A few weeks ago, during the Freed-Hardeman University Bible Lectureship in Henderson, Tennessee, I was visiting with my old friend, Alan Highers. Alan and I were classmates at Freed-Hardeman in the mid-1950s and have been friends ever since.
During our visit we began reminiscing about some of the wonderful teachers we had at Freed-Hardeman, especially in the Bible Department men such as Frank VanDyke, Chairman of the Department, G. K. Wallace, H. A. Dixon, W. Claude Hall, Olan Hicks, founder of the Christian Chronicle, and others. We stopped at the grave of Frank VanDyke in the Chester County Memorial Gardens. Alan and I both had served as pallbearers at brother VanDyke’s funeral in 1963. He was possessed of a brilliant mind and left us all too soon at the age of forty-nine.
Alan recalled a chapel speech brother VanDyke gave during our college days that included the poem that serves as the title of this article. It is a simple poem with a powerful message. Please reflect on it and then consider with me some thoughts which emerge from it.
How can you live in Goshen said a friend from afar,
this wretched country town where folks talk little things all year
and plant their cabbage by the moon? Said I,
I do not live in Goshen. I eat here, sleep here, work here.
I live in Greece where Plato taught and Phidias carved, and Epictetus wrote.
I dwell in Italy where Michelangelo wrought in color form and mass;
Where Cicero penned immortal lines and Dante sang undying songs.
Think not of my life as small because you see a puny place;
I have my books, I have my dreams. A thousand souls have left for
me enchantment that transcends both time and place; and so
I live in paradise, not here.
I do not profess to be a student of the classics, but I am pleased to know that regardless of where one lives in one of the great cities of the world or in one of the many “Goshens” of the world the works of the great scholars, artists, and musicians are available to us. More importantly, it is reassuring to know that through the pages of God’s holy word, the Bible, one has access to the very mind of God Himself regardless of where one physically dwells! Within the sixty-six divine documents that make up the Bible, we have revealed to us the origin of the universe, the origin of man, who we are, what our purpose is, how we are to live, and (depending on how we have lived) what our destiny will be when we leave this world.
Within the pages of the Bible I can “live” in the very mind of God. I can “track” the unfolding of His grand scheme of human redemption from the creation of all things in Genesis to the culmination of all things in Revelation. I can “live” with the great men and women of Scripture: Adam and Eve, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, David, Solomon, the great prophets, John the Baptist, the apostle Paul, the simple Christians of the first century, and, most of all, Jesus Christ Himself, the divine Son of God.
I can know God’s will for my life. I can, in fact, know Him (John 17:3)! I can grow in His grace and knowledge. I can “be transformed by the renewing of my mind” and “prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2). I can be “transformed into the same image (that of Christ, hf) from glory to glory” (II Corinthians 3:18). I can “approve the things that are excellent” so that I may “be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:10). I can “test all things” and “hold fast what is good” (I Thessalonians 5:21). Through the pages of the Bible I can “look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (II Corinthians 4:18).
Ah, yes I may eat, sleep, and work in “Goshen.” But I live in the wonderful world of God’s divinely inspired word! I invite you to explore this world for yourself.
March 29, 2016
April 2: New Hope Road Church of Christ Lectureship, Hendersonville, TN, (1:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. sessions)
April 6, 13, 20, 27: Green Hill Church of Christ, Mount Juliet, TN