Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Remembering who You’ve Been Is Key to Knowing Who You Are



+++++++Street & Steeple for February 26, 2021 By Phil Bell, retired, pastor, University Baptist Church

“Remembering who You’ve Been Is Key to Knowing Who You Are”


How very appropriate is the naming of Macomb’s first black Chief of Police coming in the month of February although he won’t assume the position until later this year when the current chief retires. I congratulate Jerel Jones on his very significant honor and achievement. I have not had the pleasure of meeting him, though I can’t say for sure because I don’t recall all the fine officers who have pulled me over to compliment me on my wonderful driving or some other reason of which I was not guilty!

February is, in fact, Black History Month. Before its end, this European American would like to congratulate all African Americans for their rich heritage of achievements! My personal hero is George Washington Carver. That is because of my love for all things peanut, including peanuts themselves, extra crunchy peanut butter, chocolate covered peanuts & peanut clusters, dry roasted peanuts, peanuts in the shell at Cubs games, princess chicken, and Payday candy bars!

If you aren’t aware, Carver, a black man, was one of this country’s foremost nineteenth century scientists, seeking to discover new crops, for the South, to replace cotton, which would not deplete the soil nearly as much, one of them being peanuts, for which he is best- known. He discovered 300 different uses for them. Interestingly enough, peanut butter was not one of them! Carver is just one of a multitude of African Americans who’ve contributed to this nation’s greatness, a great many of them being legislators, judges, and educators, as well as, more than one of them a pastor, perhaps the best known of all the late Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr!

We in Macomb claim yet another, also deceased, C. T. Vivian. Today, surely Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman are among the few very best actors, as was Cicely Tyson before her untimely death. Our vice president was a very effective senator before embarking upon her current gig.

We who are Asian, European, and Latino Americans, as well as any Antarctican and Australian Americans, ought to be celebrating black history alongside our brothers and sisters of color. No doubt, no race of people have come from a more disadvantaged history to make a name for themselves! Their ancestors were brought here against their will to be enslaved and treated as property. Even after their emancipation the road to full prosperous citizenship was not an easy one, nor is it for them today.

Just why is it necessary to take a month devoted to someone’s history? It is impossible to fully appreciate who you are unless you know and remember who you once were! In fact, the entire Bible book of Deuteronomy is the history of the Israelites following their exodus from Egypt.

Moses knew that for his people to be thankful and obedient to God as fully as they should be in the present they needed to be reminded of how many times God had miraculously protected and blessed them in the past!

It is, also valuable for an individual to know and remember who she or he was to fully understand who he or she is or should be! I don’t know you, but I’d venture a guess that you are either trying to live up to someone or not repeat someone’s mistakes, probably a parent. That can be either good or bad. It is important, though, to know precisely who that person was or your efforts will be in vain!

As an example of what I’m talking about, please consider the following example. My wife, Nancy, was the Macomb Jr. Sr. High School, head librarian. Once, a seventh grade student she had not yet met came to her to check out a book. She recognized his last name to be that of a past student who delighted in trying the patience of the teaching staff. She asked this new student if he was any relation to the previous one. His answer was, “Yes, he’s my father, but I’m nothing like him!” and he wasn’t. Now that was a young man who knew, precisely, who both his father was and who he, himself, was, also!

Each of us would benefit from being so fortunate, at least as far as knowing oneself is concerned. As for me, I’m much like the Israelites. My massive, life changing stroke was, now, a little over nine years ago. Before it I was pastor of University Baptist Church which I considered my dream job because it was where both God and I wanted me. Finally, after only a partial recovery, I announced my retirement knowing I could no longer shepherd the church to either God’s nor my expectations! Since it’s now going on ten years since my stroke, I, quite often, get discouraged and despair that I’ll never fully recover short of heaven.

Nancy has kept a daily journal beginning on the day of my stroke. It helps me, whenever I am so discouraged, when we read through it, to remember how God has graciously reduced my six significant physical abnormalities immediately following my stroke to just the two which persist, a constant pain in my head and paralysis on my entire left side. Even there, God is continuing to bless, having lessened my head pain level from an average of an eight to, in this very last year, a three!

I should know that a God like that can certainly still make me whole again here on earth, but if He chooses to wait until I meet His Son in the clouds, I still know He knows and wants what is best for me, as He always has!

I feared my ministry had ended with the stroke, but God, through MACMA ( Macomb Area Christian Ministers Association ) urging me to still be a part of them, allows me to periodically write these articles which the ”McDonough Voice” graciously publishes every Friday. Because Nancy sends, via email, copies of my articles to family & friends who’ve requested a copy, I now have a ministry in no less than five states in this country and in two countries in Europe! God, in His providence, has expanded my ministry from a small church in just one location, just giving me a different ministry!

I assure you He can and wants to do something similar for you, giving you the desires of your heart. If you’re discouraged and down because of some expectation you have realized may not come to fruition, as I get sometimes, put your hope and trust in the One who is all powerful and all loving!

Each of us, as we consider who we are, must remember that he or she is a product of his or her parents. God doubly blessed me when I was born to evangelical Christian parents who were, also, fanatical Cubs followers! Of course, being born to Christian parents didn’t make me a Christian, but, at an early age, my mother led me to put my faith in Jesus as my Savior and my life under His control as my Lord.

All of us must remember that all of life is connected. Our past is responsible for our present which will decide our future! Of course we can’t change the past which makes what we do in the present very important! God cares about that, also.

Ephesians 5:15 – 16 reads, “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.” Each of us, when faced with a decision and before every action, should take time to ask him or herself, “In light of my past experiences, current situation, and future hopes and dreams, what is the wise thing to do?” The question is not the “right” thing to do, but “wise!” Something can be right and still not be wise.

Paul, speaking of our freedom in Christ, wrote, All things are legal, but not all things are profitable. As for us who are Jesus followers, Paul wrote that before being indwelt by the Holy Spirit, we were self seeking sinners intent on fulfilling our fleshly desires, but now, as Christians, ought not to be that way any longer, rather, exhibiting the Fruit of the Spirit! I have to admit that I am, too often, still intent upon fulfilling my ever expanding flesh(ly) desire for food! I ought not be that way, knowing from whence I’ve come.

The thing about the past is that we must leave it behind. Some of us are only too happy to do that while others of us wished we still lived there, but none of us can! I hope I’ve convinced you that the present is all you have, at this time, and how important it is that you use your time wisely because what you do now will direct who you are in the future. It is so very true that knowing who you were is the key to knowing who you are!

- Phil Bell, retired, pastor, University Baptist Church

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