July 2001. Those who know first-hand the joy and assurance of salvation through trusting in Jesus Christ also experience the family love of fellow believers as spiritual brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters. This weekend my own heart filled to overflowing with pleasure and with love as I worshiped, ate, visited and studied the Bible with “home folks” in both a physical and a spiritual sense.
The occasion was a weekend of gospel ministry at Seven Mile Post Road Church in Athens (Limestone County), Ala., the town in which I grew up and the county of my ancestors since about 1805. The congregation is led by three pastors who grew up with me — Mike Davis, Ted Davis (no relation) and Joe Curtis. Joe was my best friend from third grade forward, a college roommate and a near neighbor for 10 years before my family moved to Houston in 1982. I also renewed acquaintance with hundreds of childhood friends, schoolmates, acquaintances and their relatives. One day Joe and I took an hour’s walk through the beautiful tree-filled city cemetery and remembered with thanks the godly influences of former teachers and neighbors now departed. As strange as it might seem to some, it was a joyful experience which also put our own lives in proper perspective of place and purpose and time.
Another highlight of the weekend was the opportunity to meet dozens of gracEmail readers, many from Limestone County, but numerous others from Florence, Shoals, Huntsville, Decatur, Jasper and elsewhere in Alabama, as well as several who came from Tennessee and from Mississippi for this gospel feast. The presence of each inspired and encouraged me very much. “There’s a Sweet, Sweet Spirit in this Place,” we sang on Saturday night — and indeed there was! Hearts full of gratitude for God’s grace, souls liberated into the joy and freedom of Christ’s finished work, affections and emotions for Christ and for each other expressed openly and without embarrassment — what a sweet spirit filled that place indeed!
I praise God tonight, here back in Houston, Texas for “home folks” — those of the earthly homeland which will always be “home” to me no matter how long I am gone from it, and especially those, from that place and throughout the world, who with me are pilgrims moving toward the eternal home whose builder and maker is God.