“Lord Willing”

Beginning in 1974, I preached for the Cedar Grove congregation just outside of Rogersville, Alabama, on Snake Road.  I have some absolutely wonderful memories attached to the people that made up that church, and those memories have made indelible marks on my life.  Often, I hear preachers talk about the way that churches have treated them, and I guess that I have really been blessed.  99.9% of the time, churches treated me far better than I ever deserved, and the Cedar Grove church was one of those churches!

For the 3 1/2 years that I preached for that church, I was a single man living in the church parsonage.  I was 23 years old when they hired me, and I still had a lot of growing up to do (maybe some day I will be grown up).  They tolerated my stupidity, mistakes, and the incompetence that I demonstrated on more than one occasion.  I was blessed that they had a lot of patience with a young preacher, that at times did not know which way was up.  There have been many occasions that I wished I had done a better job for them, had been a better minister, and done more good in the community. There are probably still times, when if there is a group of them sitting around discussing “old times”; my name might come up — and the discussion might begin with “can you believe that he …”

It has been 40 years since I left Cedar Grove, and, sadly, I have not been back over a half-a-dozen times (the last time this past March).  It is amazing to me, the reception that I get every time.  When I walk through the doors, I can feel the love from those that are still there.  At the Harding Bible Lectureships, that I attended about 2 weeks ago, I ran into one of the elders, Randy Baker.  He made the comment, that he was going to talk to the other elder, Richard McLemore, and try to arrange to have me speak at one of their annual homecomings.  I hope that we can work that out, because on the list of blessings that my God has given to me, the people of that church are way up on that list.

I would like to list the names of the people that touched my life, but I would forget someone — and that would just not be right.  But this morning, as I was reading in James 4, I was reminded of that church, and one Christian sister in particular.  Listen, to what James has to say:

Come now you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will travel to such and such a city and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.”  You don’t even know what tomorrow will bring — what your life will be!  For you are like smoke that appears for a little while, then vanishes.

Instead, you should say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”  (James 4:13-15, HCSB)

I don’t ever remember having a conversation with Marie Romine, that if a discussion came up about some future event, or if she was going to do something — that she did not add the words to the discussion “Lord willing.”  As I remember it, it did not come across as just a habit; but as recognition that the Lord was in charge, and that we were totally dependent on Him.

There was a whole generation of children that grew up in that congregation, that were in Ms. Marie’s Sunday morning Bible class.  I’m sure that many of them could share memories of what they learned, and what they remember, from that Bible class.  She was just one of those ladies that you don’t forget easily.  I remember what a good cook that she was, because she had sympathy for the single preacher; and quite often fed me the Sunday meal.  I also remember that she had the best “sweet tea” that I ever tasted, my mouth still waters as I think about it.

But this morning, I can see and hear her saying “Lord willing.”  The lesson that she taught me, by saying that as often as she did, made the words of James jump off the page at me.  Lord, help me to remember that You are the creator of the universe, and it is all in Your hands; and that I am totally dependent on You.  Thank you, Lord, for placing Marie Romine in my life; that would demonstrate to me the importance of doing that.  Peace.

Advertisements

“Friday Reflections — 10-13-17”

Football season is almost half over, and sadly; I am very apathetic about the rest of the college football season.  When it comes to Arkansas Razorback football, I am the ultimate “homer” — I begin every season believing that we are going to shock the world and be good, and, maybe, really good.  Sadly, we have lost our last 5 games against Power 5 conference schools; and when your next two games are Alabama and Auburn, it does not appear that a victory is going to come too quickly.  It may be that there are a lot of people like me, that have expectations that are too high.  When your expectations are high, and they are not met — there are several reactions that can happen.  I like our coach, Bret Bielema, and I believe that he cares about the players, the program, and the school.  The athletes that he recruits go to class, make their grades, and we don’t get up in the mornings and wonder which one of the players will be on the Washington County Jail Detainee site.  But, as I told some friends in Texas a couple of weeks, he has got to start winning — because that is all that some people care about.

I’m afraid that the game at South Carolina may have sealed his fate.  The internet message fan boards are screaming that he be fired, not that anyone really listens to them.  But, it is obvious that they are not the only ones that feel that way.  Sadly, it has taken a really ugly turn, as people ridicule almost every aspect of his life.  I’m really torn in this situation.  I want my team to win, but every time that I read someone resorting to those tactics it angers me.  If you want to change coaches, that’s fine; but people don’t have to act like they do in expressing those opinions.  I wish that people in all walks of life could treat one another with respect, but it seems as if that is too much to ask.

On the other hand, the local high school team is undefeated, and ranked #5 in the state.  Tonight, they play the #1 team in the state; and the winner of that game will, probably, win the conference.  So there is that to be excited about.

*************

Sunday afternoon, I went to Luginbuel’s funeral home, and attended the visitation for Lynn Patrick.   Lynn’s wife, Tabatha, and I worked together at Arkansas Insulation for almost 6 years.  For the last two years, Lynn has fought valiantly against brain cancer, until his body could not fight any longer.  Tabatha, Junior, and Avery will be in my prayers for the days that stretch in front of them.  I hate cancer.  I hate what it does to the people that we love.  I hate what it does to families.  I pray that some how, some way, a cure for this monster could be found.  Look at the people around you, those that you love, and be sure to tell them how much you love them and appreciate them.  Life is so fleeting, and we don’t know what will happen tomorrow.

*************

Monday morning, I had to go to the dentist and get my teeth cleaned.  I walked out with the knowledge that I was going to have to have a root canal.  Now, I have never had one of those; but the very name, “root canal”, does not sound like something that will be very enjoyable.  Our God has created us with a wonderful body, and it is amazing how this body can take care of itself.  We just need to learn to do our part in the care of that body.  BUT, when we don’t, or something else happens, we ought to be very thankful for doctors and nurses that help care for the body.

*************

It has been a very difficult week for the Prairie Grove church of Christ.  Three of our ladies have had medical procedures:  Sylvia Bentley, Alice Musteen, and Jenaldi Bond.    Linda Coffey, another lady at church, had an aunt that also a medical procedure in Missouri.  Our prayers are with them in their recovery.  I’m sure that there are others that I have forgotten, but there just seem to be times when we are overwhelmed with all that is going on.

*************

For the best couple of weeks, I have been deeply involved in a study of James 1, for a writing project that I have been asked to do.  As I look back over this post today, I realize just how meaningful the words of James are to our lives.  Read carefully what he has to say in the first few verses:

Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete lacking nothing.

Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him.  But let him ask in faith without doubting.  For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind.  That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.  An indecisive man is unstable in all his ways.  (James 1:2-8, HCSB)

A man who endures trials is blessed, because when he passes the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

No one undergoing a trial should say, “I am being tempted by God.  For God is not tempted by evil, and He Himself doesn’t tempt anyone.  But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desires.  Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown it gives birth to death.  (James 1:12-15, HCSB)

*************

Weight, March 15, 2017 — 324 pounds

Weight, October 13, 2017 — 230 pounds

 

“Friday Reflections — 10-6-17”

This past Sunday I began a series of lessons on Nehemiah, with the emphasis of taking the lessons we learn from him as he rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem; and applying them to revitalizing and renewing the Prairie Grove church.  I have preached on Nehemiah in the past, but never with this kind of emphasis.  It has a lot of excellent preaching points on leadership and building a church, but this church, at this time, needs a different emphasis.  Now, the church may need a different emphasis because the preacher needs a different emphasis.  That is true, many times — we, preachers, preach what we need.

I think the motivation for this series of sermons is a new blog that I am reading faithfully, that has become one of my very favorites.  Karl Vaters has a blog called Pivot, that focuses on how to be a successful, small church.  In the present culture, a small church is most of the time considered to be a failure, if not sinful.  That kind of mindset affects the morale of a church, and the faith of individual members.  Vaters is trying to offer, what I believe to be, a Biblical alternative to that kind of thinking.  His last entry closed with these words:  If I am faithful, God may sometimes bring numbers, but he will always bring health.  I’m learning to be okay with that.  Because healthy matters more than big.  (Amen?)

For the last 3 weeks, I have been challenging the members to get involved with this idea:  As part of the sermon series on “Nehemiah“, I would like for you to think about, and write down, what your dream for this church is.  What your vision for this church looks like!  There is only one stipulation, you can’t use numbers!  I’m not looking for someone to say 125 in Bible classes and 150 in the assembly, or anything else along those lines.  I want you to think deeper than that.  How do you view the purpose of this church, and, in your opinion, what is the best way to implement that purpose into reality.  This will not be something that I think you can sit down and scratch out in 5 minutes.  It’ll be something that takes some time and thought,

*************

As I age, more and more of my friends are struggling with health problems.  That is the natural order of things I suppose, but that does not make it any easier.  We have several in the church at Prairie Grove that are struggling with health problems, disease, and aging.  This week I have had 3 friends that are struggling with serious health problems.

Tabatha Patrick, who I worked with at Arkansas Insulation for a number of years, has had to put her husband, Lynn, in hospice care at the Willard Walker Hospice Center.  Lynn, has fought valiantly against brain cancer for the last two years, but his body is finally giving out.

Dan Holland, was a very important friend to me when I was the preacher at the Cedar Grove church in Rogersville, Alabama; and, he is having some very serious heart problems.  They tried to place a stent, but it did not work — so the options are surgery or medication.  Neither one of those are ideal, but surgery seems to be the best.  He will meet with the surgeon early next week, to make the necessary plans.

Kim James, the wife of Larry James, has a history with brain aneurysms (as does her family), and they have found two more, recently.  She will be going to Little Rock to meet with the specialists next week.

I would ask that all of you that are reading this, please join with me in praying for these special people.

*************

Shopping for clothes can be FRUSTRATING!  Since March, not only have I lost 90 pounds — but I have lost 12″ in the waist, and dropped 4 shirt sizes.  Well, I could not afford to buy a new wardrobe every time the sizes that fit, changed.  I have become a regular customer at places like Goodwill, Life Ministries, and other second hand shops.  It is amazing, but I have bought new clothes (that still had the tags) at these places, for prices that are ridiculously low.

Now, I have never been one to try on clothes at the store (and my wife has fussed at me about that for years), but I have learned that you can never trust what the tag says.  This past week, I went to Goodwill and bought 4 long-sleeve shirts — all of them were tagged by the manufacturer as the same size.  2 of them fit perfectly, 1 was a little snug, and the fourth one lacked 2″-3″ even being able to be buttoned.  I’m sure that there is a spiritual application that I could make with that, but I don’t know what it is right at the moment!

*************

Regarding the continuing journey of my weight loss, I have had very few, if any, times when I have not had positive reports on how it is going.  Well, in the last two weeks, it has not been so good.  I expanded the things that I was eating a little too much, and have had to cut back.  But, because of travel, rain, meetings, football games, etc. — I have only been able to walk 4 times in the last 14 days.  So, I have gained 3 pounds.  It is time to reverse that direction — cut back on starchy foods, exercise on a more regular basis, and get the final 20 pounds off to reach my goal weight.

*************

Weight — March 15, 2017 — 324 pounds

Weight — October 6, 2017 — 234 pounds

“New Direction”

This is October 1, 2017, and beginning today there will be some changes in the direction of Hoot’s Musings.”  I will still be maintaining this blog, but there will be some change in the emphasis, and the articles that appear.  I have taken on some additional responsibilities in reading, teaching, and writing; and time is becoming more and more of a factor.  Some more information about these new responsibilities will be shared in the future.

Here is what I had to say last Friday (9-22-17) — I will be implementing some changes with this blog beginning the first week of October. It is my intention to cut back from posting 6 days a week to 4 days. My thought is to have posts on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. It is my plan to continue the “Friday Reflections,” and the “Psalms for Saturday;” and then on Tuesday and Wednesday have my regular ‘musings” from my devotional reading, sprinkled in with some teaching entries, and a book review once a month or so. I think that this will allow me to improve the “quality” of the work, and remove some of the stress of having to do something every day, and feeling guilty if I don’t. Pray that this effort will be successful, please.

There has already been a change in that — I will be posting on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.  So look for posts in Hoot’s Musings on these days, and know that I appreciate everyone that takes the time for a busy day to look at what I have to say.  Peace.

“Friday Reflections — 9/29/17”

This past Sunday was the 4th annual “Praise and Fellowship in the Park,” co-hosted by the Farmington church of Christ and the Prairie Grove church of Christ.  The weather was outstanding, the singing was great, and the fellowship was just a taste of what is to come in the future.  The official count for the night was 340, but I would not be surprised if there was more than that.

Let me express my appreciation to Mike Raine, Luke Dockery, and, especially, Jared Pack; for all that they do to make this cooperative effort a success — from the Farmington side of the equation.  Publicly, I want to thank Ken Thomas and Alan Bradley for the time and energy spent in loading up all the drinks, taking them and getting them iced down; and then, after the event, of taking the drinks and putting them away to be used at the next church function.  There is an unsung hero in all of this, that never gets mentioned — Terry Romans for 3 out of the last 4 years has loaded up, hauled to the park, set up, operated, and then loaded up and hauled back; all of the sound equipment.  I wanted to take this opportunity to, in somewhat of a public forum, thank him for all of his efforts.

What started off as to be a “fellowship” between two churches that are only 7-8 miles apart, has grown into something more than that.  I was out of pocket when it was time for the roll call of all the different congregations that were represented, but I was told that there was more churches represented than ever before.  Wouldn’t it be great to see this event to grow even larger!  More Christians, maybe 600-700 Christians singing praises to the great I AM, under the canopy of heaven, and fellowshipping with those of a like precious faith.

*************

This past week, it was my pleasure to attend the Bible lectureship at Harding University.  My elders allow me to attend two “continuing education” events a year, and I am really grateful for those opportunities.  My spirit is lifted, my pump is primed, and I am encouraged by taking advantage of these opportunities.  It is only in the last two years, that I have had the opportunity to attend these “Spiritual Feasts” again.  For the 25 years that I preached on Sundays, and worked in the secular workplace during the week, the opportunity was just not there.  I believe that they are of real benefit to me, and I pray that I can pass some of that along to the Prairie Grove church.

The lectureship at Harding centered around the subject of Righteousness from God, The Revolutionary Message of Romans.  It was my privilege to attend classes taught by some really great teachers, on some really great subjects.  Those that I had the privilege to hear were Dr. Shawn Daggett, Dr. Eddie Cloer, Dr. Rick Oster, Jerrie Barber, Dr. Mike Ireland, Dr. Scott Adair, Dr. Jim Martin, Dr. Paul Pollard, and Matt Carter.  These men were teaching on subjects that were appealing to me, and offered some insights that I had never considered before.  There were others that I wish that I had had the time to hear, but you can only be one place at a time.

Another real blessing is the opportunity to renew past acquaintances, and to make new ones.  It was a privilege to have the time to visit with David Underwood, Eddie Cloer, and Jim Martin — all men that I have history with from a long time ago.  We don’t get the opportunity to visit often, so this was a real pleasure.  It was also interesting to me, to meet some of my “friends” from Facebook, that I had never had the opportunity to meet, personally, before — Calvin Warpula, Jerrie Barber, and Eddie Lewis.  These men have encouraged me in the things that I have written and shared on social media, so I was glad to have the opportunity to meet them and express my appreciation.

*************

As I mentioned, it has been over 25 years since I have had the opportunity to attend an “event” like this.  My perspective about what I am going to say is shaped by the four that I have attended in the last two years (Tulsa Workshop, Abilene Christian ‘Summit”, Faulkner University lectureship, and Harding).  It appears to me that attendance is shrinking from what it used to be.  The Tulsa Workshop no longer even exists, and the ACU event is just a small fraction of what it once was.  This was my first time at Faulkner and Harding (in over 40 years), so I really don’t how they compare historically.  There is an east Tennessee event, Polishing the Pulpit, and the Freed-Hardeman lectures; that I have been told still draw large crowds (and may be I will find out some day).  Have there been too many lectures, have those organizing the events forgotten who their audience really is, is there just apathy about the opportunities, or is it a combination of all these things.  I really don’t have an answer, and it will take someone smarter than me to figure it out.  BUT, I am convinced that we are missing out on opportunities to be together as a fellowship of God’s people, like we once did; and we are the worse off for it.

*************

Another blessing from the trip this week, was that on Monday night I had supper with my cousin, Kenny Baker, from Bald Knob (yes, there really is a Bald Knob, Arkansas).  Then on Wednesday night, I had supper in Conway (on my way home) with another cousin, Mike Baker, and his wife Lori, and Kamyrn.  We so seldom see each other, outside of a funeral, that it was really enjoyable to be able to visit with family.  All the siblings on that side of the family have passed away, and it is up to the cousins to maintain that family connection.  To be really honest, we’ve not done a very good job — hopefully, we will do better!

***********

Last night, Malia and I went to Pea Ridge to watch our grandson, Kade, play football — when Lincoln Junior High defeated Pea Ridge Junior High 6-0.  Since we were not home, i did not get to watch Iowa State and Texas play (not that I would have watched it, if I had been home).  But this morning, there was a picture on Facebook of a Texas family cheering in the stands.  It was Donald and Jean McMillon, and Matt and Becca McMillon; who were there cheering on their grandson and son, Jake.  Donald and Jean have been friends for a long time, since our time in Winters (and they are the ones that I stayed with in Abilene last year).  Many years ago, I performed the wedding ceremony of Matt and Becca in Houston.  I always tell them that I will watch Texas play, and I will cheer for Jake — but that is all that I can commit to!  That Arkansas-Texas football feeling still runs deep.  But they are dear friends, and Malia and I love them for their friendship.

*************

Weight — March 15, 2017 — 324 pounds

Weight — September 29, 2017 — 231 pounds

7 more pounds, and I will have lost 100 pounds!!!  UNBELIEVABLE!!! 

“Friday Reflections — 9-22-17”

September 22 — summer is officially over!  The first day of fall is still going to feel like summer in Northwest Arkansas, at least until next Wednesday (according to the local weather forecast).  When I went for my almost-daily walk yesterday at 4:30, it was 87 degrees, but thankfully at the Battlefield Park there was lots of shade and a slight breeze.  It still amazes me, that I have gotten into the habit of daily walking.  If you had told me that a year ago, I would have probably laughed.  I am a little concerned about being able to continue through the winter months.  I am considering a treadmill, or an elliptical; and was wondering if any of you have a recommendation.

*************

I will be leaving early Monday morning for Searcy, Arkansas; where I will be attending the annual Bible lectureship at Harding University.  This will be the first lectureship I will have attended at Harding since the fall of 1965, when I was 14 years old.  I am excited because of the theme of the lectures this year, is “Righteousness from God — The Revolutionary Message of Romans.”  The list of speakers seems to be outstanding, and some of the names that I recognize (and plan on hearing) are:  Harold Shank, Jeff Jenkins, Richard Oster, Eddie Cloer, Dan Chambers, Jerrie Barber, Mike Ireland, Jim Martin, Jim McGuiggan, and Paul Pollard.  The topics that these brethren will be discussing are of interest to me, because my intention is to preach an expository series through Romans in 2019.  One extra benefit for me in this trip, is that my mother was raised near Searcy; and I will have the opportunity to see a couple of my cousins.  Sadly, about the only time we get to visit with one another is at funerals.  It will be nice to have the talk and visit, without grief hanging over our heads.

*************

While we are talking about next week, let me say a couple of things about this blog.  First, I will be taking my Kindle Fire with me next week; and I plan on doing some posts on Facebook and Twitter — with pictures and comments about the things that I hear and see; but I don’t know that there will be my usual “Hoot’s Musings” posts on this blog.  I may try to do one, or two, short entries about the experiences — but not anything like I normally do.  Secondly, I will be implementing some changes with this blog beginning the first week of October.  It is my intention to cut back from posting 6 days a week to 4 days.  My thought is to have posts on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.  It is my plan to continue the “Friday Reflections,” and the “Psalms for Saturday;” and then on Tuesday and Wednesday have my regular ‘musings” from my devotional reading, sprinkled in with some teaching entries, and a book review once a month or so.  I think that this will allow me to improve the “quality” of the work, and remove some of the stress of having to do something every day, and feeling guilty if I don’t.  Pray that this effort will be successful, please.

*************

Last Friday I requested that you pray for my efforts at a “Men’s Retreat” where I had been asked to speak.  I probably need to tell you the rest of that story.  About three months ago, I got a phone call from a man that I had baptized about 39 years ago, and I had not talked to in about 37 years.  We had not talked, because Malia and I have moved away, and then moved further away, and when we moved back to Northwest Arkansas; we had just lost contact with one another.  When I baptized Larry, he was married to my sister’s best friend; and I knew that they had divorced, and I didn’t know what had happened to him since then.  Well, when the phone rang that day, and the voice asked “Do you know who this is” — I had no idea.  When he told me who it was, you could have knocked me down with a feather!  He told me that he and his wife were attending a church in Hindsville (Arkansas), and that he had the responsibility of putting a men’s retreat together, and would I be interested in being the speaker.  Knowing that area a little bit, I asked Larry where he was going to church, and he told me that he was attending First Baptist Church in Hindsville.  So, I asked the obvious question, “Larry, are you sure that they would want me, a preacher for the ‘churches of Christ’ to be the speaker.”  He said, yes they said it would be fine, if I was willing to come.   It was a no-brainer from there!  I accepted, gathered and prepared the material, spoke to 40-50 men last Friday night on the subject of RARE Leadership, and had an absolutely delightful time.  From all accounts, they appreciated what I had to say — and it is my prayer that God was glorified on that occasion.  Your thoughts and prayers concerning the success of my efforts are appreciated also.

************

This afternoon at 1:00 p.m., I have an appointment with my primary care physician, Dr. Chris Blankers.  We are going to be going over some blood work that I had done this past Wednesday.  Would you pray for Malia and I, that these results will be just exactly what we are looking for — and that this will be the end of the discussion (and worry).  Thanks.

*************

Weight — March 15, 2017 — 324 pounds

Weight — September 22, 2017 — 232 pounds

*************

May God be with you in all that you do in the next week, and may our lives be a “reflection” of His glory!  Peace.

“What Went Wrong”

Over the years, we have all seen it happen.  We have all seen that preacher, author, project, ministry, church, or most anything that is similar begin with an explosion on the horizon, taking off with great expectations; and then just fizzle to nothing, or, even worse, crash and burn.  If you are like me, you wonder “why” it happened?  It may have even been an individual, who began the Christian life on “fire” for the Lord; and gradually the flame just died.  What is the reason(s) behind such collapses and failures?  What went wrong?

I was surprised to find “an” answer, probably not “the” answer, in the book of Nehemiah.  The reason I say it is not “the” answer, is I know that not every situation is the same; so there is not one answer that will fit all situations.  Nehemiah, the man, is such a remarkable man; and the book (which reads like a journal that he kept) which bears his name, is just extraordinary for the lessons that we can learn.  But, to be perfectly honest, this is not the lesson that I expected to find when I read through the book.

You recall the story, Nehemiah had gone back to his homeland to rebuild the walls of the city of Jerusalem.  He did this with the blessings of King Artaxerxes, and his material and financial support.  The job that Nehemiah did in leading the people through this monumental task was outstanding, and has provided many lessons on leadership through the generations.  The wall was completed in an amazingly short period of time, in spite of all the opposition.  Read what Nehemiah has to say about the completion:

The wall was completed in fifty-two days, on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul. When all our enemies heard this, all the surrounding nations were intimidated and lost their confidence, for they realized that this task had been accomplished by our God.  (Nehemiah 6:15-16, CSB)

When the wall was completed, the people settled in their own homes and towns.  But on the first day of the 7th month, they gathered for a reading of the Law.

On the first day of the seventh month, the priest Ezra brought the law before the assembly of men, women, and all who could listen with understanding. While he was facing the square in front of the Water Gate, he read out of it from daybreak until noon before the men, the women, and those who could understand. All the people listened attentively to the book of the law.  (Nehemiah 8:2-3, CSB)

This was followed by the 7 day “Festival of Booths,” and another day when the people listened to another reading of the law, confessed their sin, and worshiped.  Nehemiah 9 contains a long song of praise of what God has done, confession of wrong; and, closes with a plea for God’s help because of the distress that they are in.  How could anything be better than this?  How could anything go wrong, with such a remarkable story in the background?  Especially, when what happens next takes place:

In view of all this, we are making a binding agreement in writing on a sealed document containing the names of our leaders, Levites, and priests.  (Nehemiah 9:38, CSB)

This “binding agreement” is laid out and explained in Nehemiah 10:30-39, and it seems to be an agreement among the people to do everything they were supposed to.  After the listing of the leaders who had their seals on the document, this remarkable statement is found:

The rest of the people — the priests, Levites, gatekeepers, singers, and temple servants, along with their wives, sons, and daughters, everyone who is able to understand and who has separated themselves from the surrounding peoples to obey the law of God —  join with their noble brothers and commit themselves with a sworn oath to follow the law of God given through God’s servant Moses and to obey carefully all the commands, ordinances, and statutes of the Lord our Lord. (Nehemiah 10:28-29, CSB)

Don’t you know that there was much rejoicing and celebration taking place among the people that night.  They were back on the right path, God would be blessing them over and over again — what could go wrong?

But something did go wrong!  Terribly wrong!  Nehemiah 13 details that Nehemiah returned to Susa and the service of King Artaxerxes; and when he left, the people had begun to break every one of the things that they had agreed on.  They were not back where there forefathers were before, completely; but they were headed that way in a hurry.  When Nehemiah came back to Jerusalem, he got things straightened out (by whatever means were necessary to accomplish the  task).  But we are still left with the question, “what went wrong”, when everything seemed to be going so well?

Let me make three observations:

#1. Satan is strong, and sin is seductive.  The text does not say that, but we know that from other Biblical stories, and our own experiences.

#2. Their agreement was based on their ability to keep the commands.  This is the same mistake that the previous generations made.  They committed themselves to do all the right things, but never got right on the inside.  So many of the prophets chastised the people because of this failure, and the people in Jerusalem during the days of Nehemiah made the same mistake.

#3. They failed to pray about it.  This was the one that surprised me, because Nehemiah is often cited as a great example of leadership, because of his prayer life.  I tried to read Nehemiah very carefully, and found 13 references to the prayers of Nehemiah.  From what I saw, there is a break in the prayers of Nehemiah from Nehemiah 6:14 to Nehemiah 13:14.  You would think that as important as this “binding agreement” could have, and should have, been — it would have almost demanded prayer.  That shows how easy it is for us to get caught up in the excitement of a moment and forget to bring God into our plans and actions.

When we attempt great things, or even small things, let’s remember to not make the mistakes others have made.  Let’s examine what went wrong, even with the Biblical stories, and determine not to repeat their failures.  Peace.

“History #2”

In the devotional yesterday (https://hootsmusingsblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/history-part-1/), we talked about the importance of history to our faith.  As part of our discussion of history, we began to talk about the role that Nehemiah played in the history of God’s people.  We learned that Nehemiah was the cupbearer for the King in Susa, and laid the burden of his heart for the city of Jerusalem before the king.  The king allowed Nehemiah to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls, furnished him protection for the trip, and letters for the supplies to do what needed to be done.

After the rebuilding of the wall, Nehemiah had a public reading of the Law, followed by the observing of the ‘Festival of Booths.”  The festival lasted for 7 days, and was followed by a national assembly (Nehemiah 9), that became a national confession of sin.  The assembly began with a half a day of reading the law, confession of sin, and worship.  At that time, the Levites said, …Stand up.  Praise Yahweh your God from everlasting to everlasting.”  (Nehemiah 9:5, HCSB).

Their song of praise begins in the latter part of verse 5, and continues through verse 37.  It is a remarkable piece, and I would encourage you to take the time and read it.  But in this devotional, I will just summarize each section — to give you just a flavor of what it is about.

Nehemiah 9:5-6You are the God that created the highest heavens with their host, the heavens, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them — giving life to all of them.

Nehemiah 9:7-8:  You are the God who chose Abram and brought him to this land, changed his name to Abraham, and promised this land to his descendants.  AND You are a God who keeps His promises.

Nehemiah 9:9-12You heard the cry of distress from Your people in Egypt, and You did something about it — You delivered them from the oppression of slavery.  You made a name for Yourself that will people still remember, with the power that you demonstrated at the Red Sea.

Nehemiah 9:13-15:  At Mount Sinai, You spoke to them from heaven, and through Moses you gave ordinances, instructions, statutes, and commands.  Not only that, but You also revealed Your holy Sabbath, provided bread from heaven for their hunger,  brought water for their thirst, and told them to go and possess the land.

Nehemiah 9:16-18:  Our Jewish ancestors acted arrogantly, and did not listen to Your commands or remember the wonders You performed.  Instead, they became stiff-necked, and wanted to return to the slavery of Egypt.  They even fashioned a golden calf, that they could worship and call their deliverer from Egyptian slavery.

Nehemiah 9:19-21:  In spite of all their griping and complaining, and in spite of all their rebellion — You remain faithful to them!  Your cloud to lead them during the day, a pillar of fire at night, the manna and water continued, their clothes did not wear out, and their feet did not swell — BECAUSE of Your faithfulness and compassion!

Nehemiah 9:22-25:  Jehovah gave them the land, that He said that He would.  They took possession of a land with fortified cities, fertile land, well-supplied houses, cisterns cut out of rock, vineyards, olive groves, and fruit trees in abundance.  They ate, were filled, became prosperous, and delighted in the goodness of Jehovah.

Nehemiah 9:26-31:  In spite of all that You did for them, they became a disobedient and rebellious people that committed terrible blasphemies.  Because of their sin, Jehovah allowed them enemies to oppress them.  One thing that really stands out, is no matter how many times they turned their back on You, and You allowed oppression to come their way; if they would cry to You in distress — You would hear, and answer!  You indeed are a gracious and compassionate God!

Nehemiah 9:32-35:  Lord, our song of praise is now a confession of all the sin that we,and our descendants, have committed.  Since the days of the Assyrian kings, You have acted faithfully and wisely; but we have acted wickedly.  We have acted just like our ancestors, and would not serve you, or turn from our wicked ways.

Nehemiah 9:36-37:  Here we are today, Lord.  We live in the land You gave us, but we don’t enjoy the land the way that You intended.  We are slaves to the the kings You set over us, because of our sins. WE ARE IN GREAT DISTRESS!

The beauty of this song of praise, that becomes a confession of sin, and a cry of distress — is that they often recognize that their God, and our God, is a God of compassion!  They recognized that refrain quite often in this song.  May we never forget the message of these lines in this song of praise:

…When they cried out to You again, You heard from heaven and rescued them many times in Your compassion.  (Nehemiah 9:28, HCSB)

May we never forget this (read verses 17, 26, and 31)!  May we always remember that our God is faithfully compassionate, and cares about us!  May we recount from history, what God has done, and will continue to do for us!  Peace.

(The devotional tomorrow will be on this same passage, and the aftermath that followed.  What Nehemiah and the people did, and may have done it trying to win the favor of God.)

“History — Part #1”

Arkansas History was the first time that I remember becoming fascinated with the study of history, when it was part of the curriculum in the 5th grade.  From that time forward, history became my favorite subject — world history, American history, church history, and restoration history — they all appealed to me.  I would suppose that my love for the Old Testament, and the stories of God and His people, can be attributed to my interest in history.  Obviously, I am not in the majority!  Many people have little, if any, interest in studying the people and places of the past.  Some probably saw the title of this devotional this morning, and decided not to read — just because of the title.

Yesterday, in my Sunday morning Bible class, we were looking at Psalm 77.  In the particular psalm, Asaph is distraught because of the condition in which he finds himself.  He laments:  Has God forgotten to be gracious?  Has He in anger withheld His compassion?  (Psalm 77:9, HCSB).  It appears to me, that he finds himself in Babylonian captivity (Psalm 74:2-8), and is distraught with what is happening, and wonders if Jehovah God cares about him, and the rest of the Jews.  I’m sure that many of us have struggled with those same feelings at various times in their lives — and there are probably people in Texas and Florida that are struggling with those same thoughts today.  So, in order to revitalize his thinking, and get the proper perspective on his God, he says — I will remember the Lord’s works; yes, I will remember Your ancient wonders.  I will reflect on all You have done and meditate on Your actions.  (Psalm 77:11-12, HCSB).

This morning, my devotional reading was from Nehemiah 9, and why we need to remember history went racing through my mind.  You may remember Nehemiah’s story — how he went back to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls.  The Babylonians had leveled the city, burned the temple, and carried the people off into captivity.  King Cyrus of Persia had allowed the Jews to go back to Jerusalem, and to rebuild the Temple in the city (Ezra 1).  He even gave them back some of the treasure that had been looted when Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed the city.  Zerubbabel, and others, went back and rebuilt the Temple, dedicating it with a multitude of sacrifices and observing the Feast of Unleavened Bread for 7 days (Ezra 6:16-22).

Nehemiah’s story begins with him serving King Artaxerxes as a cupbearer, in the fortress city of Susa.  While serving there, travelers came from Jerusalem, and Nehemiah inquired about the condition of the city (as any native Jew would have done).  The reply staggers him:

They said to me, “The remnant in the province, who survived the exile, are in great trouble and disgrace. Jerusalem’s wall has been broken down, and its gates have been burned down.”   (Nehemiah 1:3, HCSB)

In fact, his words about his reaction allow you, and me, to see just how distraught he was:

When I heard these words, I sat down and wept. I mourned for a number of days, fasting and praying  before the God of heaven.  (Nehemiah 1:4, HCSB)

His prayer to God (Nehemiah 1:5-11) is one the most moving prayers in all of Scripture, and needs to be studied and remembered.  But, what we want to know today is that God heard that prayer, and answered — Nehemiah was allowed to go back to Jerusalem, rebuild the walls, and even served as the governor of the province.

Nehemiah 9 tells of a day that became a “national confession of sin” for the Israelite people that had returned to Jerusalem.  In a day, when many services are geared so that we can save a minute here, and five minutes there; because we don’t want our services to run to long (because people won’t come or stay), it is a staggering thought.  They read the Law for a fourth of a day, and then worshiped and confessed their sin for a fourth of a day.  Now I don’t know what they were considering a fourth of a day, but they spent somewhere between 6 and 12 HOURS doing this!

AFTER they had done that, the Levites stood up and said — …”Stand up, Praise Yahweh your God from everlasting to everlasting.”  (Nehemiah 9:5, HCSB)

Part #2 of this devotional will be tomorrow, as we consider the actual “song” of praise that the people offered — what they said, and why they said it.  I want to close this devotional with a question:  “If you were in that same situation, what would you offer as praise to God?”  Just think about it, or share in the comments if you are so inclined.  Peace.

“Friday Reflections — 9/15/17”

Wednesday evening, after our mid-week services, it was decided that we needed to have an elders meeting Thursday morning at 8:00 a.m.  So, I was unable to write and post a blog post yesterday, so if you looked for a new post yesterday; let me apologize for not having one (and not letting anyone know that there would not be one).

*************

Habits can be something that are good — for example reading your Bible regularly, taking time each day to stop and pray, and, even, going to assemblies of the church (and they are good habits that we develop).  BUT, there are some bad habits that we can develop.  For example, I have two really good friends that are attempting to get rid of tobacco habits.  One smokes, and the other one dips.  They will both tell you, that discarded a habit that has been developed and refined over the years, is very difficult.  Habit is something that I am struggling with right now.  You see, even when you think that you have a habit beat, it will rear its ugly head and try to come back.  I have worked very hard over the last few months — losing weight, and getting healthier; and been somewhat successful at it.  But last Saturday night, I had a relapse.  My problem was not eating because I was hungry — it was eating too much, too fast; and then going back and “grazing” later.  Saturday, we had our first football “watch” party of the year, and those always involves a lot of food.  Well, I relapsed back into some of my old habits; and, because of my surgery, I got as sick as a dog!  A painful reminder that was not “staying alert” to the temptations I was facing, or “aware” even of what I was doing.  I have to do better!

*************

Sunday was a very good day!  First, I preached a lesson in a series “The Heroines of God”; on the prophetess Huldah (II Kings 22 and II Chronicles 34).  If you have not read her story, or have forgotten it, you might find it interesting to go back and read.  Secondly, our “Book Club” met after services, and Derl Horn, and his wife Marilyn, attended our meeting.  Derl is the author of the book that we read for the past month Blood, Sweat and Honor.  Having him with us made the discussion that much better.  Finally, our Sunday night “Gathering” class, began a study of Galatians.  I believe that the study is going to be a good one, and the participation was good.  Come and be apart of it with us.

*************

If you had told me a year ago that I would be walking regularly, looking forward to the walking, and doing my past to walk each of my scheduled days — I would have probably laughed at you!  But that is what I am doing!  This is the 15th day of September, and so far this month I have walked 10 times — for a total of 31.5 miles, and a total time of 8 hours, 39 minutes, and 57 seconds.  Last Saturday, I had my longest walk ever — 5.32 miles.  It is my prayer that I have the strength AND the desire to continue to do this.

**************

I am going to request your prayers.  Tonight, I will be speaking at a Men’s Retreat on the subject of “Leadership.”  I don’t do these kinds of things very often; and because of the situation, and what is involved, I want to do a really good job.  Would you remember to pray for me, please?

*************

Weight — March 15, 2017 — 324 pounds

Weight — September 15, 2017 — 234 pounds