Return to the Treehouse

“Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed , we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.” (2 Corinthians 5:1 NIV)

I grew up on a 96-acre farm just outside the small town of Jenkinsburg, Georgia. As I look back on my life, I realize that some of my greatest life lessons were learned in those formative years on that farm. I recounted one of those lessons when I preached the funeral of my big brother, Ronnie, who went home to be with the Lord on this day two years ago.

imageWhen he was about ten years old, Ronnie decided to build a tree house in one of the oak trees in our yard. Upon its completion, he couldn’t wait to show off his handiwork. In spite of my reservations about his construction skills, he finally convinced me to climb up there with him.

Noting my discomfort about the stability of his creation and wanting to assure me just how safe it was, Ronnie started to jump up and down on the floor of that tree house. (You can imagine just how much safer that made me feel!)  As I grabbed onto an overhanging limb, he uttered those memorable last words ever spoken in that treehouse, “This thing will be up here a hundred years!”

No sooner had those words left his mouth than the limb it rested upon started to give way, and Ronnie crashed to the ground with it. As for me, I was still holding on to that overhanging limb for dear life, while he lay dazed on the ground. Ignoring his own pain and disorientation, somehow Ronnie climbed back up that tree and helped me down to safety.

As I look back on that experience, the lesson that stands out with me is this – a structure is only as good as its foundation. That tree house was well-built. Like all the men in our family, Ronnie was a perfectionist. But the foundation upon which that tree house rested was not a solid foundation. And the force of Ronnie’s jumping up and down was more stress than it could bear.

How is your foundation today? Will it stand up to the storms of life? There was a time when the foundation of Ronnie’s life would not. But before his earthly tent came crashing down around him like that treehouse from years before, he ripped out the cracked foundation of salvation by works and replaced it with the solid rock of salvation by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

imageAnother treehouse stands today not far from the site of that original one from so many years ago. Located at the end of a path Ronnie cleared before the Lord called him home, it belongs to his two precious grandchildren, Owen and Nora, who were the light of his life through those last difficult years. Unlike his treehouse, theirs is professionally constructed with added features like a trap door, a fireman’s pole, and even a zipline.

But it too will one day fall. Nothing in this life lasts forever. Perhaps it will stand long enough for Owen and Nora’s own children to enjoy it. Their fresh memories of their “Pappaw” and the grief of his absence no doubt saddens their heart today as it does mine. But we can all rejoice that there will be no more goodbyes when we rejoin him one day in that “eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.”

“By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 3:10-11 NIV)

Note: This is an updated version of “Lessons From The Tree House” first published Feb. 20, 2015.

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Attention All Readers!

I need your help! Recently I have come to realize that Facebook and Twitter are very inefficient delivery mechanisms for distributing new posts to Ridgetop Reflections. I have learned from experience that not all posts which my Facebook friends share actually show up in my News Feed due to screening algorithms based on my activity on the site. (Can it really read my mind?)

I also know from experience that as my list of Facebook friends has grown, so has the time it takes to scroll through the feed and determine what is worthy of my consideration, reading, viewing, liking, and sharing. And don’t even get me started on Twitter! Some days I just don’t have that much time to spare- and I’m retired! So I can imagine the time constraints on those of you who go to work every day and take care of your families.

imageIf you enjoy my blog and want to insure that you get a chance to see each post, I encourage you to sign up for email notifications. As you scroll through this post, you should notice a small pop-up tab labeled “Follow” appear on the bottom of your screen. Just click on that tab and a window will appear where you simply need to enter your email address and submit it.

Future posts will then appear in your inbox as soon as they are published and you can read them at your leisure. I’m confident you will find the format very convenient for reading now or saving for later when you have more time. If you find a post share-worthy, you can still link to the site and share as always. (If you already subscribe, please feel free to comment below as to just how convenient it is.)

I shared my most recent post via Facebook Messenger with many of you this week and received a lot of positive feedback and useful interaction, but it is a tedious process and could be a duplication of effort if you’ve already read the post on Facebook.

If you currently receive notifications of new posts through personal emails from me, I also encourage you to sign up for notifications as I’ve described above. You will then receive the email from WordPress, the platform which hosts my website, as soon as a post is published. This is much more efficient for you and for me.

Please help me and help yourselves by giving this a try. Like that commercial says, “Try it- you’re going to like it!” If you try it and don’t like it, instructions for unsubscribing are included in each email you will receive. But I’m confident that if you like my posts, you’re going to like receiving them this way.

Until next time, may the grace and love of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

 

Lessons From The Tree House

image

“Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed , we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. (2 Cor. 5:1 NIV)

I grew up on a 96-acre farm just outside the small town of Jenkinsburg, Georgia. As I look back on my life, I realize that some of my greatest life lessons were learned in those formative years on that farm. I recounted one of those lessons when I preached the funeral of my big brother, Ronnie just a few weeks ago. It received such a positive reaction that I felt led to share it with you.

When he was about ten years old, Ronnie decided to build a tree house in one of the oak trees in our yard. We were blessed to have parents who did not discourage such creative activities. When he was finished, he couldn’t wait to show off his handiwork.  After he coaxed me to climb up there with him, I didn’t feel overly secure to say the least. In my professional six-year old opinion, it shook a little too much on the limb it was built upon. The experience was not unlike walking across a swinging bridge.

Noting my discomfort and wanting to assure me just how safe it was, Ronnie started to jump up and down on the floor of that tree house. You can imagine just how much safer that made me feel!  As I grabbed onto a nearby limb, he uttered these fateful last words, “This thing will be up here a hundred years!” Those words had no sooner left his mouth than the limb that tree house was built upon started to give way, and it and Ronnie crashed to the ground.

I was still holding on to that other limb for dear life, dangling up there in that tree while he lay dazed on the ground.  It was time to use our signal. We had a signal I’d use when I was in trouble … I’d yell “Help!” at the top of my lungs! Ignoring his own pain and disorientation, somehow Ronnie climbed back up that tree and helped me down to safety.

As I look back on that experience, I suppose one could deduce a number of lessons from that story – one being to never trust an older brother! But the lesson that stands out with me is this – a structure is only as good as its foundation.

That tree house was well built. Just before he passed away, Ronnie had fallen and broke both his legs. When my sister Diane asked him how he had managed to do that, he responded, “When I do something, I go all the way!” And he did- all the men in my family were perfectionists. But the foundation upon which that tree house rested was not a solid foundation. And the force of Ronnie’s jumping up and down was more stress than it could bear.

How is your foundation today? Will it stand up to the storms of life? There was a time when the foundation of Ronnie’s life would not. But before it was everlasting too late, before the tree house of his life came crashing down, he ripped out that old cracked foundation, and replaced it with the solid rock foundation of the Lord Jesus Christ.

And so, while those of us who knew him and loved him grieve his passing, we can rejoice that when he gave up this earthly tent, he received “an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands”. Just as I was hanging onto that tree limb many years ago, we’re left here behind, holding onto this world with all we’ve got, trying to adjust to life without him.  He can’t return to us and tell us to just let go or help us navigate this world without him. But God’s Word assures us that those of us whose foundation is built upon our faith in Christ will be together again with all those loved ones who have died in Christ before us.

My prayer for you is that because of the foundation of your relationship with Christ, you can be as confident of that as I am. And that on the day the Lord calls your name, you can face it with the same dignity, grace, peace, and positive expectation that Ronnie displayed in his final days here on earth.

Until next time, may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

“By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 3:10-11 NIV)

Welcome To Ridgetop Reflections

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out.” (Rom. 11:33 NIV)

After years of teaching Bible Study classes, I have recently felt a desire to reach a wider audience and hopefully have a greater impact for the Kingdom of God. After a two-year hiatus from teaching, I’ve decided to publish this blog, “Ridgetop Reflections”.

The seeds for this endeavor were planted last June. I am blessed to live on a mountain ridge in the mountains of Western North Carolina. From my rear deck, I have a tremendous view of the Blue Ridge Mountain range over which the sun sets each evening. One evening as I sat there reading John’s first epistle on my iPad, I was almost overwhelmed reflecting on the amazing love of God. At the same time, I was left speechless by the sunset God had painted in the Western sky.

As so many of us do in this age of social media, I snapped a picture of that scene (the photo that serves as the header for this blog) and posted it with some quick comments about sometimes being left speechless and in tears over the beauty of God’s creation. But those quick comments seemed so inadequate to convey the feelings that were flooding my heart at the time, especially given the 140-character limit imposed by Twitter. I post fairly often on Twitter, but find myself often frustrated to convey my thoughts in 140 characters!

As a teacher, I put many hours through the years into lesson preparation. I have never been a very skilled extemporaneous speaker. In order to stand before a group and speak confidently, I find the need to write my lessons out word-for-word. Through the years, this level of intense research and preparation inevitably led to burn-out.

I also found myself questioning whether the impact of my teaching was sufficient to justify the hours of preparation I put into each lesson. Feeling a desire to reach more people, I began to email copies of my lessons to friends and family, never knowing whether they were actually being read or enjoyed. From personal experience, I know that an article I encounter on the internet or via email has to grab my attention very early and remain relevant if I’m going to take the time to digest seven pages of teaching!

While this blog was birthed out of that desire to have a greater impact on others for Christ, I have one other selfish motive as well – to enhance my own spiritual growth. I have always hoped that my teaching impacted others in a very positive, God-pleasing way. But whatever positive impact I might have had on others, those hours of study and preparation had the greatest impact on me. Maintaining this blog will serve as an important spiritual discipline designed to increase my spiritual growth.

The Scripture I chose as the theme for “Ridgetop Reflections” is Romans 11:33, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out.” ( NIV). This verse begins that amazing doxology which so effectively expresses Paul’s wonder at the mysteries of God – a wonder I share. The longer I taught Bible Study, the more I came to understand how little I really know about God and His Word.

Even Solomon in all his wisdom came to appreciate the limits of our understanding, proclaiming “As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the maker of all things.” (Eccl. 11:5 NIV)  The older I get, the more I accept and appreciate the mysteries of God. I have heard it said that mystery is not the absence of meaning – it is simply the presence of more meaning than we can comprehend.

Many of my posts will be taken from lessons I’ve taught through the years – I have years of material already researched and ready to be published. But knowing how God works, I’m sure he will be supplying much fresh material as time goes by. In fact, in just the last week, he has given me no less than twelve topics for future posts.

Most posts will be related to issues of faith and practical applications of the teachings of God’s Word. But I expect to also share personal observations of life in general, current events, and any other relevant topics that I feel might be of general interest to those of you who honor me by taking the time to read what I have to say. But don’t look for political articles here – I know how divisive that can be and I don’t want start down those pig trails!

So I hope you will join me in this endeavor. Be patient with me as I get my sea legs. A space is provided for you to post any comments you might have. Whether you agree or disagree with what I have to say, I welcome your feedback. Interaction is beneficial to us both.

Please feel free to share any posts you like on Facebook, retweet them on Twitter, or email them to your contacts if you’re not savvy with social media. This will help me establish as wide a readership as possible and will be greatly appreciated.

Until next time, may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.