Echoes From the Campfire

The worst punishment God could inflict on the world would be to give people everything they wished for.”

                          –Elmer Kelton  (Other Men’s Horses)

       “Yes, the LORD will give what is good; and our land will yield its increase.”
                          –Psalm 85:12 (NKJV)
       There is a saying that money isn’t everything, but it’s way ahead of whatever is in second place.  Now, first of all, that is a bold-face lie.  The problem is that many people think that or strive to prove it true and in doing so lose all that is truly valuable.  I knew of a man who made $50,000 a week.  Wealthy?  Maybe in the eyes of the world, but he lost his wife and his children to drugs.  
       Solomon wrote, “There is a severe evil which I have seen under the sun:  Riches kept for their owner to his hurt.” (Ecclesiastes 5:13, NKJV).  What are those “severe evils”?  Mentioned already is the loss of a family.  But many of these men live in fear waiting for the next crash.  Some, like Howard Hughes, become a recluse, others spend their money to bring more evil upon the land like Soros.  We remember at this season the story of Ebenezer Scrooge who hoarded his wealth not caring about others until…  Look at verses 16-17, “And this also is a severe evil–just exactly as he came, so shall he go.  And what profit has he who labored for the wind?  All his days he also eats in darkness, and he has much sorrow and sickness and anger.” (NKJV)
       That is not to say that you should not enjoy the blessings of work.  In fact, Solomon in the next verse states, “Here is what I have seen:  It is good and fitting for one to eat and drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labor in which he toils under the sun all the days of his life which God gives him; for it is his heritage.”  Labor and its fruits are a gift for man to enjoy.  The dollar will not satisfy, therefore, we need to find pleasure in the simple things.  Walter C. Kaiser wrote, “The man who has learned the secret of enjoyment as a gift from God will not become anxious over the length of his life.  He has too much joy living to brood over the impermanence of his mortal being.  Rather, each day is taken as it come, as a gift from God.”
       Moreover, blessings given to you are to be shared in one form or another.  We need to invest in the vertical dimension of life and less in the horizontal.  Where are your treasures stored up?  The man to whom God has been generous is expected then to be generous.  To whom much is given, much is expected.  I like the words of John Wesley, “Make all you can, save all you can, give all you can.”  There needs to be more men like Wannamaker, LeTourneau, and Penny in this world who understood the value of living for the kingdom of God.  True, there are great philanthropists in the world, but why do they give?  Is it to ease conscience, or to meet the needs of others?  How many give to organizations that have a truly Biblical worldview of giving and helping?  Hmmm, think on that.
       God wants you to have the gift of contentment in your heart and this comes not from hoarding or in spending your life working for the American dream and dollar.  My Mom had a saying, “have to go to work–have to make a dollar.”  Mom liked to make money, but I saw her in the last years of life living not joyously, but in regret.  She never under-stood what true contentment was.  Her idea was to make money, and sure she would give it away, share it, but she had the wrong motives.  Man should enjoy life, not possessions.  Think of this, man, including the wealthy man, must return to his Maker devoid of riches, not even having a cloak.  Nevertheless, there still are men who will spend all their days in great sorrow and distressing labor for such an empty goal as this.
       In the Christmas season, learn the gift of giving, but with right purpose.  Don’t give to get, don’t give to manipulate, don’t give because of guilt–but give out of a joyous heart and from the blessings of God.  Remember, what is the value of giving if you have nothing at the end and there is no treasure in heaven.  “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”  I might add–the important things.
                 “If we focus more on the gifts than on the Giver, we are guilty of idolatry.  If we accept His gifts, but complain about them, we are guilty of ingratitude.  If we hoard His gifts and will not share them with others, we are guilty of indulgence.  But if we yield to His will and use what He gives us for His glory, then we can enjoy life and be satisfied.”
                            –Warren W. Wiersbe


The Saga of Miles Forrest

It had been a wonderful Thanksgiving.  I had thought at first that there would not be as many people this year since the weather had been fair and the mines hadn’t released unnecessary miners, but it didn’t happen that way.  Doc Jones told me that I had forgotten to take into account that Durango had grown last year.  However, there was plenty of chili and stew to go around though Joe Dixon’s turkey went fast.  He gave the diner six and Emelda found a way to get them all roasted.
       Over a sip of coffee and left-over pie, Parson Chapman muttered, “I wish I could get some of those folk into the church.  I don’t think I knew half of the people that showed up.”
       Reverend Chapman and his wife Betty along with Doc Jones and Edith were sitting at the table with me.  Sheriff Gold was there and for Thanksgiving he let the two brawlers in his jail come and join the feast.  They agreed if they helped clean up, the fine would be paid.  The rush was over, which gave Marta time to sit and visit.  Mateo along with Luciana was there so it seemed like Thanksgiving all over again.
       “New folks coming in all the time,” Mateo replied to the preacher’s comment.  “Take a walk up and down the streets and you’ll see new businesses springing up.”
       A snort came from Charlie, “How many will stay?  We know the miners are transient.  A new strike and off they go unless they work for one of the larger mines.”
       “Why would you say that?” questioned Molly.
       “Competition.  Too much competition,” Charlie joined in the conversation.  “How many millinery shops do we need?  Jenkins is a fine saddler, do we need another one in town?  There’s not that much need for saddles to have two saddle shops.”
       “Don’t forget eateries.  Molly, do you realize that since you opened up there have been five more restaurants open?”  Mateo stated, causing me to think that I’d not eaten in any of the others.
       “And vice!  Don’t forget that!” exclaimed Betty in disgust.
       There was a slight chuckle from those at the table.  “It’s not funny!” she exclaimed.  “Mateo, how many new saloons, dance halls and the like have opened in the last year?”
       “Not sure, but I think six new ones.  That makes fifteen in town, but only one new dance hall, and I won’t speak of the other vicios.”
       “There you go, parson,” added Doc.  “Plenty of new customers for your church.”
       Another small round of laughter went out, but Betty stood up with a scowl.  Pastor Chapman grasped her arm, and pulled her down.  “Betty, they know your feelings, and they agree with you.  Don’t be spiting them.”
       “Well, Parson, you did a good job with your preachin’,” I admonished.
       Now he seemed disgusted.  “Yeah, feed them and they’ll come, but will they listen?”
       I placed my hand on his shoulder then spoke, “Have you read the parables of Jesus?”  I knew he had, but said it anyways.  “That was one of His problems, getting people to listen.  After feeding the five thousand, they came expectin’ to be fed, and I don’t mean the spiritual food that you provide for us every Sunday.”
       “Well,” piped up Doc.  “I could use another doctor.  Especially with you gun-toting lawmen around.”
       Some more laughter and Betty was able to form a smile on her face.
       We were enjoying each other’s company when a stern-looking fellow came through the door and up to our table.  “I’m looking for Marshal Forrest.  I was told he might be in here.”  We all noticed that he had to brush snow off his coat when he entered.
       “I’m Forrest.”


Echoes From the Campfire

We fought our nameless Alamos and rode to our deaths without a song of glory, nor any memory to leave behind except a hand less at the night guard and an empty saddle in the church wagon.”

                         –Louis L’Amour  (The Kiowa Trail)

       “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.”
                         –Philippians 3:10(NKJV)
The Holiday Season (Thanksgiving through Christmas) is sometimes described as the loneliest time of the year.  Many live in regret, many have seen loved ones die during the year, many have seemingly no hope.  That seems to be the theme of Psalm 88, despair from the pit, or the dark night of the soul.  Lawson states, “Darkness shrouded the psalmist without and within, and he could not shake it.”

          1 — O LORD, God of my salvation, I have cried out day and night before You.
          2 — Let my prayer come before You; incline Your ear to my cry.
          3 — For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to the grave.
          4 — I am counted with those who go down to the pit; I am like a man who has no strength,
          5 — Adrift among the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, whom You remember no more, and who are cut off from Your hand.
          6 — You have laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the depths.
          7 — Your wrath lies heavy upon me, and You have afflicted me with all Your waves.     Selah
          8 — You have put away my acquaintances far from me; You have made me an abomination to them; I am shut up, and I cannot get out;
          9 — My eye wastes away because of affliction.  LORD, I have called daily upon You; I have stretched out my hands to You.
        10 — Will You work wonders for the dead?  Shall the dead arise and praise You?     Selah     (NKJV)

       Some have called this the “saddest psalm of the entire Psalter.”  This person has done things right by crying out to the Lord, but nothing seems to have been done.  God has not answered; God is quiet when he pleads.  He recognizes that God is the one who saves, but there is the impression that God was not or had not listened to him.  The question is why?  Where are you God?
       Perhaps you are in this situation, or have been in this situation.  “Answer me God!  Help me, Lord!” is your heart’s cry.  Where is God?  Where are the angels to minister to me?  What has happened to my friends?  Woe is me–this is a psalm of despair.  “The darkness of the pit closes in on you, and the only bright hope in the whole psalm lies in its opening two verses–you are still talking to God.”  (George O. Wood)
       Think of Jesus, in Gethsemane.  This may be a psalm He prayed in those dark hours before the Cross.  This is the worst, and Jesus asks His disciples why they couldn’t even watch with Him for one hour.  No answers, no guidance–sometimes that is life.  In that case what do we do?  We continue to trust in Him, we continue to hope in His Word, and endure.  C. T. Studd said that, “A man is not known by his effervescence but by the amount of real suffering he can stand.”  Hang on, and keep on crying out to the Lord!

               “Christian brothers, shout and sing,
               Death has lost its ancient sting!
               Christ, the crucified before,
               Is alive forever more!
              Grave, where is thy vict’ry now?
              See the light upon His brow,
              Empty, see, the stony bed;
              Christ is risen from the dead!”
                     –Thomas O. Chisholm


Echoes From the Campfire

Keep on thankin’ and fightin’.”
                    –Zane Grey  (Nevada)

       “For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.”

                    –2 Corinthians 4:15 (NKJV)
       One of the things I have never understood are how some Christians walk around with their lower lip so low that they step on it.  There is very little brightness in their life, their is very little hope and their life is one that is mostly humdrum.  Complaining Christians cannot be joyful Christians.  Unthankful Christians cannot be contented Christians.  It may be an indication of their relationship with God.  Gary Inrig said, “An attitude of overflowing thankfulness is one of the prime indicators of our relationship with God.”  We are to be thankful in the small things as well as the grand things that come our way–in short, we are to be thankful in everything.  Inrig continues, “The state of our relationship with God is clearly revealed by our gratitude towards Him.”
       Christians will say that it is all about a relationship.  Hmmm, but what kind of a relationship I ask?  A nominal one?  A casual one?  Our relationship can be seen by our thankfulness.  Paul writes, “…continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” (Colossians 2:6-7, NIV)  Notice those last three words, OVERFLOWING WITH THANKFULNESS.
       Are you a rejoicing Christian?  Or maybe the one with the fat-lip from stepping on it because of your woes.  One of the early church fathers, Leo I, puts the unthankful person in the category of the foolish.  “Foolish people too often dare to complain against their Creator, not only when they lack something, but also when they have plenty.  When something isn’t given to them, they complain.  And when they have certain things in abundance, they are ungrateful….  Let us rejoice in whatever gifts He gives.”
       Again I ask, what is your relationship with the Lord?  Grateful or ungrateful?  Hateful or thankful?  Bitter or rejoicing?  Moaning your fate or overflowing with thankfulness?  I need not remind you, but I will the words of Paul to the church at Thessalonica, “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NIV)  Not only are we to give thanks in all circumstances we are to be “always giving thanks to God the Father for everything…” (Ephesians 5:20, NIV)  In all circumstances and for everything–when you can do that we have a truly dynamic and real relationship.  G.K. Chesterton gives this admonition, “When it comes to life the critical thing is, whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.”
       Thanksgiving gives the call for us to be thankful.  Heed the call, listen to the truth, and be thankful in and for all things.