2000

The Family: Prep School for Life 3/19/00

Matthew 19:4-6

JESUS CHRIST said, “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38).

The words of Jesus Christ regarding marriage, family life and parenting are so disregarded and disobeyed as to indicate people are ashamed of them. Derelict parents, disobedient children, and consequenting dissolved marriages have become commonplace.

Not since 1973 has there been produced a network series depicting a loving happy family. As a result of the breakdown in parent/child relationships and the breakup of husband/wife relationships, the secular world has rationalized as reasonable and the Christian world appropriately rushed to minister to those injured by divorce while little has been said or done to affirm God’s norm for the family.

For fear of injuring those victims of broken homes, we have neglected assertions related to maintaining wholesome family ties.

Nearly two decades ago the White House Council on the Family issued this statement: “America’s families are in trouble – trouble so deep and pervasive as to threaten the future of our nation.” At that conference, Paul Popenoe of the American Institute of Family Relations stated: “No society has ever survived after its family life deteriorated.”

If the family fails, then all the other institutions of society will fail. The family is the basic unit of society under-guiding all else. It is the prep school for life. Therein we learn to live in community. If you can’t do it there you are not likely to be able to do it properly anywhere.

The basis for family life is found in Genesis 2:18, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helpmate for him.”

Somebody, on behalf of Jesus Christ, needs to declare firmly that the unholy union of two people living together in the pretending role of husband and wife out of wedlock is an affront to God regardless of how pleasant and popular it may appear to be.

Trial marriages are to be rejected as possible alternatives to God’s plan.

BIBLICAL BASIS FOR MARRIAGE

I. THERE MUST BE A CAUSE – MATTHEW 19:6

“Help mate” – Genesis 2:18 = “to go along side,” or “corresponding to,” or “a second self”. This “oneness” is multi-faceted. It is: physical, spiritual, social, intellectual, and financial.

Dr. David Mace: “There are no happy marriages only marriage partners who are immature.” The problem is not with the institution of marriage but with people.

For a cake to turn out well the right ingredients in proper proportions must be added. If sour instead of fresh milk is used, an unpleasant taste results. It is the cake, however, that gets the blame not the milk.

For a marriage to work both parties have to leave adolescence behind and never return to it. Neither can mentally remain single. Two persons become one in flesh and blood through natural procuration. That is, when they join God in creating a life with an eternal destiny.

In a family setting a child learns to be a citizen, worker, friend, neighbor, mate and parent. All of this is learned through the marvelous university called the family long before the child enters first grade.

There is a generation spoken of in the Bible with which youth should strive not to identify. “There is a generation that curseth their father, and doth not bless their mother. There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes” (Prov. 30: 11-12).

A ruby is a rare and valuable precious stone. There are, however, other stones which closely resemble it such as the garnet and spinel. Some of these stones look so much like a ruby that only experts can discern the difference. Geologist use a dichroscope to test the stones. A dichroscope makes one see double. Two images of the same stone are seen. A genuine ruby produces one image in orange- red and another in carmine-red. The garnet and spinel each show only one color.

Real mature love under the “dichroscope” of discernment reflects two aspects. These are both illustrated by a classroom experience. A teacher was trying to explain love to a young elementary class.

Dictionary definitions were not proper for their understanding. Pupils were asked to show the teacher what love meant. The ensuing long silence was broken by one six-year old who rose slowly from her seat. She approached the teacher and giving her a big hug said, “That’s love!” Assurance was given by the teacher that one form of love had been expressed, however, she asked for further insight as to what love meant. Soon that same little girl enlisted the help of others in putting the chairs in order and tidying up the room. She then exclaimed, “Love is helping someone too!” That childish wisdom develops two aspects of mature love. Love is not only saying…it is doing. As the real ruby emits two images of varying reds so mature love shows a willingness to cooperate in doing. Cooperating is love in action. It is mobile and meaningful maturity.

Cooperation involves doing things together. Many persons have a breakdown in cooperation, simply they are not together in the right setting often enough. Work schedules, social activities, civic affairs, church-relating events, and numerous other demands divide couples’ time. Select things that can be done together. Hobbies, recreational events, and other extra-affectionate activities that can be done together build a cooperative spirit. Plan schedules to allow for time together. Keep in touch with each other.

Cooperation inevitably requires someone to adjust to the advantage of the other. It is different from capitulation. Capitulation is surrender. Cooperation is support. Don’t keep score. Score keeping implies having an opponent. Instead both parties must be proponents of fair play. Score keepers have a tendency to be forgetful of other’s good plays. They are often ultra-sensitive to their own “scores.” Associated with keeping score of who has done more than the other is the idea of defeating another. After all, scores are not really kept. They are published and reported. Reporting on ones own virtues and victories seldom gains popularity. Conversely, one should be quick to acknowledge and compliment other’s cooperative ventures.

In cooperating keep in mind these “12 Things to Remember” as listed by Marshall Field:

The value of time
The success of perseverance
The pleasure of working
The dignity of simplicity
The worth of character
The power of kindness
The influence of example
The obligation of duty
The wisdom of economy
The virtue of patience
The improvement of talent
The joy of originating

There are basically three reasons for marriage:
1. One is reproduction
2. Another is for sharing life “And the LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him” (Gen. 2:18).
3. The last is as a demonstration of divine love. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her” (Ephesians 5:25).

Jesus left His heavenly Father and came to earth to identify with His bride, the church. This is a vital aspect of Christian marriage. As he left the Father to identify with a distinct loyalty so there is to be a parental separation from our parents when we marry. There is then a new center of allegiance and base of loyalty.

Demonstrations of love are often more meaningful than declarations of love. Neither should be neglected. Avowal and action are both assets.

II. THERE MUST BE A CLEAVING – MATTHEW 19:5

In marriage two are to “cleave” and “be one flesh”. To “cleave” means to cling, adhere to, or more literally be glued to. In Greek parlance, it means, “to be permanently bonded to.” One said of this text it means when you are married you are stuck with your partner. No, it means you are to stick to your partner.

Every marriage bond is under attack. Often these attacks are more subtle than direct. This multitude of varied assaults, no one of which is sufficient, of itself, to destroy the family, when combined have a devastating effect.

The thought of togetherness does not envision every family member sitting in front of their own television set, eating their own TV dinner, and waiting for their own phone ring. This bond must grow. Christian living is not an accomplished and completed stage, it is a growing process.

To help build this bond:

1. When problems arise attack them not one another
2. Put people before things
3. Give the other person the benefit of the doubt
4. Never argue or fight in public
5. Reserve time for each other
6. Be flexible and adjustable

If persons are going to maturely cooperate in a family framework, they cannot:

ALIENATE themselves from the other family members by doing only “what I feel like.” Disregard for others is devastating to harmony in a home.

AMPLIFY the inconsistencies and errors of others while minimizing their own. Always weight your vices and others virtues on the same scales. Romans 14: 19 says, “do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” In the word “edification” can be heard the word “edifice.” An edifice is a building. Edification means to build up one another.

AFFILIATE with individuals of organizations that demand time and attitudes contrary to what is needed to build good family life.

APPEASE carnal appetites by flirting with persons or interests other than those worthy of the devotion of a family person. Such flirtations are a prelude to frustration.

ACQUIESCE to the lowest denomination. Emphasis is thus put on common. Aspire to rise above that which one can do alone by achieving what two can do together.

The Greek word translated love in this passage is AGAPOA, which is the same word used in Romans 5:8 telling of God’s love for us. It is the noblest and strongest word for love. It speaks of an act of the will rather than emotion. This kind of God-love is sacrificial love. It is always active. It is expressive yet controlled. I Corinthians 9:25 instructs us, “And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things.” Hence, an athletic expression is used to speak of self- discipline.

No person can love any other person properly until, in love, they have correctly related to the Christ who loves them most. If one will not receive His great love and return it, that one is not likely to be able to love others fully.

III. THERE MUST BE A CONCLUSION

As students progress in school they move from one grade level to the next. Each is different. Couples upon entering marriage need to remember they are not static. Marriages and families change. This requires flexibility and the capacity to adjust.

A study in the Journal of Developmental Psychology reports on a ten year study of 500 Midwestern marriages. It revealed that the quality of the marriage began to dip almost immediately after the marriage. This change continues for the first three years of marriage before plateauing and remaining constant for the next three years. The next change encompasses years eight, nine, and ten. It is commonly called the “seven year itch.”

Most studies show couples go into marriage simply anticipating being happy. The old line “They lived happily ever after” doesn’t fly. If couples enter marriage realizing things will not remain static they are better equipped to adjust. This is true of any relationship.

For there to be a successful completion of the courses taught in life’s prep school, the family, there must be love. The New Testament word used to describe this type love is the kind our Heavenly Father shows us, AGAPE. It means unselfish, self-giving love. It is not an act of the emotions but an act of will. We must live for each other. Remember the word “united” can become the word “untied” simply by changing the position of the little letter “I.”

The Bible appeals for us to “encourage one another and build each other up” (I Thessalonians 5:11).

An image of today’s family is a pyramid. The family is spread like the base. They are scattered. For the family to be cohesive they must come together at the apex of the pyramid. Right up at the top of the pyramid two lines converse at a given point. Daily family members must merge at the apex. It is God’s throne where they meet and pray for each other. This is best done when they are geographically together. However, even if separated by miles there should be a mutually agreed upon time when they meet at the apex in prayer for one another.

For there to be a harmonious horizontal relationship with one another there must be a good vertical relationship with the Lord.

How to Build a Better Bond 3/12/00

Genesis 18:17-19

Jesus Christ wants to enable you to have better personal relations. That is, He wants to help us get along with each other. There is every evidence in our society we need such help. At no point is this more evident than in the most personal of relationships, the family.

Parents, who is raising your children?

Consider these facts. In 1979, 6% of children had televisions in their bedrooms; today 77%. A Kaiser Family Foundation survey reveals that children ages 2 – 18 spend nearly 5.5 hours a day outside of school with some type of media. Almost three of those hours watching TV. In the bedrooms of children 8 – 18, 21% have computers. 61% say they have NO parental control over their viewing or web activities.

Who is influencing your child?

Norman Lear who created the TV series “All In the Family” and other TV programs said: “The delight we once took in celebrating family and community seems to be vaporizing before us. You now have all these (TV) shows about lonely people coming together. It seems to me this is part of something profound. It is a disease in our time. There’s a television in every room, and the family has become splintered.”

Principles now to be shared are applicable to youth and adults, adults never married or those single again and those married, couples with and those without children, parents and grandparents. If you are a human being that ever circulates in society this message is for you. Application of certain principles, thought directly applicable to some are relevant to all.

From antiquity comes an account of a family needing direction. God had promised the aged Abraham and Sarah they would have children. Biologically this was impossible. Genesis 18: 14 reveals a principle that builds confidence and keeps hope alive: “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”

Put that on the screen saver of your mind and don’t turn off your mental computer. The Lord then gave certain specific instructions to Abraham. These ageless insights can renew relationships.

I. THERE MUST BE COMMUNICATION.
This elemental art is one of the most challenging aspects of relationships. Though we may have expansive vocabularies we often can’t communicate. Fellow males, one of the primary reasons is us.

A little boy and girl were playing together. She said, “Let’s play house!” “OK,” said the little boy, “what do you want me to do?” “To start with,” she said, “I want you to communicate.” “That’s a big word,” he replied, “I don’t know
what it means.” With a smirk the little girl says, “Great, you can be the husband.”

One reason we are poor communicators is we have bought in too deeply to the equality, or sameness, concept in our culture. Failing to acknowledge some of our basic differences walls are built up between males and females and this carries over into marriage.

The male is theoretical minded. He prefers to deal with theory, philosophy, or principles. He deals from a position of logic and reason. That’s good, but it isn’t all good. The female is person centered. She wants to know to whom what principle applies. She deals from the basis of sensitivity, a depth of feeling, or emotions. That is good, but it isn’t all good.

This is not to hint that males don’t have feelings or that females don’t have logic. It simply indicates a framework within which each deals. The difference is wonderful. It in part is why we need each other. We bring to a relationship our strengths and compliment and complete the other. It’s WONDERFUL!

NOTE THESE DIFFERENCES IN COMMUNICATION
MALE deals in generalities
FEMALE deals in details

Does this scenario which illustrates this point sound familiar?

The phone rings. You, the male answers. “I’ll get it,” you say, putting down the paper, “Hello.” A ten minute conversation ensues. When it ends the phone is hung up and the paper picked up. “Who was that?” “Yeji Jaboe’s, mother.” We haven’t heard from her in 8 years. “Well!” “Well, what?” “What did she say?” “She said Yeji is fine.” The tone indicates a strong desire to get back to the significant insight offered in “Calvin and Hobbes.” “That’s all she said?” The interrogation comparable to that of a good district attorney continues. She wants the entire story. You give it: “OK, Yeji just got out of prison after serving a sentence for a murder he committed when he was a drug dealer because he felt guilty when his wife died in a freak submarine accident while Yeji was involved with a teenage rapper, BUT he has his life straightened out and is adjusting well to his new wooden leg.” He has a good job as a trapeze artist and is engaged to marry a prominent member of the Dixie Chicks —- SO in other words he is fine just like I said.”

MALE communicates information
FEMALE communicates emotions

MALE uses indirect expressions: hugs, kisses, touch, looks
FEMALE prefers direct expression, say “I love you”

VIVE LA DIFFERENCE

To communicate —- listen.
Let your speech be embellished with grace.
“Let your speech be always with grace” (Colossians 4:6).

II. THERE MUST BE A CHARGE
God said that Abraham was to “command” his children and his household. Someone has to take charge if a household is to “keep the way of the Lord.”

Males and females are unquestioningly equal, BUT different.

One role in the family for the male is to be the mood setter. If the mood in your household isn’t good, dad, look in the mirror to find one of the basic reasons. Starting tomorrow set a new one. When you get up in the morning throw back the covers, stand to your full height, and look at your wife. Wow! Don’t over do it. Remembering that old expression, “Oily to bed oily to rise you don’t won’t to stare too long. Those antennae like curlers in the hair don’t do anything to enhance the view.”

When breakfast is finished compliment her with something like, “Honey, that was without a doubt the best breakfast any mortal man has ever enjoyed.” You do that the first morning and you won’t have to lie about it the second. When you start to leave, grab her, swing her around a couple of times right there in front of God and the children. The children might not remember much about you but they will never forget ole dad was a swinger. Work at creating a positive loving mood in the household.

Recently a cross segment of American teens were asked the following. How would your child answer? “Did either of your parents do the following with you during the past 24 hours?
Help with housework?
Praise you for something you did?
Hug or kiss you?
Tell you they love you?
Talk with you about your activities during the day?

Somebody, ideally dads, need to challenge the household to grow in their commitment to moral values.

Lawrence Kohlberg of Harvard has led the way in research in moral education and development. He found that a healthy mature person develops through three levels of moral thinking.

LEVEL ONE extends from birth to about age ten.
This is the totally self-centered stage. All issues and choices are viewed in terms of personal physical or pleasurable results. The game is played by these rules: If I am rewarded as I desire my conduct is good. If I don’t get what I want then my actions are bad. Loving, appropriate discipline is necessary to guide a child through this stage. Many persons never leave it.

LEVEL TWO begins sometime between ages ten and fourteen. At this stage the youth considers others as well as self. Choices are based on whether they please others or are approved by them. Peer pressure and idols exert an enormous influence. The status quo becomes important. Instruction and clear cut well explained guidelines need to lovingly be shared forcefully. Set limits on behavior. Look for teachable moments.

LEVEL THREE begins anytime after the late teens. Unfortunately level three never begins for some people. Kohlberg has reason to think that only 20% of adult Americans reach this level when a person chooses to do something because it is right in and of itself, because a principle is involved. At this stage one is not trying to please self, or others, but what matters is what is right. Internal convictions now become important. Morality is determined by principle not force as in level one or group acceptance as in group two. Honesty is now based on values not because of what a parent says or others think.

Which level characterizes you? Adults, have you gotten hung up in level one or two. If so you will never help your child reach level three which you likely are already expecting. Parents hung up in level one or two use any combination of the following ways to ruin their children:

  1. Teach but do not practice.
  2. Justify their child’s wrongdoing.
  3. Do not discipline.
  4. Laugh at child’s misbehavior.
  5. Give their child unearned money.
  6. Allow children to be disorderly.
  7. Let the child do his/her own thing.


We are to grow in grace and knowledge.

Knowledge we know. Grace we need to learn and share.

III. THERE MUST BE A CHALLENGE
Two married Christians don’t necessarily make for a Christian marriage. The traits of Christianity must permeate the family. Christian living is not an accomplished state it is a growing process. Marriage can be a rich and satisfying experience to those willing to sacrifice selfish goals and find in Christ their shared purpose for living. Don’t develop a theology of personal convenience, but personal conviction. Abraham was to challenge his household to “keep the way of the Lord” in “righteousness and justice.” How can a parent do this?

A. Develop and maintain a proper set of priorities. Maintain personal and spiritual integrity. What you are is more important than what you do, because what you are determines what you do. Strive for family intimacy. Recognize the importance of parenting. Strive for vocational excellence — but not at family expense.

B. Acknowledge and express love. Take an active role in the interest of each member of the family. An effective way of showing love is by listening. Be a friend, someone who is always ready to listen and help. Growing together requires time together. By that I don’t mean being at home at the same time with each watching their own TV, eating their favorite fast food, and waiting for their own phone to ring. It means being involved with each other.

C. Affirm the members of the household. That is, reassure one another. Live together as a team. Confirm strong points while helping development in areas of weakness. This is essential to others self-esteem and confidence.

D. Acknowledge yourself to be a spiritually dependent person. With Joshua say, “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.”

The First Program of Family Planning 3/5/00

Deuteronomy 11:18-21

JESUS CHRIST emphasized and elevated the institution of marriage by asserting it to be a permanent relationship. It is the basis for family living.

In a day when family life is rapidly deteriorating somebody needs to speak a good word for the family. That’s my intent.

Dr. Ernest Gordon, Dean of Chapel at Princeton University ended one of his books with this remark: “In the wild seas of violence that characterizes our time we are in deepest need of islands of sanity, or harbors of humanity, in which the art of being human may be learned.”

Long before the dean made his observation our Lord established such a haven. It is called the family. There is so much division and disaster in family living that it is difficult to speak on the subject without touching sensitive nerves. I know those who have been hurt most would be those most desirous of the subject being addressed. With deep affection and great sympathy for those having suffered because of their family failing to function, I want to encourage family life. I know I do it with those hurting most in this arena praying most earnestly for the successful application of God’s Word in this matter.

Family Services Association of America reports: “family breakdown is fast reaching epidemic proportions and now ranks as America’s number one social problem.”

It is so serious some are advocating making sure your marriage will work. To insure that it will persons are encouraged to live together before marriage. This is a noble appeal for license to commit adultery.

Syndicated columnist Sydney Harris wrote: “Living together without any sense of permanency or legality is no more like marriage than taking a warm shower is like shooting the rapids in your underwear. Neither premarital sex, nor premarital living, nor premarital anything else is a reliable guide to what the marital state will be like. A training camp cannot really prepare you for war; it can provide the techniques, but not the psychological ambience, which is the truly important aspect of the experience. Legitimatized, social sanctioned marriage brings out the best and the worst in persons; and no informal living arrangement, even for years, can simulate it…”

We need to declare firmly that the unholy union of two people living together out of wedlock is an affront to God regardless of how popular it may become in the world. It is in love that council against cohabitation is offered. One survey I read recently showed that couples who live together before marriage are 80% more likely to get a divorce than those who do not. It does just the opposite of what it purported to do.

An additional reason for not living together before marriage is that women who do are twice as likely to experience domestic violence as those who do not. These women also suffer four times as many cases of depression as married women and twice as many as single women.

Most young adults have heard these statistics. The question then is why do they get so involved. Men do because it provides sex without commitment. Women do it in order to manipulate men into marriage. They think of it as auditioning for the role of wife.

One of the distinctions between mature and immature people is the ability to delay gratification. Couples who demonstrate this reveal they can’t do this. Unfortunately most couples who lack the maturity and commitment to get married before living together lack the level of commitment necessary to stay married.

The old fashioned engagement period in which restraint is exercised and persons get acquainted is all the trial needed before marriage. The fact that one fourth of all engagements are broken shows it works. When I first heard that statistic I thought that was bad. Then I reconsidered. That is the purpose. These persons found marriage wasn’t right for them. Their engagement served its purpose. Those who married, their engagement also worked.

Marriage should be entered into with a sense of permanence. Young people plan on a long engagement. I hear of too many people saying, “I didn’t know he (or she) was like that before we married.” A long engagement that puts the relationship to test enables a person’s true nature to emerge.

My wife, at the time she was the person to whom I was proposing marriage, made me wait two years before marriage because she promised her dad she would not marry until she finished college. I figured that if she was that conscientious about keeping her word to her dad she would keep her word to me.

Her dad also gave her a final check-off point before marriage. Incidentally, I didn’t know about this until 44 years later. As they stood in the vestibule of the church awaiting the Bridal March he said to her, “You can walk out of this church now and that will be alright, but if you walk down that aisle you are his bride from now on regardless.” Lucky for me she didn’t walk out.

NO nation has ever survived the degeneration of the home. Not Greece in 300 BC nor Rome in 300 AD. The institution of marriage is taking a rap today. However, there is nothing wrong with marriage. For a cake to turn out well the right ingredients in proper proportions must be added. If sour milk is used instead of fresh, an unpleasant taste results. It is always the cake that is blamed — not the milk. Two essential ingredients form the basis of a good marriage. They are two mature persons. Both parties must willfully leave their adolescence behind. Neither can remain single mentally. No evasive smoke screen can enable a person to hide from the responsibilities associated with marriage.

Augustine said, “The human family constitutes the beginning and essential element of society…Peace in society must depend on peace in the family.”

In light of that, violence in our streets can be traced to violence in the family. Over one million children a year are abused by someone they love and depend on for food, shelter, security, and protection. It is the silent, and often untreated, epidemic of our homes. The fear of further abuse forms a wall around the helpless child, insuring his or her silence and preventing help. The American family needs help.

The Jewish family of the Old Testament era has much to commend itself as a role model for modern families. Deuteronomy 11: 18 – 21 needs to be applied in our families.

The family must still serve as the primary teaching institution in America. Thank God for the many Godly teachers who model their faith in the public school system. However, the courts have greatly restricted what they can do. The family must reassume its rightful role for teaching values. Doubtless there are those who say “I don’t have time.” You might well adjust your schedule if you hear this question posed by Socrates, “Fellow citizens, why do you turn and scrape every stone to gather wealth and take so little care of your children to whom one day you must relinquish it all?”

Hear now Deuteronomy 11: 18 – 21 == READ IT.

Note these principles to be used in teaching:

A. LET THEM EXPERIENCE TRUTH
The passage calls for imbedding God’s Word “in your heart and in your soul.” That requires looking for teachable moments. Do it when sitting, walking, and lying down. The best way to teach a truth is to model it. This takes time.

David said, “Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:11).

There must be a gift of PRESENCE before there can be a gift of PRINCIPLES.
Presence says, “I need you, we belong together.”
Presence says, “I care, we need to be together.”

Again the sick argument arises asserting it is the quality of time not the quantity of time that is important. Now reflect just a minute. Did that principle apply during courtship? You know it did not and it will not now.

If you have quantity time, it is logical that you are more likely to have as part of it quality time.

B. EXHIBIT THEM Vs. 18 “bind them for a sign”

Communication scientists say that 89 percent of our learning is visual, 10 percent is auditory, and 1 percent is through other means. Make certain that the art and literature in your home represents great moral truths.

If a non-Christian were to enter your home, is there anything that would visually let such a one know you are a follower of Christ?

God’s Word shall “be frontlets between your eyes.” Our eyes are allowed to focus on a multiplicity of things, but all too seldom things of God. Listen to radio, view TV, observe advertising. What is being programmed into minds. We turn to the things we tune in on most. The human heart tends to forget God and His word. We need to refocus on Him and His word by focusing on things that remind us of Him.

Much that is shown on TV impacts the American family in a negative way. TV characters consume ten times as much alcohol as coffee. It is little wonder that over seven million teens will become alcoholics this year.

According to the National Federation for Decency (Fall 1978), 88 percent of all sex depicted on TV is outside marriage. This has to be a contributing factor to ten million minors having a venereal disease and one million girls between twelve and seventeen getting pregnant each year.

C. TEACH THEM Vs. 19 “You shall teach them”

That is God’s plan for passing on truths about Him from one generation to another. Truths are to be passed from parent to child. That child becomes the parent of the next generation.

In Deuteronomy 6 the matter of parents giving spiritual education to their children is stressed. It is not the states responsibility to give children spiritual education it is a task incumbent on the family.

God’s laws were dictated for the benefit of “you, your children and their children after them” (Deuteronomy 6:2). Parents are exhorted to discuss God’s Word “when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when your get up” (v 7).

Teach your children some basics. Such as:

Communication is an art. It can be helped by:

1. Reading good books together.
2. Avoiding unpleasant conversations at the wrong time.
3. Respecting one another’s right to express their own opinion.
4. Learn to listen attentively.

Oliver Wendell Holmes: “Talking is very much like playing on the harp. There is as much in laying the hand on the strings to stop their vibrations as in twanging them to bring out the music.” Parents you need to be available to interact with your children. They need to learn from you.

D. WRITE THEM Vs. 20 “write them”
I have a friend who coaches one of the nations top football teams. Every morning at 6:00 he reads his Bible for 15 minutes. He then enters in a notebook his understanding of the passage read. Next he notes what he thinks God is trying to tell him personally through the text. I commend this practice to you.

E. MOST STRATEGICALLY MODEL THEM
“Let the words of Christ dwell in you richly” (Col. 3:16).

Some of you, children, have been neglected, some abused, and some abandoned by your parents or a parent. What are you to do? Resolve not to be bitter. Release yourself from bondage to your parent. If you stay angry or bitter with your parent, you are his or her slave. Forgive your parent. What your parent has done may be despicable. Only by forgiving your parent for Christ’s sake can you gain victory from the controlling influence of your parent that is causing you bitterness, a sense of rejection, or inferiority. Forgive your parent even as Christ has forgiven you.

A parent may be able to change an child’s actions by threats or bribes. That isn’t a heartfelt attitude. The attitude can only be changed when the Spirit of God takes the Word of God and changes us to become like the Son of God. The key to such a change is the heart.

Parents, some of you not only need the forgiveness of your child but of your God. Seek His forgiveness. Having done so, resolve to right your relationship with your child.

Purpose to fulfill the instruction of this passage.

I Have Kept the Faith and the Faith Has Kept Me 10/29/00

II Timothy 4:6-8

JESUS CHRIST gives life a purpose, power, and propulsion. He wants your life to have meaning. He knows that no individual can live a full and meaningful life without a goal.

We are a goal-oriented society. Clinics, conferences, and seminars are held on goal setting. Yet, few people envision their life as having an overall goal.

Take you, for example. Have you ever written out your over-all goal for life? Let’s be a bit more specific. In life who do you seek to please in every decision you make and every deed you do? Is it a friend, yourself, “the gang,” or if you are a youth, your parents? Jesus Christ is our worthy standard.

Defined goals result in refined lives.

Often I find meaningful quotes authored by persons with whom I have little philosophical kinship. I find it acceptable to quote such statements because the Scripture says, “if there be any virtue, think on these things” (Phil. 4:8). In other words, a diamond found in a pig pen is still a diamond.

A diamond from the French philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre, is worth our attention. He said, “You will never find peace and happiness until you are ready to commit yourself to something worth dying for.”

A Biblical example of one who found such a worthy goal is the apostle Paul. In his mature years he, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, addressed two of the books of our New Testament to his young friend Timothy. In II Timothy 4: 6 – 8 he wrote in retrospect of his life’s goal. It is a good statement for us to use in guiding our prospect. He spoke of – – –

I. DESTINY Verse 6
He wrote of his life and death in beautiful symbolism that can help our understanding of death. He spoke of life as being “poured out as a drink offering.” This graphic translates the Greek word SPENDO. In the temple priests often dedicated various liquids to God. The ceremony involved pouring the liquid on the altar. That was the purpose for which the liquid existed. Is your life being “poured out” for Jesus?

It was natural for Paul to speak of his forthcoming martyrdom as a sacrifice, for God’s word appeals to each of us to make our life a “living sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable sacrifice” (Romans 12:1).

Another expression is used to describe destiny: “the time of my departure is at hand.” The New Testament Greek word so translated is ANALUSIS. It was used in several ways that help our comprehension of death.

-It was used to describe a yoke being taken off a beast of burden.
-It was used to depict ropes being removed from a person who had been tied up.
-It was used to picture a ship that had been loosened from its mooring. Set free to sail.

In every sense of the word it depicts being set free for fuller use. Are you confidently heading toward such a destiny?

II. DIRECTION “I have fought the good fight”
The word translated “fight” is the Greek word AGON. It is the root from which we get our word agony. It did not necessarily refer to a boxing match, but any athletic contest and the agony of preparation and participation involved. The Olympic Oath says in part: “The most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle…Not to have conquered but to have fought well.”

This expression often is thought to mean he fought well — and he did. However, what it means is the fight he chose to fight was worth the effort. A bulldog can beat a skunk, but is it worth the fight?

Oliver Wendell Holmes, one of our nation’s greatest former Supreme Court jurists, said, “The greatest thing in this world is not so much where we stand as in what direction we are moving.” What is your direction in life? Where is it going?

Like Paul I want to be able to say, “I fought,” not “I sat in the bleachers.”

As a young minister I saw within my denomination doctrinal error, a lack of Biblical integrity. I had friends on both sides of the divisive issue. I wavered as to whether to leave the denomination and concluded that if I did I would be abandoning it and forfeit all rights to criticize what I was not willing to try to help. I decided to say in it and to what ever small degree I might influence it to try to do so. Little did I realize that in 1999 – 2000 I would be privileged to be a member of the committee appointed to rewrite the “Southern Baptist Faith and Message” statement. This document anchors the basic tenants of our denomination. I chose a fight worth fighting.

A long time ago I resolved – – –
I believe in the undiminished deity of the Living Word, Jesus Christ.
I believe in the undeniable divinity of the Written Word of God, the Bible.
I believe in the verity of the Son of God.
I believe in the veracity of the Word of God.
I believe in the incomparable and invincible Son of God.
I believe in the infallible and inerrant Word of God.

Each attests to the authenticity of the other.
Validate one and you venerate the other.
Debase one and you demean the other.
Revere one and you respect the other.
Inveigh one and you eviscerate the other.

The Living Word and the Written Word each supports the other. Together they form a bootstrap effect. Each laced with the other takes us higher and binds us tighter.

For the believer the Bible is the credenda of what we should believe as well as the agenda for how we should behave.

Martin Luther said: “If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however fondly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steadfast on all the battle-front besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.”

For what are you fighting?

Bumper stickers reveal persons who are fighting for whales, seals, eagles, and owls. All of us fight battles. Have you chosen a good one to fight? Does it honor Christ?

Again a philosophical source with which I have little in common provides us wisdom. Victor Frankl said, “Life only has meaning if there is a task, and the more difficult the task, the more meaningful the life.”

If your task, that is your goal, is to please Christ, you have chosen a worthy and difficult one. It is deserving of your optimum effort — your best.

The world has thrilled in recent weeks at the heroics of Olympic athletes. The extent to which these competitors have gone in order to compete is stimulating. Many inspiring stories that are true to life have come from these games. A lesson of unpreparedness and resultant frustration came from the boxing arena. The pity on the face of the boxer who came to the ring pointing to his ungloved fists and pleading with his coach to find his gloves will long be remembered. They gave him three minutes to find his gloves. After years of training he couldn’t find his gloves and was declared the loser.

If you intend to “fight the good fight,” don’t forget the necessities of a vital Bible knowledge, a viable prayer life, and a virtuous lifestyle.

III. DRIVE “I have finished the race”
The arena in Barcelona was filled with nearly 70,000 spectators awaiting the start of the men’s 400 meter race. The outstanding British runner Derick Redford, along with other competitors, awaited the starter’s gun. Streams of dreams of a lifetime were in that moment flowing into the pond of reality. Redford was running well when an athlete’s dream turned into a nightmare. He pulled a hamstring muscle. Pain of unimaginable extent caused this stalwart man to grimace and grab his leg as agony painted itself on his now tear-flooded face. Every move sent shock waves of pain through his leg. Nevertheless he hopped and hobbled toward the finish line. He fought off would-be medics who pleaded with him to quit and lie down. When it became apparent he couldn’t make it to the finish line alone, his dad rushed to his aid and putting his arm around him, helped his crippled son go those last yards to the finish line. He finished the race.

He did so because long before he even went to Barcelona he had his eye on that goal. Nothing could keep him from his goal. That is the will needed to follow Christ. When you have your mind set on pleasing Him, nothing will cause you to give up and quit.

The term used in our text does not speak of winning but finishing. Marathoners know only one person will win. That is great, but there is honor and valor in finishing. You may not be a heralded “winner” in life’s race for Jesus, but be sure you are faithful and complete what you have begun. Few who enter the great Peachtree Road Race have any thought of winning. With pride all of them wear their peach-colored T- shirts symbolizing they had finished the race. Doing so gives a sense of fulfillment and joy. The same should be ours each day as we conclude it having been
faithful to Christ.

Write out your lifetime goal statement. Engrave it in the corridor of your mind through which all thoughts must pass and let them be influenced thereby. Such a goal statement is neither magic nor a cosmic exercise in clairvoyance. It is a Bible-based understanding of what our Lord wants of you. Resolve to finish the race.

Thomas Peters and Robert Waterman have authored an insightful book entitled “In Search of Excellence.” Their research revealed that excellent companies have a tendency to focus on a few key business values and objectives which enable them to define their priorities. The authors call this tendency “stick to the knitting.” In knitting, there
is an object in mind and the devoted knitter doesn’t quit until it is finished.

In your own hands you are knitting your lifestyle. With Christ as your pattern, your goal, stick to the knitting that it might please Him. Don’t neglect to obey the truth you claim to believe.

IV. DISCIPLINE “I have kept the faith”
“I have kept the conditions of my contract.”

The expression “kept the faith” means I have competed in life’s marathon according to the rules. The athletes of the era in which this was written took a solemn oath before the games that they would compete honorably and honestly.

When you accept Christ as Savior He makes a commitment to you. He commits Himself to forgive your sins, to be your constant companion through life, and to receive you unto Himself in heaven. He keeps His word.

In coming to Christ you, too, make a commitment to Him. In summary, it is to give Him your life. That means you will keep your vision focused on Him and strive to please Him in all you do. Keep the faith contract.

In was a fog-shrouded morning, July 4, 1952, when a young woman named Florence Chadwick waded into the water off Catalina Island. Her goal was to swim the channel from the island to the California coast. Long-distance swimming wasn’t new to her. She was the first woman to swim the English Channel in both directions.

The water was numbing cold that day, but that would not deter her from her goal. Several times intimidating sharks had to be scared away by rifle fire. They would not cause her to miss her goal. A fog so thick she could hardly see the boats accompanying her shrouded the area.

After 15 hours of swimming, she asked to be taken out of the water. Her trainer pleaded with her to continue since her goal was so close. All Florence could see was the fog. She quit … only one-half mile from her goal.

Many times we too fail, not because of the peer pressure or because of anything other than the fact we lose sight of our goal. That is why Paul later described himself by saying, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14).

I love non-word words. That is, words you won’t find in a dictionary but once you hear them you know what they mean. The Greek text translated “press toward the mark” means with all “stretchoutedness” I press toward the finish tape. If you have watched any of the Olympic races you have seen it. Well-conditioned runners come to the moment of competition to extend themselves. As they near the finish line with muscles on the verge of cramping, their lungs on fire begging for air, their nostrils strutted, their eyes straining, and their jaws open, they stretch out to the finish line.

Does that depict the extent to which you are willing to compete in the moral, ethical, and spiritual competition to reach your goal of pleasing Christ?

Two months after her failure, once again Florence Chadwick walked off the same beach into the same cold shark-infested channel and heroically swam the distance, setting a new speed record because she could see the land, her goal, all the way.

One of these hopefully distant days when your life reaches its conclusion, may you be able to happily say, “I have kept the faith.”

Keeping the faith is like a sailor keeping a ship. The sailor who keeps the ship is kept by the ship in turbulent times. If you keep your faith in Christ, the Christ of your faith will keep you.

Jesus: When You Least Expect Him 4/30/00

Luke 24:13-32

Jesus Christ is often encountered in the most unlikely places at the most unexpected times. He is not only our guide to tomorrow and our ticket to eternity, but our companion on life’s road through the wilderness of bewilderment. He is the essential clue necessary to interpret the mystery of life.

Do you ever feel like you are all alone? Does loneliness ever engulf you? Have you ever looked at one of these street scenes from a major city with people walking shoulder to shoulder moving like a river of humanity? All crowded together yet many feeling all alone in the crowd. A sense of frustration and abandonment prevails in many lives. A gnawing sense of emptiness resulting from a feeling of disappointment is the norm for some. Having been let down dejection is dictated by defeat.

If you are ever described in that manner you might have been the companion of Cleopas as he walked the lonely road from Jerusalem to Emmaus the afternoon of the reported resurrection of the crucified Christ. Their great expectation regarding Christ had crashed at the cross. Now they were alone and dramatically disappointed in Christ. They needed a resurrection of hope and guidance for the moment.

They were DOUBTING what had happened.
They were BEWILDERED about what to do.
They were FEARFUL of what might happen.
Do you ever experience those emotions?

As children most of us were intrigued by the idea of supernatural power. That is why Superman, Captain Marvel, Batman, and their companions have thrived. Youth have an innate desire to know secrets and tap into supernatural power. I was that type child and perhaps you are or were. I remember ordering Orphan Annie’s secret decoding ring so I could know in advance what was going to happen to Annie and Corntassel. I ordered Jack Armstong’s magic answer box in order to tell when a person was telling the truth or lying.

As adults we don’t grow out of our desire to believe there is a hidden factor into which we can tap and improve our destiny. Horoscopes are studied by many while others endeavor to engage in ESP, extrasensory perception.

With our annual date with the IRS just past one husband asked his wife to balance their account and prepare their tax return. After doing so she put the initials ESP at the bottom. When asked why she said, “That stands for Error Some Place.”

Most of us hope there is somebody out there — a force or power — trying to get through to us to improve our life. Unfortunately the last place many think to turn to find this mysterious power is Christianity. An all too well hidden fact is the most powerful force in the universe is present with us.

That is the message of the Emmaus Road story. Cleophas and his wife were walking alone when a third party joined them. After telling the unrecognized Christ of the crucifixion and exposing their bewilderment He explains the Scripture to them regarding the foretold resurrection. Later in their home as they dined together they recognized the risen Christ.

The event we call Easter can’t be reduced to a creed or philosophy. It is not simply believing the doctrine of the resurrection that empowers life. It is meeting the resurrected Christ that changes life. Faith moves us from belief in a doctrine to acquaintance with the person, Jesus Christ. Life takes on a whole new meaning when we can say as they, “We have met Him; He is alive.” As the two downcast believers walked alone they said, “We had hoped” (Vs. 21).

The good news which was to transcend lost hope was that Christ was there with them though unrecognized.

Many have been blessed by reading the insightful book by Charles Sheldon entitled In His Steps. It is the story of how lives were changed by asking before acting, ‘What would Jesus do? I want to do what He would do if He were here.”

Today many persons wear wrist bands with the letters “WWJD,” meaning, “What would Jesus do.” Push that a bit further by asking, “What should I do in that Jesus is here.”
What attitude adjustment would that produce?
What dynamic would that add to your life?
GOOD NEWS! He is here. He is your abiding companion.

In math there is the term, “Constant.” It means “a quantity that remains unchanged throughout a given discussion.” It is a principle on which one can confidently rely while trying to solve the mystery of a math problem. It is said to be permanent, unchanged, immutable. In algebra a variable is an unknown such as “X.” A constant is something that is always what it is. For example “1” is always one. Thus, Christ is a constant.

As in math so in all of life to find the unknown start with the known. Start and stay with Christ.

In life Christ is our “Constant” for solving life’s problems.

There is a moving scene in the dramatic play The Trial of Jesus by John Masefield where Longinus, a Roman centurion, reports to Pilate. After the report is given, Procula, Pilate’s wife, beckons the centurion and begs him to tell her of the prisoner’s death. After hearing him speak of the empty tomb, she asks, “Do you think He is dead?” Longinus answers, “No Lady, I don’t.” Impatiently, she implores, “Then where is He?” In awe Longinus answers, “Let loose in the world, Lady, where … where no one can … stop His truth.”

He is in your world. He wants to be your constant companion and guide.

In our text there are three things that enabled them to realize Christ was with them. These three elements today give us assurance of His presence.

I. SCRIPTURE
To put their troubled hearts at ease “He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Vs. 27). Prior to His crucifixion Christ noted an important potential: “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you…” (John 15:7).

Today’s Biblical ignorance is appalling. What are you doing to enhance your Bible knowledge? We say we believe the Bible to be God’s Word, and it is. Be real! How often do you read from it? What systematic program of Bible study do you have personally? Do you have a plan for memorizing strategic passages. For your intellectual and spiritual good you should. The mind is like a muscle, it must be exercised. Memorization is a marvelous way to improve your mental functionality.

Can you say with the Psalmist: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119: 105)? You can’t unless you can also say, “Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You!” (Psalm 119:11).

The two said of their experience in Emmaus when Christ opened the Scripture to their understanding: “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scripture to us? (Vs. 32). God’s word warmed their hearts, illumined their minds, and revived their hope. It still does the same. However, if you don’t know it you don’t know it does.

Christians need a Biblical world view. Unfortunately many have a secular world view shaped by novels, magazines, movies, TV, and carnal commentators. As a result in times of decisions they make a secular world view choice. That is, we act like non-believers.

Much is in the news these days about crime, violence, drug abuse, and immorality in the youth culture.

A recent study by “Whose Who” reveals that school is a very dangerous place. One-third knew someone who had brought a weapon to school. Forty-two percent of the boys had access to at least one gun. Five percent of the students reported there had been a shooting in their school. More than half reported frequent fights between students. One-third had seriously considered suicide. Various laws are being proposed to deal with it. Forget it! Laws won’t change it. The cause must be addressed. You don’t have to be the sharpest knife in the drawer to understand why. Yet, society seems oblivious to the cause.

Ten million minors have a venereal disease. 1.5 million abortions occur annually. Many by teens. Could it just be that a contributing factor is that 88% of all sex depicted on TV is outside marriage. The entertainment media flaunts promiscuity and homosexuality as normal. Youth act it out and we wonder why.

Surveys reveal one-fourth of high school seniors get drunk at least once a week. Could a contributing fact be that their heros in entertainment consumed ten times as much alcohol in movies and on TV than other beverages? Various reports indicate that between 1/3 and 1?2 of all children will be involved in some serious chemical dependency problem. Their idols in music and the media flaunt drug use.

Contrast this with a recent Gallup Poll that reveals 65% of evangelical teens never read their Bible. One in ten is said to read the Bible daily.

To develop a Biblical world view one needs to know the Scripture. Then it is possible to look at life through God’s eyes and make valid choices as a result.

If you want to know WWJD read The Book.

II. FELLOWSHIP
There is a further essential step. There is a difference in studying the Scripture and spending time with the Author. Spend time with the Lord alone. Some years ago my study was here in the church building in a remote location to afford privacy and quiet. Some person learned where it was and when they wanted me they came knocking. I tacked the following note on the inside of the door addressed to myself: “Don’t answer any knock on this door when you have an appointment to be alone here with the Lord.”

Flash back with me to the statement by Christ regarding His Word abiding in us. He continued: “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you” (John 15:7). Fellowship with Him and compliance with His word are the two inseparable elements for a good prayer life.

Our Lord, knowing our need for fellowship designed the fellowship of the redeemed called the church. It isn’t a perfect fellowship but it is the best going at the time. It will do until by death we are initiated into the “Society of the Just Perfected.”

Dr. Jean Rosenbaum, psychiatrist and President of the New Mexico Psychoanalytic Association, observed: “Loneliness is one of man’s worst enemies. Since World War II it has spread like a plague. Chronic loneliness, or alienation, nowadays afflicts 75% to 90% of all Americans. It is the major cause of alcoholism and drug addiction in this country.” Independent sources record that 60% to 70% of all youth seeking medical care are really suffering from stress and emptiness resulting from seeking good relationships. The church must provide a loving receptive place to establish such.

Youth, please hear me, adolescence is a time when cliques are often formed. Please, I beg you, don’t form cliques within the church that excludes people needing your friendship. Expand the circumference of your friendships. Build your fellowship around fellowship with the Lord. His clique is defined by the word “whosoever” found in John 3: 16.

There is a third element essential for knowing the presence of the Lord.

III. TIME FOR HIM
Christ’s followers had their hoped dashed by the cruel crucifixion of Christ. Every expectation expired with His execution. In the following forty days they would be given a short course in trust — faith. They were being taught to trust Christ in all things. That is the same school in which He has enrolled you. Perhaps you feel you are taking a post graduate course in adversity management. In it all He is there to bless and guide you.

A popular Christian tune by Andrae Crouch reveals this great truth.

“I’ve had many tears and sorrows,
I’ve had questions for tomorrow;
They’ve been times I didn’t know right from wrong;
But in every situation God gave blessed consolation
That my trials come to only make me strong.”

“Through it all, Through it all,
O I’ve learned to trust in Jesus,
I’ve learned to trust in God;
Through it All, Through it all,
I’ve learned to depend upon His Word.”
The word used by Christ was “abide in Me.”

On the road to Emmaus Jesus indicated He was going further when Cleophas and his companion got to
their place. However, “they constrained Him, saying, ‘Abide with us…’” (Luke 24:29).

He has said, “I will never leave you.” Do you ever feel He has? An honest answer will likely be “Yes.” He said, “I will be with you always.” Do you constantly feel He is? This time your honest answer may be, “No!” Those are secular world view feelings.

A Biblical world view keeps us aware He is constantly with us and won’t forsake us regardless of our feelings.

There is a classic poem that has been set to music entitled,

“FOOT PRINTS IN THE SAND OF TIME.”
One night a man had a dream.
He dreamed he was walking along the beach with the Lord.
Across the sky flashed scenes from his life
For each scene, he noticed two sets of
footprints in the sand; one belonging to him and the other to the Lord.

When the last scene of His life flashed before him,
he looked back at the footprints in the sand.
He noticed that many times along the path of life
there was only one set of footprints.
He also noticed that it happened at the
very lowest and saddest times in his life.

This really bothered him and he questioned,
“Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you,
You’d walk with me all the way.
But I have noticed that during the most
troublesome time in my life there is only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why when I needed
you most you would leave me.”

The Lord replied,
“My precious, precious child,
I love you and would never leave you.
During your times of trial and suffering,
when you see only one set of footprints in the sand
it was then that I carried you.”

If you as a believer have felt all alone perhaps you have failed to recognize the form in which He has been present with you.

If you have not begun begin today your life’s pilgrimage with Him. He has been there all along.

Perhaps you, like the two on the road to Emmaus have just failed to recognize Him.