Let the Redeemed of the Lord Say So

I was reading in Psalms the other day (actually I read this one quite a few days ago, but I’ve been thinking about it and revisiting it several times since). As Christians we hear a lot about Jesus’ Great Commission to us to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). This is a very clear directive intended for all Christ-followers to obey. Indeed, it has been in God’s plan all along for His people to reveal Him to their world through both words and actions. In the Old Testament, Moses told the Israelite nation “See, I have taught you statutes and rules, as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should do them in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today?” (Deuteronomy 4:5-8

This brings me to Psalm 107. It is a psalm which very clearly calls God’s people to testify to the world about Him. I’ve broken the text down into its individual stanzas with a few thoughts listed after each one.

Psalm 107 (ESV)

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.

The psalm begins with a call for those God has redeemed (according to one dictionary this means to “gain or regain possession of (something) in exchange for payment”) to verbalize this fact. Note that the all-inclusive compass directions indicate that this is a word to everyone across the planet who has been bought back by God and for God, through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, the sacrificial payment for our sins who was provided for us by (and as) God himself.

The next four stanzas identify several examples of what kinds of words and actions might constitute the “saying so” of the redeemed. They each follow a similar formula:

  • Identification of the needful condition or situation in which the redeemed might find him/her self.
  • Recognition of that condition and then acknowledgment to God of their need for salvation.
  • God’s action in bringing them out of (or through) their situation.
  • Their response to God in praise and gratitude for His redemption. Notice the recurring phrase encouraging both general praise – “Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man!” – followed by more specific praise for what God has done in specific answer to the situation the redeemed was in.

Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to a city to dwell in; hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He led them by a straight way till they reached a city to dwell in. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.

This is a depiction of those who were lost and searching for meaning. There are many people who recognize that something eternal exists beyond them (e.g. a city to dwell in). They seek answers in a variety of places but recognize that they haven’t found anything satisfying. God is faithful to reveal Himself to those who seek Him. In Romans 1:20, the apostle Paul assures us that God’s “invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” Anyone who is seeking God will ultimately be able to find him. However, the seeking must lead to the obeying. Jeremiah 29:13 says, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” This is not a general statement spoken to anyone, but specifically to those (the exiled Israelites) who seek God with desire and intent to follow and obey Him. Jesus made a similar statement in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7) when he said “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” This is not a general statement applicable to anyone anytime. It is in the context of Jesus talking about the importance of obedience and choosing the narrow obedient path, rather than the broad “easy” path that most people follow. This stanza of the psalm concludes with the indication that true satisfaction comes through obedience (following God down the straight way).

Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in affliction and in irons, for they had rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High. So he bowed their hearts down with hard labor; they fell down, with none to help. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and burst their bonds apart. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! For he shatters the doors of bronze and cuts in two the bars of iron.

This stanza reflects the experience of one who once followed God, but rebelled against Him. They have suffered the consequences of their choices and have come to the end of their rope. They recognize how dependent they ultimately are upon God and seek Him to free them from the life of misery that they have incurred. This is very reminiscent of the story of the prodigal son told by Jesus in Luke 15. In it, the son rejects his Father’s house and demands to be given freedom (and his inheritance) to go off and do his own thing. When his life falls apart, he comes back in repentance and is welcomed home.

Some were fools through their sinful ways, and because of their iniquities suffered affliction; they loathed any kind of food, and they drew near to the gates of death. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!

This stanza seems similar to the previous one. Iniquity leads to suffering leads to despair leads to repentance. The big difference is found in the word “rebelled” (in the previous stanza) and the word “fools” in this stanza. One openly rebels against God and rejects His ways. The other simply does stupid stuff, still rejecting God’s way but perhaps claiming that “I’m fine. I’m a believer. God’ll take care of me.” Jesus told another parable which follows this line of reasoning in Matthew 21:28-31. He was speaking to religious leaders who thought they were fine with God and didn’t recognize their own sinfulness: “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.” This is the danger with fools, as this Psalm points out. The fool has rebelled just as much as one who openly does so, but the fool doesn’t recognize (or acknowledge) their “hidden” rebellion, and therefore are often much more resistant to actual repentance, because they just don’t see the need to repent.

Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the great waters; they saw the deeds of the Lord, his wondrous works in the deep. For he commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea. They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their evil plight; they reeled and staggered like drunken men and were at their wits’ end. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! Let them extol him in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders.

Some people just go about their daily lives without any thought of God at all. They see the world around them not as an outpouring of God’s creativity, but simply as something that just exists. However, when tragedy comes in whatever form, they are suddenly faced with the reality of their mortality and frailness and they don’t know where to turn. This opens a door for God to reveal himself to them in a mighty way. I find it interesting that this group seems to have more of a compulsion to tell others about God’s salvation (e.g. they extol him in the congregation…). It’s almost as if they discovered God and weren’t even looking for him, and hence the greater impulse to tell others what they’ve found.

He turns rivers into a desert, springs of water into thirsty ground, a fruitful land into a salty waste, because of the evil of its inhabitants. He turns a desert into pools of water, a parched land into springs of water. And there he lets the hungry dwell, and they establish a city to live in; they sow fields and plant vineyards and get a fruitful yield. By his blessing they multiply greatly, and he does not let their livestock diminish. When they are diminished and brought low through oppression, evil, and sorrow, he pours contempt on princes and makes them wander in trackless wastes; but he raises up the needy out of affliction and makes their families like flocks. The upright see it and are glad, and all wickedness shuts its mouth.

At this point the psalm takes a bit of a different direction. It talks generally about how God controls His creation and how this interacts with humanity. It reminds me a bit about Paul’s statement (Acts 14:15-17) to the residents of Lystra. Paul had just healed a man whose feet had been crippled from birth, and the people immediately assumed Paul and Barnabas were gods and started to worship them. Paul said, “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” Paul encouraged, as the psalmist does, that people need to consider the world and look for God’s work in it. However, as Paul found out, and as the psalmist notices, there are many, especially those who are prosperous and don’t see a need for God, who have contempt for God and refuse to humble themselves before him, but those who recognize and acknowledge their need for Him will certainly find him.

Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things; let them consider the steadfast love of the Lord.

The concluding statement is an admonition for us all. Be wise and consider God’s work and love for us. When you do so, you will find Him and desire to serve him. Then, let the redeemed of the Lord SAY SO!

 

 

Monthly Musing – Looking Back

Wow! It was a really good day at church today. We heard the chaplain from an active duty naval ship speak on the text from Genesis in which Jacob wrestled with God and survived, receiving a name change (Israel) to reflect the fact that he had been humbled and was now ready to be used by God to continue the promise of blessing given to Abraham to bless all nations of the earth (Jesus) (Genesis 32).

We also heard a powerful testimony in Sunday School from a man who has been rescued from substance abuse and financial destruction simply through God’s outpouring of love and discipline in his life, similar to the story Jesus told of the prodigal son (Luke 15).

Both of these stories tied in well with a topic that has been on my mind the last few weeks. In both cases, the stories depict people who, through the decisions they’ve made over the course of their lives, have been at odds with God, seeking to steer the course of their own lives. The navy chaplain used a pen as an illustration of this. We often try to “write our own story”, only giving token acknowledgement to God and even refusing to let Him have control of a part, or parts, of our life. The chaplain challenged us to hand the pen to God and let Him write our story from here on out. This is a beautiful picture that all of us should take to heart.

However, another friend of mine has correctly pointed out that it’s one thing to give the pen to God… and another thing still to actually take our hand off of it and truly let God take control. This is a struggle that is real for any human being seeking to live the life that God intends us to. We need to be honest about what it means to “keep hold of the pen”. John Piper has a sermon titled Christ’s Power is Made Perfect in Weakness, based on 2 Corinthians 12:1-10 in which Paul talks about his supplication to God to remove the “thorn in the flesh” that troubles Paul, and God responds by saying “my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Piper points out that the weakness Paul is experiencing is NOT sin, but rather various forms of persecution and trials. We must be careful not to claim that God’s power is magnified through our sin. The truth is that our sin must be acknowledged and repented of and THEN God’s power will be revealed through His grace in our lives and manifested in miraculous ways.

Jacob had to acknowledge the fact that he had continually resisted God and tried to steer the course of his own life through deception and thievery. Hence God’s question to him… “Tell me your name”. Jacob’s name literally means “deceiver” and he had to own up to that fact and repent of his choices.

Likewise, the prodigal son in Jesus’ parable had to come to point of acknowledgement that he had sinned against his father. The man in our Sunday School had to acknowledge his own deceptiveness and reliance on substance for satisfaction before he could experience the miraculous forgiveness and healing that only God can provide.

This is the crux of all our sin, no matter what it is. Ultimately, our choice to rebel is the same one that Adam and Eve made originally – to choose our own desires and take action on them in spite of God’s clear commands. We make ourselves the god of our own life by holding on to that pen and writing our own story. We must let go and say “yes” to God and let Him direct the paths of our life story.

Throughout scripture, God continually invites His people to look back at the things He has done and be stirred to repentance for forgetting Him and rebelling. He reminds them of His acts of deliverance. He also reminds them of their acts of rebellion. It is important for us to maintain a perspective that similarly looks back at our own life blessings and rebellions in order to properly look forward to following God’s direction and control.

These last few weeks, as I’ve had time, I’ve been scanning old documents and pictures as part of our downsizing efforts and it’s served to remind me of the blessings God has given me. This in turn has reminded me also of the many choices I’ve made, both good and bad, that have framed my life story and served to encourage me to continue to rely on Him going forward. Here are a few things I’ve revisited lately:

  • I am grateful for the wife God has blessed me with. Proverbs 5:18-19 says “Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love.”  God prepared her for me (and me for her) from the outset.Darlene babyOwenspics20325Mothers Day 2015
  • I am grateful for her family for the daughter and household they produced. Her family reminds me of Joshua’s family in the Old Testament. As Joshua neared the end of his life as Moses’ successor and leader of the Israelites, he challenged them with these words (Joshua 24:14-15) – Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Darlene’s family have been faithful servants of God.                                                                           Darlene baby0096.jpg2017-07-02_16-28-14
  • I am grateful for my parents and siblings (but I haven’t scanned many of those pictures yet). One of God’s commandments is to “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12). I remember my Dad telling me once, “Son, I am grateful that you have never been a rebellious son”. This was on the occasion of having done something that hurt him very deeply and had caused some tension between us, but we were mending things and re-affirming our love for each other. It meant a lot to me.

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  • I’m grateful for my children. Psalm 127:3-5 says, “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior

    are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.” I look back at my children (and at them presently today) and I am immensely proud of the young men they have become. Owenspics20297.jpg

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All of this is to say that as we move forward with our plan to downsize and live/travel full-time in our motorhome, we are determined to let God lead us in the direction(s) we should go. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. That’s a commitment that you don’t just make once. It has to be a daily/continual choice.

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Weekly Update (-) 29 – a Monthly Musing

Countdown -29

Well, tomorrow my retirement countdown clock drops below 200 days. I don’t have much to update from this week, other than the fact that we finalized the purchase of our motorhome and will accept delivery of it this Wednesday. We’re taking it for its “shakedown cruise” next week to Rocky Mountain National Park, in which we’ll try to learn what we need to learn about living in the RV.

This is the first update of the month, so time for a Monthly Musing. There is no accompanying video for this week. My intent for Monthly Musings are to spend some time reflecting on where our current “journey” has brought us and how it seems to related to scripture.

The thing that is probably most on my mind this Saturday evening as I write this is the fact that I’m not putting finishing touches on a Sunday School lesson for tomorrow. Last week was the last lesson that I taught as a regular Sunday School teacher at Applewood Baptist Church. I’ve been teaching a coed adult Bible Study class there since 2004, so it feels really weird not preparing a lesson for tomorrow and knowing that I won’t be for the coming weeks either.

Giving up my Sunday School class is a decision I made several months ago as we solidified our plans for full-time RVing and for Watchmaker’s Pulse activities. As the launch date approaches, downsizing is going to include not only physical stuff, but responsibilities as well.

For this month’s musing, here’s the text of the farewell message I sent to both past and present Sunday School class members.

I wanted to take this opportunity to say farewell, even though the longer-term farewell won’t be happening until around Christmas time. I’ve included both present and past members of my Sunday School class, along with assorted others at Applewood Baptist Church, both present and formerly. I concur with Paul’s beginning to Philippians: “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.”
It has been such a joy to be a Sunday School teacher at Applewood since 2004. Today was my last as a full-time Sunday School teacher and it was a bittersweet ending. The ending is of my own choice as I slowly give up responsibilities and plan on this next phase of our life. To reiterate, or for those who don’t know, I am retiring from Drillinginfo, a job that I’ve held now for 4 years since my initial retirement from my 30-year education career. My actual retirement date is December 21, 2017. I’ve even requested to go part-time with my company until that date arrives. Darlene and I are preparing our house for sale and planning to move full-time into our new motorhome, which will be our home for the next foreseeable future.

We still plan to be around until then, but are going to be very busy remodeling our house and downsizing our stuff.
For our current Sunday School class members: As I have told you several times in class over the past few months, I strongly encourage you to quickly find a new class and immerse yourself in it, sharing your lives and talents as you have done so faithfully with us. I recommend that you visit some of the following classes:
  • [I took out the class recommendation list]
For all recipients of this email: I hope this finds you well. I have appreciated working with each of you in various facets in the past and look forward to staying in touch as we travel. Our plan is to head out as soon after my retirement date as possible (or maybe even sooner if the house gets sold – but we are nowhere near close that yet!) As several people have pointed out, my plan is not to retire FROM something, but rather to retire TO something. We plan to join the ranks of full-time RVers and travel across North America, probably numerous times, seeing lots of places that we’ve always wanted to see.
A large (and possibly bigger) part of that, though, is what to do while we see these things. This is really where I feel God is leading us to go in our next phase of ministry. I don’t have full clarity on everything yet, but I have begun plans for a ministry I’m calling The Watchmaker’s Pulse. It comes from the old William Paley analogy (Calvin has referred to it several times) in which a finder of a watch in the field would never assume that watch to have just been there for all time. It has the earmarks of being designed by a Watchmaker and begs investigation into the details of who that Watchmaker might be. 
I’m finding that as we research and learn from others (there are about currently 500,000 full-time RVers in the U.S.) about this lifestyle, we see that a majority of people who are “public” with their travels via YouTube, podcasts, and websites, spend lots of time talking about their travels and tips for others, but give very little acknowledgement or credit to their Creator for the life and wonders they encounter. Hence my new “mission” field.
What you can do?:
  • Send us. By that I simply mean in the sense that Paul and Barnabas were sent by the church in Antioch. In Acts 26, Paul recounts his “call” for King Agrippa: “I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’ “Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision.” Paul was called first, and then sent by the local church, on his missionary journey. Now don’t get me wrong: I’m not claiming any special “vision” other than that I feel strongly about this next opportunity for ministry that I think is being laid out for us. We have all been sent, and just as I’ve been (or tried to be) faithful through my life in my church and in my places of employment to be a strong witness for Jesus, so I wish to be in this next phase of our life. As we travel, we wish to be able to still call Applewood our home church.
  • Pray for us. Pray specifically for the following for now, and then I’ll keep you updated, if interested, later about further prayer needs:
    • Pray for our downsizing. We’ve been in our house for 31 years, and have accumulated much, along with having lost both sets of parents and inherited much of their stuff as well. We are completely giving up a “stick-and-brick” residence and will only be storing stuff equivalent to a small 2-bedroom apartment, in the event that we choose to only do this RV life for a shorter term. It is a huge effort to sort through things and decide what needs to be kept and what can be parted with. There are a lot of memories attached!
    • Pray for the preparation of and sale of our house. We are remodeling our house, which was built in the 60s and in need of quite a few updates. Pray that those updates will go smoothly and not be too costly to us. Also pray that when the house goes on the market (probably in October) that it will sell in a timely and profitable fashion.
    • Pray for our finances. We have a plan and feel that we are financially able to do this. However, until we hit the road and actually experience the costs of travel along with the maintenance of vehicles, healthcare, etc., the actual working out of the details is still a bit uncertain.
    • Pray for our children. We have two wonderful sons who are adults and quite independent, but we also are very close and have not been living outside of regional proximity with them. Pray that they will feel God’s hand of leadership on their career and relational choices and that our family will continue to thrive in the future as it does now. 
    • Pray for our travels. We have it in our sights to visit all 49 states (unless I can figure out how to drive to Hawaii) and every province in Canada. Mexico… still to be determined. There is a lot to see in North America. Even though we’ve traveled quite a bit, 2-week vacations just don’t immerse you in the culture and surroundings that same as a slower pace will allow. Pray for safety and special abilities to deal with the inevitable mishaps which are an innate part of this lifestyle.
    • Pray for the churches we visit. One of our goals as we travel is to make corporate worship a priority. I have in mind something of a project (not clear on that yet) in documenting the state of worship across America. We are looking forward, especially in smaller towns, to visiting churches and engaging with the people in them to worship our God and fellowship with other believers whom we’ve never met before.
    • On a related note, pray for our people/social skills. It won’t come as much of a surprise to most of you, but neither Darlene nor I are very extroverted. We are perfectly content to quietly sit in the corner and try not to be noticed. Even though it may seem quite easy for me to stand up and teach a class or publicly speak, because that’s what I’ve done all my life, I still get nervous, especially in a new situation. This choice that we’re making in this new lifestyle is to be constantly in a new situation!
    • Pray for the Watchmaker’s Pulse ministry. See below.
  • Follow us. The Watchmaker’s Pulse is the framework under which we’ll be documenting our travels and managing our ministry efforts. The primary website from which all other content can be accessed is watchmakerspulse.com. As I’ve built this out, I’ve emphasized that it’s really not “off the ground” until 2018, but I’m trying out some things and making plans for the ministry concept. Some things I’m considering and exploring are:
    • Maintaining a regular blog about a variety of topics as we travel. This will be organized by theme, such as National Parks, churches, RV life, etc. It is my goal to, as I blog, make sure that I link scripture and acknowledgments of God’s work in each entry, thus the idea of looking for the pulse (or evidence of existence) of the Watchmaker.
    • Maintaining a video library on YouTube about our adventure, again trying to link our activity with God’s activity. The videos I currently have posted are not very good, but I’m using them to try out things about videography, sound, composition, theming, editing, software, etc.
    • As stated earlier, I’d like to do some sort of documentary?? about worship and churches across America.
    • I also have envisioned a home-school or interest-based set of courses in a Watchmaker’s Pulse Academy
    • I’ve noticed that the full-time RVers tend to keep track of each other through various social networks and blogging. I sense an opportunity to join this community and hopefully form connections which might hold ministry opportunities including bible studies, gospel-sharing, campground ministries, public speaking engagements, who knows?
It would be a HUGE help if you would simply FOLLOW us via the interweb. This will serve two purposes: to allow you to keep track of and communicate with us, but also to help grow the channels. Please, if you’re willing, follow and subscribe as shown below. I haven’t started promoting these yet beyond family and friends, but the more “followers” I have when I do, the more successful they’ll be at reaching new people.
Look on the right side of the page for the “Follow” button and enter your email. This will send an email to you anytime I create a new blog entry.
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On YouTube:
Click the Subscribe button on the right.
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It also helps generate “views” if you watch the videos, even just starting them and stopping them counts as a “view”. They’re not great yet, but I promise they’ll get better over time. Give them a thumbs-up as well.
On Facebook:
Search for the Watchmaker’s Pulse page. Click the “Like” and “Follow” buttons.
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Lastly, my Twitter account is @watchmakerspuls (NOTE that this is without the final “e” because the name was too long by Twitter standards). You can also follow that if you would.
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If you are down here, I thank you for reading this far, or even if you just scrolled to the end, I still thank you. Darlene and I have been at Applewood a long time (since 1974 and 1983 respectively) and will miss you when we depart around Christmas time. For those of you that live elsewhere now, we look forward to seeing people we’ve known as we travel and will try to keep tabs with you wherever we are. We love you all!

 

Weekly Update (-) 30

Happy (belated) Memorial Day!

All these updates are covered in the YouTube video linked at the end of this post. This week we had our second donation pickup from ARC. We were able to offload a number of larger items, as shown below.

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We also paid a visit to the graves of our four parents. Shown below is Golden cemetery, with the graves of David and Marlene DeCamp.

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J.D. and Adelaide Owens are buried at Crown Hill cemetery in Wheat Ridge.

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I’ve always had mixed feelings about visiting a cemetery specifically to leave flowers, etc. at the graves of loved ones. I don’t mean to be insensitive, but it always seems a bit pointless to me. They aren’t there. It feels like leaving flowers on the doorstep of someone who you know is not home and won’t be there to get them. However, visiting the graves does give me a chance to reflect on things and here’s what I thought about during these visits.

  1. Visiting and decorating the graves of your parents, really, is a way of continuing fulfillment of the 5th commandment, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12). This is not a time-bound commandment, but is God’s expectation of us for all time and in all circumstances. Whatever your relationship is with your parents, you are still expected to honor them in a God-honoring manner. If you think about it, the first 4 commandments are about our relationship to God, and the last 6 are about our relationship to other people in a manner that continues to focus on God and honoring Him. Hence our motivation is not to just not commit adultery, steal, etc. but to do so because that’s God’s expectation of us and to obey those commandments is to give the honor and glory that is due to Him.
  2. Another thing I thought about during these visits was the story in Ezekiel 37.  Ezekiel was a prophet in Israel during the time of their Babylonian exile. He wrote, “The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And he said to me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’ And I answered, ‘O Lord God, you know.’ Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord (vss. 1-4).” Ezekiel obeyed and prophesied (spoke the word of God) over the bones, and they began to re-articulate themselves, growing flesh and skin. Then God said, “’Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.’ So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army” (vss. 9-10).

This story is a beautiful picture, as God further explains to Ezekiel in that chapter, of God’s salvation of His people. All of us are sinners and unable/unworthy to dwell with God in heaven in our current state. The Bible reminds us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23-24). Our justification (forgiveness) comes because Jesus paid the price (redemption) demanded by our sin (for the wages of sin is death – Romans 6:23a), and those who trust their lives to Jesus are forgiven their indebtedness (but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. –  Romans 6:23b).

That is the gospel that Christians bear testimony to. We prophesy (preach God’s Word) to a people (all of humanity) who are indebted to God for their sinfulness and have earned their wages of death. We preach God’s Word so that hearers can have the breath of God revive them and give them eternal life. Watch my video below and you’ll see/hear Lauren Daigle’s wonderful song about Dry Bones.

Retirement

Week (-) 32 and (-) 31 Update

The last two weeks have been very busy for me, mostly because of job-related tasks. As far as downsizing work goes, here’s what’s been going on:

  • We completed the refinance of our house. This will help to free up some monthly cash for further remodeling expenses and some debt reduction.
  • Our city had a free day at the local landfill, so I loaded up the van. I pulled all of the doors that I plan to replace and hauled them out, along with sundry other items. trash
  • We purchased replacement doors, but they still need to be painted before being ready to hang.Doors
  • The big news is that we made a down payment and committed to purchasing our new future home – a 2017 Tiffin Allegro Open Road 34PA. We should be able to take possession of it in another week or so.allegro-34PA1122523_Detail1122538_Detail1122557_Detail

As I was reading my Bible this week, I read Psalm 65, and it made me think about where we are in our plans for this new phase of life. In the psalm, David follows two trains of thought. First, he praises God simply because He deserves his praise.

Psalm 65 (ESV)

Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion, and to you shall vows be performed. O you who hear prayer, to you shall all flesh come.

When iniquities prevail against me, you atone for our transgressions. Blessed is the one you choose and bring near, to dwell in your courts! We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, the holiness of your temple!

By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness, O God of our salvation, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas; the one who by his strength established the mountains, being girded with might; who stills the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, the tumult of the peoples, so that those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at your signs.
I reflected on the great privilege that we have to worship God and bring our gifts of praise to him each week. This is something I intend to continue even as we head out on the road of adventure. We will not forsake gathering with God’s people in worship!
The last part of this psalm focuses on the physical world that God has created and offers appreciation and praise simply for the marvelous beauty and everyday presence of God in His creation.
You make the going out of the morning and the evening to shout for joy. You visit the earth and water it; you greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; you provide their grain, for so you have prepared it.
You water its furrows abundantly, settling its ridges, softening it with showers, and blessing its growth. You crown the year with your bounty; your wagon tracks overflow with abundance. The pastures of the wilderness overflow, the hills gird themselves with joy, the meadows clothe themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy.
All of creation sings of the praises and glory of God. This is the other part of our adventure that I look forward to. We will be treasuring and appreciating the wonder of God’s creation and joyfully sharing it with those whose paths we cross. Praise God from whom all blessings flow! 

Retirement countdown -32

Weekly Update (-) 33

This was a busy week at work and I had less energy for doing much of the work at home. I scanned a few more books, cleaned out/off some drawers, boxes, and shelves. We got another set of donation items started for the next ARC pickup. We also spent a bit of time shopping for bathroom tiles and fixtures, doors, and window blinds. On top of that, our dog, Scooter, threw his back out somehow and needed some veterinary care.

This week’s update video (linked below) is the first in a series I plan to call “Monthly Musings”, in which I do a bit of reflecting on the Bible and God’s creation. This month I talk a bit about Psalm 19.

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.

There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard.

Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them he has set a tent for the sun,

which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.

Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;

the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;

the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.

10  More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.

11  Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

12  Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults.

13  Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.

14  Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

countweek_33

Choosing the Right Path

On a recent business trip to Tulsa, OK, I had a few hours available before I had to catch my flight, so I headed to an area just south of town called Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness Area. It was a surprising forested area full of countless trails along and around a ridge bounded on one side by the Arkansas River.

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Trail map of the Turkey Mountain area, downloaded from the site linked above.

I hadn’t found this map before arriving there and it would have been helpful to have. There was a copy posted on a sign next to the parking lot, but it had been rather worn by fingers and weather so that a photo captured on my phone was not as helpful as this one would have been. I read a few reviews of the area and consistently people talked about the importance of a map to keep from getting lost. I thought, “Yeah, right. This is Oklahoma where everything’s flat. I won’t have any problem.”….

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After hiking for about 1.5 hours, I found that I was having to try to keep very aware of what direction I was going and where I was in relation to the parking lot. Fortunately, I had the river and sun as reference, but trails were criss-crossing so much, that it would have been very easy to lose track of where I was.

Which brings me to an observation about choosing the right path. The Bible is very clear about some things. It reveals to us God’s overarching plan for creation and salvation. It also gives us very specific instructions about a number of moral and social issues. But there are times when we are faced with decisions about our actions and activities that may not be explicitly dealt with in any particular or combination of biblical passages. In those cases, we must decide the best we can, but our decisions should be influenced by several factors:

Biblical principles – This is first and foremost what should drive our decisions. Even though scripture may not deal explicitly with a particular topic, it gives ample guidance in so many things from which foundational principles can be derived. The only way to really be able to discern those principles is through regular immersion in God’s word. Read it, study it, memorize it, talk about it, teach it, listen to others teaching it. These are all ways to embed the Bible in our minds so that it will be there to be brought to our attention when we need it. Through Jeremiah the prophet, God promised

Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah 31:31-34)

The principle here is that in God’s new covenant (realized through the advent of Jesus Christ), God would enable His law to be known and understood by all who are recipients of that covenant promise. Jesus reiterated this when he promised, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:12-14) One of the activities of the Holy Spirit is to enable us to recall and understand God’s Word, but to do that we have to be diligent in staying familiar with what it actually says. The analogy here to the criss-crossing trails described above would be the map. Having access to and studying the map is the surest way to keep on track with where we intend to go.

Godly advice – Jesus said in Matthew 18:20, “ where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” This verse is often quoted without acknowledging the context in which he spoke it. This is in a broader passage in which Jesus is encouraging believers to be diligent to correct the sin that lies among them (e.g. church discipline). He describes the process in a progression from private confrontation, to larger group involvement, and finally to a whole congregation appealing to someone to end their sinful choices. The principle here is that none of us is ever intended to operate in a vacuum. The choices we make should always be made with consideration of their impact and influence on others around us. And, since we are surrounding ourselves with other like-minded believers (the local church), that enables us to give and receive guidance and correction to one another. In the analogy of my wandering along the trails of Turkey mountain, I had the ability (via my phone) to read others’ advice about not getting lost on the trails, and I could have called for help if I had fallen or gotten lost.

Circumstances – Another way in which we can receive guidance is through the events that God allows into our lives. I continue to assert that I do not believe in coincidences. God is very much involved in directing our paths and does so through the arrangement of events that intersect our lives. This is illustrated in numerous examples throughout the Bible. One in particular comes to mind. Paul, Silas,20170224_153655 and Timothy were on what is known as Paul’s second missionary journey, as recorded in Acts 16 and beyond. Verses 6 and 7 tell us that “they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.” Now this does not explicitly say in what form the Holy Spirit directed them away from Asia and Bithynia, but by the fact that they “attempted to go”, indicates the possibility that circumstances arose that thwarted their efforts in that direction. Now, I caution reliance on circumstances as fool-proof indicators of God’s direction. These indicators are often more clearly recognized in hind-sight. However, when one is well-versed in scripture, and are consistently surrounding him or her self with Godly influences, it is much more likely that they will be sensitive enough to God’s prodding that they will be guided by their circumstances as well. In the hiking analogy, I equate this to using the sun and river as guides. Remaining aware of these will help you keep oriented in the right direction, as long as you acknowledge the broader truth that these reference points are not necessarily fixed and vary with time (particularly the sun). 

Humility – I need to also mention that a sense of humility is necessary to making Godly choices. 20170224_150933As I was walking on these paths, I needed to keep a close eye on my footing and be cognizant of my physical fitness (or lack of, as the case may be). I’m not an athlete. Neither am I as young as I used to be, which means that there are definite limitations to what I can safely or easily do. Now these paths were not terribly strenuous, but there were occasions in which I had to be very cautious and in some cases even turn back and choose another path because the way I was going was proving not to be safe for me. This brings to mind the caution that Paul gave in 2 Timothy 2:22-23: “22 So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.” Sometimes we will find ourselves starting down a path that we quickly recognize as being unwise. A prudent believer will recognize and admit their limitations and turn around to choose a safer path before they find themselves deeper in trouble!