THE HOMESTEAD

The term “homestead” means a family’s home, including the house and any other buildings or lands that go with it.  Often, we think of it in terms of a large tract of land, but that is not necessarily required.

However, there is an area in Tennessee, along the Cumberland Plateau, where a New Deal Subsistence Homesteads community was built.  There were about 100 of these communities throughout the country and the Tennessee community is evidence of the ingenuity, hard work and dedication that these folks had.

Of the initial 233 families selected for the Cumberland Homesteads project, 30% were distressed farmers, 30% were unemployed miners, 30% were unemployed textile workers, and 10% were struggling professionals (including teachers, nurses, and a doctor).  Architect William Macy Stanton, who designed a number of buildings in TVA’s planned city of Norris, created the basic design for the homes and other buildings at the Homesteads. The community’s first stone houses were completed in late 1934.  

Although the original purpose of the Homesteads project failed, the community survived, and over half the farms remained in the hands of original homesteaders through the 1950s. Indeed, the homestead house design is still visible if you drive through the area.  There may be some additional rooms added, but the basic homestead house design is still identifiable.

I was speaking with a gentleman who was a child when his parents received a homestead.  He said that they would build the barn first, because that would house the animals that they needed for food and it would hold whatever equipment that they had to use on the farm. 

He laughed and said that, since there was no glass on the barn windows, the rain would come in through the window openings.  That meant that they needed to see which way the wind was blowing so that they could move their hay mattresses and clothing to the other side of the barn so they would not get wet.  This was a vivid memory, and I suspect he could feel the damp hay even as we were speaking.

Homestead water tower

The Homesteads water tower provided a source of water as well as serving as the social headquarters for the community. 

Today, the water tower building is used as a museum recording the existence and perseverance of the community that thrived there almost 100 years ago.  In the museum area, there are hundreds of letters, pictures, and personal items, many of which provide an interesting view of life in the rural Cumberland mountains.

Homestead museum 3 revised

The typical homestead house was made from the stones that were on the property itself!

Homestead museum 5 revised

Telephone communication was certainly not something that could fit in your pocket!  In fact, you will notice that the only way to speak into the phone was to put your mouth up at the phone itself.  You would hear by using the ear piece attached by a cord hanging on the side of the phone box.

Homestead museum 7 revised

This is a picture of a Conlon Zephyr which was a type of ironing machine. Indeed, this was state-of-the-art in the mid-1930s.  The little sign on the fabric reads:

“Flowered feed sacks were welcomed bonuses for the farm wife. She carefully chose her colors and patterns for making dresses, quilts, curtains, etc.”

Homestead museum 10 revised

The wood stove kept things toasty in the kitchen, likely the area most folks would congregate during the harsh winter on the plateau.

In our world, things always are subject to change.  Today in 2018, we in the United States certainly do not live like they did in the 1930s.  We have electricity and we have cell phones.  Most of us don’t use feed sacks for curtains or clothes.  Some would argue, I suspect, that some of the changes in modern days are not for the better, while other changes have surely made our lives significantly easier.  But like them or not, changes have, and will, come.  Things change.

But there is One who does not change, and I am referring to our God and Father.  Scripture says:

“”For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.”

Malachi 3:6

God, Himself, is saying that He does not change – a characteristic that is totally foreign to us.  He is immutable.  He is the same today as He was before creation even existed. And, He will be the same when time is no more.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

James 1:17

Christ’s divinity and His immutable nature is highlighted by the writer of Hebrews when he says:

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Hebrews 13:8  

Praise the Lord that He is unchanging and that His promises are, therefore, secure.  This gives the believer security to know that when we have been adopted into God’s family through faith, we can trust God not to change His mind and “unadopt” us because of something we have done. 

No man can slip through His fingers into the breach of hell if that person is a child of God and has expressed faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. God neither changes His plan, His covenants, His prophecies, nor His justice. In other words, God is dependable – God is immutable, unchangeable!

While things change in our world, we can be secure in the knowledge and conviction that our God does not change.  His perfect plan for us will be accomplished no matter what the circumstances surrounding us may be.  Thank Him, today, for His wondrous love and mighty strength to keep us in His arms throughout the turmoil and change that we see all around us.

Father, the old hymn says “On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand” and those words are true.  Christ is the Rock on which I stand when all else around me is tumbling and changing, when the world is rushing to evil and violence, when even Your people are abandoning Your Word.  Father, I pray that my Homestead is in heaven, secure in the grip of Christ my Savior.  I further pray that You would use these thoughts to encourage, challenge and strengthen those who read them. May Your Spirit move in our world, today.

FINAL RESTING PLACE

Cemeteries are found throughout the countryside. I love to read the headstones and see the notations made about the life of the one who died. Some cemeteries seem to be random, standing as solitary sentries for a few memorial markers along the roadside.  Some are huge and stand as monuments commemorating historic events that shaped our nation, community, and ourselves.    

One such place that we visited was the cemetery in the Vicksburg, Mississippi battlefield.  It was sobering to see the cannons all lined up as if they were ready to inflict injury on the enemy.  It was even more sobering to consider that in the battle, American was pitted against American as the Civil War was raging throughout the country.

Cannons in Cemetery in Vicksburg MS
Cannons lined up and ready, Vicksburg, Mississippi

In the battlefield there were mounents throughout the area to fallen soldiers form various states and communities.  This is the Illinois monument, complete with soldiers names inscribed inside the mausoleum-type structure.

IUED llinois state memorial Vicksburg Mississippi civil war cemetery
Illinois monument, Vicksburg, Mississippi

Some have a decidedly modern atmosphere, such as Sunnyslope cemetery in California. 

Sunnyslope Cemetery, CA '56

While some have a decidedly older atmosphere,  such as this cemetery located in Boston.

Boston cemetery
Cemetery in the City of Boston, Massachusetts

Then there are cemeteries that bear special significance to us personally, feelings that other places do not produce.

Virginia cemetery IMG_20160529_1316404_rewind
Cemetery in Salem, Virginia

My husband’s family is buried in this Virginia cemetery.  I love going there, not only to remember the people and thank them for teaching my husband to be a Christian man who loves me unconditionally, but also to meditate on the end that will ultimately come to all of us.  I also love to look out over the hillside and see the church steeples reminding me that Christ is the One who governs all of life and who gave His life as a ransom for many.

I truly don’t mean this to be morbid, but I do want us to think about our mortality and the finality of our days. 

The writer of Ecclesiastes correctly notes:

No man has power to retain the spirit, or power over the day of death. There is no discharge from war, nor will wickedness deliver those who are given to it.”

Ecclesiastes 8:8

The writer of Hebrews affirms that each of us will die, it is the fate of all finite beings:

“And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.”

Hebrews 9:27-28

Paul, writing to the Thessalonians said this about the end of our lives:

“For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise firstThen we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.”

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17

In other words, all people will have to die unless they are still alive when Christ returns.  Even they will rise to meet the Lord.  None of His people will be left out!  This is what Jesus meant when He said:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.””

John 8:51

The believer in Christ will certainly die a physical death just like everyone else – but the believer will not have a spiritual death.  Instead, we will be with Christ.   Physical death is a reality for all mankind because of sin.   Spiritual life is a reality because of the grace of God as it is a gift from God given to us through the Lord Jesus Christ.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 6:23

Our Western culture does a fantastic job of shielding us from death.  We are killing each other faster than we are birthing people, but we rush the bodies off to the undertaker, to the funeral home, so that we don’t even see the body, often with either closed casket or cremation burials.  Many children have never been to a funeral/memorial service and go into their early adult years before experiencing this type of personal loss.

Even if we wish to hide our heads and ignore reality, all of us will face death at some point, and when we do, we will no longer have time to make the decision that is of eternal consequence.   Do I follow Christ Jesus as my Savior or do I act as if God does not exist at all, only to be supremely surprised when that belief is in error!

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”

Ecclesiastes 12:13

Beloved, be sure of your faith and of the One in which you have your faith.  Be sure that you have answered that question correctly.  Let the cemetery remind you that no one is immortal, we are all going to die and the ground will not be the final resting place for our spirits. 

Blessings to you, today, tomorrow and throughout your life.

Father, I pray that these words would be of encouragement to those who believe in Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  I pray that the Holy Spirit would use these words to convict and soften hearts that are hard and that You would work in those hearts to bring them to Yourself.  In Christ’s name I pray.

“The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” – Ecclesiastes 12:13 ESV

JUST WANT TO BE NEAR!

Cuddles and Snickers love to travel with us, at least when we are not going to the Vet’s office!  Then, they are not quite so happy about it.

But, on our recent travels, they enjoyed looking out the windows and, when there were long times between stops, they would fall asleep … something that dogs seem to be able to do with great ease!  But, for their safety as well as ours, we could not take the risk of having to move the vehicle quickly with them loose in the cabin, exposing them to falling down the steps, slamming into furniture, etc.  Also, we did not want them to be able to get under our feet near the accelerator or the brake pedal.  That would have been a recipe for disaster, to be sure!

Cuddles and Snickers near us while moving down highway in RV

The solution was a leash and harness attached to the seat belt on the floor.  We thought we had the leash short enough so they would not get in the way while we were moving along the highway, but at one point I looked down and saw this.  The two of them had wriggled the leash in such a way that they could reach the space between us.  Cuddles had her nose on the engine compartment while Snickers had her back touching it.

It was as if they were saying “We just want to be near you.  We’ll be asleep, but we can sleep better with you right here!”

I believe they were feeling secure.  They didn’t understand that the roadway was going past them beneath their feet, or that the scenery was changing as we were going down the highway, or that towns and cities were passing by them without trouble … they knew they were near us and that is all that mattered to them.

Once again, the canine daughters were teaching me a lesson.  Security in our Lord is available each and every moment of our day and then through the night, even when we are sleeping and unaware of anything. 

The Psalmist wrote:

“But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you.”

Psalm 5:11

David further recognized the love God has for His people when he wrote:

“For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.”

Psalm 86:5

Of course, our Lord Jesus talked about rest in Him when He said:

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Matthew 11:29

These verses reinforce the concept that we are to rest in Jesus, God is loving and will protect us from harm, that is, we are secure in Him for eternity.  I doubt that these concepts were in the dogs’ minds when they were reclining on the floor of the RV.  But I do think that they understood that we were there so that they were not frightened, even of all the strange sounds and vibrations that they may have felt.  They were secure in our love.  They just wanted to be near us.

So, how are we near to our Lord Jesus Christ?  We see Him when we read the Scripture.  The Bible is all about God and our Lord, from beginning to end.  We see Him when we meet together to worship Him.  Believers can encourage and enlighten us as we live our lives in Christ.  We see Him when we look at His creation.  While the creation alone cannot provide saving grace, the fallen creation is still evidence of His power, majesty and glory.  Let creation speak to you and raise your voice in worship and thanksgiving to Him.  We see Him when we allow the Holy Spirit to lead us and guide our thoughts and actions. 

 “Be still and know that I am God.” 

Psalm 46:10

Be still before God.  Read your Bible and meditate on its words.  Worship and be under the preaching of Bible teachers who live what they preach and who preach about Jesus Christ as seen in scriptures.  Fellowship with believers who can encourage and support your growth in Christ.  Beloved, be near to Him — He is always near to you!

Be secure and rest in the Lord and be thankful for His sacrificial love. 

 

Father, I thank You for sending Jesus Christ as the atoning sacrifice for my sins.  I pray that I would give honor and glory to you through His blood, and that, through faith alone, I would rest in Him for my salvation.  Grant me peace and security as I travel the road you have placed before me.

HOME – WHERE DID YOU SAY IT WAS?

The posts on The Ruminant Scribe have been anything but regular for the past couple of months.  I have diligently tried to post every Tuesday and Friday since I began the blog, and I have been pretty successful in keeping that schedule (apart from when surgery has thrown the calendar into a spin).

But, for the past couple of months, the posting schedule has been shot.  I didn’t want to explain what was coming as I did not want to publicize the fact that we were going to be out-of-town for two months.  No sense alerting whatever malevolent forces are lurking to do harm to the fact that the house would be unoccupied for that period of time.

So, what took us away?  My husband, the two dogs and I went on our 2018 Western Adventure RV Road Trip. 

RV with car
RV ready to roll with Jeep following wherever we go!

The mileage on our motor home when we began was 56,660 miles.  When we pulled into the storage lot 64 days later, the mileage was 61,919.  Thus, after applying higher math to the equation, we had traveled 5,259 miles. 

However, the coach was not the only vehicle driven.  We towed our Jeep and used it at the various stops to visit the National Parks, towns and roadways while the RV was hooked up to the power at the campground.  In short, the Jeep gave us portability that the coach would not have done, so we need to consider the Jeep’s mileage as well.  The trip meter says that the Jeep was driven 1,334 miles during this trip. 

So, the total mileage for our 2018 Western Adventure over the past 64 days was 6,593 miles. 

I am confident that there will be more references to our trip in future blog posts; suffice it to say that for now we are very glad to be home.  This prompted me to think about what Scripture says about home.

One of the most prominent references is where people are simply returning to their home, the place where they belong, the place where they are safe and secure, the place they want to be for a host of reasons.  Consider:

As soon as Rachel had borne Joseph, Jacob said to Laban, “Send me away, that I may go to my own home and country.”

Genesis 30:25

“And Judah was defeated by Israel, and every man fled to his home.

2 Chronicles 25:22

The Lord God was so detailed in giving the Law to His people that He required that a newly married man should remain at home with his wife for one year.

“When a man is newly married, he shall not go out with the army or be liable for any other public duty. He shall be free at home one year to be happy with his wife whom he has taken.”

Deuteronomy 24:5

Scripture speaks of having a place to call home, noting that this even applies to animals:

Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God.”

Psalm 84:3

After Jesus healed people, He most often would tell them to go to their homes:

“I tell you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.”

Mark 2:11

Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.””

Mark 5:19

And of course we also have Jesus’ words in the parable of the lost sheep:

“And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.'”

Luke 15:6

While we didn’t have a party at the house upon our arrival, we were very thankful for the home to which we returned., and the children did, in fact, have a surprise waiting for us. 

Traveling is great fun with many adventures to have, sights to see, foods to taste, pictures to take and roads to travel.  But there is something heart-tugging about “home”. 

So join me today as we celebrate returning “home”.  We often think of our home in terms of chores – laundry, cleaning, dishes, yard work.  All that is necessary to be done, but for now, I would ask that you think about your home differently.

Think about your own home, no matter what it looks like: whether it be a house, an apartment, a tenement, a bungalow, a cottage or a townhouse; whether it is in a city or village; whether it is huge or tiny; it could even be a motor home that can move to different locations!  If it is the place where you feel secure … safe … loved, then it is “home,” and praise the Lord for it.

In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”

John 14:2-3

Home, for the Christian, also includes being with the Lord Jesus Christ for all eternity in our heavenly home.  Praise God for His gracious gift of salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Through Christ’s righteousness, we can have life everlasting in our heavenly home.  Thank Him now for such a marvelous gift that we have yet to experience.

Blessings to each of you.

Father, thank You for the blessing of travel and experiencing new things, seeing new sights, going down unexplored roads.  Thank You also for the blessing of returning home, and for the blessing of Your presence no matter where we are.  We praise You for being with us each step of the way.  Thank You, Lord.

LOVE – WHAT’S IN A WORD?

Love, it is a word that is used in the English language for so many things.  Most of which probably don’t really require the term “love”.  For example,

“We love pizza.”

“We love our dogs.” 

KOA dog park 2.JPG
The “girls” running at a campground play yard.

“We love the lake!”

“We love that outfit.”

“We love the mountains.”

Waimea Canyon Kauai mountains
Waimea canyon, Kauai 

“We love how you decorated the room.” 

“We love our children.”

“We love our spouse.” 

But, do we love pizza as much as we love our spouse?  The reality is that we probably don’t love pizza more than our spouse (at least I hope that is the case!).  Do we love our spouse as much as we love an outfit?  

In short, the English language is a bit lame on the word “love.”  Love encompasses a positive emotion, often giddy and mushy, about anything, with no distinction between the type of love or the character of love for the thing before us. 

The Greek is not that way – there are at least three words for “love” and they have very different meanings.

First is Eros from which we derive erotic, or romantic love, sexual and physical; it is a love that desires to possess for personal benefit.

Second is Phileo from which we get Philadelphia and philanthropy, words that mean companionship and friendship.

Third is Agape love.  This is the New Testament Greek word that describes God’s love for us.   Agape love is the result of a decision that commits itself to the well-being of the beloved regardless of the condition or reaction of the one who is loved. 

As Christians, we are to love as Christ loved us – we are to love with the self-sacrificing love that puts others first, no matter what, that puts others’ needs before our own, that grants us the privilege to serve rather than to be served. 

And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

Ephesians 5:2 from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

John 15:12 from Jesus’ own words to His disciples.

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

John 13:35 from Jesus’ explanation as to the importance of loving each other.

Following Jesus’ example, we are to give ourselves to others as we love others

  • even if we think they don’t deserve our love.
    • As sinners, we certainly did not deserve the love that Christ lavished upon us when He died for us on the cross of Calvary! See Romans 6:23.
  • even if they don’t desire our love.  
    • When we were dead in our sin, we couldn’t ask for or desire help from Christ! See Ephesians 2:4-7.  We all know that a corpse cannot do anything to become an “un-corpse.”  When you are dead, there is no life in you, and you can’t do or desire anything.  But Christ, in His love, touched us and claimed us as His own, even while we were dead in sin.  We did not deserve that love. It was a gift of grace from God.  Therefore, we should not be so judgmental as to think that we could withhold love from anyone!
  • even if they dislike us.
    • Scripture teaches that we not only disliked God and His Son Jesus Christ, we were actual enemies of God. See Romans 5:10.   If Jesus died for us while we were His enemies, we can surely extend love to those to may dislike us!  In fact, Jesus taught that we were, indeed, to love our enemies.  See Jesus’ words in Luke 6:35.

Love is an action word.  We choose to love; we choose to obey Christ; we choose to minister to others in His name; we choose to deny ourselves and to serve others.  Love is not something you fall into or fall out of … it is a decision to commit yourself to the well-being of those you are called to love.

Now that we have made the decision to love others, TELL THEM!

We have had 4 friends who have died in the past 2 months, each of them being special to us in so many ways.  We have known all of them for over 10 years, worshipping with them and learning of God’s love through their lives.  Their lives took very different turns and experiences, but we were all unified through our Lord Jesus Christ. 

  • Don was an elder in our church, a tireless man who aided many and who died suddenly, without warning, his witness through the Gideons and in Bible study will be sorely missed;;
  • Shirley was an incredible Bible teacher and a leader in women’s Bible studies for decades who suffered with ALS for years but her witness for her Lord remained constant;
  • G. B. was a member of Bible-based fellowship group which included my husband and they met weekly for over 15 years; while he struggled with cancer, his death was unexpected and a surprise to all; and
  • Claire was a lady with whom we worshipped, who was a close friend to me even before I met my husband, whose son was best friends with our son from preschool through grammar school, when she moved across country. She was beset with all sorts of physical ailments for decades but her faith in the Lord was solid and she praised Him for all her days.

Tell those you love that you love them.  One day, they will be gone and you will have missed the opportunity to extend love to them in Jesus’ name.

Father, I ask forgiveness for ignoring the multiple opportunities You give me to extend Your love to others.  I ask that You enable me to be more loving and that I would be more vocal about how I love my family, friends and those I come in contact with.  May I bring glory to Your name, Father, because it is only through Your love that I can love others.  

 

OF TRUCKS, TRIALS AND TRIPS

This is a revised post that I presented to you in 2016.  We have been on the road quite a bit lately, and I thought the illustration was something that we all need to be reminded of every now and then.  Original posts will be forthcoming soon, I promise.  In the meantime, please consider the following offering for your spiritual encouragement and challenge.

We had occasion to be traveling on the highways of our country a lot recently.   If you spend any time at all on the roads, you will run into trucks. Well, hopefully not actually run into them, but you will come across them along the way. In fact, as we left a small town in Virginia, I counted over 60 trucks going in the opposite direction, on the other side of the interstate, in the span of about 20 minutes.

Trucks along interstate (C)
Trucks along Interstate 40.

The roads in East Tennessee are hilly, curvy and picturesque. Trucks that run the route often know when the road gets tricky to negotiate and, for the most part, they handle the hills and curves well, usually sharing the road with the smaller cars and vans without difficulty or incident.

Trucks passing along interstate (C)
Trucks passing each other.

However, one thing that I noticed is that there are times when even strong, big, heavy trucks have difficulty climbing the hills, especially when the truck is heavily loaded and the weight is simply too much to travel at significant speed. When this scenario unfolds, the truck with the especially heavy load will move to the right lane, put its flashing lights on, and plod slowly up the incline, while the trucks coming upon them in traffic will line up behind them until there is an opening in which to pass the slower truck.

We were passing a truck loaded with heavy materials that required slow travel up the incline and I was reminded of how I can get bogged down in my Christian life when sin enters and I allow it to remain.

For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.

Psalm 38:4

This huge truck that can easily travel at highway speed was limping up the mountain side, held back by the sheer weight of its load.

The writer of Hebrews warns us to be aware of sin that “clings” to us:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us ….

Hebrews 12:1

When I am loaded down with sin, or with guilt because of past sins, I can no longer climb the hills placed before me. Instead, I am grounded and unable to accomplish the work that Christ has for me. I have effectively taken myself out of the game … sidelined and unable to properly function … I am like the weighed down truck trying to race uphill.

This thought then prompted me to recall a study that the women did at church last year, specifically, Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, an allegory of the Christian lifeThe pilgrim was originally named Graceless but he received a new name of Christian after coming to faith in Christ.  He was trying to walk in the Christian Way and was having great difficulty because he was carrying a heavy backpack that was loaded with his sin and guilt.   As Christian approached the cross, he received a fuller view of Christ and the work that was done on the cross for him. It was then that his heavy backpack fell off through no effort of his own; and, as it tumbled down into the tomb, Christian felt the comfort of being covered in his Savior’s care.

David describes this condition in Psalm 51:

Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and uphold me with a willing spirit.

Psalm 51:9-12

This is the joy and comfort that Christian felt when his backpack loosened and fell into the tomb at Christ’s cross.

It is the same joy that I can have when I confess my sin and leave it at the foot of the cross.

It is the same joy and comfort that you can experience when you are released from carrying around sin and guilt that has accumulated for years (dare I say decades?)!

Praise the Lord that Christ’s work on the cross enables us to shed the weight of sin and guilt so that we can climb mountains at full speed while we do the work that He has ordained for us to do. We may be called to carry heavy weights for Him, but the task will be eased when we remember that our sin is gone and that Christ and His Spirit are with us.

Father, I pray that you would forgive me when I complain about the weight of the task ahead. Help me to remember that You are with me, that your Son is yoked with me and that your Spirit will give me strength to carry on even in the face of difficulties. Help me to honor and glorify You in my life, words, deed, and worship.

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Chores and Work – Are they a bain or a blessing?

No one likes chores.  No one likes duties that are not thought of as fun and chores, almost by definition, are not fun. 

Farm in Tennessee
A Tennessee farm

Talk to any child raised on a farm and they will tell you of chores and hard work, even before going to school for the day!  (We remember the Little House on the Prairie television series showing farm life in bygone days.)

Learning how to work is simply something that must be done.  Confucius said: “The father who does not teach his son his duties is equally guilty as the son who neglects them.”

The Jewish Tamud, Kiddushin 29a, outlines the responsibilities of a Jewish father to his son.  The father was obligated to circumcise his son, to redeem him if he is the firstborn, to teach him Torah, to find him a wife, and to teach him a trade.

The parent was to teach the child a trade, thereby enabling the child to become a productive member of society who was able to support himself as an adult and, prayerfully, have a wife and children to propagate the family line.  All of this was in question though if the child could not be employed in a trade so that he could earn a wage to accomplish these goals.

Clearly, working was seen as an important part of one’s life.  Indeed, Paul wrote some very stern words:

“For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.”

2 Thessalonians 3:10

Scripture says that God worked when He created the universe.

“And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.”

Genesis 2:2-3

Then, shortly after these two verses, we read that Adam was to work in the garden.

“The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”

Genesis 2:15

Tended flower garden in back yard
A tended flower garden

 

What was Adam’s job?  How did he “work it”?

“Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.”

Genesis 2:19

Adam had the incredible job of naming all the animals and birds. 

Of course, we know that sin entered the world while Adam and Eve were in the garden and our first parents were expelled therefrom.  At that point, work was no longer merely tending the plants and animals.  Rather, it became exceedingly difficult. 

“And to Adam he [God] said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.””

Genesis 3:17-19

So, perhaps our angst about work is the continuation of the rebellion that began in the Garden.  Perhaps our resentment for having to work is simply a modern description of an ancient condition – perhaps it is nothing other than sin, disobedience to God, rejecting God’s plan and inserting ourselves into God’s place so that we believe we are the master of our own universe.

How do we see these things correctly?  Solomon noted:

“Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil–this is the gift of God.”

Ecclesiastes 5:19

Matthew Henry said of this verse:

Life is God’s gift, and he has appointed us the number of the days of our life (Job 14:5); let us therefore spend those days in serving the Lord our God with joyfulness and gladness of heart.  We must not do the business of our calling as a drudgery, and make ourselves slaves to it, but we must rejoice in our labour, not grasp at more business than we can go through without perplexity and disquiet but take a pleasure in the calling wherein God has put us, and go on in the business of it with cheerfulness. 

So why do we have such difficulty with chores and work?  Why is “work” almost a forbidden dirty word in our culture today?

Perhaps we need to confess our sin, our rebellion, our rejection of God’s order and realign our vision to be consistent with God’s viewpoint.  Work is something that we must have to thrive, both from a financial standpoint but also from a psychological and emotional standpoint.  We need to accomplish things during our day, and those things are especially blessed if they are in line with God’s directives for us.

Father, forgive me when I have seen work as drudgery or as something to run away from.  Enable me to see my life’s work through your eyes, as a means of glorifying You and of spreading the Good News of the Gospel of Your Son to those around me.

 

Attitude – What is yours?

The story is told that an old man was wearing a shirt that sported the following sentence: “I am not 80 years old…I am sweet 16 with 64 years of experience”.  That is an example of ATTITUDE.  There are all sorts of variations on that theme, but recently I saw a marque sign at a motel that was unique, and it made me laugh.  While I don’t think it really had anything to do with the motel, I loved the sign, drove around the block to see it once more, and then took a picture of it so I would remember what it said:

Sign - winter fat gone
“My winter fat is gone, now I have spring rolls!”

You may have heard that before, but I had not.  I think it illustrates an attitude that does not bemoan circumstances, rather it acknowledges facts and moves on.   

The reality is that we all have things about ourselves that are less than flattering, perhaps some more than others, but each of us is held captive by some negative comment made by others that has shaped our own image into a false image which we cannot seem to overcome. 

Beloved, the eternal reality is that Jesus Christ loved us when there was NOTHING to love.  We were sinners through and through.  Adam determined that way back when he ate the forbidden fruit, and we have been under that original sin curse ever since.  We have no beauty in us, even the good things that we do are marred by sin and self-interest, by pride and arrogance, and by disobedience of God’s law. 

Paul said it this way:

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die–but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Romans 5:6-8

Let those words sink into your heart and into your mind … God loved us while we were sinners.  But He could not leave us as sinners because of His holy justice.  So, He sent Christ to die for us.  Christ paid our debt on the cross.  We no longer have to struggle to try to please God because that has already occurred.  We just need to claim Christ as our Savior and Lord, and we then live a life that is in conformity with His Word.

That means that the false image that plagues you today is washed away by the blood of the Lamb of God.  What does God see when He looks at you?   We know what He sees because His Word tells us:

“Come now, and let us reason together,” says the LORD, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”

Isaiah 1:18

In referencing what the Lord Jesus did for us, Paul says this about God sending His Son:

“For our sake he [God] made him [Jesus Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him [Jesus Christ] we might become the righteousness of God.”

2 Corinthians 5:21

For those in Jesus Christ, God sees the Lord’s righteousness when He looks at us.  We are covered in the robes of our Lord and His righteousness.  No false image, no trying to be good enough, no sin and no fear of God because He has given His Son to be our Savior.  

“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”

Romans 8:16-17

So, what should be our attitude?  Paul, farther along in the same chapter, supplies the thrilling answer:

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

Romans 8:37

Many people want to be a conqueror, but we are more than merely conquerors … we are children of the Sovereign, Almighty, Creator, Omniscient, Omnipotent, Omnipresent GOD, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Attitude – it should not be arrogant because we are children of the King, rather it should be that of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We should be servant to all because we are nothing more than sinners, saved by grace.  For that we should be eternally thankful.  So, what is your attitude?

Father, please forgive me when i have let the opinions of other men and women dictate what I think of myself.  Give me the strength and courage to look only to You for my meaning, worth and value.  Enable me to think in terms of eternality rather than earthly, and let me remember that my true value is seen in terms of Jesus and His righteousness.

THE LAST WORD

We go camping fairly often and, when we do, we frequently take the dogs with us.  Years ago we had retired racing greyhounds as our canine daughters, and they LOVED to ride in the RV.  They were quiet and never barked, even when we were in the campground.  Perfect traveling companions.

Goldie and Sweetie in Pace Arrow
Goldie and Sweetie on sofa in RV

Now, as the hounds have passed on, and thinking that greyhounds were too big for us to handle, we have two small MinPin canine daughters, Cuddles and Snickers.  I frequently refer to them in posts as they provide never ending illustrations, usually of behavior that we should avoid!

Cuddles and Snickers - did you call us
Are you writing about us again?

We have been trying to train them not to bark when we are in a campground.  That is no small task given the fact that there are people (many of whom have their own dogs on leashes) walking past the RV, there are campers coming and going, there are people talking outside around the campfire, there are just noises upon noises all beckoning the girls to bark.

For Snickers, this no-bark concept is especially difficult.  We don’t know how she was treated before coming to us, but she is very defensive and the hackles on her back raise at the slightest sound, which she then barks and growls at for an extended time.  We have used various techniques and we are on the way to getting her to behave better, but we have found it curious, and humorous, that she has to have the “last word”.

She will start to bark and we say “No bark”, she will shut it down a notch and after several rounds of this between us she will put her head down, grumbling in doggie language, with one final subdued “woof”.  If we say “No bark” after that “woof”, she will whine and then even more softly go “woof”.  It is as if she has to have the last word.

All this background is to say that, if we are honest, we really are no different from Snickers.  Consider for a moment Moses when he was saw the burning bush. The Lord told him that he was to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, but Moses raised numerous objections detailing why he could not do it. Exodus 3.  The final “woof” was Moses’ cry “please send someone else”! Exodus 4:13. Scripture says:

“Then the Lord’s anger was kindled against Moses.”

Exodus 4:14   

No more excuses, Moses.  Do what I direct you to do and I will be with you.  Moses obeyed, God had the last word.

We humans think we can have the last word, but in reality, it is God who always has the last word.

We are lost in sin, we cannot stop ourselves.  We may be able to do some nice things for others, but there is almost always a self-centered aspect to our activity.  We are the center of our universe, and we think that this entitles us to have the last word about anything that touches us or our own universe. 

This attitude ignores the cosmic reality that we are nothing, we are created beings who depend upon the Creator for our very life, for the air we breathe and for each beat of our heart.  Satan is ruling us because of our sinful nature, but God even has the last word in that regard.

When Jesus Christ was nailed to the cross, it was not because of any sin that He had committed, rather it was because He was taking on the sin of all God’s children.  Jesus was paying that price that God’s justice demanded so that those who believed in Jesus would be saved from eternal death.  Just before He died, we read these words:

“… ‘It is finished’ and He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.”

John 19:30

Jesus did not just mean that it was time for Him to die.  He meant that the job He came to earth to do was completed.  There was nothing more that needed to be done to save His people, to satisfy the debt that they owed because of their sin.  The way of salvation was completed, it was then and it still is finished.  Sin had met its Conqueror, and God had the last word.

God will again have the last word as we see in the final book of the Bible, Revelation. 

So, Beloved, rest in the Lord.  When He is leading you to do something, do it without giving in to the temptation to try to get the last word, the final “woof” if you will.  God always has the last word.  Don’t test His patience, just raise your arms to your Father and thank Him for loving, guiding and encouraging you through whatever is ahead of you.

Father, please forgive me when I have insisted on having the last word.  Enable me to see that this is disobedience of the highest order.  I pray that the Holy Spirit would touch my heart when I am tempted to disobey and run in my own arrogance away from what You desire for me.  Enable me to love You more, through Jesus Christ, my Lord and my Redeemer.