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“Awe and Wonder”

One of the most enjoyable things about social media, has been the ability to see videos from around the world, of the inventions that men have made.  My friend, Bob Beeler, and I share back and forth some the more remarkable things that we have watched.  Most of them are things that people have come up with to make chores easier.  The inventive mind of an individual is a most remarkable thing.

I don’t know where I read it, or, may be, just heard it; but someone has said that if you could take a man from the days of Abraham and put him in the late 19th century, he would adapt easier than a man from the late 19th century could adapt to our time.  You know that is really not that hard to believe.  Think of all the changes that we have seen in our life time — especially in the fields of technology, communication, transportation, and entertainment … we live in a world that seems to change on an almost daily basis.  I can remember about 20 years ago, taking an application from a young lady that was applying for a job in our office.  On the application, she listed a fax machine as one piece of office equipment that she could operate.  20 years later, that would not be considered much of an accomplishment.

I remember being fascinated by copy machines, electronic calculators, fax machines, cell phones, and that list could go on and on and on.  I don’t know where the stopping place is in what man can invent.  We have become so smart, so inventive, so proud of our accomplishments, so complacent about change — that we have become pretty hard to impress, or fascinate.

Psalm 104:1-4 (CSB) says:

My soul, bless the Lord!
Lord my God, you are very great;
you are clothed with majesty and splendor.
He wraps himself in light as if it were a robe,
spreading out the sky like a canopy,
laying the beams of his palace
on the waters above,
making the clouds his chariot,
walking on the wings of the wind,
and making the winds his messengers,
flames of fire his servants.
REMEMBER — regardless of what man does; the most magnificent, the most beautiful, the most breathtaking, the the most over-whelming, and those things that make us stand in awe and wonder — are the things that God has done.  My friend, Bob, and his wife, Darlene, are on a two week cruise, and ride through Alaska; and when they get back, I’m sure that they are going to have some stories to tell about the magnificence of the things that they saw.  How they stood in awe of what our God has created.  From a night staring at the stars in a clear west Texas sky, the awesome nature of the mountains, the grandeur of the valleys and canyons, the clear mountain creeks, the expanse of the ocean, the majesty of the trees that reach toward the sky, or whatever piece of nature that thrills your soul; always be mind of the awesome and wonderful God who gave it.  The beauty of the things of nature that I see, convince me of a God that I haven’t seen.
Let’s never lose a sens of awe and wonder at what our God has done.
(This was first posted on Facebook on July 27, 2016.  It has been updated, and reposted on this site as a part of our “Psalms on Saturday.”  As always, it is our prayer that it has been a blessing to and for you.  That you love and appreciation for our God may grow.  Bill)
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“Rumble for the Ages #2” — Round 1

If you can imagine Michael Buffer coming across the corridor of time, with his trademark “Let’s Get Ready to Rumble” — the clash of all eternity for the destiny of men is beginning.  It was something that had to happen, it was the “mystery” that God, the Father, had planned since before the beginning of time (Ephesians 3:8-9).  What many observers were wondering, was how come it had taken so long to happen.

Obviously, God the Father had to wait until the time was right (Galatians 4:4), and that time was now upon us.  But why had “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31) waited so long to do anything?  Did he not understand who this was, why He came, and what He intended to do?  It appeared that Satan was in no hurry, and when he HAD acted, it was too late (Matthew 2:16)!  One writer has said:

“During Jesus’ ministry, people were confused about what he was here to do.  At one point they wanted to force him to become a king (John 6:15).  Clearly, nobody, including his followers, had any category for a Messiah who was not a king.  All of them, even his closest disciples, had missed the predictions of the suffering servant.            But nobody behaved more strangely during this time than Satan. …”  (Dennis McCallum, Satan and His Kingdom, page 41)

Why had this confrontation been 30 years in the making?  Why had Satan waited until now to challenge this intruder they had come into his place of power?  This was going to be an epic battle.  Listen, carefully, to the blow by blow description of this first encounter.

And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil.  And he ate nothing during those days.  And when they were ended, he was hungry.  The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”  And Jesus answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone’.”  And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will.  If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.”  And Jesus answered him, “It is written,
               ‘You shall worship the Lord your God,
                       and him only shall you serve’.”
And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written,
                ‘He will command his angels concerning you,
                        to guard you.’
and
                 ‘On their hands they will bear you up,
                         lest you strike your foot against a stone’.”
And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test’.”  And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.  (Luke 4:1-13, ESV) 
If you are keeping a scorecard at home, there can be no doubt that this round belonged to Jesus, the Messiah.  Satan had come out hard, trying to land a “haymaker” right off the bat; but Jesus had avoided every blow — and counter-punched his way to win the first round decisively.
But as we sit, and wait, between rounds, there are a few observations that we need to make about what has happened:
   (1) According to verse 1, God, the Father, had “promoted” this event.  Jesus was …led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. …  (Luke 4:1-2, NIV).  It is as if, the Father realized that not only was it time for His Son, the Messiah to come in the flesh, but it was time for this conflict of the ages to begin.  Reading through the text, it seems as if the Spirit led Jesus out into the wilderness so that this confrontation could take place.
   (2) In Luke’s account, the second temptation reads  And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will.  If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.”  (Luke 4:5-7, ESV).  Over the years, people have argued that Satan was showing that he was the “father of all liars”, because he was offering something that was not his to give.  It is my opinion, that it was his to give — that ever since Eden he had been winning.  That sin was running rampant throughout the world and the ages.  Just look at some of the descriptions that are given to Satan in the Scripture (John 12:31; John 14:30-31; II Corinthians 4:4; I John 5:19), and recognize the status that he is given in the physical world.  He would have given all that up, to have the Messiah would fall down and worship him.  To some that may have seemed like surrender, but, you see, he had never forgotten Genesis 3:15, and had lived in fear of it since that day in the Garden.  If the Messiah had fallen down and worshiped him, God’s eternal plan would have been forever thwarted.
   (3) Obviously, Satan is NOT defeated by this first round.  Scripture says quite plainly that Satan departed until an opportune time (Luke 4:13< ESV).  Satan went back to his corner to rest, get patched up, lick his wounds, and prepare for the next round.  Let there be no doubt, there will be a next round — and Satan is in it win it!
This “Rumble for the Ages” with the Messiah in a physical body, that has cosmic implications, will continue.  We will be discussing “Round 2” next week, June 21st.                                                                                   

“Spirit Filled” (Bill Sherrill)

One hears a lot these days about “Spirit filled Christians.” For the life of me I cannot find any teaching in the Bible which would lead me to believe there is any other kind of Christian. When Peter delivered that opening sermon on the Day of Pentecost he promised the “gift of the Spirit” to all who would “repent and be baptized.” (Acts 2:38) Again the Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans, “But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” (Rom 8:9) All then, who are Christians, have been given the Spirit. Why do not all show that same Spirit in their lives? Is it not a matter of utilizing the gift? One can receive a gift and fail to use it. For all practical purposes it is like one being given a tractor to plow a field but never using it. The power was there, but it was not used. I would not want to be misunderstood. I know there are numerous times in God’s Word when phrases like, “The Spirit came mightily upon” someone, that is as an event of the moment, but that in no way discounts the fact that all Christians have the Spirit dwelling in them.

The problem arises when one fails to allow the Spirit to dominate the whole of one’s life. Jesus gave a very good way to know the good from the bad. He said, ““For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit;” (Luke 6:43) So there you are, fruit is the thing one looks for in matters of judgement.

What fruit do we look for in “Spirit filled Christians?” “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. (Gal 5:22-23) Do you want to know if a life is truly filled with the Spirit? Then use the yardstick of the Spirit’s own words. If you do not see love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control in the life, then you are not seeing a life producing the fruit of the Spirit. Words will not prove the test! A tree can easily be called “apple” but if it does not produce apples it is one of two things. Either it is an apple tree that fails, and Jesus tells us it will be “cut down and thrown into the fire, or it is not an apple tree and calling it one won’t change it. Paul continues with these powerful words: “Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.” (Gal 5:24-26)

Now, since we are all “Spirit filled Christians” let us determine that we will live in such a way that even our enemies cannot fail to see the fruit of the Spirit clearly exemplified in the life we exhibit.

Lest we become too judgmental, let me point out that even on a fruit tree there is a developmental process. First the bud, then the bloom and finally the mature fruit. That must surely be true of the fruit of the Spirit. It doesn’t come fully mature. Christians who are promised the indwelling Spirit do not begin with fruit fully mature. The point is that it should be growing toward that fullness and maturity. A lack of mature fruit does not indicate a dead tree, but a failure to see a developing fruit is frightening indeed.

Bill Sherrill
06.10.2018

(Just last week I told you that I would have articles from others on the first and third Tuesdays of the month, and book reviews on the second and fourth — so obviously, there should have been a book review today.  Well, I am reviewing a book for Moody Publishers called Transforming Presence “How the Holy Spirit Changes Everything — From the Inside Out” by Daniel Henderson.  There are several things that I don’t agree with, but there are a lot of things that are really good, and, then, there are some things that I want to consider some more.  SO, we are having an article from Bill Sherrill this week, and the book review next week.  I want my review to do this book justice, hope that you will look forward to that.  This article, from my preacher as a kid, Bill Sherrill, came as an email yesterday.  Because of the subject matter, I believed that it was appropriate to use today.  Bill)

Sentimental Pilgrimage

There are a few things that I am sentimental about, that tug at the strings of my heart every time that I see, or even think about them — a house on the corner of N. 38th and L in Fort Smith, the old building on Midland Boulevard in Fort Smith where the church of Christ once met, a little house on Baggett street in Springdale, Hulett Hall on the campus of York College, a couple of churches in Alabama and one in Texas, a few things that belonged to my parents, and same items that remind me of when our children were small.  Most of those place are not because of the buildings, or the value of the items; but because of the memories of the people that go with them.  Some of those places I have not seen in years ( have not been back to York College, since the fall of 1971).  There are some of those places that I need to go soon, because there are people that I care about that are aging (as I am) and may not be in this life much longer.

Those places that I would like to make a pilgrimage to — York College (some of my classmates are now president, faculty, and staff); Rogersville, Alabama (where I did my first full time local work); and Winters, Texas (where I grew the most as a minister).  I plan on being in Winters, one Wednesday in September (2016), while at the Abilene lectures; but I don’t know if and when I will ever make the other two (have made it to Rogersville, twice, since this was originally written).

But, you know, if I never get to make those other trips, it will be alright.  I was reminded this morning in my reading, that I am on a pilgrimage that is far more important.

Psalm 84:5 (CSB), Happy are the people whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.

I understand that this passage is talking about the Jews, who are in captivity and desire to “pilgrimage” back to the city of Jerusalem.  That they want to go back to the city where God dwelt among His people, and see if they can find the joy and happiness that they once had.  WE are on a “pilgrimage” through this life, to a place that is prepared for the people of God; a heavenly home in the presence of our God.

Hebrews 11:13-14, 16 (CSB), These all died in faith, although they had not received the things that were promised. But they saw them from a distance,greeted them, and confessed that they were foreigners and temporary residents on the earth. Now those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. … But they now desire a better place — a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

Let’s all be sure that our path on this pilgrimage is sure.  That we find our strength for the journey in the Lord.  That we set or hearts to seek those things that are above.  That we long to live forever in the presence of our God.  Peace.

(This was first posted on Facebook, July 22, 2016; and it has been updated and edited for this site.  It is being posted here as a continuing part of our “Psalms on Saturday” series.  It is my prayer that it will be a blessing for you in your walk with the Lord.  It is being posted on Friday night, because tomorrow starts out busy early in the morning, and will be most of the day; so to be sure that it got posted, we did it tonight.  Bill)

 

The Rumble of, and for, the Ages #1

Think of all the rivalries, and big events, that have been labeled the “Game of the Year,” or, maybe even “The Game of the Century.”  Just in college football; there is “Alabama-Auburn,” Michigan-Ohio State,” “Oklahoma-Texas,” “Florida-Florida State,” “UCLA-USC,” and a whole boatload of others that I didn’t mention.  Boxing has had competitors that squared off several times with everything on the line; for example, Ali and Frazier, or Duran and Leonard.”  None of those, or anything else that you can mention, can compare to “The Rumble of, and for, the Ages.”

According to Scripture, Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  (Philippians 2:8-9, ESV).  Jesus did not do that just to be in the form of a man; even though that helped Him understand our trials, troubles and weaknesses.  He did not do it just so He could learn obedience, although He had to do that (Hebrews 5:8-9).   He did not do it just so He could be offered as a sacrifice on our behalf, to appease the justice of God — even thought that had to be done (John 3:16; Romans 5:8).  All of those were important, but (in my opinion) there was something else involved.

Jesus came to earth, so that He might confront Satan on “his home turf” and defeat him!  Since the Garden of Eden, Satan had more control than he should have over the actions and fate of men.  Jesus came to meet him head on, and take some of that power and influence away from him.  Listen to what John had to say:   The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. (I John 3:8, NASB).

Scripture makes it pretty clear, just how powerful and influential Satan was at the the appearing of Jesus.  Listen to what the voice of Scripture says:

John 12:31, Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.

John 14:30-31 (NLT), “I don’t have much more time to talk to you, because the ruler of this world approaches. He has no power over me, but I will do what the Father requires of me, so that the world will know that I love the Father. Come, let’s be going.

II Corinthians 4:4 (NLT), Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe.

I John 5:19 (CSB), We know that we are of God, and the whole world is under the sway of the evil one.

Over the next few weeks (every Thursday), we will be looking at a blow-by-blow, round-by-round coverage of this epic struggle.  What we know, and some of what we think, of this battle found in small land of Israel — that had cosmic and eternal implications.  Next week, June 14, we will look at Round One!

In closing, we will leave you with one final passage:  Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who has. the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying. (Hebrews 2:14-15, NLT)

 

Wes McAdams — Hebrews 10:25 re-examined

Last week we started a series of posts in which we are re-examining well-known passages of Scripture. This week we will look at Hebrews 10:25, “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some…” (NKJV). This passage is often cited to rebuke those who “miss church,” but is that really what the writer of Hebrews had in mind?H

How the Passage is Often Read

This passage is often used to compel church attendance. We are told that missing a Sunday or Wednesday service – without an adequate excuse – is “forsaking the assembly.” But is that what the writer of Hebrews meant? Did he really just mean, “Don’t skip church services”?

The Book

The book of Hebrews was written to a group of Christians who had “endured a hard struggle with sufferings” (Hebrews 10:32). They were “exposed to reproach and affliction” (Hebrews 10:33). They witnessed their brothers and sisters being thrown into prison. They themselves “joyfully accepted the plundering of [their] property” (Hebrews 10:34).

It sounds like to me this letter was written to Christians who experienced the “great persecution against the church in Jerusalem” (Acts 8:1). Back then, these Jewish Christians endured this persecution with joy and faith. But now, decades later, their joy and faith seem to be wavering. Some of them are ready to abandon the way of Jesus.

The book of Hebrews is written to prevent that falling away. It is written to show that our covenant with Jesus is better than the old covenant. Jesus is a better high priest, who entered a better tabernacle, to offer a better sacrifice, and give to His people a better inheritance. To abandon Jesus would be the worst mistake anyone could ever make.

The Immediate Context

Hebrews 10 is all about the fact that without Jesus, there is no forgiveness of sins. Jesus was the one single sacrifice for “all people” for “all time” (Hebrews 10:10-14). Therefore, if a person rejects the sacrifice Jesus made on their behalf, there remains no other way for them to be saved.

The writer is encouraging them to “hold fast…without wavering” (vs. 23). He is warning them not to “trample under foot the Son of God” or “profane the blood of the covenant by which they were sanctified” (vs. 29). He warns them not to “throw away their confidence” (vs. 35) or to be like those who “shrink back and are destroyed” (vs. 39).

It is only in the context of words and phrases like these that we can understand what it means to “forsake the assembly.”

The Meaning of the Verse

Hebrews 10:25 is often quoted by itself, but it is actually not even a complete sentence. The whole sentence of Hebrews 10:24-25 (NKJV) says:

And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

The word translated “forsaking” is used several other times in the New Testament:

  • Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34).
  • God did not “abandon” Jesus in the realm of the dead (Acts 2:27, 31).
  • Paul said they were “persecuted, but not forsaken” (2 Corinthians 4:9).
  • Several of Paul’s companions, including Demas, “deserted” him (2 Timothy 4:10, 16).
  • God promised, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

As you can see, the word “forsake” carries with it the idea of “abandon” or “desert.” And that makes perfect sense in the context of being told, abandoning Jesus would be the worst mistake anyone could make. It seems that some of the Christians in that congregation had already made it their manner of life to abandon, turn their back on, and desert the church.

The Hebrew writer is telling them to grow closer together. He is telling them to figure out ways to rekindle the desire in each other to love and do good works. He is telling them to encourage each other more and more, so that no one walks away from Christ. He is telling them not to turn their backs on the church and on the church’s togetherness.

The Application

Does this passage mean the church should meet together, gather together, assemble together? Absolutely. That’s what it means to be the “church.” It means we are a group of people who have been gathered together by Jesus and we make it our custom to gather together regularly to encourage each other and stir each other up to be loving and do good works.

But I do not believe it is fair to call missing a service, “forsaking the assembly.” There are plenty of people who’ve abandoned Christianity and abandoned their church family, but occasionally missing a service is not the same as “forsaking the assembly.”

Think about it this way: I have a lot of work to do at the office today and I will probably have to miss dinner with my family this evening. It is disappointing, but it does not mean I have made it my custom to “abandon eating with my family.” There are certainly some men who have abandoned, forsaken, or deserted their family togetherness, but occasionally missing dinner does not qualify. In fact, it would be downright cruel to accuse a husband and father of abandoning his family in a situation like this.

Similarly, it seems a vast exaggeration to accuse someone of “abandoning” congregational meetings because they were not present one week. Does this mean it’s ok for church togetherness to not be a priority in our lives? Absolutely not. Being together with our church family should be of utmost importance to us.

And perhaps the more we focus on making our meetings a place where people are encouraged and stirred up to love and do good works, the more people will desire to come together.

I love you and God loves you,

Wes McAdams

(I want to thank Wes McAdams for giving me permission to re-post this series that re-examines the way that we have looked at some familiar passages.  It is my intention to do these on the 1st Tuesday of each month.  You will be blessed if you check out Wes’ blog, Radically Christian at http://www.radicallychristian.com/)

Sabbatical is Over!

For most of the month of May, I have taken a break from posting on this blog (and, basically, all social media).  During that period of time I have thought about, and contemplated on, the direction of this blog in the future.  I know that I want to keep making regular posts, although, maybe, not quite as often, or sporadic, as in the past.

This is the direction that I propose going in the future — I will make a new post on Hoot’s Musings 3 times a week (Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday).  Tuesdays will be split between book reviews that I write, and the writings of other people on the other Tuesdays.  Book reviews will be posted on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of the month; and the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays will be writings from others that I feel compelled to share.

Thursdays will be devoted to a new blog entry that I write.  Probably for the next few weeks they will be from the Gospel of Luke.  I am involved in a special project from Luke, and this will give me the opportunity to share some of the things that I am studying.  It is my prayer that these writings will be informative, and encouraging.  There is so much material in Luke that will help us in our walk with the Master.

Saturdays will continue to be ‘Psalms on Saturday”.  It is on these days that I will share some of the things that I wrote about Psalms, and had posted on Facebook in the past.

After being out of full time preaching for 25 years, there were a lot of things that I wanted to do; that I never had the opportunity to do.  Now, I am receiving the opportunity to do these things, but I have had the tendency to overload myself.  Either I am going to have to learn to say no, or learn to manage and use my time more wisely.  I really believe that last option is what I want to do, need to do, and will be blessed by doing.  Pray for my efforts in that direction.

My heart is touched by all of you that take time out of your day to read what I try to write.  You cannot imagine how appreciative I am.  Thank you for your encouragement.

Bill

“Have You Numbered Your Days”

Getting older affects all of us differently.  There are those that when they turn 30, feel as if their youth is gone — and it is all downhill from there.  Some really struggle with 40; and I think that the term “middle-age crazy” came from those who act like they are twenty when they turn 40.  Then, there are those that want to run and hide when they turn 50.

Some of you have heard me say, that 30, 40, 50; none of those really bothered me.  BUT, 60 reached up and slapped me in the face!  Something that I had known, intellectually, for a long time; became very real to me when I turned 60.  I have a whole lot less time in front of me, than I have behind me.  The really scary part of that statement is, that what’s behind me went really quick!

The psalmist says, Our lives last seventy years or, if we are strong, eighty years.  Even the best of them are struggle and sorrow; indeed, they pass quickly and we fly away. (Psalm 90:10, CSB)

I will be 68 in November, and the realization of age and life, are constantly right in front of me.  So much I want to do, so many things that I would like to accomplish — for the Lord, and His church; and the days are short, and getting shorter!  I recognize that I have wasted a lot of time in the past.  I can’t go back and change that, but I can do better in the future.

The psalmist goes on to say, Teach us to number our days carefully, so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts. (Psalm 90:12, CSB).  I don’t think that he is saying to keep a numerical record of all the days I have left.  What I believe he is saying, is to recognize that physical life will not continue endlessly, so be sure to take advantage of the days that you do have.

Help me, Father, to take advantage of the days that are remaining, that will recognize each one of them as a blessing from You.  Help me to be a blessing to every individual that You put in front of me every day.  Help me to be a blessing for the church where You have placed me, that we may share the story of Jesus to the world.  Help me to be a better husband, father, grandfather, brother, preacher, and friend.  Help me, Father, to “number my days.”!  Amen.

(This was first posted on Facebook on July 25, 2016.  It has been edited and updated, and included as one of our “Psalms for Saturday” post.  It is my prayer that it is a blessing to every one that reads it.  Bill)

 

 

“Fire in My Bones”, autobiography of Jimmy Allen — a Review

Our first house in Springdale, Arkansas was at the intersection of Meadow and Baggett.  You could literally step out the back door, stand in the back yard and listen to the public address announcer for the rodeo at Parsons Stadium.  The “Rodeo of the Ozarks” was one of the highlights of the year for Springdale, and was always held on the week of the 4th of July.  In all the years that I lived in Springdale, and in Northwest Arkansas, I have attended the rodeo ONE time.  Our Bible study group all went together, a few years back, and that was because one of our members was on the Board of Directors for the rodeo.

Our first summer in Springdale, there was one week that I went to Parsons Stadium more than all the rest of the times put together.  It was for the second “Meeting of the Ozarks,” an evangelistic campaign cooperatively sponsered by many churches of Christ throughout Northwest Arkansas.  In the first year, 1964, this cooperative effort there were 105 baptisms.  The second year, where I am sure that my family attended every night, there were 75 baptisms.  In those years, the population of Springdale was  between 10-12,000 people (about 68,000 now), and the average attendance was about 4,000.  This effort was one of the first large cooperative evanglistic efforts in our brotherhood, beginning a period of several years of large efforts like this.

The preacher for this effort was Jimmy Allen, a Bible professor at Harding College in Searcy, Arkansas; and it was his first meeting of this nature.  I suppose since then, he has held as many meetings like this as any preacher in our fellowship.  Not only did he hold as many meetings like this, but he did so because he was effective at this kind of evangelism.  He was convicted about what he said, powerful in the way that he said it, and persuasive in the manner that he delivered it.

Recently, I had had the opportunity to look through a list of books from a preachers’ library, that because of health reasons, he was trying to sell.  I saw several biographies, and autobiographies, that I didn’t even know existed.  Luckily, I was able to get the biographies/autobiographies of Jacob Creath, James O’Kelly, C. R. Nichol, Foy E. Wallace, and Tom Holland.  The one that I missed, and that I really wanted, was the  Jimmy Allen autobiography.  So, I began to put out on some of the Facebook groups that I was looking for a copy. Kyle Frank messaged me that he had one coming, and all he wanted to do was read it; and that we probably could work out a deal for it.  We did, and I glad that we did, and I will always be indebted to Kyle.  Not only did I get the book, it is an autographed copy.  One other interesting aspect about this book, in the inside cover was a rather lengthy review of the volume, written by my friend Cecil May; and published in The Christian Chronicle in 2004.

Although I have met Brother Allen on several occasions, I can not say that I really know him.  I heard him preach several times in 1965 in the “Meeting of the Ozarks”, he came and spoke at the Robinson Ave. church in Springdale in the mid-’70’s (and I heard him, I believe at least 2 two times), and then on various lectureships and workshops.  Several of my acquaintances took courses that he taught at Harding, and raved about what a great teacher he was. Every one has opinions, but in my opinion, he was one of the three best at conducting evangelistic gospel meetings (or revivals, as he often calls them in the book), in our fellowship.  The other two, in my opinion, were Charles Coil and Harvey Starling (both of whom are mentioned in the book).

This book is a relatively easy read, (about 250 pages) and I finished it in only couple of days.  There are a few observations that I want to make about the book, and why the story it tells was so meaningful to me.

First, for someone that I did not know, it is amazing to me all of the intersections that my life had with Brother Allen.  Let me mention just a few.  On page 44, he begins by telling the story of his conversion at Harding College, and the part the “Chick” Allison played in it.  He sat by him in chapel, and played against him on the basketball court. He described him as being “as fast as double-geared lightning” on a basketball court.  A little over 20 years after, when I was a sophomore at York College, the young man that lived right across the hall from me, and was the point guard on our college team, was Ron Allison (Chick’s son).  Beginning on page 50, and continuing on to page 51, he tells the story of playing basketball against Harvey Starling.  Here is what he has to say:  “He was at least six feet and five inches tall and I was only six feet tall.  How could I guard him?  Well, I stood behind him on defense with me knees in back of his knees to keep him off balance and every time he attempted to shoot the ball, I grabbed him by the shorts (no, I did not foul out!).  … Talk about angry, he was blazing, when the game ended.  He put a long, skinny finger in my face and said, ‘Allen, I will never play against you again as long as I live.’  I replied, ‘Harvey, I had to do something to equalize things.’  My motto has always been, ‘Don’t foul unless it is necessary.’  Starling was an outstanding Christian while a student and he has preached all over the world.  We are still friends and love one another.”  As I mentioned earlier, those are two of the three greatest “revival” preachers that I know of (in my opinion).  Also, on pages 62 and 63, in a section where Jimmy Allen talks about the men who influenced him, you will find this statement:  “Thomas Howard Sherrill was the preacher for the Downtown church in Searcy when I first met him.  He soon left and went to the Holden Avenue church in Newport, Arkansas. … More than once, I have said, ‘I wish T. H. could have been my father,’ and I meant it. … We never had a preacher in Newport more loved than he.  After he died, the editor of the local newspaper asked, in essence, how could the community manage without him.”  From the time I was about 7 years old, until I was about 15, Bill Sherrill (T. H. Sherrill’s son) was the preacher where I went to church, and my mother was his secretary a great part of that time.  I still call him “my preacher”, and about once a month I post one of his devotionals on this blog site.  My memory is not real good, but I’m pretty sure that I heard Jimmy Allen preach at the Midland Boulevard church in Fort Smith (before we moved to Springdale), and it seems seems like that there was some friendly, and loving, banter back and forth between Bill and Jimmy.  Finally, on page 152, Jimmy Allen makes this statement:  “The four best male friends I have had in this world are Mel Snook, Jack Gray, Charles Coil (whose funeral I helped to conduct in December, 1994 (typo in the book, where it says 1964)), and Jerry Jones.”  It is really interesting that 2 of those 4, are almost directly responsible for my preaching today.  In 1972, when I changed my life, and made the decision that led to me becoming a preacher, Jack Gray was the local preacher at the Thompson Street church in Springdale.  When International Bible College decided that they would not accept me as a student, because of my less than stellar academic performance at York College, Jack Gray called Charles Coil to plead my case.  So, if Jack Gray had not made that phone call, and Charles Coil had not taken me under his wing and mentored me, I might not be typing this today.  Like I said, some of the people that impacted his life, also impacted mine.

Reading this book, was not like listening to Jimmy Allen preach, but it was like listening to him talk. It is about 250 pages long, and it wrapped me up and kept interested (and not wanting to quit) all the way through.  It would be an interesting read for anyone that has been active in the churches of Christ in the last 60 years (particularly in Arkansas), or those that had any connection with Harding College (now University).  If you have not read it, try to find a copy and read it.  If you buy a copy, they are selling on Amazon,  Abe, or Alibris for about $50.00.  You might want to look in a church library, or see if your preacher has one that you can borrow — you will be glad that you did.

Let me close this, with one thing I did not like about the book, and two things that I did like;

#1.  The main thing that I did not like, is that there were several times he started off a section by saying “Maybe this should not be written but with my ego, I supposed that it had to be included.”  It would have been my preference that he either had not put that, or had not told what he was going to tell.  In the places where he said this, one or the other would have been best (again, that is my opinion).

#2. There are a lot of things that I liked, and enjoyed about his book, but one thing that stood out to me was on page 201, where he says:  No Christian teacher wants to be tossed to an from by every wind of doctrine (Eph. 4:14), however, all disciples are obligated to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (II Peter 3:18).  A brother who says, ‘I haven’t changed any of my Biblical views in the last twenty-five years,’ has not had his head in the Bible.  Furthermore, he would make a stagnant, mosquito-infested, mud hole look like fresh water!  In teaching others, we are continually asking them to change from error to truth.  We should be willing to practice the same.  If I was right on some matters thirty years ago, it is clear that I am now wrong.  If I was wrong then, I am right now.  This is true because I have changed on some subjects.”  It is my conviction, that this is the kind of spirit that all of us should have.

#3. Finally, on page 243, where Brother Allen is considering “FUTURE PROBLEMS” in the church, he makes this statement:  Jesus prayed for the unity of his people (Jno. 17:20-22).  We should too.  However, I can say after fifty-four years in the church, we have become division personified.  I have never seen us worse polarized.”  He wrote than in 2004, and I believe that is more true in 2018 than it was then.  I really identify, with a statement on the next page:  “I am too liberal for churches where I used to preach and I am too conservative for some of the others.”  In the last couple of years, as I have become more familiar with out fellowship; I have struggled to find a place that I fit.

As I said earlier, I really enjoyed this book.  I hope that this review has whetted your desire to want to read it.  I appreciate your taking the time to read this lengthy look at some of the things in the book.

 

“Lord … Help!”

Jay Hooten was one of the wisest men that I ever had the opportunity to know!  I say that, not just because he was my Father, but because he demonstrated it nearly every day in every phase of his life.  I’m not saying that he was perfect, because he had his faults; and he was not ashamed to admit them.  I’m not saying that because he was the most educated man I have known, because he only had an 8th grade education (and as he would say, that was only 1/2 year at a time, because he was in the fields working the other half).  He was raised on the banks of the Cadron Creek, not far from Wooster, Arkansas.  If you don’t know where Wooster is, don’t feel bad.  Most people from Arkansas did not know where it was until about 2 years ago, when the Highway Department put an exit on Interstate 40, and said that it would take you there.  He grew up chopping and picking cotton, fishing, trapping, hunting, and a million other things that boys living in the country did (that were raised during the depression).  If he were still living, he would be celebrating his 96th birthday in about two months; but I know he would rather be where he is now, than be here (especially with mother there).

Let me give you two or three examples of his wisdom.  Obviously, the greatest sign of his wisdom is that he believed in, and followed Jesus.  He didn’t become a Christian until his early to mid 30’s, but it was a life-long decision, that changed everything for him.  Proverbs 1:7 says The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom … , and Dad loved and respected Jesus.  That love and respect caused him to look at life through the eyes of a believer, and it shaped every action, word, and decision that he made.  Basil Overton used to tell us, “He that knows the Lord, knows what he needs to know the most.”  People did not have to be around Dad long, to know that there was something different about him.  What was different was, he knew, really knew, the Lord.

The second example that I would share, is the way that he handled disciplining me.   I was a problem child, and I am ashamed to admit that now; but too many people know that it is true, for me to deny it.  Mother would lose her temper, and discipline me with whatever was handy — as we got older, and  both of us grew, we had a lot of laughs about that.  But Dad, never would discipline me when he was angry, he would always say “I’m too mad to discipline/spank/ whip you now, but we’ll get together tomorrow.”  Well, I always dreaded tomorrow!  I don’t know why, because he was so tender-hearted that he would lash me a couple of times with his belt; I would cry real loud, and he would quit.  When I was older, I asked him “why” he always waited to discipline me.  I’ll never forget him saying, “If I whipped you when I was mad, I was doing it for me; and not for you.”  Over the years, I wish that I had been wise enough to practice what he said.

The final story that I want to share, has to do with his business, and the way that he ran it.  Actually, there are two parts to this.  The first one, Dad always wanted people to feel as if he treated them fairly; because he felt that is the way that the Lord wanted him to be.  There was one customer that  called, that was extremely irate over a bill; and felt as if he had been charged too much.  Dad talked with him for a while, explaining every charge on the statement; but nothing would satisfy the man.  Finally, Dad told him just to send him a check for what he thought the job was worth, and Dad would consider the bill paid.  When relating that story in other places, I have had people tell me they knew people that had done the same thing, but that is not a story that you hear often.  The other story (the one that all of this has been leading too) happened in the mid 1970’s.  Dad had a small “service station equipment” business, where he sold, installed, and repaired all the equipment (gasoline, oil, air, hydraulic, etc) that was used in those places that pre-dated convenience stores.  Anyway, in the mid 70’s, Dad got a contract to do a job for a truck stop in Oklahoma, and it was a little over $40,000 — a great job for a small business like his in the mid-70’s.  Well, the job was nearly completed, and the truck stop about ready to be opened, when the owner filled for bankruptcy.  All of sudden, everything got tied up in bankruptcy court; and Dad did not get a dime (even though, he had to pay for all the equipment, materials, and labor).  I remember how tight things got there for a while.  I don’t remember how much later, but it seems like it was 3-5 years later, Mom (who was Dad’s bookkeeper) told me that the court had awarded Hooten Equipment about $6,000.00 against what was owed.  I remember talking to Dad, and saying “That really has to hurt, doesn’t it?”  I will never forget what he told me, He said “Not really.  I asked the Lord to help me get through this, and He did.  Now, this is like an unexpected gift from Him. I just feel grateful.” 

James 1:5-8 (NIV), If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.  But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.

It appears to me, that about all of James chapter one has to deal with the “trials” of life, and how the child of God is to deal with them.  With that being true, you would have to think that these verses would have the same application.  So, now go back and look at James 1:2-4 (NIV):

Consider it pure joy my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

When Dad got the letter, telling him that all of the debts and money were going to be tied up in bankruptcy court, I doubt that he saw one thing there to fell “joyous” about.  But, if you look at verse 2, it doesn’t say that everything is “pure joy”, it says to “Consider it pure joy”!  If there is a situation, a disease, a problem, or a relationship that is putting your faith through a trial; and you are struggling with how to deal with it — take it to God!  Ask Him to give you the wisdom, to be able to deal with this “trial” in the way that He wants.  Tell him that you recognize when you do that, you will be able to endure and persevere through the trouble,, and the end result will be STRONGER faith.  That when you pass through to the other side of the difficulty, you will be able to look back with “pure joy“.  I am still trying to learn the lessons that my Dad taught me, and this is one of the important ones.  How are you doing with the trials of life?