My New Book Will Be Available Next Week – Thank the Lord!

 

FrontCoverImage

 

 

Createspace says it should be available on Amazon in 3-5 days. The Kindle ebook is in progress and I’ll have more info on all of this soon.

Here’s the back cover info –

What Biblical lessons can you learn from falling out of your uncle’s pickup truck, accidentally hitting your cousin in the eye with a paddleball, or watching toads patiently wait for tasty bugs? Bill Jones pondered those, and other memories and observations of everyday life, and found the lessons God gives in them. Such thinking crystallized his understanding  that God’s goodness and greatness are all around us, and He is with us every step of our journey through life.

The stories told in these devotional readings illustrate how God uses the happenings in our life, both the good and bad, and the small and large, to show us His love and mercy, and teach us how we should live. Mixing touches of humor and unconventional perspectives, the author gives us the opportunity to do some thinking about our great and gracious God, and, hopefully, get a little closer to Him.

Bill Jones and his wife, Sharon, live in a rural area of southeastern Georgia where they attend a small community church. He has had inspirational articles published in Evangel, Keys to Living and The Christian Journal magazines.

 

 

The Beatles Came and Went – But, the Word of God Will Remain

The Beatles Come to America - 1964

The Beatles Come to America – 1964

I remember we were at recess at Sallie Zetterower Elementary School, in November, 1963, when our sixth grade teacher called us into the classroom and told us President Kennedy had been shot. Strangely enough, I also remember a few months later, in early 1964, when a fellow student, Lee Driggers, told us during Civics news-sharing time that the beetles were coming. That’s the way most of us heard it and thought it, at least.

We all laughed and it took a little explaining that the bugs weren’t coming. Lee said a rock and roll band was coming from England to visit the US, and they spelled their name: The Beatles. We laughed again at someone misspelling a word on purpose.

I’m sure I could remember more events from elementary school if I concentrated, but overall, the other things I remember are the teachers, and the smell and taste of the cinnamon rolls in the lunchroom.

Yet, I know I was there and apparently paid attention to the teachers at times. I can read and write and do arithmetic (although, I do still have to think about it to remember that 7 times 9 is 63.) So, someone was doing things correctly, and I’m sure it wasn’t me most of the time.

Makes me think about Sunday preaching. I can usually remember some topics and points of the last few sermons I’ve heard (at least, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.) But, I couldn’t list out the sermon topics and points for the last three months. And, certainly not for the last six years – relating that length of time to the six years I spent in elementary school.

But, I can think back on the last six years and say that I have learned from and been affected by many sermons. Someone was doing things correctly, and I’m sure it wasn’t me most of the time.

I (and we) do need to pay attention and think about what is being said in order for a sermon to affect us. And, in my opinion, the preacher needs to spend time in prayer and study in preparation for the preaching. However, while those actions are doing things correctly, they’re pretty much useless unless the One Who does all things correctly is involved.

In the praying and studying. In the hearing and thinking. In the preaching. Without the presence and power of God, it is all foolishness. Yet, with God’s power and presence, our hearts are opened up to Him, and His Word is opened up to us and, yes, we grow spiritually.

We can look back over a sermon, and a month of sermons and six years of sermons, and remember specifics of only a few. But, we also find it has become more common that a verse of Scripture or something said about a verse of Scripture comes to mind at just the right time. We realize we have grown stronger in our faith and knowledge through God’s power and presence.

The Beatles did come and did have an effect on the country, but, my memory of Lee making that announcement isn’t much more than a bit of personal trivia. Some elementary school classes (and news sharing times) may stick with us through time, but it’s the overall process that’s critical. If we have good teachers leading us, it makes for good results – and we learn reading, writing and arithmetic, along with other life skills.

Specific sermons may stick with us through time, but, it’s the overall process that’s critical. If we have our Lord and Savior leading us, that’s fantastic, and we learn and follow His ways and His paths through life – and those are the most critical life skills.

Show me thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths.” Psalms 25:4

Got Faith? Plant an Oak Tree – Part 2

Brannen Oaks by Old Savannah Road

Brannen Oaks by Old Savannah Road

 

When you look southeast down the dirt road in front of our house, you are looking down the Old Savannah Road (see photo). It’s not called that these days, and most folks don’t know that for a time in the early 1800’s it was the Savannah Road. I happened to come across the information while researching the history of this area of our county in Georgia (Bulloch).

 

Brannen Oaks Closeup

Brannen Oaks Closeup

 

The photo captions reference the Brannen Oaks, so I’ll head in that direction. William Brannen came to America from Ireland before the Revolutionary War, and after marrying a wife, Elizabeth, in North Carolina, he worked his way to southeastern Georgia, and eventually ended up in northern Bulloch County.

John, one of their six sons, was born in 1798. He and his wife, also named Elizabeth, moved to the southern end of the county (where we live) where they raised their family.

The information said John and Elizabeth had a home in the “Iric” area. In the photos above, If you were on Google Earth and could turn right and look down about a half mile, you could see the woods where Iric Creek runs.

The narrative stated “At the beginning of the nineteenth century, along the Savannah Road in Bulloch County, between thirty and forty miles west of Savannah, were the spacious plantation homes of John Brannen and five of his sons.” One of those homes can be seen on the right in the top photo.

It was the home of John and Elizabeth’s son, William A. Brannen. In the description particular note was given to the twelve huge water oaks that stood on either side of the “Savannah Road” in front of his home. The photo shows the oaks that remain. The house was restored in the 1940’s (and several more times with an addition or two since then) and is now the home of our nearest neighbors. Mr. Brannen is buried in a brick-walled family cemetery about a quarter mile behind the house (down toward Iric Creek.)

A neat verification of part of this came about several years ago when there was a reenactment of the Pony Express-like mail run that in the early days came out of Savannah heading towards Milledgeville (I think it was Milledgeville). Two neat parts were that they did a rider/horse exchange on the road in front of our house, and we found they had verified this was the right road because of the huge oak trees that were mentioned in the early records.

This post seems to have become a history lesson, but the Lord is in all of those, too. Elizabeth (John’s wife and William A’s mother) was a Donaldson before she married. Her father, Robert Donaldson, and brother, Matthew, were preachers who organized a dozen or so churches in this part of Georgia in the early 1800’s. The church we attend, Lanes Church, was organized in 1831 and the early records mention that Matthew Donaldson was the preacher there at one time.

The Lord keeps working through time. I’m thankful to Him that I’m blessed to live on a small part of what was William A. Brannen’s plantation, and especially thankful that Mr. Brannen’s uncle is part of Lanes Church’s 183 year history. A history the Lord has made me a part of now.

For the Lord will not forsake his people;  he will not abandon his heritage; (Psalms 94:14 ESV)

 

 

 

 

 

Got Faith? Plant an Oak Tree

Old Oak Tree

Old Oak Tree

I went hunting for an impressive oak tree to photograph and found this one along a stretch of highway south of Daisy, Georgia. It is impressive. My purpose for the quest was to illustrate one aspect of faith: “for we walk by faith, not by sight.” 2nd Corinthians 5:7 ESV.

I don’t think this oak came about from a squirrel dropped acorn. I think someone planted this tree a century or more in the past. I have no proof of that, so that’s just a deduction from the other oaks up and down the road that appear to have been placed in particular locations. There probably was a house here then, but it probably wasn’t this one. (Could have been remodeled through the years, though).

The tree wouldn’t have become impressive during the lifetime of its planter. It’s likely it didn’t even reach “noticeable” status. And, it’s an absolute that the planter is not still around to see it become this mighty tree. But, that didn’t matter – they walked by faith. They knew what would happen far in the future. Their small efforts would become established and grow into a massive tree that would provide food and shelter for animals, and shade and comfort to people. I don’t know if they had the thought that just the sight of the tree would give a sense of wonder at God’s Creation, but I know that’s what I felt as I came around the curve and saw it.

It is just a deduction that someone planted this tree many years ago but the concept stands. Anytime you plant a long-lived, slow growing tree, you probably won’t see it reach “impressive” size. But, somebody will.

When the Apostle Paul wrote about walking by faith, not sight, he was noting that we don’t see the Lord, but we know (by the faith that God gave us and the Holy Spirit within us) we will see Him face to face one day. Paul then states that because of that, our aim in everything is “to please Him”

And that’s where I think another aspect of “walk by faith” comes in. It’s not planting trees (although I consider that a good thing), it’s doing things to please the Lord, even though we may not see the results (perhaps not even in our lifetime). As Jesus told us: Give someone who is thirsty a drink of water in His name. Feed the hungry. Welcome the strangers. Visit the sick. Make disciples.

Got faith? Then walk in it. Plant an oak tree. Or, better yet, spread the Good News about Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Not Abandoned. Never Forsaken.

Abandoned Quarry Shack

Abandoned Quarry Shack

I saw this at a working quarry outside of Augusta, GA. It’s interesting to me, because the shack once wasn’t a shack but a working shop. The abandoned power lines, with the transformers long gone, reveal it was electrified and probably had working equipment inside, and quite likely was a center of power for a section of the quarry (or perhaps all of the quarry at that time).

What’s most amazing, though, is that it once was on level ground. As the work of the quarry continued, the ground around it was taken away, truckload by truckload. Eventually, it was left standing alone. If you look closely, you can see the orange ladder laid on the ground to the left and below the building that someone can “climb” if they want to get to the shack, but I doubt there’s much reason to make it there. The power center of the quarry has moved to another section and the shack on the hill sits isolated.

The sight brought to mind Psalms 11:3 – “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” ESV

We can sometimes feel our foundations are being destroyed, or can think the ground around us is being dug away truckload by truckload. But, we should not despair, but consider other parts of that Psalm. “In the Lord I take refuge.” The Lord is in His holy temple. The Lord’s throne is in heaven.”  “For the Lord is righteous;
he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face.”

We can be sure we won’t be left standing alone like this shack. For, Jesus has promised “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

The Old Paths of God

Inman Creek Primitive Baptist Baptist Church

Inman Creek Primitive Baptist Church

I worked on an engineering project at the Georgia State Prison near Reidsville, GA, last week, and took a few minutes at lunch to find Inman Creek Church. The church, two rut road, and the surrounding piney woods look much like they did fifty years ago. The only difference I saw was the vinyl siding that had covered the faded pine boards that were there back then.

In the 1960’s (when I was a relatively young lad), my father, mother and I would travel the distance to attend the annual Inman Creek Homecoming. We made the trip because my grandfather on my Father’s side, Elder Mallie Jones, Sr.,  preached at Inman Creek for many years. His time there was before I was born, and all the trips I remember were after he passed away, yet, we kept the tradition alive to honor him.

I remember the strange feeling as we passed the prison on the way to the church. The prison was a large group of buildings (many of them large, too)  surrounded by a tall barbed wire fence out in the middle of nowhere. The prison operated, and still operates, a huge farm, raising crops, cattle, hogs and operating a dairy. So, it was quite a serene, pastoral sight when you could no longer see the prison. I couldn’t really comprehend what it meant to be in prison, but thought it didn’t look like a good thing.

Homecoming was around Easter because I remember Easter Egg hunts. One particular time involved the yellow of a boiled egg. In fact, it happened on one of those road ruts you see in the photo. Being a young boy, I didn’t like the yellow of boiled eggs. I had enjoyed the white part of one and didn’t want to eat the little yellow ball inside, so I pretended to accidentally drop it on the ground (oops!). I kicked it over to the side of the road and looked up to see a little girl watching me. I shrugged my shoulders at her, and she ran over and told her mother that boy threw an egg on the ground and was kicking it around. Thankfully, her mother didn’t think it was a great crime, so the girl’s mother turned and ignored me.

However, my favorite memory is of Brother Dewey Anderson. In my mind, I can still see his broad smile and hear his infectious laugh as he greeted people. You knew he truly was happy to see you and wasn’t just making a show. He led the singing and the joy of the Lord was evident in his continued smile and exuberance with each note. He was an expert in seeing a need and finding out how he could help. (I found out on this trip that they have named the road in front of the church “Dewey Anderson Road””. Quite fitting, I think.)

I titled this post “The Old Paths of God”. The ruts of the drive into the church are some of those old paths, where people began driving mules and wagons to Inman Creek Church in the 1800’s. But, Brother Dewey is the true example of following God’s Old Paths, with his love for God and his love for people, he put that love into action.

Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.” Jeremiah 6:16 King James Version.

PS: A bit of personal history – I referred above to this preaching grandfather as being on my Father’s side, because my grandfather on my Mother’s side also was a preacher – Elder V Y Spivey, Sr. Perhaps more on him someday too.

God Will Give Us a Push When We Need It

A Sandy Dirt Road

A Sandy Dirt Road – Hard to Push a Car Down One

My cousin, Lewis, kept yelling, “Push! Push!” He was in the driver’s seat, hollering back at me, as I strained to push his 56 Chevy down the small hill on the sandy road beside my house. With a dead battery that could no longer crank the car (and no funds to replace it) we had to work with alternate means. That’s when a manual transmission (and much younger legs) came in handy.

The sand was loose and deep, so progress was slow. After a few yards, Lewis thought we had reached “critical speed” and he popped the clutch. The result was an instant stop as the tires sank in the sand.

Several groans and a discussion of sorts came about as we prepared for another attempt. He waited longer and the car gained higher momentum on this run and, sure enough, he popped the clutch and there was the “stop/lurch” as the clutch engaged and the engine fired up.

I ran to the open passenger door, hopped in and slammed the door as he pulled away. We were off on another adventure, excited with the thought that we could end up anywhere… as long as we could find a hill (preferably paved) to park on when we arrived.

I will add that our adventures weren’t usually spine-tingling or heart-stopping, just normal stuff. I’ll write about a few at times (and some I won’t.)

That sounds like life in general. Normal stuff with a little spine-tingling thrown in now and then. But at times, even the normal stuff seems to get stuck in the sand, with a dead battery refusing to get us started. That’s when we should look to the Lord and His Word to give us a push.

For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5 NKJV

That is a promise from the Lord to be there to give us help anytime we need it. Think of it that He has parked us on a paved hill and He is ready to push when the next adventure begins.