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Archive for the ‘Blessing’ Category

I haven’t much to say here other than click on “Little Blessings in the Day” to see pictures and read a little of what has happened in the last week.

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The meal, the conversations, the flag football game, more talking, more eating, renewing and strengthening family ties, becoming acquainted with new friends, and even a little football watching was done. I hope that your family had a relaxing and enjoyable time together. Holidays can be stressful. We so need to focus on what matters: our relationship with God and attention to His Word, His multiple provisions for us, our relationships with family and friends, and our and our nation’s life before God. Be thankful to God and diligent to please Him, friend. Check out our celebration of the day at “The Big Meal.”

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If you have followed this blog for any period of time, then you know that there will always be one or more post-Thanksgiving entries. There are rich traditions developed around this holiday in my family. I have been realizing how valuable that is to the next generations. The big meal and afternoon flag football game have been a staple for two generations now. Seriously, my nephews and niece and my children and their children have been doing this with us for nearly 40 years now. There has to be a time when the traditions are passed down to the next generation, and changes, deletions, and additions are inevitable. Thus far the changes have been almost exclusively additions. This year we added going to my son’s house for Thanksgiving Day. Enjoy the pictures here of two children and their spouses and eight grandchildren. Another day I’ll share pictures of the big Friday meal.

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Some things may best be unsaid, and I certainly don’t say all that I think here, but I am also sine ceres, “without wax” (1). The cracks in my pot show, and I am content for them to show if it brings glory to my gracious God who always causes me to triumph in Christ Jesus so that the knowledge of Him may be in every place (2 Corinthians 2:14).

In years past I was chronically depressed. For many of those years I would not even have characterized my condition as such, not knowing what ailed me. I was a believer and follower of Jesus, but did not know joy or peace. My confidence in belonging to Him has grown over the years, but my sanctification has not kept pace. I can relate to Bono of U2 in this (2). Depression and anger no longer control me and are infrequent strangers who pass me by in my travels. One area of particular growth for me is the area of peace. Because of the blood of Christ, I have peace with God (Colossians 1:20, Hebrews 13:20), but I have not always felt that peace. Increasingly I do. A frequent reader of this blog could discern that an area that I long to see growth in is the area of joy. It is after all a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). I get joy in little fits and starts, particularly when I am singing hymns about the grace and mercy of my Lord, but it is not the consistent nourishment of my soul.

So, a combination of conviction for sin and the sermon last Sunday precipitated the following verse (3):

Moments of sadness flood over me
Phosphenes of despair fleetingly see
From these vestiges may I be free
Satisfied and joyous in Christ be

I want to hasten to say how thankful that I am for God’s patience, provision, and presence. I am not who I should be, but I am not the man I once was. God is faithful (Philippians 1:6).

  1. https://banneroftruth.org/us/resources/articles/2008/sine-ceres-without-wax/
  2. http://jonathandodson.org/2006/10/sanctification-bono-barth/
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phosphene The remembrances of past failures probably are the external stimuli that bring about the sensations of despair.

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I Peter 1:3-9: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.”

The bold type I added to point out that the best reason to rejoice is contained in this passage. For those of you who believe in and follow Christ as your Savior and Lord, your faith brings with it an assurance of being one day in heaven in the presence of God. A joy inexpressible is one that wells up despite the circumstances and beyond ability to explain. It is full of the glory we see in Christ, both for who He is and what He has done.

Paul gets a bit redundant when he is talking about the security of our home in heaven. He says our inheritance is imperishable, will not fade away, reserved, protected by the power of God. “In this” refers to what? The “this” is the soon to be revealed inheritance of heaven, most notably the presence of God. For though we do not see Him now, we are among the “pure in heart”, who “shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8) By no merit of my own, but only by His free, sovereign grace am I afforded in heaven a place.

Heaven is mine, I will rejoice
To thanksgiving and praise give voice

Believe the truth and love God’s Son
Salvation eternally done

Focus my mind on things above
Nurture, rekindle my first love

And when trials come, I will rejoice
For heaven is mine by His choice

Persevere will I by His strength
And rejoice in heaven at length

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Last Thursday, our 11th grandchild was born at 12:45 PM, weighing 7 lbs 8 oz and 20 1/4 inches long. He is said to be a voracious eater already. Dad took the 6 older children to church this last Sunday so that mother and child could rest. At I contemplate any child, especially my grandson, entering this world, I look with concern and faith. It is a terrible time in our nation, but God is sovereign over all of the whens, wheres, hows, whats, and whys of each of our lives and our nation. May He be glorified in this child and bless his life.

What in the world is going on here?
Vying for control by using fear
Deny God and all from truth derived
Into this brave new world you have arrived

Judson be like Adoniram please
Faithful, stalwart, always on your knees
Teach the Gospel in the darkest place
Overcome temptation, run the race

Honor present unto your Master
With pure life all white alabaster
A soul washed in the blood of God’s Son
By Christ’s power be victories won

May God richly bless this young Francis
Uphold, sustain in every crisis
Make him in Christ a most godly man
As befits one in the royal clan

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Moving, unpacking, settling in, finding your way around, starting a new job are time consuming. One must make time for the more relaxing moments. My preferred way to relax is walking. Having a job that involves standing is not good for flow of body fluids, so I walk, observe, think, and pray during my lunch break or converse with my wife during evening walks. The pictures at Fall Begun come from three different walks, two at lunch and one in the evening. I feel so blessed to live in a part of the world where seasons change, and I work and live in neighborhoods where I may daily range. God gifts many larger blessings, but the smaller daily ones help to fortify the soul for daily stresses. Be active or quiet and at any rate contemplative so that you may absorb the goodness of God in His creation and through His other manifold blessings. Being contemplative means quiet and open to observation both internal and external.

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My oldest brother turns 74 today. Always looking for an excuse to go on a hike and get together with family, he emailed the family via group email about hiking not too far a drive from any of us. Schedules being what they are, three out of the four brothers and their wives and one son out of eight children and his family made it for the hike, 14 souls in all. We had done this hike as one of our Thanksgiving hikes several years ago. For some reason, all of us remembered the falls but forgot the hike. It is not steep but it is continuously up. It is not long at 1.5 miles out, but it is rough with randomly pitched small boulders in sections. Small children needed assistance and less stable older participants gave out. The purpose of the hike was time together and time in the woods. Both objectives were completed. For half of us there was a little extra adventure as well. Check out the pictures at Margarette and Bailey Falls to see why.

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A Blessing

Have you ever given in to stress, let it strain you, that is, contort your deportment. I did yesterday. My wife was patient, realizing that I was stressed beyond my ability. But it really doesn’t take much when I am not walking by the Spirit. I sulked a bit, but I decided confession and pleading for help was a better way forward. I had written a thank you/comfort card the day before in which I composed the following blessing. The card had a painting of Hummingbirds on Bee Balm, which directed my thoughts toward the Balm in Gilead (Jeremiah 8:22, 46:11). The next day I knew that I was as much in need of this blessing as the person I sent it to.

May the Balm in Gilead be your comfort and stay

With peace and joy lead you in the way

May His Spirit in you always have sway

That you may please God each and every day

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GPS is recognized as the acronym for Global Positioning System, an amazing gridwork of 31 functioning satellites that allow very accurate position and time information for anyone with a receiver.

gps is a new acronym I have been thinking about that orients the user to true evaluation of the source of good. gps stands for gracious providential serendipity. Grace is unmerited favor, or as I like to say, “getting what you don’t deserve”, compared to mercy, which is “not getting what you do deserve.” Providence is divine guidance and provision. Serendipity is “the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for” (1) So, unmerited guidance or provision in an area unsought for is gps. God knows our need and desire and frequently graciously provides for us apart from our knowledge.

Several times recently I have been in utter need of knowledge and discernment regarding what I was doing. I prayed for clear answers. In the sense of seeking an answer, the guidance was definitely sought for, but the answer was several times surprising in content, delivery, and source. God is indeed gracious; He is sovereign; He has all knowledge and all power. I am constantly in need of His guidance but especially cognizant at the moment of that fact with significant decisions on the near horizon. I need some good gps signals.

  1. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/serendipity

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Some things that we say and believe are not what we presently experience in full,
but are what is true about us in our new nature, is becoming true about us through
sanctification, and will be totally true in heaven.

Never lonely when He is near
Never overcome by any fear
Always hopeful though life be drear
Always at peace even when not all is clear

Momentarily disturbed, oh sure
Momentarily give in, not pure
Eternally made right, the cure
Eternally held tight, secure

Daily the struggle goes on
Daily His Spirit I must don
Slowly sinful tendencies gone
Slowly His righteous ways in me dawn

Fearfully and wonderfully made
Fearfully work out my salvation I am bade
Joyfully go forth with His aid
Joyfully with His Spirit arrayed

Nevermore sorrow overcomes
Nevermore to sin succumbs
Forever peace until and when He comes
Forever glorious gracious outcomes

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We don’t think of heaven enough; we are too earthly bound. We cannot imagine the glories there; we look through a glass dimly. What will be our focus, what our glory there? I was listening to several hymns on the YouTube channel A Cappella Hymns. The simple, unadorned polyphony of voices helps me to focus on the words and learn the melody and parts. Arriving at the last verse of the hymn, “The Sands of Time”, I thought, “Yes, that is what I will do there.” I won’t be glancing around at lesser glories and gifts, but upon my glorious Redeemer. Then, because of His grace through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit and finished work of salvation, the phrase will be secured, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8) The metaphor in the song is biblical and applied well:

“The bride eyes not her garment,
but her dear bridegroom’s face;
I will not gaze at glory,
but on my King of grace;
not at the crown he giveth,
but on his piercèd hand:
the Lamb is all the glory
of Emmanuel’s land.”

And it reminds me of a similar thought in the hymn, “Oh, That Will Be Glory”:

“When by the gift of His infinite grace,
I am accorded in heaven a place,
Just to be there and to look on His face
Will through the ages be glory for me.”

Mind you, infinite, all sufficient, sovereign, free grace is all that you or I need to enter heaven. The preacher I heard this morning pointed out that free grace is a tautology, a repetition of ideas, since grace, unmerited favor, could be no other than free, that is unearned. But then to say grace is sovereign, meaning that God has made the free, uninfluenced choice is yet another shade of the same thing. It seems man’s mind hunts for ways to contaminate the simple teaching of Scripture and we must add modifiers to limit and clarify terms to the exact meaning within Scripture. And so with infinite and all-sufficient, the same idea is emphasized in slightly different ways. Infinite speaks to my heart of the never ending nature of grace and all-sufficient pronounces all my sin and shortcomings fully covered by grace.

A mere place in heaven, “a cabin in the corner of gloryland” would be glory, but trivial compared to looking upon His face. And”That will be glory, be glory for me!”

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I decided awhile back in writing blogs that since accurate quotes are hard to come by, especially from notes taken from live talks (sermons, lectures, conversations, etc), that I would at least communicate with myself when I was not exactly quoting, but just accurately summarizing with words actually spoken (or synonyms thereof) but not necessarily in that order, to surround them with apostrophes (‘) rather than quotation marks (“).(1) See if you think that I am wrong to pass these off as nearly quotes.(2)

In the sermon this morning, my pastor said many noteworthy things. I was dull of mind and slow of pen and didn’t get many of them down, but following are a few essentials I grabbed out of the verbal stream:

“God is Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer… These are the foundational issues we build our lives upon.”

‘In the variable winds and choppy waves of our rapidly changing culture that make us soul sick, we do not build our lives upon trends in our culture or traditions of better days, but the truth of God’s Word.’ Actually, he didn’t use ‘variable’ or ‘choppy’ but described the bounce on a small boat that made him sick. And though he conveyed all of the thoughts with almost all those words, they never appeared in one sentence. So, what are you building your life upon in these changeable time- trends, traditions, or truth? Trends and traditions may align with truth, but they are not the judge or guide of our choices, truth is.

He read about the sixth day of creation from Genesis 1:24-31. Though he said much more could be gleaned, he did offer 5 applications:

“God is our authority. Life is precious. Men and women are different theologically and biologically. We should celebrate the differences in men and women.” ‘We live within our God given callings and then we are blessed.’ I was behind on my writing and could not get down the last one exactly, but it most interested me. He talked about how obeying God’s calling, which he prefers over the word role, brings life, while living counter to it brings death. We see the promotion of so much death in our culture these days that verify the judgements of Romans 1 on those who refuse to acknowledge God and His callings. Are you as a church-goer, perhaps even devotee of Christ, following these life cursing trends in our culture? For the sake of us all, please stop!

1. That was such a fun sentence to write. I hope it is grammatically correct and easily understood.

2. Do you realize that I am suggesting a new grammatical form and use of the apostrophe? Old School Grammarians would disdain my attempt to amend the rules. They might say, ‘You do not need such non-sense. We already have quotes and summaries of ideas.’ I would retort, “That is what they said. I just am not willing to swear in court that they used those exact words in that exact order.”

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As I listened to the pastor preaching on the parable of the Lamp in Luke 8, my heart was stirred to further consider the truths of the passage. In the Gospels, Jesus is constantly urging His listeners to hear Him or else affirming the value of doing so. Following are two examples where He does the latter, revealing the relationship to God and blessing that comes from listening to His Word.

“But He answered and said to them, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.” Luke 8:21

“But He said, “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” Luke 11:28

What does Jesus mean by hearing? Certainly He does not mean merely receiving vibrations of air into one’s ears or even registering their reception or even focus on the communication. Jesus warns against this type of hearing in the preceding parable in Luke 8. “His disciples began questioning Him as to what this parable meant. And He said, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is in parables, ‘so that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand. [Isaiah 6:9]'”” (Luke 8:9-10) Jesus is defining ‘hearing’ as understanding and acting on what you understand. In the continuation of Isaiah call in chapter 6 of that book, God continues with what Jesus has quoted above (v.10):

“Render the hearts of this people insensitive,
Their ears dull, and their eyes dim,
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
Hear with their ears,
Understand with their hearts,
And return and be healed.”

‘Return’ is an action of faith. Jesus makes a hard connection between hearing and heeding in the Word, His Word, God’s Word. You “hear…and do it” (Luke 8:21) and you “hear… and observe it.” (Luke 11:28) When you hear and heed, then you will highlight the goodness and power of God to change your life. You will be His “mother” and “brother” and “by this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35) In John 15:7-9, Jesus calls this hearing, heeding “abid[ing”, which then results in highlighting the Father (glorified by this”) by “bear[ing] much fruit”.

Of course, this brings much blessing (Proverbs 4:4, John 14:21) to the one who truly hears, faithfully heeds, and graciously highlights the goodness of God.

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My pastor’s teaching is sound biblically and practical. He was teaching from Philippians 4:20-23: “Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen. Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren who are with me greet you. All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.” Packed into these closing words are a doxology, a greeting, and a benediction. He pointed out that we should make use of these words to affect how we live in the following ways. The doxology focuses us to “live for God’s glory”. The greeting encourages us to “love people”, especially the saints. The benediction blesses us to “remember the grace of Christ.” He encouraged us to pray these three things before we arise in the morning. Now I had thought at the time that this was good instruction but that the third word, “remember”, was weak. This morning upon rising I was looking for a different word or phrase. In synch with preacher language I decided upon “lay hold of the grace of Christ.” I think that I thought to pray when I awoke because he asked what we should pray before we arose. In my then present frame of mind, I suggested “In the difficulties of this day…” So, I composed my thoughts before God and hope that He will work these truths into my life this day and for many to come:

“Dear Lord, in the midst of today’s joys and difficulties, help me to live for Your glory, love people, and lay hold of the grace of Christ.”

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Jesus said, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” (John 17:17)

Reading in the Proverbs lately, the sanctifying role of God’s Word to bring understanding and wisdom has captured my notice.

The confused understand; the despondent move toward hope; the fearful find security; the naive accept knowledge; the conflicted settle into peace; the foolish walk in wisdom; the sad perk up with joy; the timid boldly tell of the Savior; the persecuted receive comfort; the sinners dodge wrath and bask in blessing; the righteous are clothed in discernment and eternal riches.

Our God through communicating to man imparts life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; The Lord gives grace and glory; No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” (Psalm 84:11) “I wait for the Lord, my sol does wait, and in His word do I hope.” (Psalm 130:5)

May you discover more of His grace and glory, and may His blessing overtake you in His light and protection that surround you, as you seek to walk uprightly before Him in 2022.

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The Word of God is one whole story written by an Infinite Author. Therefore, it should not surprise us when we study it, it yields ever more connections and truths about anything and everything. So, great is the Lord, His name, and His works. As it says in Psalm 111:2:

“Great are the works of the Lord; they are studied by all who delight in them.”

I was reading Psalm 149. It calls loudly for the praise of God. It has a secondary theme as to why “His godly ones” should praise Him: “For the Lord takes pleasure in His people.” (v.4) Is “His people” all Israel, godly Israel, or all His people for all time? It certainly is not all Israel for He says through Isaiah the prophet,

“Therefore the Lord does not take pleasure in their young men,
Nor does He have pity on their orphans or their widows;
For every one of them is godless and an evildoer,
And every mouth is speaking foolishness.” (Isaiah 9:17)

I don’t believe that He is speaking of merely godly Israel either. Here is the reason. Because He “takes pleasure in His people” the psalm reports two results: 1) “He will beautify the afflicted ones with salvation” (v.4b), and 2) “This is an honor for all His godly ones” (v.9).

Oh, what a privilege and joy to be beautified with salvation. I am afflicted and needy and unworthy and sinful, and yet He has lavished His grace upon me, and all those who submit to His rule and trust in Him, by beautifying me, us, with His salvation. Praise God!

But then comes the deep and glorious connection to future events. What is this “honor for all His godly ones”? This phrase is the conclusion of verses 5-9:

“The high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand,
To execute vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples,
To bind their kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron,
To execute on them the judgment written;” (v.6-9a)

God is going to lead them in judgements. I see here some detail filled in for a verse in Revelation 19:

“And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” (Revelation 19:11-16)

Obviously, the emphasis is and should be on Jesus, but verse 14 includes us: “And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses.” I believe that Psalm 149: 6-9 is telling us what we shall be doing as we follow “Him on white horses”. Even as Christ has had us, “the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions,” so He will have us fill up His judgements at the end. And it will be an “honor for all of His godly ones.” We follow Him through thick and thin for He is worthy.

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My daughter’s youngest child turned 3 years old on August 2nd. We were not able to get to their house until the 3rd because of a doctor’s appointment, but any excuse to see the grandchildren will do. We arrived 1/2 hour before dark after 5 hours at the doctor’s office and a total of 4 1/2 hours of driving. We so want to build relationships with the grandchildren, but distance, health, responsibilities, and flexibility conspire against us. I decided to use the smartphone app for this purpose and am reading the Chronicles of Narnia 2 or 3 evenings a week to my grand-daughter. Even then other activities cause rescheduling, but here flexibility is my friend. We are on the third book, “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader”.

We picked blackberries at the neighbor’s house across the road, because they asked my daughter to since they were away. As we picked my daughter reflected on why she did not want to move from their present house. “We have the best neighbors. And no one else can build here because the soil percolates so poorly that septic drain fields are expensive and difficult” with the new regulations. It is a very beautiful spot and the neighbors are helpful and friendly. The neighbor behind them allows my daughter’s family to walk on the trails in their woods on about 40 acres. The next night the grandchildren, their father, and I walked to this neighbor’s house down their long driveway. The man who lives there was glad for someone to talk to and allowed the children to watch the Koi while he told how much old Koi can cost and his plans to add a deeper pond for overwintering.

The morning of the next day, the grandchildren and I were dropped off at a playground park while my wife and daughter went shopping. We tried out the various slides and swings and crawled up onto the old caboose. I think that the little ones liked the trail that I found across the creek best. They had to take their mother and mamaw to see it when they returned from gathering sale items. Every once in a while you get a good picture of several people together. What most usually prevents it is the movement and moods of the subjects. I got two good shots in a few minutes. Check here to see the pictures.

I am so thankful to God that my wife was feeling strong enough to make this trip and that we had time with this part of the family. It seems to get harder to have family time as time and distance increase.

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Last weekend my wife and I went to Knoxville for a one our daughter-in-law’s surprise birthday party, my wife’s family reunion, and other visits. What makes this so amazing is that my wife had had health problems that prevented her from significant travel or visiting- she was in much pain and it simply wore her out. About 3 weeks ago the symptoms suddenly began to go away after almost two years of intensifying. She has been to many doctors, but mostly they could not pinpoint the problems, which are not all solved but she feels like she has a life again. She decided that the birthday party with many people would be too much for her, so I dropped her off at her sister’s house to have a quiet visit while I was at the party.

Her husband is very patient to talk to my wife at the slower pace of someone with aphasia.

I missed the surprise moment of the daughter-in-law’s arrival, but there was plenty of visiting all around.

Visiting with my six grandchildren by my oldest son and his wife was enjoyable.

My oldest son is listening to a story by his pastor. We went to church with them the next morning. You can see my sister-in-law in the pink pants getting to know one of my grandchildren.

The pastor is also a near neighbor, so the grandchildren feel comfortable with him and his wife.

I said that there were six grandchildren. The one in the green cap holding his mother’s hand in an earlier picture didn’t stand still long enough for me to get a picture. My oldest brother is a retired pastor and quite the UT fan.

My sister-in-law is quite the story teller. You can about see her spinning a yarn here to my youngest son: “Ye…eeep! It was a real humdinger.” The daughter-in-law’s brother is listening to another story with pleasure.

My third son has that “are you taking my picture” look, but his wife just smiles.

The family gathered for the reunion at Cumberland Mountain State Park on Sunday afternoon after church. Eating and talking is what you do at a reunion. Most of the participants are past playing games.

Mother and son.

Who looks more mischievous, uncle or nephew?

Brothers.

Their spouses.

The eight siblings of my wife’s family and all but one of their spouses are still alive even though the siblings range from 63 to 86 years old. They didn’t get to have a reunion last year and everyone feels like this can’t keep happening from now on, but they are blessed to still be alive and still enjoy getting together to catch up on what has happened in the last year or two. Could you point them out in order by age?

My two oldest grandsons and their father rode with us to the reunion. The others stayed back for a much needed nap. We had gone on a hike together previously, so they wanted to go again. We went down the road a short distance to the dam where we found a trail down by the creek.

The bridge over the dam is the most picturesque feature in the park.

Besides painted dots to mark trails, the park has these special trail markers, this one on Black Oak bark.

I am trying to keep up on the march in the woods.

This is fun, grandpa, but the creek water is only cool and not cold as we expected.

It floats but will it support any weight?

I had the boys in their cowboy hats and boots stand by a healthy Eastern White Pine.

After returning to my son’s home we visited for awhile before departing to my oldest brother’s house for the evening. I was focusing in on my grand-daughter, who is the first second daughter in four generations among the male progenitors. Speaking of whom, the party, reunion, hike, and visit after a week of laboring has rendered him tired. We were all ready for some rest, but content with time we had to visit.

Indeed the years are passing, and we become more desirous of renewing family ties as time goes along. God has been good to our families according to His mercy. We should love those around us and build relationships while we can, because we don’t know what tomorrow will bring, though we can guess what many tomorrows will. Life is short so we best be about knowing God and knowing people while we have the opportunity, because eternity is coming. I am so thankful for the young ones coming along, and I pray regularly for their salvation, health, relationships, and knowledge base. May they know Him and give Him glory. Life is good, because God is good.

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We need hope, but from whence does it come?

Certainly a sense of purpose or destiny or family and friends bring hope, but what about when these fail or seem distant? Hear what source of hope the Scriptures give us:

“For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 15:4-6

Given that this was written before any of the four Gospels and the book of Acts, it must refer to the Old Testament from which Jesus had “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”” Luke 24:45-47 Now, I am not excluding the great encouragement and instruction given by the New Testament, but I magnify the value of reading and studying the Old, especially for those many of you who don’t spend much time there or see much value in it, thinking I’m “not under law but under grace” Romans 6:14 (1) It was written for our instruction, so read the instruction manual before assembly.

Now we get to the meat of our source of hope. The passage reveals a two-fold instruction on hope from God with an ancillary instruction on hope from fellow believers.

Those who are blood bought, Holy Spirit sealed believers (2) increase in hope of their relationship to God and future rescue through persisting in faith in the midst of difficulty- perseverance. In fact, the teaching of perseverance of the saints is pointing out how believers persist in belief to the end while “the Spirit explicitly says” of those who do not truly belonging to God through belief in Jesus “that in later times some will fall away from the faith.” I Timothy 4:1

How does this strange occurrence of hardship increasing trust in God work? As the believer comes to understand that he or she does not deserve anything and yet God is carrying him or her through difficulty and revealing Himself in the process, the believer trusts more. The unbeliever begins to doubt that God cares and pulls further away. Many a believer will also struggle with doubts and be estranged, but it will not persist. In the end faith will persist. The believer perseveres.

The greatest help to perseverance is the Word of God. For this reason, Open Doors, a ministry to persecuted believers all over the world, frequently reports how believers ask for Scriptures over security, food, or shelter. The Bible brings hope and especially when we are paying attention during difficulty. The passage says “the encouragement of the Scriptures”. As we read of others who struggled but found God’s grace to persevere, we find strength. Promises of God impart strength. Ultimately, the excellency of the character of God imparts strength. Strength comes in the form of hope. When we are hopeless, then we are weak. When we are full of hope, then we are strong, strong in the Lord.

But God gives yet another avenue for increasing hope- fellowship. The passage speaks of “same mind”, that is, unity of belief and purpose. Then it says “with one voice glorify”, which is unified worship. When we worship together in unity and convey how God has increased our faith in difficulty and have comforted others in their difficulty with the hope of God and shared Scriptures of encouragement and instruction, then true fellowship and encouragement has occurred and hope is increased. For this reason “let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25

The other disciplines of the faith like prayer, witness, fasting, service, and so forth, are all a part of this perseverance-Scripture-fellowship encouragement that strengthens faith leading to hope. What a good God we have who for His glory and our good by “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” 2 Peter 1:3

And one day we will be removed from all difficulty and spend eternity in His presence. That will be glory!

  1. In context, this verse has nothing to do with the value or truth of the Old Testament. Rather, it refers to the source and power for overcoming sin, grace applied by the Holy Spirit and not striving to fulfill the requirement of the law. Why? Well it is because “a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 2:16
  2. These are not a special breed or dispensation of believers, just plain believers. I use these adjectives to exclude those who have mental assent to the things of God and are spectators in the church, but not saved.

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