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:

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.

“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.

Who Defeats Your Best Ideas?

It’s not what you know, it is what you do with what you know that matters. Information is good, but information alone is sterile. What matters is what you do with what you know.

Strange isn’t it, many seek more knowledge while not utilizing what is known. That is true in business, sports, family life, religion, and every area of life. As in algebra, to find the unknown start with the known. 

Three hundred years before Christ, Erathosthenes conducted a significant experiment. He discovered that in the city of Syene at high noon a stick standing perfectly vertical cast no shadow.  Later, he also discovered that 500 miles away, at the exact same moment, a vertical stick cast a shadow of 7 degrees. This led to the following conclusion. 7 degrees is approximately 1/50 of the 360 degrees in a circle. If every 500 miles is 7 degrees, then the full circle of the earth would be 25,000 miles. Erathosthenes had calculated the earth’s circumference to within a few miles. From this he concluded the earth is round.  

Eighteen hundred years later Christopher Columbus sailed out of a safe harbor into an uncharted and foreboding sea. His intent was to sail to India. He, too, believed the earth was round. However, his calculations were off by 7,000 miles. It took weeks longer than anticipated to reach an unknown destination. He returned to this hemisphere four times and died in 1506 having no idea where he had been. 

Today we pay tribute to Columbus, but few know the name Erathosthenes. Both had faith. One acted on his faith and the other didn’t. Erathosthenes did nothing with what he knew. Columbus had limited knowledge, but in faith he acted on that in which he had faith. 

Is there some good adventure, project, or action you have the knowledge to achieve, but haven’t? Don’t let your song go unsung; your deed undone. Don’t succumb to been-gonna-itis. 

Who defeats your best ideas? Who holds you back from what might be or you might become? Be honest. Our own worst inhibitor is our self. 

As in algebra, to find the unknown start with the known. What part of God’s will do you know to do, and aren’t doing it?

In professional and spiritual matters this admonition is still valid: “Be doers of the word and not hearers only.”

Are you a spiritual Columbus or an Erathosthenes?

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.

The Son of God

In Scripture Jesus is called “God’s only begotten Son.” The word “begotten” is a compound of two Greek words used in Scripture. One word is mono, meaning “one.” The other is genes, meaning “kind, type, or species.” Combined they are used to speak of God’s only one of a kind son. The Greek monogenees is used to mean the only one of the same nature as. In Scripture Jesus is not spoken of as a Son of God, but the Son of God. 

Two different Greek words are translated “son” in Scripture. 

Teknon stresses the fact of human birth. It is used of homo sapiens. 

Huios emphasizes dignity and character relationship. It is used of Jesus.

This is the line of logic that leads Christians to revere Jesus as the nexus of God.

As such, Christians believe Jesus was God manifest as a corporeal, touchable, human being: the man/God-God/man.

“For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” (Colossians 2:9)

Godhead translates Theotetos meaning not just divine attributes, but the very essence, the nature of God, the totality of who God the Father is, His supreme nature. 

II Corinthians 4:4 records: “Christ, who is the image of God…” EIKON, “the image of God” means He is the perfect visible likeness of the invisible God.

That enables persons to give the right answers to these questions raised by the brilliant Henry Van Dyke.

“Are you willing to believe love is the strongest thing in the world — stronger than hate, stronger than evil, stronger than death — And that the blessed life which began in Bethlehem two thousand years ago is the image and brightness of the Eternal Love?

We Have a Trustworthy God

JAMES 1: 2, 3

JESUS CHRIST suffered the pain of loneliness, the agony of ostracism, the anguish of isolation, the craving of hunger, the anxiety of betrayal, the dilemma of denial, the humiliation of public rejection, and the torture of a cross.

You gotta problem? He can relate to you. At issue is whether you will relate to Him in your time of suffering. 

Put this in your warehouse of memories: “Joy isn’t the absence of pain and problems, it’s the presence of Jesus Christ.”

When you come to the point of realizing all you need is Jesus, then Jesus provides all you need. That is a clever cliche, but I know personally it is a good Biblical worldview.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.”

There are times when we can’t see. That is, things happen that we can’t understand.  It is then we must exercise faith in what is unseen.

It is then we can relate to Isaiah 50:10, “Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the word of His servant? Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.”

Play that over and over on the soundtrack of your mind until you can repeat it in your sleep — or in your hours of sleepless agony.

Our sovereign Creator, the Lord God, made a choice to give human beings a free will. With that came another choice. A paraphrase of a statement by Augustine says it well: “God thought it better to bring good out of bad than not let the bad exist.”

God is not out to bring about bad things for us, but to bring the good out of the bad things that happen to us.

Consider that in light of Isaiah’s comment regarding walking in the dark where there is no light, some things can only be seen in the dark. For example, the darker the night the brighter the stars. The more difficult our circumstances are, the more precious is our Lord.  It is when we can’t see we must “trust in the name of the Lord, and rely on … God.