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Tuesday, July 16, 2013
This restored ford pickup was parked in the church parking lot and caught Brooksyne and Ester's attention Sunday morning when they arrived for church at Mountain Top, Arkansas.
"That Old-Time Religion"
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This is what the LORD says: "Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, 'We will not walk in it'" (Jeremiah 6:16). "Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints" (Jude 1:3).
There are all kinds of ways of holding a church service these days even in the same local church. Many churches now have a traditional service and a contemporary service. (A large church we passed in Springfield, MO used the term "classic" for traditional). My cousin told me in the Kansas City area there is a church that has separate services for traditional, contemporary and ultra-contemporary styles of worship.
This last Sunday I went to the traditional service in my cousin Anna Lee's church in Tulsa. It was mostly 55 and up as best as I could determine. One song leader led the music backed by a robed choir. We sang five hymns all related to the cross of Christ and the music was beautiful. We then went to Sunday School while a contemporary service was held in the same sanctuary. I could see from the worship folder they were going to sing four modern songs and no hymns or choir, though the pastor preaches the same message at both services.
Brooksyne and Ester had gone to Arkansas for the day to visit with relatives on the Mountain and had quite a different church experience I've asked her to tell about. For readers familiar with the TV series "Duck Dynasty" Mountain Top (also called Batson) is very similar.
I attended a church that I visited occasionally with my grandparents when I was a child. I purposely chose this church because the pastor is my cousin, George Willis. Three of my aunts were present and a number of my cousins so that in itself was special. Since Stephen and I were married in 1976 we've never lived near family where we could experience the specialness of worshiping with family members.
The service began with the "Booster Band" singing which caused me to reminisce about the years I sang in the booster band. In fact the songs the children sang were the very same ones I sang alongside my brother and sister back in the sixties. (The photo above shows them singing, "We will Roll-e-o and Chariot Up the Hill".) The children concluded with the song, "Into My Heart" as they knelt at the altar.
Then those who had a birthday or anniversary in the past week were asked to come forward and put their offering in the little white church house and give a testimony. We also did this in our small church in Tulsa. The offering was to be the same amount as your years of life or years of marriage, such as if you turned 12 you would drop in 12 cents. Mom and Dad loved it when they went forward with Jody and me since all four of us had birthdays within days of each other in October as well as their wedding anniversary.
Just to be ornery they'd drop in the white church bank slot only pennies so it took a while for us to finish (I remember it embarrassed me a bit as I got older.) Included also was the congregation singing "Happy Birthday to You, a happy birthday to you. Every day of the year may you feel Jesus near..." At the Mountain Top Church the man in our photo gave a testimony speaking of God's goodness after we sang Happy Birthday to him and a little boy who also had a birthday.
Next we had the congregational singing. A woman led and any who wanted to join her on the platform went forward as we sang from the hymn book three hymns and a chorus of "Oh, How I love Jesus". That provided another remembrance from my childhood. My sister and I would join others on the platform as youngsters and later as teens because we loved to sing for the Lord, and it was extra "special" to sing up front with the song leader.
Pastor George gave me opportunity to "give a word for the Lord" which I did. I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity of letting these folks know that my first remembrances of knowing that I wanted to follow Jesus not only came from my home church in Tulsa but from this mountain where my grandparents lived and served God wholeheartedly. I held my grandpa's Bible in my hand and told of the specialness I felt that my dad left his Bible to me when he died in 2000. My grandfather had left it to him when he died in 1983.
George then preached a good solid message from Joshua 9 where the Gibeonites deceived the men of Israel. Following the sermon the congregation kneeled at their seats or at the altar asking God to seal His Word in their hearts. It was an old-fashioned church and I enjoyed the memories it brought to my heart but that is secondary to the much more important thing. The Full Gospel was preached and the uncompromising truths of God's Word were taught to the people who gathered.
Now we may have various preferences regarding the style of worship (music). Brooksyne and I both enjoy a blended variety of hymns and newer songs. But regardless of the style of music we need to "ask for the ancient paths" in regard to holding on to God's revealed truths. To many "old-fashioned" is a dreaded term. We want to be contemporary and trendy, looking like people who are "with it" as we travel here below with our peers. To be described as "old-fashioned" would be the ultimate put-down to those who strive to be contemporary!
But I believe there are many ways in which being old-fashioned is very desirable. I am unapologetically old-fashioned when it comes to holding firmly to the teachings of the Bible; the apostle's doctrine. Many now mock the teachings of Scripture that have been held dear by earnest believers for nearly 2,000 years. The Genesis creation account, Biblical miracles, the virgin birth, the atoning death and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ are scorned by modernists as being hopelessly old-fashioned in our enlightened age. Now, in a stunning, mocking rejection of God's establishment of the primary social unit (Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:4,5), we see marriage being completely redefined. The time has come when those of us who hold to the Biblical teaching concerning marriage are viewed by dominant culture as old-fashioned and unenlightened.
Call us "old-fashioned", that's OK. We take seriously the call of Jude in the second daily text to "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints." The word translated "contend" means to "struggle for" and thank God for ministers and lay people alike who are struggling to uphold these truths.
"Once for all" is also very significant. The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Kittel) states that this "refers to the definitive nature of Christian teaching ("the faith") by which we know all that is needed for salvation and which we are thus to hold fast." This has been handed down or entrusted to us.
By God's grace let us indeed hold fast to the truths of the Bible today, even if we are labeled "old-fashioned"!
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily prayer: Father, as we look at the ancient paths, we must make choices that reflect truths and principles established from the beginning of time as taught in the Scriptures. Help us to align ourselves with Your teaching and reject anything that would lead us to compromise or forsake that which we learn from Your Holy Manuscript, the Word of God. Change is inevitable and often inviting, but not the kind of change that would lead us to forsake the teachings of old, the lifestyle that reveals to others that we are set apart unto holiness, a people who reflect Christ living within us. Our days on earth are like grass; we bloom and die. The wind blows, and we are gone, as though we had never been here. In a changing world You are our unchanging holy God and Your love endures forever. You are indeed the same yesterday, today, and forever and because of that we give you our full allegiance. Amen.
Churches not only have many styles of worship and singing but the names sure have gotten more creative or "daring" in our lifetime. We passed a church here in the Tulsa area called GUTS Church and wondered if it was some type of acronym, According to the website a theme of the church is "The personality of Guts Church is made clear with one simple question, “Do you have the ‘Guts’ to serve God?”
Some scenes along our journey:
The choir at Mountain Top Church where anyone who wants can come up on the platform and sing during the congregational singing. In this photo we were singing, "The Good Old Gospel Ship" which I haven't sung since my teen years but quickly recalled the words.
Ester with Uncle Carroll Sherrell, my dad's youngest brother, at another church building on the mountain where we had a Sherrell Family Reunion from my father's side on Sunday afternoon. This is the church building my Grandpa built just before he died. The first service was his funeral in 1983, thus they named the church Sherrellville Church.
This tree reminds us of Psalm 1 that speaks of the tree planted by the water whose leaf does not wither. There may be a message coming regarding this tree's persevering root system since it was growing over a rock.
(Photo taken at Fort Gibson Lake near Wagoner, Oklahoma.)
Brooksyne with Jody Sherrell
Jody's my youngest brother, that I love a lot and always enjoy hanging with when I come for a visit to Oklahoma and Arkansas. We had a gathering of my extended family from my mother's side (Dorsey) last night in Tulsa with 30 or more in attendance. We reminisced with many old pictures from the past. How good it is to visit with family again. My sister, Elaine, had hoped to join us from Texas, but sadly her husband is in the final stages of cancer, and requires 24/7 care. Praise God He is ready to meet His maker when the call from heaven comes. I also have an older brother, Jerry, and another sister, Margie, who died in 2007.
"Happy Birthday Song" Video This is the "Birthday Song" traditionally sang in the church Brooksyne grew up in.
"The Old Gospel Ship" Video The Happy Goodmans This was one of the hymns we sang and I remember well going to hear the Happy Goodmans sing it, though I can't remember Howard (the pianist) ever being as slim as the one in this photo. He and Vestal were always a bit on the heavy side.
Mountain Top Arkansas (Google map)
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