Archive of ‘OBSERVATIONS’ category

THE COST OF COMPLACENCY

PART ONE:

If I were to ask you are you a complacent person, what would you say? Many of you might take the question as a compliment confusing it with being a peaceful content sort of guy. You would be wrong! Allow me to tell you the Webster’s definition of complacency: self- satisfaction accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies. This definition doesn’t really sound like anything I want to be, especially as a Christian man. Being self-satisfied borders on prideful, and unawareness of actual (not imaginary) dangers and deficiencies borders on foolish. Neither of these characteristics, foolish or prideful, should characterize a follower of Christ. In scripture we are admonished to be just the opposite. We are to be humble, yet wise. So, what’s the big deal? We can agree as Christians that being that complacent fellow is not who we want to be. So what is a little complacency going to hurt? I hope to show you that it is a big deal and being complacent can be very costly!

In our modern culture we struggle just to survive sometimes. We are constantly bombarded daily with choices to make and issues to tackle. Even or maybe more so by a Christian man, we persistently have to look for truth. We as Christians have God’s word to help us, but I believe that the world can sometimes twist the truth to the point of being overloaded with information to consider. I am sure you agree. One of the greatest tragedies of this new age culture is becoming complacent. We are so overcome by political correctness and popular opinion that we can easily fall prey to just going along. What if they do this or that, it doesn’t affect me. Or, oh well, it’s not that bad! These illusions are examples of unawareness of danger. The cost of complacency can be high. Very high!

In this study I hope to reveal to you the cost of complacency in our time and the future effects, the era when our children will deal with the consequences of our complacency. If we learn now, perhaps we can deal with it correctly, and lower the high price for ourselves and our children. Complacency is not a new product of our post modern theology, it has been around for a long time. It has always been costly, perhaps in different ways in another culture, but still a high price to pay. We will look at complacency from a distant past, not too long ago, and the present age. With these perspectives perhaps we can preview the cost of complacency in the future. Armed with awareness of future dangers we can avoid the pride of self-satisfaction and not allow ourselves to become complacent.

If you will take your bibles, turn to 1Samuel, Chapter 27. Here we find a story of complacency from long ago. We will discover how complacency was allowed, its very high cost, and hopefully its cure. If you read Chapters 27-30, the entire story of how David, the King of Israel, allowed complacency to seep into his life. His complacency reveals how even a great man of God, can become complacent and the high consequences he and others would pay for his pride and foolishness. We will now examine the details of the story.

David has been chosen by God and annointed by Samuel the prophet to be Israel’s next king. Saul the current king in his own prideful sin to keep the kingdom for himself and his heirs begins a hunt to end David’s life. After a few harrowing episodes, David convinces Saul that he is not a threat to Saul. Saul and David part ways, still not trusting each other, but in different places. This is where our story begins in Chapter 27. In the first verse the two-fold trap of complacency becomes evident in David’s life. He “thought to himself ” and decided to go to the land of the Philistines to hide from Saul. David’s self-satisfaction that he could protect himself rather than trusting God to keep His chosen king safe led to David’s choice to hide in the land of Israel’s greatest enemy with no awareness of the danger of living there. This is the model of complacency. Not only did David’s complacency put him in danger but also his 600 loyal men and their families.

David made his home in the middle of the Philistines, Israel and God’s enemy, and a stone throw away from the band of “ite” tribes (Amalekites, Girzites, Geshurites). These people had been waring with Israel since Joshua led them into Canaan. Yet in his pride and foolishness, David felt no danger and was satisfied. David continued in his complacent behavior and added lying, deception, and manipulation to ensure his safety. He convinced the king of the Philistines he was his friend by raiding the “ite” bands but saying he got the spoils from raiding Hebrew outskirt villages. When the time came for a showdown between the Philistines and the Israel nation, David deceived the Philistine king and pretended to be ready to fight against his own people. David and his 600 men sat around with the Philistines for three days, probably retelling the pebble story, while waiting to fight the army of Saul. By God’s intervention, the Philistine commanders sent David and his men back home, so they did not have to fight. It is quite imaginable that David was really full of himself by now. The ruse had worked.

David had been complacent, self-satisfied and foolish. Complacency has a very high cost. 1Samuel 30:3 says, ” When David and his men came to Ziklag, they found it destroyed by fire and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive.” Then David became aware of the actual danger and pride of his complacency, so did his men. His sinful, foolishness of trusting himself ,not his God, led to this bitter awakening. The scripture tells us that David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep. We see vividly the picture of complacency and the cost it will demand at some point. David had lost all that was dear to him, and he realized his mistake.

In the remaining verses of Chapter 30, we find the cure to David’s complacency and ours. Repentance, turning from his sin, and turning back to his God was David’s cure. The scripture says, “But David found strength in the Lord his God.” David having repented with his bitter tears, turned to trust his God again, and “David inquired of the Lord.” David was content to trust God now and ask Him what he should do. God graciously instructed David of what he should do, and David and his men were successful in that plan. They overtook the raiders, killing most of them. They rescued their families and recovered all that had been taken. The Bible tells us that nothing was lost or missing, and they even got more by taking what the raiders had also.  David recognized God had given them the extra above their loss and he shared it with the neighboring Hebrew tribes. His gratitude of being rescued from his complacency was evident to all.

There is alot to learn from this story of David in the Old Testament. It should encourage us to realize the importance of scripture from long ago. This was an actual event, real people were hurt and lives changed forever due to one man’s complacency. David was a man after God’s own heart, but he too was lulled into complacency and had to pay a high price for his sin. This story was given to us for a reason, and we would do well to learn its lesson. The cost of complacency was very high in that time and is so today. We saw self-satisfaction, unawareness, dangers, deficiencies, and cost in this old story. We also saw a cure for complacency. In the next part of our study we will examine other scriptures that were given to us to battle complacency and also look at some insights about complacency to increase our awareness of danger and the high cost of complacency.

SEASONS OF REFRESHING

     The book Seasons of Refreshing: Evangelism and Revivals in America by Keith J. Hardman combines both my favorite types of reading material : history and Christianity. At first glance I was not sure this would be an enjoyable read for even for me as I thumbed through the book. Although I consider myself a history buff of particular eras, the topic was not eye-catching. A brief look seemed to present a lot of names and dry biographical data. To my delight as I began to read the opening chapters I found a well presented description of Christianity on the move in our nation’s past.

     I believe one of the most intriguing aspects of this book was the way the author used the historical characters of note to create a movement of the events occurring in our national growth. This book could have very well been written with the emphasis on the individuals and their accomplishments. Every event detailed to highlight the individual achievement. It would have been a very dry history book. The manner in which the people and events were presented in the book gave me an opportunity to visualize the progression of our nation’s spirituality. Throughout the ebb and flow of the country’s warmness toward God, Dr. Hardman set the background of historical event in context to the cultural and social changes taking place in the growth of our nation. This book captivated my interest by creating a feel of God and man working together to bring about His good plan. I found myself more intrigued by how God was moving through change than I did the characters themselves. Although I cannot discount the individuals discussed in the book, I can say I more enjoyed the progression in a changing nation.

     So as not to dismiss the characterization produced by the author, I will admit the vivid portrayals of the important characters was splendid. I realize that a lot of research was done to compile such astounding detail to the main people noted in his text. His use of quotes from the individuals and the people close to them allowed an in depth look into their lives. I was especially fond of the character interaction with the other notables in our nation’s history. After having read this book I have gained a deeper insight as to what was actually occurring in that era. Similar to an in depth bible study where reading the narrative provides some understanding, but reading a narrative in it’s proper social and cultural context lends itself to much more interpretation; the author went to great lengths to set the stage and show vivid interaction between the people of note.

     Another intriguing aspect of this book was the manner in which the author explained the various theological and doctrinal issues that surfaced during our nation’s early history. Not only were the personal beliefs of the early evangelists well documented, the emerging doctrines of the newly formed denominations were brought into more clear focus by his detailed narrative. I admit there were several doctinal issues between denominations that were unclear to me, especially their origin. The author gave me insight into how the interpretation of our early church leaders nationally helped to give rise to the beliefs that our present day church adheres. I most definitely gained more understanding into the beliefs that helped mold our current church views.

     This does bring up a personal insight. Having observed through the author’s words the flow of Christianity in our nation’s history, I began to hold to the opinion that God not only has the plan for His kingdom on earth, but He works it through the changing social and cultural paradigms of the current era. An overview, as this book provides, seems to make more clearly the power and purpose of God in His interaction with mankind. When living in a certain era, the people even in their misguided ways see the world around them as changing, often not for the better. What the author makes more apparent in his book is that God not only allows certain misadventures but He is actually working through them to accomplish His good will. The most astounding part of all of this is that God then raises up men to accomplish His work. This book truly reveals the grace of God working through mere men. This brings me to another interesting opinion. Yes, these men must answer the call by choice, but the workings of these men that led to our nation’s great revivals and renewals were all the work of God. The setting in which we presently find ourselves as Christians may be strange and ever changing to us as humans, but I can believe that they are the work of God. I also believe that God is preparing individuals now for the work to come. When there is the next great revival in our nation or world it will be solely at the hand of God, we will experience it when we are prepared for its coming. His timing and grace will bring it about not the efforts of men.

     I found this book delightful. It was very satisfying to a history buff. Reading this book has prompted me to search a little deeper to examine the work of God’s hand in our historical evolution. The scope of the book was centered on revival and evangelism but a great deal of insight was revealed into our nation’s history. This book left me with a greater sense of awe of our God and His wisdom and power in our everyday lives and the events of our culture. After reading this work I have a renewed hope for our nation in troubled times knowing God is at work. A good read, check it out.

FAMILY REUNIONS

Recently my wife and I traveled to Kentucky for a long weekend visit. The occasion was two fold, one another opportunity to visit with my daughter and the other to attend my family reunion. This reunion or “family picnic” as referred to in my family is a yearly event usually held in September of each year. This tradition was begun many years ago when I was a child. My mother had three sisters and their mom (my grandmother) was still living as well. Now we did get together on other occasions like holidays, but this one gathering of all the sister’s families was a special separate event. The Newman family picnic originally was a huge picnic held at a nearby park. The location would vary in the south-central Kentucky or middle Tennessee area depending upon which of the sister families was coordinating the event for that particular year.

There would be lots of food, each sister seemed to have a specialty dish that would be anticipated to appear each year. The locale was always a place of interest to the many children of the sisters. All the cousins could explore the local park and play with only stops to snack on the leftovers of the main meal. This would be an all day event, beginning before the noon meal and shutting down in the late fall afternoon. The family gathering included the four sisters, their husbands, all my cousins, my grandmother, and on occasion some of my grandmother’s sisters and families as well. There was always lots of people and even more food. The kids had fun, the adults sat and talked about past common experiences of their childhood and caught up on the latest news. Those are especially good memories for me now.

As in the course common to all family groups, life brings changes. The children have children and grandchildren. The elder pass away one by one, leaving fewer of the original band of family to gather. This is family life. The distances that separate us grows larger and the expanding families face more challenges to gather everyone back together at one time. One thing and the most important of all of this is that the tradition continues. I personally cannot take any credit for the continuance of our traditional “family picnic”. I note here that the oldest of the original cousins valued the tradition and honored her family with the commitment to continue the tradition even in the midst of all the changing family dynamics. I personally say thank you to her for preserving that tradition. There is now only one of the sisters still with us. Though elderly, she still eagerly awaits each fall for the family gathering as do we all.

The point to all of this is the value of family and tradition. We are all blessed and given into a family. This was God’s design for relationships. Throughout the Bible we encounter many traditional events that were designed to continue down the ages. Their purpose was to bring remembrance to those remaining of the importance of that event. In the scripture we repeatedly are reminded of the value of family. It is the foundation of personal growth. I understand that not all have the same original family units and their childhood may not have included parents, siblings, cousins, and other family members. I am sorry for those who were denied that blessing. But what if new traditions were begun today. Those fortunate enough to have a family tradition would seize the opportunity and commit to participate. Those without a family tradition would begin one today for their families. It is the appropriate time to begin your own family tradition that will be valued and honored by those to come.

This year’s family picnic was fantastic. There was lots of good food and ample conversation. Two of our granddaughters attended the gathering with us as well as my daughter. It was good to get to visit with my aunt and all the cousins once more. A photo album containing vintage pictures of the family was a highlight for all. There were plenty of laughs at our childhood photos especially by our children. Another thing happened also, our children see the value of families and their traditions in action. Our family picnics are very enjoyable but they are also very important in teaching life lessons to our children as they were taught to us. I heard a pastor say once that being blessed is the easiest thing he could do, all he had to do was honor his father and mother. If he did God would bless him with long life and all would go well with him. Maintaining family traditions or even starting new ones honor our heritage. God initiated the family plan and we honor Him when we keep the tradition strong.

Although there were several who could not attend this year, there were plenty of us to have fun. As the extended families continue to grow there are even more new members added to the Newman tribe. Each year we all anticipate the event and hope to have the opportunity to see all the family together once more. I hope to be able to attend again next year and I hope all my siblings, cousins, and extended family make time for the “Family Picnic”. It is a family tradition and I am blessed to participate in honoring my family. If you have a family tradition participate, if not start one with your family. You will be blessed.

WHAT’S IN YOUR WALLET?

     Have you seen the TV commercial of the modern day vikings on vacation with the rewards of their special credit card? The ad ends with a close up of the card logo and the question: What’s in your wallet? I do like the ad but that is not the reason for this post. What’s in my wallet or yours, things that are valuable to us. There is money, credit cards, important medical information, and probably some photos of those we care about. We keep necessary and important items in our wallets.

     How about the word of God? I am not advocating trying to stuff the entire Bible into your wallet. What I am speaking about is a special scripture that has had a real and necessary impact on your life. A special verse of God’s word that you are impressed to realize was especially revealed to you at a particular time or to help you in a difficult situation  in your life. In the book of Jeremiah we as Christians are told that God will write His words upon our hearts (Jeremiah 31:32-33). That is a comfort to us, knowing that the Holy Spirit will help us recall God’s word. There are times I believe that God in His providence brings a special word to a believer to help. This word might be in a scripture we are reading, a word of encouragement from a friend, or a random verse of the day. Wherever it comes it rings special to us and we know it was a note from God.

     My pastor calls these special verses “refrigerator verses”. Verses of scripture that he puts on the door of the fridge so he can be repeatedly reminded of their significance in his life. Well my wife won’t allow anything on the door of the refrigerator, so I keep my special verse in my wallet. Granted there have been many verses over the years that I would name as my “wallet” verses. These special few are written on my heart and imprinted on my mind. They are faith sustaining life to my everyday journey. Allow me to tell you about the first one.

     I write about this one today not just because it was first, but recently I needed to remember it again. Hebrews 10: 36 says, “For you have need of patience, that, after you have done the will of God, you might receive the promise.”(NKJ) A quick background, I was just beginning an earnest Christian walk and a friend had given me one of those verse a day calenders. I was struggling, with my self, my walk, my seemingly very slow sanctification process, and lack of results. As a new disciple I expected sudden changes in my life, I was living for Christ now so everything should suddenly change the way I wanted it to be. Wrong! I still have the page from the day calender in my wallet, Tuesday, May 5th, 1998; Hebrews 10:36.

     My world was facing some dramatic changes about that time, none I wanted or anticipated. Where was the promise? Years later I can look back and see that God was in control of the whole picture and those changes were for my good and His glory. I was in need of patience, I needed to just keep doing what I knew to be God’s will, and trust the promises of God are true and real in my life. Once again I find myself facing some dramatic changes in my life, again not all anticipated or especially pleasant. I do feel I have grown a lot in my walk but I found myself being anxious for answers and wondering about the promises. Guess what I rediscovered in my wallet? I had forgotten it was there, God had not. He had led me to keep it all these years, knowing I would need to hear His words of assurance once more. I read them again, thanked God for caring so much. Yes, I put it back in my wallet. Only God knows when I will need it again!

MOSES CONE MEMORIAL PARK

 

     Early in September, 2010 on a weekend getaway to Blowing Rock, North Carolina my wife and I visited the Moses Cone Manor and Memorial Park. We had visited this lovely historic home along the Blue Ridge Parkway in prior visits to the area. This visit we had decided to include the adventure of experiencing one of the many walking trails surrounding the manor. This was to be our first deliberate endeavor of becoming mountain trail hikers.

     The Moses Cone Manor and Park is located at milepost 294 along the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway just about a mile from the town of Blowing Rock, North Carolina and a few miles from Boone. The park is operated and maintained by the U.S. Park Service. There is ample parking, wide open spaces, gorgeous views, a very interesting manor to tour, and clean restrooms!  The grounds include the manor with carriage house, an adjacent apple orchard and barn, and over 20 miles of interlocking hiking and horse trails. The manor house contains an information desk, crafts from local artisans, and a look at the Cone family history. The vistas from the old front porch of the manor are outstanding. The manor sets high on a hill overlooking the surrounding valleys and a view of Bass Lake below. This is where we begin our journey.

     It was a beautiful day in the mountains of North Carolina. The sun was bright in a near cloudless sky. The temperature hoovered in the 70′s, great sweatshirt weather. As we exited the porch a large wooden frame housed a map of the grounds and the inclusive trails of Cone Memorial Park. After a brief examination of the display, I had already viewed a similar map in the comfort of our hotel room with coffee, we set off on the hike to Bass Lake below. It was early morning and the lake far down the hill shimmered in the rising sun. If there had been a straight path from the manor down the hill to the lake, it would have been very steep and about a half a mile away. The trail that did lead down to Bass Lake was moderately sloped and 2.5 miles.

     The trail down was canopied by huge trees and mountain brush. It was mostly a graveled trail with mulched areas. The hiking trail shares the space-way with a horse trail and follows along what was named Duncan Road. The walk down the trail was very quiet, the enclosing forest buffering any outside noise. Occasionally the quiet would be interrupted by the approach of early morning runners making their laps. They were a welcome break from the solitude as long as you prepared for their swift passing of casual hikers. The only downside of the peaceful walk down the trail was the preoccupation of watching where we walked, I did mention it was a shared trail with horses! We actually saw no horses but we did see signs that they had been there before us. We passed an apple orchard on the way down and at times we would get a view back up the hill to the manor above.

     The Bass Lake grounds were great. There were numerous people walking around the paved track surrounding the lake. With its large parking lot and picnic areas it was obviously a popular park for the locals as well. I believe fishing is allowed at the lake but I am not sure. Half way around the lake the climb back toward the manor house begins. This trail was also 2.5 miles and moderately graded as well. The winding trail up was more open with views of the pastures and surrounding mountains than the trail taken down. Although the trail could be reversed for decent and ascent, I believe we chose the best route for us. The hike up was moderately

MOSES CONE PARK

strenuous but only to the point of taxing previously unused muscles of a novice hiker. The trail back to the manor crosses a trail to the park Apple Barn. We chose not to add this one to our menu, having thoughts of making it up the hill and luncheon downtown.

     I admit my legs felt as if they had been on their first mountain hike, but it was very exhilarating. The views were outstanding, the serenity was welcoming, and the challenge just enough. I would highly recommend this hiking trail for visitors to the area. I would rate it as easy to moderate mainly because of the well groomed wide pathway and easy slope of the climb. It was a great first trail for us and encouraging enough to prompt the next hike. We enjoyed the hike, the beauty of the land, and each others company. If you get the opportunity give this one a try. See you on the trail!

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