Friday, June 17, 2011

Gramp's Bible

Let me start out by asking a question: what do you hold that is precious to you? Is it a ring, a piece of furniture, a quilt, a car, a bike, a china set, an autographed book or poster, a stamp collection, a photo album, or a gun? All these things are sometimes held dear to our hearts. They are the things that we put our money, time and effort into. My wife’s engagement ring belonged to my great grandmother. It is something that is precious to her not just because I gave it to her, but also because it has been handed down from my great grandmother to my grandmother to my mother to me and finally to Alicia. And I’m sure that someday she will pass it on again. When I received the ring from my mom it needed some restoration. I took the time and money to get it fixed up and looking new again. I could have just bought Alicia a new ring, but this one is worth so much more to us just for the fact that Alicia is the fourth person to have it (my great grandmother is the only other one to wear it). What a privilege it is to have something so precious!

Recently, my brother, Kevin, brought me a box of books found in my grandmother’s attic. Most of the books were Bible study booklets and commentaries that dad and mom had collected from Bible school. Also included in the box was a stack of tracts held together by a rubber band. They were pamphlets of an article that my mother had composed for a mission’s magazine. It contained the story of how God had called my parents from being a dairy farmer and a nurse to the mission field. It was encouraging to look back and read about the many ways God had directed my parents. I also found a Bible in the box. It was one that I had used off and on at Bible school.

There was one other thing that caught my eye. In the box of books was a smaller box—you know the small cardboard box that your Bible came in? It was just like that. It looked relatively new, mostly unused. Inside the box was—you guessed it—a Bible. But this Bible was not the one that belonged in the box. It was a bit smaller than the box, the cover was worn, the ribbons frayed a bit, the pages were slightly yellowed and some were even coming off the binding. Inside the front cover was the inscription – “From my wife 1971.” And on the first page it said “D. McKeen – II Timothy 2:15”. This Bible belonged to my grandfather, David McKeen. I did a bit of research to find out some things about his Bible.

As I flipped through the pages I found some interesting things. There were a couple different tracts (one of which was stamped by Pastor Martin Smith, pastor when my dad came to know the Lord and the one who preached at Gramp’s funeral), some slips of paper with sermon notes (one slip of paper was an invoice from the family farm. On the back were sermon notes Gramp had made from an evangelistic meeting. Both sides were dated May 1963), and a poem.  Gramp had made plenty of notes from sermons he had heard, Sunday school lessons he’d prepared, and personal reading—nothing I haven’t put in my own Bible—but what I found interesting was that there were a number of passages that had a name and a date by them. My suspicion is that they were names and dates from different sermons that he had heard preached, most likely from special occasions. There are at least 20 different dates that include names like Ken Robins, Dr. Reynold Showers (this one my dad added in 1996. I just heard Dr. Showers preach at NBBI this year), Wendell Calder, and a number of different pastors. Another interesting thing that Gramp did was in the book of Psalms; every time a verse reminded him of a song he wrote the title down. So as you read through the Psalms, you are reminded of the great hymns of the faith.

Gramp passed away in 1980, long before I was born, and even before my dad graduated from high school. The Bible sat on the shelf for some time. In fact, the pastor of my home church, while I was growing up, was Steve Cook. He came to our church in 1980, a month after Gramp died, and left in 1997, just after our family moved to Bible school. So, for most of his ministry at our church, the Bible was unused. In 1996, it was given to my dad to use at Bible school. Dad added many notes to what Gramp had already written down. In the front cover are recorded lists of verses about the Deity of Christ, the Trinity, Salvation, the Reality of Hell, Eternal Sonship, and other important doctrines. In the margins, dad added sermon outlines and quotes along with some helpful tips on interpreting different passages. I especially enjoyed reading his notes on Nehemiah, one of which is: “In the work of God there are differences in abilities and desires. Since God is the overall administrator, it is up to Him where He places you on the wall.” I found out in my research that many of the notes on Nehemiah were taken from his Old Testament Synthesis class from NBBI. The interesting thing is that I sat in on some of dad’s classes when I was a kid and remember hearing Al Cabral teach on the book of Nehemiah. So I was even present when some of those notes were taken.

I couldn’t help but notice that there are still some blank pages—room for me to add notes of my own. It will take time to fill in the pages. It will take work. It will take lots of study. But someday I will pass this Bible on. It has become precious to me as I think about the heritage that is recorded in its margins. Notes, sermons, wisdom from great men of God, titles of great hymns of the faith—all of these recorded to help us understand the teachings, the wisdom and the emotions of God’s timeless Word. What a heritage I have to build upon. Gramp recorded II Timothy 2:15 on the first page of his Bible, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” As you now think about your own Bible, perhaps remembering things you have put in the margins, think about who could be reading this in forty years, fifty years, a hundred years: a friend, a son, a daughter, a grandchild, someone who might be just beginning their study of the Word of God. Perhaps they will look back and see a life of faithfulness and diligence in your study of the Bible.

So I will leave you with a question: what do you hold that is precious to you? Is it a ring? A car? A CD? A china set? Or like me, is it a Bible that has been handed down three generations? Hold on to that which has lasting value and do what you can do make it more precious and more valuable to those who will come after you. Our theme verse for the year is Psalm 78:6a, “…that the generation to come might know…” What you record in the margins of your Bible is one small way that you can help the coming generation to know God. Just as Gramp has helped me, you can help them understand and desire the kind of relationship that you had with the one true God.

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