take some of the fruit from the forbidden tree and take a bite. He even took some from her  and ate it also. What was Adam doing during all of this? Clearly from the report given we can see that he was not leading his family, not confronting the lies being told to his wife, and not trusting God for the truth.

In verse 17, Chapter 3, God squarely puts the problem with Adam. God is directly speaking to Adam because He knows it is with him that the problem begins. God says He told Adam not to eat from the particular tree. Adam chose to listen to his wife rather than God.

Another quick look at verses 9-12 in Chapter 3 help define the problem God has with Adam. After he had disobeyed God, Adam and his wife hid from God in the garden. Verse 9 says,” But the Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’” God was speaking directly to Adam. He asks Adam why he was hiding, not Eve. When God specifically asks Adam if he has eaten from the forbidden tree, Adam responds with the answer of a sinful man. Adam chooses to blame Eve for his own sin rather than taking responsibility for his actions.

Adam much like all of us, attempts to ease his guilt and shame from sin by making excuses or blaming others. The peculiar thing about this story is that Adam tries to blame the one he has been given responsibility for protecting. Our examination today reveals that Adam may need to share most of the blame not Eve. The point of our study is not to prove blame, but to help each of us better understand our common problem, sin. Sin began with the desire to have wisdom to provide for ourselves over trusting God for all we need. Next session we will explore further the nature of sin.

 

SONGS of the SEASON

Whether you are a Christian or not, this time of the year will find you humming along to the “songs of the season”. Of course I am talking about Christmas. Even if you prefer saying “Happy Holidays” instead of the rightful name of the season, “Merry Christmas”, I venture to say some of those songs that you sing along are about Christ’s birth. The celebration of His birth is the complete reason that we have this holiday season. Oh, for sure we have added Santa, snowmen, and sleigh rides, but the time is set aside to honor and remember the birth of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Now, before you exit the page I too like snowmen and Santa, not so much carriage rides, but really, we all know it is about Christ and the miracle of His birth.These songs we sing about Christmas are primarily about the events of the night of His birth and the gift of salvation He brings.

The radio airways are inundated with Christmas songs this time of year.  Many air the season’s  music all day long, every day till Christmas.  Not just the Christian stations but even the secular stations of rock, country, or contemporary play the Christmas music continually. It is safe to say that the majority of  their music also is about Christ’s birth. It is almost impossible to separate the holiday season from Christmas and Christ. Many of the songs that we hear are from our current times, having been written within the past 75 years due to the capability to record music. A great number of our most treasured Christmas songs were written long ago for use in our church worship services. The old Christmas hymns remain as time honored favorites to celebrate the season.

Have you ever considered the very first “Songs of the Season”? I am talking about the first Christmas songs that were voiced to celebrate the birth of the Christ child. These lyrical words were composed by the people and angels present at the time of His birth, and even before. The songs we sing today were written after His birth as our way of celebrating and remembering the significance of that wondrous event. The songs at the time of Jesus’ birth were a celebration of the glad tidings but also served as an announcement of the birth of the long awaited Saviour.

There is much we can learn from these original Christmas songs and the people who sang them. Now some of those first songs have been set to music in later times and are still beautiful to hear. I can not say for sure that when the words were first spoken that they were sung, I don’t know. I can say for sure that when they were given voice that they were done with joy. One additional aspect that we can know for sure is that they were done by the prompting of the Holy Spirit. These two aspects of singing songs about the birth of Christ are ones that we as believers today would benefit from their use. Rather than just humming along to the tune, we too can, with the help of the Holy Spirit, sing them with great joy in our hearts.

The original Christmas songs announcing and celebrating the birth of the Christ child are all recorded in scripture. There are four of them cited in the book of Luke found in the first two chapters. The four we are given are The Song of Mary, The Prophecy of Zacharias, The Song of the Angels, and The Song of Simeon. In the text preceding each of the three songs spoken by people participating in the birth event, we are told that the Holy Spirit moved them to speak their words of great joy.

The first recorded Christmas song was the Song of Mary found in Luke 1:46-55. Mary, the mother of Jesus, had just arrived at her relative Elizabeth’s home for a visit. They had shared blessings to celebrate. Elizabeth was pregnant with a long awaited son, to be named John, and the forerunner of the Christ child. Mary was awaiting the birth of Jesus. In their joy, Mary began to voice her praise to God for the blessing of the Savior to be born. She spoke of blessing given to her a lowly maidservant and the great thing God had done for her and the generations to follow. In her praise she sung of the mighty mercies of her God and the love He had shown to all of Abraham’s seed forever. She gave words of great joy and praise that we too can share even today.

The next song of the season came from Zacharias, the father of John, soon after his birth. The words are found in Luke 1:67-79. Being filled with the Holy Spirit, Zacharias began blessing God for the “horn of salvation” to be raised up for Israel and all the people. He thanks God for His holy covenant to send a Redeemer. With great joy he blesses his son John as the “prophet of the Highest”. He proclaims that John will go forth to “prepare His ways” and ” give knowledge of salvation to His people.” Again we too can share with Zacharias’ words of praise and joy in their reading.

The third song of the season is probably the most familiar. It is known by believers and non alike. The words of the angels sung to the shepherds on the night of Christ’s birth are found in many of our new and old Christmas songs. The story begins in Luke2:8 and continues through verses 13-14. The angels proclaimed the birth of the Savior, Christ the Lord. Then a great host of angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” Although it is the shortest of the tidings of great joy, the words of the angels spoken that night, live on in our hearts and songs today.

The last song of the season of the originals, comes from Simeon and is found in Luke 2:29-32. At the time Jesus was presented in the temple by his parents, a devout man named Simeon blessed the Christ child as he held Him in his arms. Simeon had been given the blessing of a promise to see the Christ child before his death. Can you imagine the joy in his heart when he held Him close. We too can share Simeon’s joy because he mentioned us in his words of praise. He said he had seen God’s salvation for all peoples and “a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles.” That’s us! Mary and Joseph marveled at his words and so can we with praise and great joy.

I hope you will take some time this merry Christmas season to read the words of the four original “songs of the season.” I believe you will find that as you take the words into your own heart the Holy Spirit will give you joy to sing them them with praise. So, go ahead and sing along with the Christmas songs on the radio and at your worship services. Have some hot cocoa, enjoy time with friends and family, have a very Merry Christmas! When you find some quiet time, look at the first Christmas songs, you will be glad you did. Merry Christmas to all.

NOT GONE YET!

Each of us has heard and probably used the familiar phrase, “Gone But Not Forgotten.” Well I want to introduce you to an updated version that you can begin using immediately. “Not Gone Yet, Don’t Forget”, this catch phrase may seem strange but hopefully the following blog will help clarify the statement. In case you are not sure when this phrase will be appropriate to use, I will offer some suggestions as well.

This past week my wife and I made our annual pilgrimage to the homeland for what my family calls the “Newman Family Picnic”. Now the homeland is southern Kentucky and honestly there are no more Newman’s by name in the family. It was my grandparents name, they were fortunate to have four girls whose names all changed with marriage. As a child I began attending these once-a-year family gatherings held around Labor Day. My grandmother would be there, her four daughters, their husbands and all us cousins, nine to be exact. This was not our only get together each year but it was a special event set aside for a family picnic, usually at a near-by park.

ROCK CITY BARN

If you grew up anywhere in the south  in the past 50 years you are familiar with Rock City in Chattanooga, Tennessee. This mountaintop attraction is widely known for its unique attractions and high mountain views. I have been a few times and would highly recommend it for a family vacation trip. Many years ago during the decades of the 50′s and 60′s, highway billboard advertising became the latest marketing tool. In an effort to more widely advertise their attraction the owners of Rock City came up with a unique twist to the roadside ads. They sent out a crew of barn painters throughout the south to paint “SEE ROCK CITY” or similar slogan on hundreds of barns along the well traveled highways of the southern states.

By now you are probably confused and wondering how all this family gatherings and barns can possibly be related, and what in the world does it have to do with our new catch phrase? In our plans to travel to Kentucky for the annual family gathering, we decided to take a few extra days and meander throughout Tennessee and Kentucky on the old highways looking for ”Rock City” barns. There are very few left, perhaps only less than 100 remaining. Those left are often in poor condition and disrepair. The painted signs of long ago barely discernible now. The major highways of long ago once traveled by vacationers have given up their honor to the interstates of today.

ROCK CITY BARN

In our recent travels we included my remaining family and the remaining special barns in our itinerary. Both were given special consideration in our time available and importance of activity. They were set aside, given honor based solely on their value of yesterday that continues even through today. The specially painted barns were the hottest marketing idea of their time. They were unique and represented what I would contend as good family fun. If you were fortunate to have visited Rock City with your family then the trip probably holds cherished memories of a good time together. Now my purpose is not to be an advertisement for the attraction although I do still recommend it for families. My purpose here is to honor the tradition of the painted barns and the culture they represented.

I am quite sure that there is no scripture which says honor your painted barns but I am just as sure that honoring our parents and what they represented is important to God. I can’t say my grandmother was a towering pillar of faith. I was a child, she was a strong good woman. I do know she accepted Christ as her Savior and was baptized. Her four daughters were all women of faith and made sure all their children were instructed in the way of the Lord. They all left a legacy of faith and fear of the Lord for their children to honor and observe.

There is only one daughter left now and her health is fading. There are still nine “Newman” cousins and a host of spouses and children and grandchildren to add to the number now. We still gather because we enjoy visiting one another and catching up on current events as well as reminiscing of the times together in our past. I believe the most important reason we still set aside this special time together and travel to distant locations is this represents our parents. It is our small way to continue to honor who they were and what they represented.

ROCK CITY BARN

Just as the fate of the majority of the “Rock City Barns” along with my grandparents and parents may well be described  as “Gone but not Forgotten”, I choose to think of what they represented as “Not Gone Yet, Don’t Forget.” If I am still writing this blog and you are taking the time to read it then most certainly you and I are “Not Gone Yet.” So let us not forget the legacy of faith, family, and fun left to us by our family now past. As long as there are a few of us cousins remaining I suppose we will continue not to “Forget” and gather annually. After that, I imagine the tradition may dwindle away. In a few more years the remaining badly deteriorating barns with the special paint jobs will also be gone, but they are “Not Gone Yet.” I hope not to forget and continue my search for more of the elusive structures. They are important because they remind me of a seemingly pleasant past.

If for whatever reason you cannot relate to my ramblings of a remembered pleasant past and legacy of my parents, then I apologize. I can suggest that if you are “Not Gone Yet” it is not too late to leave a legacy for your own children. Start a new tradition, reveal your faith to them. Let them see and hear how you value God and family. Then when you are gone, they will say, “Don’t Forget” as they remember the legacy you left for them.

ROAD TRIP FINAL MILE

In our last entry we had scaled the Continental Divide with our mystery friend and watched the odometer of the old Ford pick-up roll past 100,000 miles. That was 1961. I received the last batch of photos from my sister-in-law of their recent ”out west” trip. Their exploration of Yellowstone National Park for a week duration concluded the adventure packed re-creation of the earlier road trip taken by my family. I am sure the park and its facilities have much improved since our trip long ago but the recent photos are a testimony to the wildlife and raw natural beauty that still exists there.

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK 2012

During their romp around the park my brother and his wife parked the camper at one site and traveled about during the day to various scenic wonders inside the park. They did visit the famous Old Faithful Geyser and true to its name it once again was on time with a magnificent water spray. There are many other geysers and hot water springs found throughout the area, though not as famous, they are spectacular in their own right.

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK 2012

 

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK 2012

One geological wonder explored on their trip was the Sulphur Caldron. I was not aware that such a natural anomaly even existed.  Sulphur Caldron is a muddy pool arising near the border of an active area of Yellowstone’s buried volcano. Sulphur-rich gases rise into the pool creating a pond of sulphuric acid. It is difficult to imagine but this pool even supports living organisms.

SULPHUR CALDRON 2012

One attribute that continually draws visitors to the majestic Yellowstone Park each year is the variety and abundance of wildlife visibly available within its borders. There the visitors can see some of the wild’s most unique animal life in their natural habitat. These larger than life creatures are even more magnificent when viewed on their own territory.

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK 2012

Elk, buffalo, and many other large animals that once roamed a vast portion of our nation are still accessible in Yellowstone. In her note with the photographs, my sister-in-law revealed that my brother wanted to venture closer to the herd of buffalo but wisely refrained. It could have been dangerous to the protected beasts.

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK 2012

During their trip they too crossed the Continental Divide at one of its many inter-sectors. The only thing missing in this photo are two boys enjoying a once (or maybe twice) in a lifetime road trip.

CONTINENTAL DIVIDE 2012

I hope you have enjoyed our revisit to an “out west” road trip. I am sure my brother and his wife made many new memories and have even more new stories to share now. I appreciate them sharing the photos of their trip which we blended with the pictures of my family trip years ago. It was a great adventure back then and fun to re-live once more. The old Ford truck did safely return us home, although the homemade camper was worn and torn on the last leg of the trip. That was a “road trip” to remember! Thanks for coming along.

                          ROAD TRIP 1961

 

 

EVEN MORE ROAD TRIP

When we got back in the old red Ford pickup last time we were following the dinosaur over the hill headed to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. Before we leave South Dakota, my brother reminded me of a story during our 1961 visit that I wish to share with you as well. He even sent me a post card as a reminder.

Chief at Mt. Rushmore 2012 Postcard

As the story goes according to my brother, while we visiting Mt.Rushmore during our 1961 out west road trip, my mom had an unusual encounter with a Native American Chief. When asked by the Chief where her native home was located, my mother replied that she was from Kentucky, born and bred. The wise Chief quickly responded before turning to go, “Is that the state with pretty horses and fast women?” I am not sure but I believe my mom probably would have shouted out, “well, of course!”

Moving on, please. The next portion of our trip through the west included lots of riding in the truck onward to our destination of Yellowstone Park. I do recall one stop along the way that reminds me of the fun we had on that trip. My brother and I always thought we could talk our dad into doing fun things, as I grew older I began to realize that he just made us plead for the fun of it. He had already thought of the fun idea and decided to do it. All the pleading was for his entertainment. We took a break one night of our travels and stopped early at what was then the ultimate modern campground. This camping area had a swimming pool, playground, and snack shop. It was a fun break for us, the swimming pool being a huge change from our back home creek swimming hole. We probably stayed in the pool for hours till time to turn in for the night.

Yellowstone National Park  July 4, 1961

I am not sure about the planning but I can tell you that our arrival at Yellowstone National Park was timing perfect. We entered the park on July 4th, 1961! I couldn’t imagine then any better place to be on our nation’s birthday. To our surprise there was snow. The higher elevations had remaining snow drifts. I do remember the idea of wearing summer clothes and playing in the snow was such fun. Yes, that my folks throwing snow balls at their young children, I thought it was supposed to be the other way around!

OLD FAITHFUL GEYSER 1961

Next stop, inside the park one of our national treasures, Old Faithful Geyser! This cone shaped geyser located above 7000 feet elevation, erupts about every 1-2 hours spewing hot water upwards of 180 feet for about 2-3 minutes. As in its name it is faithful to discharge thousands of gallons of water on time for the park tourists. I have not received the new photos of Old Faithful yet but I can show you how it (we) looked in 1961. The geyser has remained faithful all these years.

Waiting OLD FAITHFUL GEYSER, 1961

I am not sure how long we sat and waited for the next eruption of Old Faithful. I am pretty sure I needed a longer t-shirt. That was a fun day, I do remember feeling the warm spray of the water as the wind blew it our way during the eruption.

YELLOWSTONE PARK 2012

As we made our trip through Yellowstone there were numerable stops to see the immense scenery along the way. The deep canyons and gorges, wild rivers with waterfalls, the high mountains, and the animals native to the area made for never ending sites to view or photograph. I do recall as in the next old photo, my dad scaling to the edge of the cliff to get a picture, close enough to get a retort from my mom. She was afraid we would want to try also.

YELLOWSTONE PARK 1961

One of the sites where we camped during our stay in Yellowstone Park was the Shoshone National Forest in Wyoming. This two million+ acre national forest was created by federal protection in 1891. The Yellowstone National Park forms part of its boundary to the west. I remember this portion of our adventure very well. We camped within the forest a couple of nights just beside the river that transverses the forest. This campsite was a true rugged outdoor adventure. We cut our own firewood from the dead wood near the river. The campfire was our source of fire for cooking and heat from the cold nights since we slept outdoors in our bedrolls.

SHOSHONE NATIONAL FOREST 1961

The river was raging and swollen while we there, far too swift for wading or swimming. I do recall seeing floating debris swiftly passing our site washed from upstream. Some of the debris included water floats and rafting tubes, I remember thinking I hope no one was in them when they were washed away.                                                                

HORSE CREEK, SHOSHONE NATIONAL FOREST, 1961

It was a highlight of our travels. An opportunity to really be outdoors and feel like we were roughing it as the old westerners did many years ago. As we left Yellowstone National Park, our travels took us across the Continental Divide into the Grand Teton Mountains. I do recall at some point our dad stopping along the highway and having my brother and I move to the cab of the truck. The truck odometer was about to turn 100,000 miles as we made our incline to the divide. It was a milestone for the trip, and a necessary prayer that the truck would get us back home again.                                                                      

CONTINENTAL DIVIDE, 1961

I am not too sure who the lady is in the photo, but I have noticed she seemed to be following us, she was in another photograph of our trip. Our trip from long ago would take us south through Utah, Colorado, Kansas, and back to Kentucky. It was a memorable trip. In our final entry to Road Trip next time I hope to show you some of the photos of Yellowstone from my brother’s 2012 trip. See you on the road again soon.

 

 

BRING IT ALL : CONCLUSION

UNTO YOU, O Lord, do I bring my life. Psalm 25:1 (Amp.)

As we conclude our study of Psalm 25 authored by David, let’s do a quick review. David begins this psalm with a total surrender of his life to God. He brings all of his life in complete submission. This act of turning his life over to God is done out of strength and wisdom gained through experience. As we  noted in lesson one, David is not making a desperate last ditch plea. He is not fretful or anxious as he calls out to the Lord. He reveals his confidence and faith in his God. His trust allows him to say boldly that God will hear his request not to be disappointed or put to shame. David’s submissive statement of surrendering all his life to God is quickly followed by requests for specific help to carry out his surrendering statement. In part two of our lessons we saw that David got very specific for the help experience had taught him he would need to make it. He was willing to be guided and taught even at the cost of correction for error. In our last part we saw some awesome promises of God revealed in the answers to David’s prayer. In His answers God’s truth  relate to us even today several promises that are ours as we keep His covenant. We discovered that God desires a deep personal relationship with each of us individually, and that relationship includes a personalized covenant with personal meaning meant for only us.

In our closing seven verses of Psalm 25, we see David winding down from the high of discovering God’s hidden promises in His answers of truth, to a more resolute mind set. David sets about to close his prayer but he he does not want to leave any request or statement unsaid. To satisfy his mind and heart David goes through a series of related faith statements and prayerful requests to his God, the only one who can help him. In verse 15 David says, “My eyes are ever toward the Lord, for He will pluck my feet out of the net.” In this self assuring statement of faith,  David is remembering and recognizing God’s faithfulness and strength in past time of need. His present circumstance and situation remind him of past troubles as well and David calls out to God to “. . . be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.” in verse 16.

Verses 17,18, and 19 reflect David’s troubles and the weight they have burdened upon him. He says his troubles are multiplied, his distresses surround him, and his affliction and pain are heightened. The sum of all this conflict leave David feeling lonely and afflicted. All at once his enemies have been magnified. In verse 19 he says, “Consider my enemies, for they abound: they hate me with cruel hatred.” It may not seem so odd to see all this emphasize being suddenly placed on David’s troubles. In the beginning of our study David ‘s statements of surrendering his whole life seemed based from his faithful experiences not fretful pleas. Now David feels the urgency to make God aware of his troubles and how they have distressed him to the point of loneliness.

David, as many others in the Bible, is experiencing the ebb and flow of the Holy Spirit as he returns from his personal experience with God. Many times we see in the scriptures where following a close encounter or personal experience with God the believer experiences a downward emotional turn. Elijah, Moses, even Peter had this similar experience. We too must be aware not to allow our emotions to override God’s truth.  The thoughts of the individual turn toward himself as he leaves the brilliance of God’s presence. As the glow of being in God’s presence diminishes our natural man begins to set his mind on the things of earth, not God’s power and promise. We must constantly renew our mind set in favor of God’s truths so we do not magnify our earthly woes. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

The last three verses of our psalm reveal the strength of David’s heart for God. Verse 20, “O keep me, Lord, and deliver me; let me not be ashamed or disappointed, for my trust and my refuge are in You.” He has set his mind and heart to be resolved to depend on God. In this statement he is reissuing his surrender to God no matter what the circumstances. He “trusts” God to deliver him and also claims God’s “refuge” if he must go through the trial. Verse 21, “Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for and expect You.”  I have prayed this same plea many times with the knowledge that I cannot walk in integrity or possess uprightness on my own. David is acknowledging his weakness and God’s strength as he walks in faith and hope. In verse 22, I usually insert my name in the recitation of this psalm prayer, “Redeem Israel, O God, out of all their troubles.” I believe it is a prayer we can claim as our own.

Psalm 25 is a very important prayer to me personally. I chose to set this one to memory long ago as God enlightened me of its value to me. There are many others of value, you certainly have your own favorite or memorable scriptures. Remember we each have a special covenant with our Lord with hidden meanings just for us. As you are led to claim your own special verses of God’s Word, be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. He knows which ones have a special meaning for your life in Christ. I hope this examination of Psalm 25 has been fruitful to you as we studied together. Let Christ lead you in your walk with God. Amen.

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