I heard Precious Memories for the first time right here. I heard it but didn’t understand it. I was just a kid. I thought the song was only nostalgia. I thought it was just old folks longing for the days of their youth.
Precious memories, how they linger. How they ever flood my soul. In the stillness, of the midnight, Precious sacred scenes unfold.
If you don’t pay close attention to the words, you can miss the entire point. Honey, I did. I didn’t understand that the writer was seeking God. The writer was remembering the work of God in his life. The writer was looking for the courage to face his tomorrows based on the work of God in his yesterdays. The line that is so powerful in that song — the line that tells it all:
As I travel on life’s pathways, Know not what the years may hold, as I ponder, hope grows fonder, Precious memories flood my soul.
God wants us to remember His work in our yesterdays for the courage to face ALL our tomorrows. Turn you Bibles to Joshua the 4th chapter. We are going to read the entire chapter.
And it came to pass, when all the people were clean passed over Jordan, that the LORD spoke unto Joshua, saying, Take you twelve men out of the people, out of every tribe a man, And command ye them, saying, Take you hence out of the midst of Jordan, out of the place where the priests’ feet stood firm, twelve stones, and ye shall carry them over with you, and leave them in the lodging place, where ye shall lodge this night. Then Joshua called the twelve men, whom he had prepared of the children of Israel, out of every tribe a man: And Joshua said unto them, Pass over before the ark of the LORD your God into the midst of Jordan, and take ye up every man of you a stone upon his shoulder, according unto the number of the tribes of the children of Israel: That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones? Then ye shall answer them, That the waters of Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it passed over Jordan, the waters of Jordan were cut off: and these stones shall be for a memorial unto the children of Israel forever. And the children of Israel did so as Joshua commanded, and took up twelve stones out of the midst of Jordan, as the LORD spoke unto Joshua, according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel, and carried them over with them unto the place where they lodged, and laid them down there. And Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests which bore the ark of the covenant stood: and they are there unto this day. For the priests which bore the ark stood in the midst of Jordan, until every thing was finished that the LORD commanded Joshua to speak unto the people, according to all that Moses commanded Joshua: and the people hasted and passed over. And it came to pass, when all the people were clean passed over, that the ark of the LORD passed over, and the priests, in the presence of the people. And the children of Reuben, and the children of Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh, passed over armed before the children of Israel, as Moses spoke unto them: About forty thousand prepared for war passed over before the LORD unto battle, to the plains of Jericho. On that day the LORD magnified Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they feared him, as they feared Moses, all the days of his life. And the LORD spoke unto Joshua, saying, Command the priests that bear the ark of the testimony, that they come up out of Jordan. Joshua therefore commanded the priests, saying, Come ye up out of Jordan. And it came to pass, when the priests that bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD were come up out of the midst of Jordan, and the soles of the priests’ feet were lifted up unto the dry land, that the waters of Jordan returned unto their place, and flowed over all his banks, as they did before. And the people came up out of Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and encamped in Gilgal, in the east border of Jericho. And those twelve stones, which they took out of Jordan, did Joshua pitch in Gilgal. And he spoke unto the children of Israel, saying, When your children shall ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean these stones? Then ye shall let your children know, saying, Israel came over this Jordan on dry land. For the LORD your God dried up the waters of Jordan from before you, until ye were passed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red sea, which he dried up from before us, until we were gone over: That all the people of the earth might know the hand of the LORD, that it is mighty: that ye might fear the LORD your God forever.
The children of Israel had an amazing story. Honey, it was so amazing that the next generation might have had a little trouble believing it. Ten brothers sold their bragging brother into slavery. Joseph made a huge mistake. He boasted to his brothers that he would rule over them one day. His brothers were filled with jealousy, so to the bottom of the well he went.
But God richly blessed Joseph in Egypt. So, this man once sold into slavery rose to be 2nd in command. Then famine came to the land. All of his brothers had to come down to Egypt to live with him. After a period of time, they became so powerful in the land of Egypt that the Egyptians began to fear the children of Israel would take over their land. So the Egyptians put the entire family in slavery. Worse than taking away their rights, the Egyptians corrupted the children of Israel with their gods.
But God raised up Moses. With great plagues and with a mighty hand, God delivered the children of Israel from the Egyptians. God brought them out of Egypt but the Israelites had to walk Egypt out of their own souls. The children of Israel had been corrupted with the sin, corrupted with the idolatry, corrupted with the ease, corrupted with the unbelief of the Egyptians. The Israelites had to wonder in the desert for forty years because of that unbelief. Finally, after forty years of wind and sand, the children of Israel stood on the banks of the mighty Jordan ready to accept the land of promise. To their backs was the wind and sand. To their backs was sin and bondage. To their backs was Egypt.
But, honey, in front of them was the land of promise. In front of them was Shekinah glory of Shiloh. In front of them the deliverance of the mighty men of valor under King David. In front of them was Solomon’s temple. In font of them was the land of milk and honey. In front of them was the promise land.
And God said mark this day with these twelve stones.
God knew that these people would stay in this land for over 1,200 years. From the time of Joshua to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. A lot happens in 1,200 years. There were many times that they’d need to remember this day. They’d need to remember the disobedience of their wilderness only lasted for a season during those dark days of Ahab and Jezebel. They’d need to remember their humble beginnings in Egypt during glory and pride of King Solomon. They’d need to remember the great miracle of this crossing when the little shepherd boy boldly went out with his slingshot against a giant.
God said mark this day with twelve stones.
As I travel on life’s pathways, Know not what the years may hold, as I ponder, hope grows fonder, precious memories flood my soul.
Some of you might remember the night, about four or five years ago, when I brought my son to this church. Brother Garret asked if I had a word of testimony. I stood up and looked down at my son and pointed to this alter. What meaneth this Dad? I did exactly what God said to do about those stones. My Jordan River runs across the front of this church. My Egypt and my wilderness is from the front pew back. Canaan land is right here after this alter. You can’t see it, but there is an invisible stone right here with my name on it. That’s what this stone means.
Thirty five years ago I wondered in this place from the wilderness. I wasn’t seeking God. I wasn’t even really sure that I believed in God when I rolled in here. All I knew was that Franny went to this church and I wanted to be close to her.
Her brother, Farrell, and I would sit right back there on the 2nd pew from the back and talk and cutup. We did that until Brother Kirby stood up and told the story of the she bears eating kids that mocked Elisha. It scared the living daylights out of us. We started to shutup and listen. We began to listen and God started talking. Holy Ghost conviction made me feel more miserable with each passing service.
The straw that broke the camels back was when Brother Hale died. I remember his last sermon like it was only yesterday. He said that one of us might not be here next Sunday. He was right. That car fell on him, I believe, that Monday. That made a big impression on me.
Right after that, during a testimony service, I got up and said I wanted to be saved. That mean Ol’ Brother Kirby, the one that scared me and Farrell to death with the story of she-bear, jumped up with a big grin and tears in his eyes and got me to down to this alter.
Sin and bondage on one side of the Jordan. Milk and honey on the other. And in my heart’s eye, I see my stone on this river bank here tonight.
But not just my stone, I see a lot of other stones right here at this river bank. There is my granny’s stone. There is my Aunt Minnie’s stone. There is my momma’s stone when she came back to the Lord. There is my Dad’s stone the Sunday morning he got saved. There is my Aunt Sharon’s stone.
So, when I talk about how holy this ground. When I talk about how precious of a place. When I talk about how great a soul-winning station. Honey, it ain’t just talk. My life, and the life of nearly everybody I hold dear, would have been very different if this place wasn’t here. If I hadn’t been trying to win a little girlfirend. If Brother Kriby hadn’t been mean enough to scare me and Farrell half to death. If Brother Hale hadn’t said one of us might not be here in his last sermon – most of my family could still be in Egypt. No matter how far away, no matter what the issue, no matter how discouraged, I remember those stones on the Canaan side of Jordon – those stones right here.
As I travel on life’s pathways, Know not what the years may hold, as I ponder, hope grows fonder, Precious memories flood my soul.
God wants us to remember those stones.
Remember the stones and obey God. Deut 5:15 says, “remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the LORD thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day.” Remember where God brought you from. Remember and obey His commandments.
Remember the stones and don’t be afraid. Deut 7:17-18 says, “If thou shalt say in thine heart, These nations are more than I; how can I dispossess them? Thou shalt not be afraid of them: but shalt well remember what the LORD thy God did unto Pharaoh, and unto all Egypt;” If God was able to deliver us before, He’s able to deliver us again. Remember the stones and don’t be afraid.
Remember the stones and be humble. Deut 8:2-3 says, “And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or not. And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.” Remember where you came from and be humble.
We must remember more than just the events. Giants have preached here. We must also remember what we have heard. Paul told the Corinthians in I Cor 15:1-4 that, “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures:”
Giants have worked in this field. Men like brother Sparks and Talmedge Underwood. They’ve preached their heart out. They’ve won souls. They’ve raised preachers – both in the natural and in the spiritual. But, they’ve gone on to their reward and there is still much left to do.
There is a 2006 class of kids walking up and down these streets. Let’s get them across this river Jordan. There is 2006 class of Donnie Brysons. Let’s get them across this river Jordan out of the wilderness and into the promise land. Look at the 1971 stones here on this side of the Jordan. In your spirit’s eye, Look! — There they are. God did it for us. God hasn’t changed. God can do it again. There is still more room on this side of the Jordan for many more stones. Let’s go out and get a row of new stones for 2006.
Paul told the Philippians that, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.”
What have I seen done around here? I saw Brother Kirby work all day and faithfully go out visiting. I saw sweet Momma Jenkins always have a gentle word of encouragement to some kid regardless how she felt. I saw Talmedge Underwood lay awake at night and pray for me before he ever knew my name. I saw Brother Bill shout all over this church after rolling his wife in here without ever a word of self-pity or complaint. I saw giants for God stand behind this pulpit and faithfully preach the simple Gospel. These things I have learned, these things I have received, these things I have heard, and these things I have seen.
And honey, these things are the things I’m charged to do.
Paul said, “Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do.”
There is a new crop of stones that need to be planted on this side of the Jordan and time is short. I’m charged to do these things where ever I go. This church is charged to continue to do these things.