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Friday, December 30, 2016

Dating? Not What You're Thinking

Play dates, Mommy and son dates, Daddy and daughter dates, cousin dates . . . . They’re events. They’re all planned out and marked on the calendar.

Maybe I’m crazy, but it strikes me as odd that one parent would take a preschooler out—the two of them alone—for a purposeful time together instead of getting the whole family together for the same special time. Why not the whole family go to the local zoo? Why not the family go out for ice cream—or eating it at home? Why not the whole family dressing up for a special occasion, all together?

Am I missing something?

Toddler has a play date or cousin date with another toddler. Seriously? Maybe it’s just the terminology, but I’m not getting it. Why can’t we just get the kids together? My siblings and I basically grew up with our cousins, but we never called it a date. It was just cousins playing with cousins.

The dad gets all spiffed up, and the little daughter’s wearing a beautiful party dress. The dad goes to his own door—how funny is that?—extends flowers to the little lady, and takes his six-year-old out. Nothing wrong with it. I’m not criticizing. I am questioning, though. Wouldn’t it be better if he got all spiffed up for Mom, confirming his love for her? Isn’t it more important that sons and daughters see Dad and Mom going out—and also that the whole family does things together as a unit?

I get it, that schedules clash, and it’s not always possible to do things with both Mom and Dad present. I understand. But, I wouldn’t call it a date when Dad happens to do something with his own child. To me, the parent-child relationship isn’t a date. It’s day in, day out unconditional love. It’s training, guiding, nurturing, and loving those little ones entrusted to us.

Let’s think about fifteen to twenty years ahead. The little girl who got all dressed up for Daddy now has a real date. But she’s been "dating" all her life???

The man who’s used to mother-son dates has to do this thing himself—actually date. He, too, has been dating all his life: play dates, pool dates, cousin dates, Mom dates . . . . Is he confused? You bet!

Maybe it’s just the word “date” that trips me up. But, I think it’s more than that. I believe maybe that we are manufacturing quality time with our kids by naming it. And, in the process it becomes bigger than real life. This is what I mean:
  • It involves a planned occasion.
  • Money is spent on a very special snack or dinner, and maybe flowers, clothes, an activity . . . .
  • It is exclusive. Other siblings are left at home while the chosen one gets time with Mom or Dad . . . and either Mom or Dad is left at home, too.

I really, truly think we need to get back to families being families. I think it’s fine for a dad or mother to have one-on-one time with a child, but I don’t think it should be called a “date.” It should be natural instead of made up. I believe that most of the time, if at all possible, it’s best to do things as a family. It’s also very good for dads and moms to go out once in awhile, just the two of them. It’s healthy for marriage, and it’s great for the kids to see their parents dating.

As I write this, one of our grandchildren is home sick with his dad. It’s a natural time for care, love, and nurturing. It’s of course not a date, but it’s good quality time between father and son.

I don’t think there’s any biblical light to be shed on the word “dating,” but there’s a lot in the Bible about husband-wife relationships and about children being obedient and brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4b).

What do you think? Should we date our kids? (It’s quite okay if you differ with me, but please use courtesy when presenting an opposing point of view. I'd love to hear your thoughts.)

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Emotional Safe Place

Some time ago, I heard a TV conversation about troubled people and the importance of having a “safe place” where they felt comfortable expressing their feelings. It would be non-condemning and nurturing. It would be a place where the people could go and feel accepted and others would listen. The TV show was about the workplace and the importance of emotional equilibrium there.

I’ve been thinking about safe places ever since.* I’d like to approach this idea two ways. We’ll talk about the home and the Lord.

The Home

God designed the home as the foundational safe place for humankind. Even Adam and Eve—the first two people—were given a haven. The Garden of Eden must have been awesome in its beauty. They even had peaceful pets! Until they sinned, the Garden was the place where they walked along and talked to God. They had a perfect life in a perfect place.

Since Adam and Eve’s sin, nothing has been the same, but the family unit is the one that God established: husband, wife, and children. It has always been this way. God blesses the home, and he wants the generations to know His Word and proclaim His glory. Children are nurtured at home. They are given boundaries and sometimes, they’re chastised. Ephesians 5 makes it very clear that the family mirrors Christ and His church. It’s to be mutually loving and considerate, and the family has the same order as God the Father, Son, and the church.

Children need to grow up where they feel secure. They can tell their parents anything, and they are loved. They don’t have to worry about a roof over their heads, a bed to sleep on, or food for their tummies. They are loved, and it is wonderful.

The Lord

The Bible says that God is our safe place. He is our protection and the place we can run to. He’s our shelter and strength and a fortress around us. He provides food and clothing. God helps us when we’re in trouble. He will never leave us. He says He will meet all our needs!
  • The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want (Psalm 23:1).
  • God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1).
  • For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy (Psalm 61:3).
  • Be thou my strong habitation, whereunto I may continually resort: thou hast given commandment to save me; for thou art my rock and my fortress (Psalm 71:3).
  • He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler (Psalm 91:4).
  • My goodness, and my fortress; my high tower, and my deliverer; my shield, and he in whom I trust; who subdueth my people under me (Psalm 144:2).
  • O LORD, my strength, and my fortress, and my refuge in the day of affliction (Jeremiah 16:19a).
  • But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).
  • Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you (Matthew 6:31, 32b, 33).
  • Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen (Matthew 28:20b).
  • Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee (Hebrews 13:5).

Our safe place is Jesus, who said, Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).

Do you need rest for your soul?

Do you need a safe place?

Go to Jesus!

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus,
and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead,
thou shalt be saved. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord
shall be saved (Romans 10:9, 13).


*Jesus can help anyone with his emotional problems. Of course, some people need counseling and long-term assistance to deal with traumas, addictions, and hurts. A Christian counselor can help.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Mary DID Know. So Did Others.

We sing Christmas carols. Do we know what they’re saying? Are they conveying Truth to the hearers?

A popular song today is “Mary, Did You Know?”*

Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you delivered, will soon deliver you. . . .

Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
When you kiss your little baby, you kiss the face of God.

Of course Mary knew! The Bible says, the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. . . . And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. . . . And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God (Luke 1:26-28, 30-33, 35). Mary was well aware that she was the mother of the Savior.

Elizabeth knew, too! And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? (Luke 1:41-42)

Joseph knew. Behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:20-21).

The prophets knew.
    • Isaiah
      Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14). For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).
    • MicahBut thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting (Micah 5:2)
    Simeon knew. And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. . . . And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel (Luke 2:25, 27-32).

    Anna knew. And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age . . . And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem (Luke 2:36a, 38).

    The wise men knew. Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him (Matthew 2:1-2).

    The birth of Jesus Christ fulfilled many Old Testament prophecies, and His life and death fulfilled many more. The star, the town, the virgin birth, and many other details were foretold many years before Jesus was born. Jesus is the Messiah, the long-awaited One. He came to earth with one purpose, to save people from their sins.

    Did Mary know? Absolutely! The Bible says time and time again that Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart (Luke 2:19).

    Have a Wonderful, Biblical Christmas!

    *“Mary Did You Know?” is by Mark Lowry, 1984.

    Saturday, December 17, 2016

    Sorry About the Language, But . . .

    I saw social media content that either had an advisory or didn’t. I don’t remember the details (since I didn’t watch these videos). There were advisories about: graphic photos, bad language, crude language, etc. and a few posts showed a photo of an adult in some state of undress. They are my social media friends. As far as I know, they're good people.

    I didn’t turn on their videos and look at their graphic displays. I did not listen to offensive language. I’m sorry I had to see some of their photos.

    This isn't a rant. I’m not angry. I am, though, a little bit concerned. I’m also questioning.

    Social media can be used to inform. It can be used for good. I am fine with you if you differ in your opinions, vote for someone else, or like forms of entertainment that I don’t enjoy. Each person is entitled to what he likes and doesn’t. I don’t mind a protest. In fact, each person may protest all he wants. He has a right to do so; it's freedom of speech.

    So, maybe this is my own little protest. It’s about my own preference. 

    My opinion is—you were warned!—that when a person who calls himself Christian posts something on social media, it reflects in some way who he is as a Christian. If he posts something with filthy language in it, that content forms part of the person’s branding. It reflects who he is because he posted it. No, he didn’t say the words himself, and he may even be trying to show how the person who said it is wrong, but the Christian is exposing his friends to his post. Therefore, he's spreading the foul language by quoting it. He's spreading graphic and hate scenes by posting them. If a Christian posts a partially naked person, doesn't this also reflect back on him?

    If a Christian puts graphic scenes on his feed, does this mean he is okay with them? (I’m not referring to anti-abortion rhetoric, just so we understand each other. I’m talking about gore, accident pictures, and war photos, even photos from a Hollywood film about Jesus that's gratuitously gory.) 

    Maybe I’m the only one that doesn’t want to see blood and gore on Facebook? Maybe I’m overly sensitive to the family who lost their loved one(s) in such a horrible way. These scenes rip my heart out. Maybe it’s just me . . . .

    When you put car accidents on my feed, I check to make sure my elderly parents are okay. When you talk about murders in an area where I have family, I do the same thing. Am I alone?

    I’d like to propose an alternative way to use social media:
    1. Use it to encourage others. Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop: but a good word maketh it glad (Proverbs 12:25).
    2. Use it to make people smile. A merry heart doeth good like a medicine (Proverbs 17:22a). I like your laughing babies, cute puppies, and clean jokes.
    3. Use it to promote good. (If you want to expose evil, fine, but do it in a clean-spoken way.) For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile (1Peter 3:10).
    4. Use it to spread the gospel. And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature (Matthew 16:15).
    5. Use it to inspire. Post meaningful quotations, wholesome stories, true stories about people who inspire others.
    6. Use it to share Scriptures with your friends. . . . the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever (from 1 Peter 1:23).

    On social media, I hope we’re actually encouraging our friends to think about whatsoever things are true . . . honest . . . just . . . pure . . . lovely . . . of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things (from Philippians 4:8).

    May we impact our world for Christ together!

    Tuesday, December 13, 2016

    The Whole Package

    Have you noticed the phenomenon? Christians don’t look like Christians any more. If you were to do a line-up, you would have a hard time picking out which people are Christ-followers.

    A singing group sings a hymn. It is gorgeous music and perfect harmony. The video sweeps a beautiful natural scene, and most of the singers—all men—have shoulder-length and longer hair.

    A woman blogs about the Bible and loving God—and she obviously does love God—yet she’s wearing skinnies and a shirt with boots. In the summer, you'll find her in mini dresses. She has a beaming smile and everything else about her shows that she indeed loves the Lord, but her less-than-modest dress confuses the rest of the package.

    A man goes to church, dots his i’s in the right places, and crosses his t’s. He posts Bible verses on social media. Yet, he goes home and shakes his wife by the shoulders and screams at his children.

    A woman sings like an angel. Her face glows, and her gestures are timed perfectly. At home, though, she hates everyone . . . even God sometimes. She is grouchy, icy, and hides behind the walls of her house. She says she loves the Lord, but she displays otherwise—unless she's in the glow of the limelight.

    What’s the problem?

    I think we need to get back to whole-package Christianity. It will look different for different people. I believe our style, expression, and even lifestyles will vary according to the will of God for us and our innate personalities. We’re talking about the whole person, the whole impression. Mostly, we’re talking about obeying Scripture where the Bible is clear.

    I would venture that the men in that singing group haven’t read the verse, Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? (1 Corinthians 11:14) Maybe they’re not professing Christians at all. I don’t know. It just seems incongruous that a group of men would be singing so beautifully about the greatness and grandeur of God and look shameful, according to Scripture.

    It’s much the same with the lovely Christian woman who dresses immodestly. With her heart and mouth, she proclaims Christ--but she calls attention to her body. She’s sending a mixed message. In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works (1 Timothy 2:9-10). She has the profession of godliness and the good works; she only needs more biblical packaging.

    The man who’s a saint at church and goes home and mistreats his family is disobeying two clear commands in Scripture. Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered (1 Peter 3:7). When he doesn’t treat his wife with honor, even his prayers are hindered. And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).

    The woman who sings beautifully and shines when she’s in front of people is a performer. This isn’t necessarily bad, since God made all kinds of people, and she can give Him all the praise for her talents. Her problem is that she’s not content when she’s not in the spotlight. The Bible says, But godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Timothy 6:6).

    What’s a whole-package Christian?

    It’s a person who follows scriptural commands in every area of his life. He’s someone who looks like and acts like a Christian. It’s someone who wants to please God from his heart.

    Are you a whole-package Christian? No one pleases God all the time. There isn’t a Christian on the planet that always gets it right. And, there are some gray areas—where the Bible doesn’t exactly make it clear where to draw the line. For those, we need godly discernment and prayer. How can I please You, Lord? He’ll let you know!

    To be a whole-package Christian, you need to:
    1. Know your Bible. Find out what God says a man/woman needs to be like.
    2. Be willing to change. When you see something spelled out in God’s Word, be willing to admit you have it wrong and change. In prayer, ask God to give you the strength and determine to please Him.
    3. Squelch rebellion. The Bible says, For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king (1 Samuel 15:23). Rebellion and stubbornness about the Word of God cost this king his crown. It’s equated with the occult, sin, and idolatry. Be willing to be molded by God’s hand.
    4. Change what needs changing. Actually do it! If you need to cut your hair, change your wardrobe, deal with anger, or become content, do it! If it’s another area, do it. If you truly want to please God, take the steps needed.
    By the way, all through a Christian’s life, God is molding him and changing him to be more like Christ. We call that process sanctification. It’s God working in us through the Word and the Holy Spirit, and our reacting to His instruction. The Bible puts it this way: For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more. For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, even your sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:1-3a).

    Be the whole package!


    Friday, December 9, 2016

    A Discovery About Grace

    Grace is one of the popular Christian bywords. Preachers talk about extending grace, living grace, showing God’s grace, etc. Let’s define grace according to the dictionary.

         Grace—“The word ‘grace’ in biblical parlance can, like forgiveness, repentance, 
              regeneration, and salvation, mean something as broad as describing the whole of God's activity 
              toward man or as narrow as describing one segment of that activity. An accurate, common
              definition describes grace as the unmerited favor of God toward man.” 
                                                                          (Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology)

    I was proofreading a doctrinal statement, and I came across several references on the subject of grace. I looked up all the words translated grace in the Bible. To my surprise, I noticed that the word grace is used almost exclusively to express what God did for us in salvation. It isn’t about people extending grace; it’s all about God’s actions toward mankind!

    Let’s read a selection of these passages:
    • But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD (Genesis 6:8).
    • And he (Moses) said, If now I have found grace in thy sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray thee, go among us; for it is a stiffnecked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for thine inheritance (Exodus 34:9).
    • For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ (John 1:17).
    • But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they (Acts 15:11).
    • But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. . . . And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified (Acts 20:24, 32).
    • Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:24).
    • By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God (Romans 5:2).
    • Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 5:20-21).
    • We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain (2 Corinthians 6:1).
    • For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich (2 Corinthians 8:9).
    • For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8).
    • That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:7).
    • But he (God) giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble (James 4:6).
    • Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied (1 Peter 1:2).
    Do you see how grace is tied in with faith and salvation? Did you notice that it’s not usually about human-to-human relationships but rather God to man? To be fair, we’re supposed to imitate God’s grace in our relationships with others. The Bible says, As every man hath received the (spiritual) gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God (1 Peter 4:10).

    Yes, we extend grace to others. We treat them as we would like to be treated. We care. We rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep (Romans 12:15). We give to the needy and are compassionate. But, it’s important not to lose sight of the reason we do these things: the gospel of salvation in Jesus!

    Grace is about what God did to reconcile us with Him. It’s about Jesus coming to earth as a Baby and becoming man in order to pay the debt for my sins and yours. Grace is the completely unmerited favor of God towards man. It’s amazing! It should humble us and make us so thankful.

    And, we should honor Him in everything we do.

    The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ
    be with you all. Amen.
    (Revelation 22:21, the last verse of Bible)