24 September 2009


For several weeks we have experienced a real ‘monsoon’ season in the southeast section of our country. But I don’t remember enjoying looking at the clouds in their various sizes and shapes since my childhood. Even the sunsets have been enhanced as the sun rays are seen beaming around a magnificent cloud. Some of the cumulus clouds reach perhaps 20 to 30 thousand feet in height. The beautiful blue sky at times has been filled with soft pillows of clouds. Other clouds that hang low and are darker in color have for their background the larger whiter clouds. Some clouds hide the sun and make for cooler weather while working in the yard or in the field. Then there are storm clouds that bring lightning and loud bursts of thunder and heavy rains and sometimes hail. On some days the entire sky is overcast with clouds that can make a person feel depressed. But, all in all, clouds are beautiful and they make believers appreciate God’s creation. The Psalmist declared, “The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork” (Psalms 19:1). You need to stop for awhile from your busy schedule and look upwards to the beautiful scenes not made with man’s hands.
It is amazing how often we read about clouds in the Bible in connection with important persons and events. Here is a list of just a few times clouds are mentioned in both the Old and New Testament ~
*God set a rainbow in the clouds (Genesis 9:13).
*A pillar of cloud guided the Israelites during the day on their exodus from Egypt (Exodus 13:21).
*The glory of God often appeared in a cloud (Exodus 16:10; 19:9; Numbers 11:25).
*A cloud covered Mount Sinai when God gave Moses the Ten Commandments (Exodus 24:15-18).
*A cloud filled the Holy Place and the house of the Lord when the glory (Divine Presence) of God appeared (I Kings 8:10-13). This is called the Shekhinah.
*“A day of clouds” is mentioned when God speaks of punishment on Egypt , Ethiopia and other enemies of Israel (Ezekiel 30:1-4).
*Job describes how rain is formed from the drawing up of the water “Which the clouds drop down and pours abundantly on man” (Job 36:27, 28).
*Daniel wrote of the time when “One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they brought Him near before Him” (Daniel 7:13, 14).
*“A bright cloud overshadowed them” on the Mount of Transfiguration when God said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” (Matthew 17:5).
*At the Lord’s judgment upon the city of Jerusalem the “Son of Man” is depicted as “coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30).
*Luke wrote about the ascension of Jesus in Acts 1:9, “Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.”
*The apostle wrote that the Israelites “all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea” (I Corinthians 10:1, 2).
*Paul, in giving encouragement to the Thessalonians regarding their loved ones who died in Christ, wrote of the second coming of the Lord in this manner, “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (I Thessalonians 4:13-18).
*Both Peter and Jude wrote harshly concerning false teachers who would lead Christians astray as being like “clouds carried by tempest” and “clouds without water, carried about by the winds” (II Peter 2:17; Jude 12).
*The apostle John wrote that the Lord Jesus Christ was “coming with clouds” (Revelation 1:7).
John also “saw still another mighty angel coming down from heaven, clothed with a cloud” (Revelation 10:1).
*In the highly figurative book of Revelation John wrote, “Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat One like the Son of Man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle.” This was regarding the reaping of the earth’s harvest, a matter of punishment (Revelation 14:14-16).

Sanford F. Bennett in 1867 wrote the beautiful lyrics of the song “Sweet By and By” and the first stanza tells us that “There’s a land that is fairer than day, And by faith we can see it afar; For the Father waits over the way, To prepare us a dwelling place there.” In the book of Revelation we read that “The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light” (21:23). Also “There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever” (22:5). It is necessarily inferred that no clouds, especially storm clouds, will be there as the beautiful hymn “O They Tell Me of a Home” teaches:

O they tell me of a home far beyond the skies,
O they tell me of a home far away;
O they tell me of a home
Where no storm clouds rise,
O they tell me of an unclouded day.
O they tell me of a home
where my friends have gone,
O they tell me of that land far away
Where the tree of life
In eternal bloom
Sheds it fragrance thro the unclouded day.
O they tell me of the King
in His beauty there,
And they Tell me that mine eyes shall behold,
Where he sits on the throne
That is whiter then snow,
In the city that is made of gold.
O they tell me that He smiles
on His children there,
and His Smile drives their sorrows away;
And they tell me that no tears
Ever come again,
In that lovely land of unclouded day.
O the land of cloudless day,
O the land of an unclouded sky;
O they tell me of a home,
where no storm clouds rise,
O they tell me of an unclouded day.”

~ Josiah K. Alwood, 1890

03 September 2009

In Memory of Byron L. Benson

If you called him at his home it would indeed be a rarity to reach him. You would get his answering machine and hear him say, “You have reached the BENson residence…” I really don’t know when he slept. He was always on the go somewhere. He was consistently doing something for his family or visiting the hospitals or training his grandchildren to eat catfish downtown at the Farmers Market CafĂ©. He was a connoisseur of good country cooking. Since he spent so much of his time in the lower part of Montgomery County and in Crenshaw County, the people at Chic’s in Highland Home or the Chicken Shack in Luverne would have known him by name. I have never known any gospel preacher who attended more gospel meetings than Byron. Oh, how he loved to sing. Regardless of the weather or the distance, you could count on Bryon being present for these occasions. He served on the Board of Regents of Amridge University (I encouraged him to do so). He was on the planning committee for the Capitol City Prayer Breakfast and he would call 40-50 people to attend this bi-monthly service. No one worked more diligently for this good work. He and I alternated in being the MC for this event. Often we would take a jab at one another in fun.

Byron loved to preach. He was zealous for the local congregation where he labored part time (a misnomer in his case). He seldom missed preaching on Sundays while he was with the Grady congregation for some 36 years. His last work was with the Capitol Heights church in Montgomery (5 years). He loved to do his radio program live. Brethren knew they could depend on him for brotherhood news regarding singings, gospel meetings, lectureships, etc. It seems that he knew everyone and everything that was going on among the congregations in central and south Alabama. He preached for some 37 years on the radio, assuming this role following the beloved Clyde Fulmer.

Byron was my friend. Virginia and I helped to sing for the wedding of Byron and Carolyn which was conducted in the West End church building some 52 years ago. Byron, Carolyn, Roger and Helen Dill and Virginia and I would often eat together on special occasions such as birthday and wedding anniversaries as well as other times. On one occasion, the total number of years of marriage between the three couples was 150 years. Our server couldn’t believe it. Once, while we were enjoying a meal together, I found a rather large insect in my glass of tea after I had taken a couple of drinks. In a very short time the manager was at my side apologizing for the incident and gave me my dinner free of charge. From that time on Byron and Roger would ask me if I brought my insect with me when we would be eating together.
Christian friendship is one of God’s richest blessings. I shall miss the many telephone calls from Byron as we talked about Sunday’s assemblies and many other subjects. He retired from ATT&T several years ago. He believed in communicating via the telephone. But he didn’t have much confidence in emailing others or in taking the time to read the ones sent to him. It was in April of one year when he called me and said that he had just read my Christmas card I had sent him the previous December. We enjoyed a good laugh together. When I would call him on his cell phone I would usually ask him, “Byron, where are you?” He would be somewhere doing something for someone. If I could call him now and ask, “Byron, where are you?” he would say something like “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain”, or, “to depart and be with Christ, which is far better” (Philippians 1:21, 23). This is the blessed assurance that we have in our Lord Jesus Christ. My good friend you may now rest from your labors of love but your works and influence will continue for generations to come (Revelation 14:13).