Acorns From Oakes

Seeing With Our Father's Eyes

THE SANDS HAVE BEEN WASHED…

One of my favorite hymns is an oldie entitled, “The Sands Have Been Washed.” The words came from a schoolteacher named Harriet Cole Nickerson who became too ill to teach, but produced a book of poems in the  mid-1800s. Charles Tilman found this one and set the words to music in 1895. The melody speaks to my heart, and the words speak for my heart. My imagination runs with the first line of the song, “The sands have been washed in the footprints of the Stranger on Galilee’s shore…” I am over and over struck with the thought that our Lord once lived here on our planet. But He didn’t come simply as a visitor, He came as one of us. He was one of the children who played on the dusty streets of Nazareth. He was a regular in the synagogue on the Sabbath. And His interest in the Old Testament scrolls would have been noticed with gladness and pride by the older worshipers there. They watched Him grow in wisdom as well as in body and in favor with Jehovah and with them also. No doubt some of them had to visit the carpenter’s shop where Jesus learned those skills from His father. They perhaps had to have something made or something repaired. The young carpenter did that kind of thing. But even though they knew Him, they were unprepared for the kind of graceful words He spoke to them. They knew Him, but they didn’t really know Him. There was an unknown quantity in Him that surprised and even angered them (Luke 4:22-30). John tells us, He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him (John 1:11). Still Jesus was no stranger to Galilee. He made Galilee and the rest of the world as well (do see Colossians 1:15-20). The sands of the seashore were washed in His footprints. He came to us…as us…for us. The wonder of it all amazes me yet. He is Immanuel!

Dear Lord, Help us not only to know of You, but to know You. Please, may we live in loving relationship with You…in a daily, real, growing way as befits any good relationship. And, please, may knowing You, have all the affects upon us that You desire. We claim no virtue of our own. But we have discovered that experiencing You, always leaves us desiring more of You. And, one more thing, Lord, would You please allow us to feel Your pleasure in us now and again, for we find that helps us so much to avoid ultimate weariness in going about doing good as You did when the sands of Galilee were washed by Your feet. Amen.

Easier or Better?

Perhaps those who follow the Christ, may be excused for presenting the life of faith to others as completely joy– and peace– filled. Actually we don’t mean to say that there aren’t costs connected to Christianity. There are! A lesser illustration would be parenthood. We who have had the privilege of bringing children into the world have a wonderful insight into the blessings connected with that. We are so thrilled with the wonders of it that the costs, while claiming much of our time and energy, don’t get much of our attention. The joys so far outweigh the costs that we don’t feel much need to speak of the sacrifices. But they are there, all the same.

The Christian life has come down to us today, partly as a result of a long, long line of our forerunners of faith, many of whose stories we may read about in the Bible. They all knew hardship and heartache. They faced difficulties and dangers. They experienced trials, sufferings and failures. And some of these were very severe. But they counted all of it as nothing compared with “…the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus…as…Lord” (Philippians 3:8). The   Apostle Paul is the one who wrote that. Would you say his life before Christ was easier than his life after coming to know Christ? Before Jesus, he had his whole life planned out. He was successful and advanced beyond many of his own generation. He had power and influence. All of that changed after he met the Lord on the Damascus road. Some folks looking at that would have said, “Too bad! What a waste! What a shame!” But Paul knew better. The glory of Jesus Christ, the wonder of the forgiveness he had received, the holy purpose in which he was enlisted after meeting Jesus, filled him with joy unspeakable to the point that he said that his sufferings (2 Corinthians 11:22ff) were not worthy to be compared with what he found in Jesus. No! His life was not easier, but it was infinitely better!

Profit And Loss

There is the old Greek story of Charon who was the boatman who took the dead across the River Styx. He reminded a poor woman that she had the right to drink of the Waters of Lethe that would make her forget everything about the life she was leaving. She was eager to drink, saying, “I will forget how I have suffered.” Charon told her, “Remember too that you will forget how you rejoiced.” She said, “I will forget my failures,” and he said, “And your victories as well.” She went on, “I’ll forget how I was hated.” And he reminded her, “You’ll forget how you were loved.” She thought it over and decided she wouldn’t drink.

To love is to risk. But the experience of loving is more than worth the risks incurred. Love suffers losses…painful losses. But in loving we are imitating our Maker Who so loved us that He gave His best treasure…His precious Son…for all humans. And He knew that His immeasurable gift of love would not only be rejected by most but would be nailed to a tree in bitter, inexplicable hatred. But His holy love compelled Him to love to the uttermost (John 13:1).

In holy loving we are not only imitating God we are being changed into His likeness. Love that is worthy of the name does something wonderful to us…it looks for something from us…and it fills us with the sense that in loving we are truly living as God intended. Because of love we put ourselves “out there” with no guarantees, except that we will know both profit and loss. The blessing of requited love instills within us sky-splitting joy. The pain of unrequited love or of helplessly watching our beloved suffer can put us through a kind hell on earth. But love can do no other than open us to both the joy and the sorrow. It is only in granting holy love free access to our hearts and free outlet through our lives that that we learn its most valuable lessons and experience its most wondrous power. This is how and why, ultimately, love never fails!

You Count!

If you are anything like me, you are somewhat given to   extremes (I am quite ready to admit that many are not like meJ). It’s mostly either on or off…hot or cold…good or bad…up or down, etc. At least that’s how I seem to feel about it. We have our emotions (even if we do try to bottle them up inside ourselves). This may manifest itself in bunches of ways, but let me try to focus on one particular way: do you count with God? Do you matter to Him? It’s a big world. I don’t even show up as a speck on a satellite photo. I don’t have the ear of the movers and shakers of the world. Never have…never will. I may work for a large company where I feel insignificant. Many things about my life, health, finances and future are decided and controlled by other, more significant people, than I. But I learn to live with all of this. However, when those I live with, my family, my friends, my fellow Christians, are dismissive of me, it can really hurt, can’t it? Now I may, at times, be imagining this. But not always! But then they are often feeling what I am feeling. We do not matter! We try and fail to leave our “mark” in the world. Plans fail. Hopes are dashed. Relationships fracture. All our props may be kicked out from under us. What then? Well…we feel insignificant. We don’t  believe we would be missed by anyone if we left the world. We turn to our church…and what…? We get preached at, quoted to, and out-worked by good, zealous church members. So, again, we don’t measure up. Let this brief note encourage you to look away from everything…from every thought…from every person that screams your “insignificance” into your heart. Look away from the rat race of life. Come again to the pages of Holy Scripture. Let your faith be informed by the truth of how your Creator sees you, cares for you, plans for you, dwells with you and even sacrifices for you. If He is for you (Romans 8:31ff clearly teaches that), your life counts! You count! God says so!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Immanuel

One of my own favorite hymns is an oldie called, “The Sands Have Been Washed.” The words came from a schoolteacher named Harriet Cole Nickerson who became too ill to teach, but produced a book of poems in the  mid-1800s. Charles Tilman found and set the words to music in 1895. The melody speaks to my heart, and the words speak for my heart. My imagination runs with the first line of the song, “The sands have been washed in the footprints of the Stranger on Galilee’s shore…” I am, over and over, struck with the thought that our Lord once lived here on our planet. But He didn’t come simply as a visitor, He came as one of us. He was one of the children who played on the dusty streets of Nazareth. He was a regular in the synagogue on the Sabbath. And His interest in the Old Testament scrolls would have been noticed with gladness and pride by the older worshipers there. They watched Him grow in wisdom as well as in body and in favor with Jehovah and with them also. No doubt some of them had to visit the carpenter’s shop where Jesus learned those skills from His father. They perhaps had to have something made or something repaired. The young carpenter did that kind of thing. But even though they knew Him, they were unprepared for the kind of graceful words He spoke to them. They knew Him, but they didn’t really know Him. There was an unknown quantity in Him that surprised and even angered them (Luke 4:22-30). Jesus was no stranger to Galilee. The sands of the seashore were washed in His footprints. He came to us…as us…for us. The wonder of it all amazes me yet. He is Immanuel!

My Story

When I was a kindergartner, my family and I lived upstairs in an old house that was across the street from a hardware store. Our move to that location changed the direction of my life forever. We only lived there for a couple of years…through my kindergarten year. The owner of the hardware store was a member of the church of Christ which was soon to construct a new meeting house about a mile down the road from us. Because of his influence our neighbors downstairs became Christians. My mom and dad were next. They were taught the gospel and were baptized into Jesus Christ. And that’s how the Lord found us. He gave us a new direction. On March 5th, 1958, when I was in fourth grade, I got my first entire Bible (containing both the new and old testaments). It was the best gift I had ever received. My mom, ever the hard-working, money-saving, woman, gave me a couple of filled top value stamp books so I could get my Bible. It was a King James Version Bible. It lays beside me on this desk as I type. It’s cover is worn out. But it’s truth has never worn out. After receiving it, I began reading. It was not unusual for me to hop on my bike in the early morning and head uptown (our little town didn’t even have a stoplight) to Bellbrock Park, where I would open and read my Bible. It would be about three years later as a seventh grader that I responded to the gospel invitation and was baptized. Wish I could say I always lived true to that decision. I didn’t. But God kept showing me such patience and love. When I turned from Him, my conscience wouldn’t leave me alone. So…here I am today. Wishing I had done better. Wishing I was further, much further, along the road to Christ-likeness. Wishing I had not let Him and others down so often in my life. But, that’s not all! I am here today still cherishing His Word…still engaged by a living hope…still wanting and trying to help others get to know my Lord through His truth…still trying to honor Him. Someone said, “Get your direction before you try for distance.” God said through His servant Jeremiah (10:23), “I know, O Lord, that a man’s life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps.”

I believe that your story, my sister, my brother, while different in many particulars from all others, also shows that our Father God has always, to this day, been working for our good. He not only shows us the direction, He helps us go that way and keep on going the distance. I am grateful that He is using us, as well as other dear ones, to help one another keep saying “Yes!” to Him and His will for our lives.

 

When Words Fail…

When words fail…listening doesn’t.

When words fail…tears speak.

When words fail…nearness blesses.

When words fail…hugs help.

When words fail…hearts still connect.

When words fail…kindness won’t.

When words fail…friendship remains.

When words fail…helpful deeds lift.

When words fail…love still shines through.

When words fail…memories sustain.

When words fail…God is near.

   He hears the cries of our hearts when we cannot speak. He shows up when we are ready to give up. When we come to the end, He shows us there is more. It may be that in our silent agony, He reveals more to us than we ever would have known.

When words fail it is hard. Sometimes very, very hard. But our Father God is able and willing for just such times. Look for Him. Lean on Him. Help one another to Him.

 

 

Can Jesus Believe In Me?

There’s another interesting passage of Scripture in John 2:23f. The occasion was a Passover Feast in Jerusalem. Jesus had been doing miraculous signs among the people there. The text tells us that many people saw the miraculous signsand believed in His Name. Then come the words I did not expect to see. Of those “believers” it is said that Jesus did not entrust Himself to them, for He knew all men. The Greek word for believed in verse 23 and entrust in verse 24 are exactly the same Greek word. In other words these Passover worshipers believed in Jesus, but Jesus did not believe in them! Why? Because He knew their hearts, or as John 2:25 says, …He knew what was in a man. It’s not enough to be excited by the works of Jesus Christ, is it? A person may admire Christ…speak well of Him…pray to Him…and even sing hymns of praise to Him and yet live life at a far distance from Him (see Mark 7:6ff). Listen, please, don’t twist the meaning of this text so that you carry away the idea that we have to measure up to some high standard we cannot attain in order for Jesus to “believe” in us. That’s not at all the point! We don’t have it in us to “measure up.” That’s why Jesus came and why He died and rose again…in order to save us from everything that we can’t save ourselves from. But we can, by insincerity, by simply loving our evil too much, or by just not giving a hang, disqualify ourselves from the saving work of our Lord. Now that’s a tragedy He has done all He can do to avoid. But sometimes, too many times, even the highest love that mankind has ever been shown loses. And that’s not love’s fault! That’s sin’s fault…and the sinner’s fault!

The Hebrew letter says this (10:39): But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved. If our hearts are touchable, surely they are touched with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And if His Story doesn’t touch your heart, He can give you a new heart…if you are willing. Let’s be the sort of believers that our Savior can believe in!

 

Introducing Anna Reece

IMG_0751Our NINTH grandchild is two weeks old in this picture. She is beautiful, like her big sister, Skylar, and like her mother. She was born on Tuesday, March 8th at 11:23 AM. She weighed seven pounds and fourteen ounces. She was twenty and a half inches long…eagerly anticipated and heartily welcomed and bathed in love! God did it again…He surprised us with joy. She is His newest demonstration to us of divine artfulness. She is His poem of love to us. We, couldn’t quite form the mental picture of what she would look like right up until she came to us. Then we couldn’t imagine her any other way. As is the case with every single family blessed with an infant child in the whole wide world, when we hold her, or look at her, or think of her, our hearts fill completely up. We wonder what manner of child she will be. We pray a lot for her. We have both dreams and fears for her. Dreams, because God always presents babies into this world with so much potential…so many possibilities. Every single child is an almost unbelievable learning opportunity for those of us who are privileged to get to know them in this life. What excitement! So many firsts are ahead for her! Anna Reece will help to bring out the best in us…her family. We will have so  many opportunities to help…to clean up…to feed…to hold and hug and kiss…to play with…to read to…to sing Bible songs with…to rock to sleep…to go to bed exhausted and rise excited to begin another new day of loving and learning. But we have fears because we know something of the darkness of our world. But these fears we will war against by ceaseless prayer for her and her siblings and her parents. Her home is being built by her parents and her sister and brother with God. And that means it won’t be in vain. Anna Reece is a gift to us from above for which we give heartfelt thanks. She is a privilege granted to us which humbles us. She is a promise from God that better things are coming. She is a precious responsibility which we will all take seriously and with our whole hearts. She is a reminder that Jesus said “Unless we become like her, we cannot even enter into the kingdom of heaven.” So, just as she depends, without even realizing it, on the care of all those who love her so, we will depend on our Father God and not ourselves. And, as she grows in all the wonderful ways ahead, we will try to help her see in us the way of dependence upon on our loving Father God Who has given us each other, but more…He shattered the darkness and brought life and immortality to light through another little infant He gave the world…Who grew up to be the Savior of us all! Your mercies are new every morning, Father. Thank you for such a wonderful reminder and gift as Anna Reece! May she grow up knowing and loving you always!

Young or Old?

I read of a child (such a little darling) who asked an elderly person, “Are you old?” To this the senior responded, “No dear! I have simply been young for a very long time!” I, like you, hear the rationalizations that we old folk come up with. “You are not getting older, you are getting better.” Or, “Age is just a number.” Or, “Seventy is the new fifty.” Now, I have responses to all of those, but I will spare you. There is no denying that for us whose hair has gone grey or just gone, whose joints predict the weather and whose teeth come out at night we are growing bodily old. That’s why I am very glad that God didn’t only give us a body. He breathed into Adam’s nostrils giving him not only physical but spiritual life. All Adam’s descendants receive the same. But for believers there is a wonderful gift because of Jesus Christ. In a very real sense, they are not growing old (except in body). They are always being renewed inwardly. Isaiah put it this way (40:31), “…those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.” The Apostle Paul said this, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16). New Testament believers were not looking forward to ultimate death, but to ultimate life…not to departing earth, but to arriving in Paradise…not to being unclothed, but being truly clothed…not to the end, but to the beginning. We ought not pity old saints. Respect them. Help them. Learn from them. Have compassion. Pray. Serve. Care. But don’t pity them! They are nearer now to what they have been aiming for so long…what they have been longing for and serving for…the city that has real foundations whose Builder and Maker is God. Are you young? Or old? More importantly, what are you aiming at?

 

 

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