“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.                                                                                   
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“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

“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.

 

“That Was the Week That Was” (4-22-18)

Well, it is 10:00 P. M., and I really didn’t intend to be starting a blog entry this late in the evening.  In fact, I had sat down about 8:00 to type this, when my phone rang.  It was Kevin Cook, and his son-in-law, Josh Stark, wanted to be baptized.  Obviously, you have to know what is the most important — and off we went to do what needed to be done.  Josh’s desire to be baptized comes from a really interesting story.  Tonight, at the church building we watched the movie about the life of Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ.  Lee was an adamant atheist, and when his wife was converted — it really upset the apple cart in his life.  At the time, he was an award winning investigative reporter for The Chicago Tribune;  and he decided to put his investigative skills to work.  He was told that the linchpin for all of the Christian faith was the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, and everything hinged on it being true.  So, he began to investigate the facts, in order  to prove to his wife that all of Christianity was a hoax.  While Kevin, and his wife Jenny, his daughter, Melissa, and her husband, Josh were all going to come and watch this with us.  Melissa got to feeling bad, so they stayed home and watched the movie on Netflix — while Kevin and Jenny came to the church building.  When they got home, they started discussing the movie, which led to a Bible study — which led to the baptism.  May all the glory go to God!

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This past week, Marvin Phillips passed away.  Marvin was the motivating force behind the growth of the Garnett Road church in Tulsa, the beginning of the Tulsa Soul-Winning Workshop, and a great encourager to many preachers.  I remember when I met Marvin for the very first time.  I was a sophomore in High School, and I went to the Bible Lectureship at Harding College with Charlie Brown.  I don’t remember how we got there, or much else about it — I just remember being there.  It was one of the first times that I got to meet Eddie Cloer, and Marvin was staying in Eddie’s dorm room during the lectureship.  It is sort of strange what we choose to remember, and why — but I have never forgotten the impression that he made.

Also, this week Charles Cash passed away.  Charles preached for a number of years for the Eastgate church in Siloam Springs, and I was always impressed by the way that he carried himself, and his ability to speak about so many things.  After he had retired, he had moved to Bella Vista, and was working with the Bella Vista church in a part time capacity (I believe).  He had been in Northwest Arkansas for a number of years, and was well respected by all of the preachers in the area.

Tuesday of this past week, I was visiting with Eddie Cloer on the phone, about his coming to Prairie Grove next weekend (4-29-18).  In just a passing part of our conversation, he mentioned that Ron Parsley had died.  It shocked me, because I had not heard that.  I knew that Ron had been extremely ill, but it was tough to learn of his passing.  Ron was 4 years older than me, and was another one of the “preacher boys” that grew up in the Thompson Street church in Springdale.  Life is fleeting, and death is more and more in my thought process.  We are put a vapor that is here for just a while, and then we vanish.

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In the church bulletin that was handed out this morning, I wrote that I was ready for  February to be over!  We had April in February, and now we are having a delayed February.  Friday night I went to my granddaughter’s softball game, and it did not get started to about 8:15. so we didn’t get away from the ball park until a little after 10.  I want you to know I was cold — and it was my fault.  I didn’t dress for the occasion.  I just checked the forecast on the internet a few minutes ago, and it is supposed to be in the high 50’s and lower 60’s most of the week.  The only bright spot I saw, was that they are not forecasting rain for next weekend.  BUT, after 7 straight rainy weekends, I am not going to hold my breath.

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I finished three books this week:  Why We Stayed, edited by Benjamin Williams.  It is a collection of 12 essays by preachers and educators among the churches of Christ, and the reason they have stayed with this fellowship.  If you are interested, I did write a brief review of it, earlier this week, on this blog; and you should be able to find it rather easily.  I also read two books in the “Coastal Justice Suspense Series” — Lost in the Storm and Far from ShoreThis series is written by Mark Stone, and on a scale of 10, I would give them about a 7 or 8.  They are not literary masterpieces, but they are entertaining and suspenseful, and a way to unwind without having to think too hard.  He tells a good story, with plenty of twists and turns; without having to drag you down into the filth and corruption that is such a part of the things that he writes about.  Those of you that read this blog often, know that I am a fan of these kind of books: from John Grisham, Greg Iles, Dawn Lee McKenna, James Lee Burke (only read a couple of his), and most any of the writers that can spin an above average crime and suspense tale about the south.  This series by Mark Stone takes places in Naples, Florida, and I have found it really enjoyable.

It is my intention to read one Restoration History biography a week, for the next few weeks; and then to post a review on this blog about the one that I read for that week.  I am really excited about the book for this week, Fire In My Bones “The Autobiography of Jimmy Allen”.  I did not even know that he had written this until about a month ago, when I saw it on a list of books for sale.  By the time I saw the list and contacted the one that had it for sale, it had already been spoken for.  So, I started searching, and thanks to the kindness of Kyle Frank, I was able to get a copy — and it came in the mail, yesterday.  It is a pretty easy read, and I am nearly a third of the way through; and I plan on having it done by Wednesday morning,  If things go that well, I want to have a review posted on Thursday evening of this week.

I have three other Restoration History biographies in my TBR stack, that I plan on reading after this.  The first one is Life of Elder Walter Scott by William Baxter; then, Foy Wallace “Soldier of the Cross”, by Noble Patterson and Terry Gardner; and, finally, The Life of Jacob Creath by P. Donan.  I am choosing to read the biographies of men that I have always found extremely interesting, for one reason or another.  The only problem that I have, is that I have so much that I want to read; and I still struggle finding the time to read them all.

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For the sake of my health, I did find time to get up 4 morning this past week and go to the gym.  One evening, it was nice enough that I did get in a 4 1/2 mile walk — and I am still looking forward to more of those.

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I hope that you have had a great week, and that the coming week will be a blessing to you — and that through God’s grace that you can be a blessing to those that are around you, and those that you meet!

“Why We Stayed” — A Review

The Summer of 1991 was the summer that my wife and I, jointly, made the decision that I was going to leave full time ministry.  It was a difficult decision, but it was one that we needed to make at the time.  Two difficult situations in a row had just worn us out.  Now, let me say here — they were two difficult situations, but even in difficult situations we had brothers and sisters that loved us, cared about us, and walked us through.  One of the situations we stayed through the difficulty, stayed until it was resolved, and for another year past that.  Even with problems, our brethren have always been better to us than we deserve.  So, leaving ministry was tough — but it was right, for a lot of different reasons.

For the next 25 years I worked in a wide variety of jobs, involving mostly sales and management.  The first 13 years I wandered through 5 jobs, and I spent nearly six years on one of them (gives you an idea of how difficult finding a good fit was).  The last 12 years, I was a sales representative for Arkansas Insulation.  Most of that time, I loved that job!  I loved getting up in the morning and going to work, enjoyed the people I worked with, and the customers that I called on.  Yeah, there were tough times, but it was the right place for me at the right time.  For 21 of those 25 years, I served as a bi-vocational minister — 15 years for one church, and 6 with another.  During that time, I didn’t attend preachers’ meetings, lectureships, workshops, or read any brotherhood periodicals.  That was quite a change for someone, that had an almost unhealthy interest in what was happening in our church fellowship.  You wanted to know what churches were looking for a preacher — call Bill, he knew (and could probably tell you who had been there, and why he left).  So for 25 years, I really didn’t know what was going on.  It really was sort of nice.

After retiring from Arkansas Insulation, I re-entered full time ministry in January, 2016.  I went to the first preachers’ meeting that I had been to in years (but, I still don’t make but 1 or 2 a year), still read only one brotherhood periodical (The Christian Chronicle), but through Facebook, and various chat boards on it, I know more about what is going on in our brotherhood that I need.  The spring of 2016, for one morning I attended the last of the “Tulsa Workshops”, and was astounded at the lack of attendance and interest.  Since that time I have attended 4 different lectureships at 4 different locations.  People ask me why I do that, and my stock answer is that I want to go somewhere that I know that I won’t agree with everyone.  Hearing people that I don’t agree with will make me study and think.  What I have found out, is that I don’t know if I FIT anywhere.  A couple of places I have been more comfortable than others, but still struggle with the things that I hear.

What bothers me about this is, I have been raised, nurtured, and educated in the churches of Christ; and I don’t know where I am part of the time.  I look at Northwest Arkansas, an isolated area from the rest of our fellowship; as we don’t have the fights, aggressiveness, name-calling, and problems between churches that other places seem to have.  Granted, historically, almost every church here has had there problems, and some seem to have the same problems over and over.  IF we could get all the members of other religious groups that have background in the churches of Christ to return, every congregation would have to, at least, double the size of their facilities to hold them.

So, Tuesday of this week, I received a book that I had ordered: WHY WE STAYED “Honesty and Hope in the Churches of Christ.”  Benjamin Williams, minister of the Glenpool (OK) church of Christ, edited this collection of 12 essays; detailing why these 12  writers  stayed with the churches of Christ, instead of leaving and going somewhere else.  The writers are:  Everett Ferguson, Jeremie Beller, Matthew Dowling, Steven C. Hunter, Grant B. Sullivan, Scott Elliott, Benjamin J. Williams, John Mark Hicks, Chris Altrock, Ron Highfield, John Wilson, and Chris Rosser.  In the introduction, Williams explains that his hope is that this book will fall midway between Leroy Brownlow’s Why I Am a Member of the Church of Christ, and Flavil Yeakley’s Why They Left.  I hope that they achieve that, but I am afraid that the people that will read it (and talk about it) will be the ones that are looking for some false doctrine that they can expose.  I pray that I am wrong, but from what I see now in our fractured fellowship I doubt it.  Of the others, I think that most have not thought of leaving, and the ones that have left (or are considering it) are not interested in reading this.  I don’t like to be negative, but I am afraid that I am this time.

Wednesday night, I woke up about 12:45 A.M., wide awake — so I began to read this book, and drink a cup of decaf.  When I finally laid back down about 4:00, I had read all but the last 4 chapters.  I must admit that the chapter by John Mark Hicks, I read right before I went back to bed, and I was struggling to stay awake.  It is my intention to read it again tomorrow.

Let me begin with my one negative feeling about this book.  There were only about 5 of the names that I recognized, but after finishing the book today; I’m not sure that all of them have actually wrestled with leaving the churches of Christ.  That was the impression I got from the way their chapters came across.  It seems as if they were given an assignment, and they wrote an “essay” about the compelling reason they were given for staying.  Now, it did seem that there were some that appeared to have struggled with staying, but made the decision to not leave.

There are four chapters, that I want to mention, that really appealed to me.  The first one is chapter one “I Stayed for the Restoration Plea“, by Everett Ferguson.  According to the editor, Dr. Ferguson was interested in the project, but because of his age was not taking any new writing assignments.  But he suggested that if he were to write something, it would be very much like this chapter.  This was originally printed as “The Validity of the Restoration PrincipleMission (August,1973) 5-10.  If you are familiar with Dr. Ferguson, and his writings, you know that he is very precise, detailed, and logical.  You should expect nothing less from this chapter. Jeremie Beller’s chapter, “I Stayed for the Love of Scripture” was very good, and I would encourage every one to read it.  My favorite chapter, as far as the narrative, and the ability to weave a story, is Chris Altrock’s chapter titled “I Stayed for the Wedding.”  I don’t know Chris, but I am thoroughly impressed with the way that he wrote this chapter, and the emotion that he pulled out of me in the telling of his story.   The fourth chapter I want to mention is “I Stayed for the Light” by Ron Highfield.  This chapter appealed to me, because so much of his story parallels my own story (up until our college experiences).  There is one paragraph that begins on page 144, and then ends on page 145 — that every elder needs to read, and then ask their preacher if it is right.

I highly recommend this book. it was published March 25, 2018, so be one of the first to read it.  I would hope that you read it to be enlightened, educated, and informed.  It is my prayer that you don’t read it looking for something to use against someone.  I got my copy from Amazon, and it cost me $10.95, or you can get it on your Kindle for $5.99.  If you are concerned about the future of the churches of Christ, I would encourage you to read it.

That Was the Week that Was (4-16-18)

Well, it had been my intention to post this about last week on Saturday, but sermons and taxes and the such — interfered with my plans.  I usually like to do this weekly recap on Friday evening, but Friday evening Malia and I attended the David Phelps and Cana’s Voice concert — that was a part of their “Big Voice” tour.  We have been fans of David Phelps for the last 20 years, and this is the 6th opportunity that we have had to hear him in concert (and that doesn’t include the times that we have heard him with the Gaither Vocal Band).  This is the first time that we have been able to hear him in Northwest Arkansas.  Always before we have had to drive somewhere to attend a concert:  Van Buren, Fort Smith, Broken Arrow, Tulsa, and Springfield.  It being this close was really pleasant.

Those that know me, know that I can’t carry a tune in a bucket with a lid on it; but I really enjoy listening to those people that can.  In my opinion, there is nobody that I would rather listen to, and is any better than David Phelps.  His voice can send chills up and down my spine; and when he holds those notes (and hold them longer and longer), it makes the hair on my arms stand up.  Every time we hear him, he does new songs that are really, really good; but there are still some of his old ones that we like the best.  This past Friday night, he did three of my personal favorites — Virtuoso, End of the Beginning, and No More Night.  The words to End of the Beginning (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LrhSjP5988E) are some of my favorites, from any contemporary Christian song.  The performance that Phelps’ does of No More Night (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4iPIi7sunEU) is as spellbinding as anything I have ever heard.  The last song of this past Friday night, The Battle Hymn of the Republic, may have to be placed on a list of my favorite performances ever.  The whole ensemble performed the song, and placed their own unique twist on it; and it was really, really good.

Speaking of the whole ensemble, this was the first time that I had ever heard Cana’s Voice, but they were really good.  They are a trio, made up of members that have all come together from other groups (Signature Sound, Avalon, and The Greene’s).  They are very entertaining, and they can really, really sing.  Probably my favorite song from them was Jesus Never Fails (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q10o185reb4).  TaRanda Greene is the woman that sings with them, and she has a powerful, powerful voice.  Doug Anderson and Jody McBrayer are the other members of the group, and they all bring their own unique touch to a very good group.

This was an enjoyable evening:  I was entertained, my spirit was lifted, and special talents were used in a very uplifting way.

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I finished two books last week, and they were from completely opposite ends of the spectrum.  The first one I finished was Gilgamesh Immortal (Chronicles of the Nephilim Book 3) by Brian Godawa.  The second one was Slobberknocker:  My Life in Wrestling.  Yeah, I know, you could not get much further apart than those two.

Let me say, first, I have watched professional wrestling as far back as I can remember, although I will say that I am not addicted to it as I once was.  I can remember watching it on channel 5 in Fort Smith, when I was about 10 years old, and just being enthralled by what I was seeing.  Jimmy Lott was the local promoter, and was a part of the Leroy McGuirk promotional territory of the NWA (National Wrestling Alliance).  What makes this particular book by Jim Ross interesting, is that he is 2 years younger than I am; and grew up in the same part of the country.  The people that he talks about watching as a youngster, working with in college, or his first job with Leroy McGuirk and Bill Watts — are the same people that I watched.  Reading parts of this book, was like being invited to look behind the curtain at things that fascinated me as a youngster.  I guess that I have always known that professional wrestling was staged (or fake, if you prefer), and was strictly for entertainment.  But it did entertain me.  I can remember as a child, being at my aunt’s house and watching wrestling with my grandmother.  She would get really involved with what was going on, scoot up on the edge of her chair, and swing her arms like she was punching in the fight herself.  This book is not for everyone, and there are parts of it that I wish that I had not learned (about how sorry some of the individuals were), but I suppose that is true of almost any profession in life.  People have asked me why I watched wrestling, and my answer was always that it was just an athletic soap opera for men.  After reading this book, I would say that the real lives of those involved was a bigger soap opera than the actual shows that they put on.

Gilgamesh Immortal is the third book in Brian Godawa’s series Chronicles of the Nephilim.  These books are sort of a ‘Lord of the Rings” meets stories of the Bible in a historical fiction fantasy.  Godawa probably would not care for my description, because I am pretty sure that he would not like the fantasy aspect of that definition.  This book was harder for me to read, because it got so far out into that fantasy aspect, in my opinion.  But, I think that I will continue to plow through this series, and will probably start #4 in the next week or two.

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Last week was a really good week at the gym.  I increased the amount of weight that I am lifting for the three days that I work on my upper body, and I increased my speed and distance for time on the treadmill.  This past Thursday (4/12), I “walked” three miles on the treadmill in 45 minutes and 33 seconds, for an average pace of 15:11 per mile.  I can remember back to when I started exercising, and felt fortunate to get below 17 minutes a miles (and in July of 2017, often was fortunate to be able to walk a mile).  Of course, that was outside — and there were some differences, and still are.  I am anxious for the weather to get a little better, so that I can go back outside and walk.  I want to see what pace I can have for those outside walks, once I adjust to the terrain again.

My weight is still holding steady, but it appears to me that I am moving it around.  I will confess that I need to do a better job of what I eat, and continue to exercise.  But, I really would not mind being able to hold my weight about where it is now.

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Friday morning, May 11th, Malia and I will be leaving for our annual trip to the beach in Florida’s emerald coast.  As usual, we are excited about the trip and the time away together.  This year, our youngest son Gatlin, his wife Rachel, and the grandson Gunner will be joining us — it is really going to be a great time.  One thing that I think I will do different this year, is I believe that I will take a one week sabbatical from social media.  I think that will be really good for me.

I need to wrap this up, as it is time for me to get my gym gear on, and go do a cardio workout at the gym.  It is my intention to have another “That was the Week that Was” to post this Friday — if anything happens of interest.  Thanks for reading!