A Happy Home

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Proverbs 17:6

A teacher asked her students on the Friday before Mother’s Day to share with the class what their mothers did for a living. The first little child got up and said that his mother was a dentist. The second little child said her mother was a stay at home mom. The third child said his mother was an exotic dancer at one of the nude bars in town. The teacher was greatly surprised and hurried the class along in sharing. Later she asked Johnny, “Are you sure your mother is an exotic dancer?” “No, I just said that because I was embarrassed by what she really does.” What does she really do? “She is an accountant for Arthur Anderson.”

Jonathan and I were having dinner one evening with the family of a lady I was dating. Her dad said to Jonathan, “I bet you got teased a lot at school by your friends about your dad being a minister?” “No, not at all. I just didn’t tell them.” Proverbs (22:6) says, Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.

I was reared in a very dysfunctional home and so by the time that I became a husband and a father, I very much wanted to offer a Christian home. What is a Christian home and how do we “train a child in the way they should go?” All of us are different and have different tastes, likes and dislikes. Let me share with you four (4) things that I have found true in my own family as I reflect back and what I find present in other successful families.

Communication is a key to a Christian family! You have to talk with the ones you love. We currently have an environment in the home where we are involved in every community activity that is possible. By the time that we have attended all the activities and transported every child, we are exhausted. Many times, parents live out their dreams in their children and exhaust each other in the process. In my family we had all our evening meals together. It was not always easy and everyone had to make sacrifices to do it. However, it was a time of catching up with each others lives. It was at that meal table that my son said, “Dad, there are some things that parents should never know about their child.” It was also at that meal table a couple of years later that I found out what was behind that statement. The meal table gave us an opportunity to talk about life. It was a support group for each family member. It was a place to talk about temptations: Social, financial and sexual. Meal time has always been a special time in the life of believers. The Disciples were always reclining at the table. Jesus fed 5,000 on a grassy shore line. And everyone knows how powerful the Last Supper was.

Share the faith story as you know it and understand it! We talked about God. At the meal table is was not uncommon to end in a theological debate, which led to a better understanding of each others faith journey. We played games like Bible Trivia. Children need to know and understand why they believe what that believe. I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. (2 Tim 1:5) When the children were small, we would gather around us on Christmas Eve and read the Christmas story. We would often read the little story of “The Other Wise Man.” I find it interesting even now how both children feel Christmas is never complete until we have read the Christmas story. People were also bringing babies to Jesus to have him touch them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Luke 18:15)

Lead your family by living the Christian example! More is learned by watching than is ever learned from being told. Somewhere our faith has to stop being just talked about and just lived. To Train a child in the way he should go, is to allow the child to see how to live life. First of all, never be fooled into thinking that you are hiding your problems from your children. The children are watching! Children learn how to be husbands and wives from us. It is only when a husband and wife pray together before God that they find the secret of true harmony in a marriage. The differences in their temperaments, ideas, and tastes enrich their home instead of endangering it. There will be no further question of one imposing his/her will on the other. They find the art of forgiveness. Family life is about forgiving. We learn mutual submission. You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. (James 2:22)

Make your family a priority! Few people neglect family and home because they plan it. It is necessary to schedule family time. There are even times to schedule to be away from Church. If I am too busy for my family now, I will be too busy for them ten years from now. The motor home was a blessing in our lives. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matt 6:21)

It is not always easy to rear a Christian family. There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, `Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. “When he came to his senses, he said, `How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. “But the father said to his servants, `Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him.

The family is the institution of God laying at the foundation of all human society. Have you not read, that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife'”. Parental obligations include the maintenance of children and their education in its fullest sense.

A Church Leader

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Titus 1:5-9

A henpecked husband went to a psychologist to learn to assert himself. The psychologist told him, “You do not have to accept your wife’s bullying,” he said. “You need to go home right now and let her know that you’re your own boss.” The husband was encouraged to take the doctor’s advice. He went home and slammed the door on his way in. He shook his fist in his wife’s face, and shouted, “From now on you’ll do what I say, woman! Go get my supper, then go upstairs and lay out my clothes. After I eat, I’m going out with the boys. You can stay here where you belong. By the way, do you know who is going to tie my tie for me?” “I sure do,” said his wife calmly, “the undertaker.”

A mother and her small daughter were walking past the house in Springfield, Illinois, where Abraham Lincoln once lived. The lights were burning inside, making the home seem warm and inviting. They paused for a few minutes as the mother told the girl what a great President Mr. Lincoln had been and how the whole nation mourned when he died. The youngster listened with rapt attention. Then, noticing the glow coming from the windows, she said, “Look, Momma. When Mr. Lincoln went away, he left the lights on.” The influence of our lives continues even after we die. Notice what the writer of Hebrews said of Abel — “By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.” (Hebrews 11:4). What we do for the Lord can have a positive influence on succeeding generations.

There are many leaders in the life of the Church, some hold an office and some do not. Elders and Diaconate are to be servant leaders, not rulers or dictators. God doesn’t want His people to be used by petty, self-serving tyrants. Servant leaders have chosen a life of service on behalf of others.
Like the servant Christ, they sacrifice their time and energy for the good of others. I suppose that leadership at one time meant muscle but today it means getting along with people.

In early times books were scarce, and the aged of the tribes were the depositories of the traditions of bygone generations. The old leaders, moreover, had the most experience and were the heads of large families, over whom they exercised authority. Because old age was identified with matured wisdom, knowledge, and experience, and a reward for a virtuous and godly life, the aged were from time immemorial chosen to fill the official positions in the community. After the return from the Exile, the office rose into higher significance and fuller organization. With every synagogue there was connected a government of elders, varying in number according to the population attached to it. The rulers of the synagogue and the elders of the people were substantially one, and a certain number of those elders belonged to the Sanhedrin. Elders first came into prominence on the scattering abroad of the disciples and the withdrawing of the apostles from Jerusalem, following the death of Stephen.

The origin of the office of deacon is usually related to the events described in Acts 6:1-6. The young Christian church in Jerusalem was experiencing growing pains, and it had become increasingly difficult for the apostles to distribute charitable gifts to its needy members without neglecting their ministry of prayer and preaching. To meet this critical need, seven people were chosen by the congregation and presented to the apostles.

An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. To be blameless is to be redeemed, a Christian. They have to have only one spouse or less. If the individual has children, what type of life do they live? Since an overseer is entrusted with God’s work, he must be blameless-not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. To not be overbearing means not being a dictator. The leader must be in control of his/her temper. The leader must not be an alcoholic. The leader must work in a respectable trade. Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. To be hospitable is to be kind and compassionate. The leader genuinely pursues good and not evil. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. The leader must know something of scripture and his/her relationship with God.

Elisabeth Elliot’s book “The Mark Of A Man,” has a chapter entitled “A Take-charge Man Is A Servant,” where she relates a story about her late husband Addison Leitch. “When he was dean of a small college in Pennsylvania, he learned that the walls of a certain men’s dormitory were smeared with shaving cream, peanut butter, and jelly. He went over to investigate. Of course not a soul around had any idea how it could possibly have happened. In room after room he met with surprised innocence. He had several options. He could make every man in the dormitory go to work and clean it up. He could call the custodian. There was a third option. Addison went and got a bucket and a brush and set to work himself. One by one doors opened, heads popped out, word spread of what the dean of the college was doing, and soon he was not alone in the scrub job.” “The power of servanthood. It commands respect. It does not demand it.”

During the waning years of the depression in a small Southeastern Idaho community, I used to stop by Mr. Miller’s roadside stand for farm-fresh produce as the season made it available. Food and money were still extremely scarce and bartering was used, extensively. One particular day Mr. Miller was bagging some early potatoes for me. I noticed a small boy, delicate of bone and feature, ragged but clean hungrily appraising a basket of freshly picked green peas. I paid for my potatoes, but I was also drawn to the display of fresh green peas. Pondering the peas, I couldn’t help overhearing the conversation between Mr. Miller and the ragged boy next to me. “Hello Barry, how are you today?” “H’lo, Mr. Miller. Fine, thank ya. Jus’ admirin’ them peas … sure look good.” “They are good, Barry. How’s your Ma?” “Fine. Gittin’ stronger alla’ time.” “Good. Anything I can help you with?” “No, Sir. Jus’ admirin’ them peas.” “Would you like to take some home?” “No, Sir. Got nuthin’ to pay for ’em with.” “Well, what have you to trade me for some of those peas?” “All I got’s my prize marble here.” “Is that right? Let me see it.” “Here ’tis. She’s a dandy.” “I can see that. Hmmmm, only thing is this one is blue and I sort of go for red. Do you have a red one like this at home?” “Not ‘zackley… but, almost.” “Tell you what. Take this sack of peas home with you and next trip this way let me look at that red marble.” Mrs. Miller, who had been standing nearby, came over to help me. With a smile she said: “There are two other boys like him in our community, all three are in very poor circumstances. Jim just loves to bargain with them for peas, apples, tomatoes or whatever. When they come back with their red marbles, and they always do, he decides he doesn’t like red after all and he sends them home with a bag of produce for a green marble or an orange one perhaps,” sometime later, I learned that Mr. Miller had died. They were having his viewing and knowing my friends wanted to go, I agreed to accompany them. Upon our arrival at the mortuary, we fell into line to meet the relatives of the deceased and to offer whatever words of comfort we could. Ahead of us in line were three young men. One was in an army uniform, and the other two wore nice haircuts, dark suits and white shirts . . . very professional looking. They approached Mrs. Miller, standing–smiling and composed–by her husband’s casket. Each of the young men hugged her, kissed her on the cheek, spoke briefly with her and moved on to the casket. Each left the mortuary awkwardly, wiping his eyes. Our turn came to meet Mrs. Miller. I told her who I was and mentioned the story she had told me about the marbles. Eyes glistening she took my hand and led me to the casket. “Those three young men, that just left, were the boys I told you about. They just told me how they appreciated the things Jim ‘traded’ them. Now, at last, when Jim could not change his mind about color or size . . . they came to pay their debt.” With loving gentleness she lifted the lifeless fingers of her deceased husband. Resting underneath were three, magnificently shiny, red marbles. Moral: We will not be remembered by our words, but by our deeds.

Respecting God’s Government

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First Peter 2:13-15

During his visit to the United States the Pope met with the President of the United States. Instead of just an hour as scheduled, the meeting went on for two days. Finally, a weary President emerged to face the waiting news media.
The President was smiling and announced the summit was a resounding success. He said he and the Pope agreed on eighty percent of the matters they discussed. The President declared he was going home to the White House to be with his family. A few minutes later the Pope came out to make his statement. He looked tired, discouraged and was practically in tears. Sadly he announced his meeting with the President was a failure. Incredulous, one reporter asked, “But your Holiness, the President just announced the summit was a great success and the two of you agreed on eighty percent of the items discussed.” Exasperated, the Pope answered, “Yes, but we were talking about the Ten Commandments.”

In in Springfield, Missouri, a number of years ago, a politician was speaking to a large gathering: “So, in conclusion,” he proclaimed, “My opponent has been lying to you and stealing you blind for eight long years. Now, it’s time to give me a chance.”

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men:
…whether to the king, as the supreme authority, …or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. It just doesn’t seem possible that we hear those words coming from the Bible. We are shocked that it is Peter, loud mouthed Peter, rebellious Peter, head of the Church, Peter, who writes those words. Peter’s own words to the Sanhedrin answer this: Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. (Acts 4:19) A Christian is law-abiding, meticulous, and self-disciplined, but with limits.

The Christians in the early Church were accused by a lot of different groups of not being supportive of the government. As later historians write most of that untruth came as a result of fear from small groups that felt they would lose their power or influence to a rapidly growing group. No doubt Peter knew that the Church’s best defense was to answer with a good life.

But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. And the LORD told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do.” (1 Sam 8:6)

It was a wonderful master plan that God had in mind for His people. They would honor the Ten Commandments and there would be no need for any other Laws. They wouldn’t have to have a government to build roads and protect the people. In a community that is giving, and gives their brothers and sisters the very best, has all of these things and more. And God would protect the innocent.

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. (Rom 13:1)

What Paul is saying is that we honor God by being submissive to the government. However, God holds the government accountable for its actions.
In other words the government leader will be held to a higher standard then the citizen. Our Western legal tradition takes the form of a hierarchy of laws.
Local laws must defer to higher and wider laws. The highest law of all, is God’s law.

Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay or shouldn’t we?” “Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. Then Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” And they were amazed at him. (Mark 12:14)

Part of our western thought betrays us. The United States is one of the few places in the world where the Church (mostly Protestant Churches) allow the state flag to be in God’s House. The reason for that is to make a clear distinction between Church and State. Americans are the ones filled with the most pride about our separation of Church and State and yet we are the ones that blur the two more than any place else.

I was visiting an elderly gentleman one day. I asked him, “Do you love God?” “I love my country,” was his response. “But do you love God?” “I fought in the war to keep our nation free.”

Part of the difficulty with the Jewish people was that their politics and their faith were one in the same. Jesus offered deliverance from sin, they wanted political freedom. As much as we love our nation and are grateful for the advantages and privileges that we have, our love of God is to be supreme. When we allow our government and our patriotism to define our God we lose sight of who God really is. Benjamin Franklin once said, The longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth: “that God governs in the affairs of men.” And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?

In any legal system, it is possible to point to laws ranging from mildly unjust to callously inhuman. Such laws should produce a feeling of outrage. Such laws should be challenged and change sought. It is the Christians responsibility as part of that government to seek the change.

Parables On Prayer

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Luke 18:1-8

Whether legal or not, kids have been praying in school for as long as anyone can remember. We prayed that the school would burn down the night before the math exams. We prayed the teacher would break her leg on the way to our house to talk to Mom. We prayed that dad would not notice the D on our report card. We prayed the music teacher would not ask us to sing the scale. We prayed the most popular classmate would ask us to the prom. We prayed the bus carrying the rival team would go into the ditch. We prayed for good marks so we could go to summer camp. We prayed for laryngitis so we would not have to dress like a tree and recite that silly Arbor Day poem. Oh, yes, we prayed in school.

A number of years ago while on vacation we visited a church that had a rather long prayer list. They thought it would be helpful to identify the reason for each one being on the list. In this way people could pray for specific needs and problems, rather than praying in vague generalities. There were all the usual things: hospitalized, bereaved, facing surgery. But beside the name of one man on the list was written “pain in the neck.” Most churches have a member or two who deserves that description, but few put it in print! And it does seem sometimes that only prayer can cure that affliction.

Luke starts off this section with the words, “Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” This is an important opening for us. We know the story comes from Jesus. We know the story is for His disciples. We know the point of the lesson – pray and not give up. A parable is a short, simple story designed to communicate a spiritual truth, religious principle, or moral lesson. It is usually a figure of speech in which truth is illustrated by a comparison or example drawn from everyday experiences. A parable is often no more than figurative language in the form of a story to illustrate a particular truth. The Greek word for parable literally means “a laying by the side of” or “a casting alongside,” thus “a comparison or likeness.”

What is needed for life today is not swift legs for the “rat race” but a listening, prayerful heart for every Christian. In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. The beauty of a parable was that the story didn’t necessarily have to be true (in other words, it could have been made up). But it always conveyed a truth for the listener. Now, in this story, the judge could have been a Roman who was neither a believer or a man who carried about the people he served.

And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, `Grant me justice against my adversary.’ Odd, we are never told what the issue is that the woman wants settled. We make the assumption that since she demands “justice” she is in the right. But “justice” is really moot in this story. The moral is clearly “persistence.” For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, `Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!'” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. Jesus ends the parable with the question, “when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

God’s part is up to God. I have nothing to do with that. But my part is to assume that God is already at work, even if I cannot discern it, for God moves in a mysterious way, his wonders to perform. My role is to start out, keep on going, never give up, and see what happens.

Yogi Berra, former New York Yankees baseball player, addressed the graduates at Montclair State University: First, never give up, because it ain’t over ’til it’s over. Second, when you come to a fork in the road, take it. Third, don’t always follow the crowd. Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.
Fourth, stay alert. You can observe a lot just by watching. Fifth, and last, remember that whatever you do in your life, 90 percent of it is mental. Hebrews 12:1 reminds us to run our race with perseverance and never give up. Napoleon Hill, in his book Think and Grow Rich, records that he studied 500 of the wealthiest men in the world and concluded that all wealthy men are persistent. When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems you can not hold on a minute longer, never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn. I have a friend who took his little 6-year-old boy fishing with him one day. They put out the line and then went up to the cabin. After an hour, they went back down to the river to see if they had caught anything. Sure enough, there were several fish on the line. The boy said, “I knew there would be, Daddy.” The father asked, “How did you know?” He replied, “Because I prayed about it.” So they baited the hooks again and put out the line and went back to the cabin for supper. Afterward, they went back to the river; again, there were fish on the line. The boy said, “I knew it.” The father said, “How?” “I prayed again.” So they put the line back into the river and went to the cabin. Before bedtime, they went down again. This time there were no fish. The child said, “I knew there wouldn’t be” and the father asked, “How did you know?” The boy said, “Because I didn’t pray this time.” The father asked, “And why didn’t you pray?” And the boy said, “Because I remembered that we forgot to bait the hooks.”

James writes, You want something but don’t get it. You do not have, because you do not ask God. (4:1) Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thess 5:16-18

Predestined Of God

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Romans 8:28-30

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son….We hear the word “predestined” thrown around a great deal. The most difficult thing in understanding predestination is in understanding God.
God who is everywhere at the same time. How can you be everywhere at the same time, parents would like to know? God is all knowing. God knows everything, the past, the present and the future. God knows what we do, what we are thinking, everything.

Now, those abilities of God puts God in a unique position, to “predestine.”
It doesn’t mean that God selects or chooses everything for us. God simply knows what our choice will be. You and I make the choice, we choose, God merely knows what that choice will be before we are even born.

Think about it for one moment, John tells us in the Book of Revelation, “and the Book was open.” We refer to that Book as the “Lambs Book of Life.” All of the names of those who are saved are written in that Book. The names are already written! How can that be? Because God is God.

Never misunderstand words like “elect” or “chosen” for predestine. God chose the children of Israel to be evangelist to the world. They thought that it was exclusive. Any Church that becomes exclusive dies and is replaced by God. The use of the word “elect” is used to refer to God’s people, those who have accepted Him. Never let us forget that God first chose us. Jesus said, (John 15:16) You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit-fruit that will last. According to the Scriptures election is not of works but of grace.

“It is a good thing that God chose me before I was born, because he surely would not have afterwards!” Election is God’s deciding who gets on the plane bound for heaven. Predestination is his charting the route the plane will take, the schedule, the accommodations both during and after the flight, and each passenger’s safety. With God as the pilot of the plane and the plane itself, all who board the plane make it to heaven. Predestination means God himself makes sure the elect actually board the plane. Their response of faith in Christ is like checking in at the gate with a boarding pass. The gospel call, in contrast, is like advertising for the trip. The church is commissioned to get the word to the whole world. Unfortunately most people treat God’s free offer as “junk mail” and throw it in the trash. However, those whom God has elected to salvation he also moves to accept his free offer. Many are called, but few are chosen. Yet all who are chosen are predestined to end up in heaven.

God knowing the future allows us a special friend. Sometimes God prepares us for what is to come our way. Sometimes things happen and we wonder, was that just for me – it was.

He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.

The Mysterious Chemistry of Parental Love

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Matthew 7:9-12

A woman and her four-year-old son where at church. Her son yells out, “Mommy I have to go potty.” She says, “Shhhh, we don’t say that. We say ‘I have to whisper’.” Her son says, “Okay.” The very next week the little boy and his father where at church. His son leans over and says, “Daddy, I have to whisper.” His dad says, “Just whisper in my ear.”

Hagar the Horrible, that intrepid Viking from the comics, is talking to his buddy: “When MY son grows up I want him to have all the things I never had!” Just then Hagar’s wife, Helga, interrupts and says, “Like common sense,
good table manners, frequent baths, clean underwear, a sunny disposition…”

An elderly man in Florida calls his son in New York one November day. The father says to the son, “I hate to tell you, but we’ve got some troubles here in the house. Your mother and I can’t stand each other anymore, and we’re getting a divorce. I’ve had it! I want to live out the rest of my years in peace.
I’m telling you now, so you and your sister won’t go into shock later when I move out.” He hangs up, and the son immediately calls his sister in the Hamptons and tells her the news. The sister says, “I’ll handle this.” She calls Florida and says to her father, “Don’t do ANYTHING until we get there!
We’ll be there Wednesday night.” The father agrees, “All right.” He hangs up the phone and calls out to his wife, “Okay, they’re coming for Thanksgiving.
Now, what are we going to tell them for Christmas?”

A group of professional people posed this question to a group of 4 to 8 year-olds, “What does love mean?” The answers they got were broader and deeper than anyone could have imagined. “Love is that first feeling you feel before all the bad stuff gets in the way.” “When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That’s love.” “Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other.” “Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs.” “Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK.” “Love is hugging. Love is kissing. Love is saying no.” “Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it everyday.” As Paul writes, And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Cor 13:13)

There are two lasting gifts we give to our children. The first gift is the gift of having roots. A man named Manoah, had a wife who was sterile and remained childless. The angel of the LORD appeared to her and said, “You are sterile and childless, but you are going to conceive and have a son. Now see to it that you drink no wine or other fermented drink and that you do not eat anything unclean, no razor may be used on his head.” The woman said he looked like an angel of God, very awesome. Then Manoah prayed to the LORD: “O Lord, I beg you, let the man of God you sent to us come again to teach us how to bring up the boy who is to be born.” God heard Manoah, and the angel of God came again….(Judg 13:2) The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. (James 5:16) Encouragement in a family is like a peanut butter sandwich–the more you spread, the better the sandwich sticks together. We do not develop habits of genuine love automatically. We learn by watching effective role models – most specifically by observing how our parents express love for each other day in and day out.” Eli was a high priest with whom the prophet Samuel lived. Eli was a deeply pious man whose service to the Lord was unblemished. However, he was a lax father who had no control over his two sons, Phinehas and Hophni. Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. (Prov 22:6) We learn our faith because parents teach the faith. We learn our values because parents live and teach the values. We learn how to be a human being by watching our parents be human.

The second gift is the gift of wings. To give a child wings means loving that child enough to discipline the child. He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.(Prov 13:24) The Bible is filled with stories of God disciplining His children. …because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” (Heb 12:6) The word disciple comes out of the word discipline. Discipline your son, and he will give you peace; he will bring delight to your soul. (Prov 29:17) Discipline helps the child to learn the boundaries of life. To give a child wings means teaching that child that they are accountable to the world and to God. In the Jewish faith there is an age of accountability. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom. (Luke 2:42) For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. (1 Cor 7:14)

Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. (Exodus 20:12) Paul writes that to “honor your father and mother” is the first is the first commandment with a promise in the Bible. How we treat our parents who have loved and cared for us so that life may go well with us and that we may enjoy a long life on the earth, is God divine plan for our lives. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jer 29:10)

“Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? You, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, just think of how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

What Pentecost Brings

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Acts 2:15-16

Harley Sheffield gained celebrity status through an unusual mishap. He was part of the 15,000-mile relay that carried the Olympic torch to the 100th gathering of the games in Atlanta. His section of the relay went over the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Washington on May 7, 1996. While carrying the flame in a special stand on his bicycle, the rear tire blew out, Sheffield lost control of his bike, and the Olympic flame went out. People gasped in disbelief but the attenders of the torch knew exactly what to do. They simply reached into the van that accompanied the traveling torch, pulled out a new torch and lighted it from the “mother flame” which always stays in the van. The processional continued and Sheffield earned a spot on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

What happened on that Washington bridge happens all of the time in our Christian pilgrimage. We stumble and the flame of spiritual zeal is dowsed. We stare at the extinguished torch and wonder if we can ever again burn with spiritual passion. But when we turn in repentance we find that the Holy Spirit has been with us all of the time and He carries the “mother flame” that can never go out. Our zeal can be re-ignited and the standard of Christ can once again burn brightly in our lives.

I am convinced that most of us do not understand the Holy Spirit. Emmanuel – God with us. He who resided in Heaven, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and the Spirit, willingly descended into our world. He breathed our air, felt our pain, knew our sorrows, and died for our sins. He didn’t come to frighten us, but to show us the way to warmth and safety.

When someone understands the truth about Christ, it is always a divine miracle. Remember Peter’s great confession? Jesus asked, “Who do you say that I am?” and Peter answered, “Thou art the Christ, the son of the living God” (Matthew 16:15-16). How did he know? Jesus said, “Flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven” (verse 17). There is no way to recognize Jesus Christ for who He is apart from a miracle of God to open spiritually blind eyes. But when Christ opens the eyes of a soul, suddenly truth becomes recognizable.

The Holy Spirit is the Church! If the Holy Spirit were suddenly taken out of the world, ninety-five percent of the world would go on as usual. We cannot do “The Lord’s Work” without “The Lord.”

Windows 95 displays an icon–a picture–on the screen that is entitled: “MY COMPUTER” which, when activated, reveals the contents of the computer. God has given us an inner source to help us know what is in our sanctuary, our life. The Holy Spirit is the revealer of the contents of our lives. He continually shows us how God sees us.

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language.

Working with jigsaw puzzles can be very frustrating, or very relaxing. So it is with life! Some people accept the spontaneous nature of life and fit the pieces together in a relaxed, joyous way. Others find the irregular pieces of life almost more than they can bear, and give up trying to make a beautiful picture of it. How do we fit in the many pieces of our busy lives — jobs, family, church, spiritual growth hobbies — our myriad activities and priorities? Are your activities, thoughts, attitudes, words, actions, lifestyle and friends compatible with your ultimate goals? Patience and persistence are necessary. Study the pieces and their possible relationship. If one piece doesn’t fit, try another. Many people in the first century of the Church thought that Christians were crazy! Sometimes we have to stand back to get a new perspective, or leave it alone for a time and do something else. Our lives consist of many odd-shaped multicolored pieces. We can’t force them to fit where they don’t belong, but with Divine Guidance we can find the right place for every single piece. God can and will help you to “get it all together.”

Joel writes, In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. There is a “marking” point in all of our lives where we make a change. For some of us it was when we were “born again.” For others it was a “Damascus Road” experience. And for still others it was our baptism.

Paul says, …every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God. (Rom 14:11) To “recapitulate” is to surrender. To recapitulate means to “put the Head back on. God’s commissioning is in the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Greek word for commission is “oconamea.” Think about it, God economized by choosing you! Some people complain about our service and ask me ‘where’s the beef?’ I look at their lives and ask ‘where’s the fruit?’

Each soul has its secret place deep within. Where none may enter in but God. Every time we say, “I believe in the Holy Spirit,” we mean that we believe that there is a living God able and willing to enter human personality and change it. If a person is filled with the Holy Spirit, his witness will not be optional or mandatory–it will be inevitable. Ps 139:7 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

A missionary came to the church. I seek your counsel in a decision which must be made and which will have great ramifications whichever way the decision goes. Let me tell you my story: “A friend of mine who is a doctor from Seoul, Korea wrote me some time ago, explaining his decision to relocate to our city. He asked me to find him a place where he could both live and have his practice. You know how hard it is to find any place much less one suitable for such a person. Nevertheless, I looked and finally found a location. I wrote to the doctor and informed him that the only place I could find was old and run down, in much need of repair, in a terrible neighborhood, and could only be purchased at an enormous price. To my surprise, the doctor sent word to secure the property and sent also the down payment needed. I went to the owner who gladly received the down payment and agreed to vacate the premises. In a couple of days the previous owner was still there and asked for an extension so that he would be able to find suitable lodging. I agreed to give him another week. But at the end of the week, he was still there. then a month went by, two months, six months, a year — and he’s still there! He and his family all have new clothes and eat the best of foods. When I come around, he just laughs at me. Now, my question is: what should be done?”

With one accord, the church elders all agreed that the man should be evicted, by force if necessary, from the dwelling. “Thank you for your advice,” said Brother Kim. “Now, let me remind you that almost two thousand years ago Jesus came to buy you with an enormous price — although you were in ruins and your life was a shamble. He sent his Holy Spirit as a down payment, and he desires to take up residence in your heart. Isn’t it about time we evicted the old man and let Jesus take up full residence?”