Taking a Break

I hadn’t planned on it, but I guess I’m taking a break for a while.  

 

I have family coming in from Germany for the next week, and I can’t wait to get my hands on them 🙂  Obviously, they’re going to be my first priority for the next several days, so I’m making it official.  I’ll be back, if all goes as planned, on Monday, January 6–or Tuesday.  We’ll see. 

I’m hoping you all had a wonderful Christmas, and that you’re planning for a relaxing New Year’s Day.  

Did someone say “New Year’s Resolutions”?  I’m not going to share mine.  As our pastor says, I think it’  wiser to make plans than it is to make promises.  So–a blessed New Year to all of you, and I’ll see you in 2014. 

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Merry Christmas!

It’s Christmas Eve, 2013.  Hard to believe another year has slipped by so quickly.  As always, it’s been a year of both joy and sorrow. We’ve experienced some wonderful answers to prayer; other things are still in transit and we wait while the Lord works.

Of course, this time of year brings a believer’s heart to the manger, and Bethlehem, and the Baby Who came to die so that we all could have eternal life.  There is so much I love about this time of year. Music!  Oh, the wonderful, beautiful, majestic music of Christmas!  And the sweetly quiet, contemplative music, and everything in between.  My memories of Christmas are always  set to a background of the old records my parents had, and now the CD’s I play every year and continue to collect.

Food, of course.  Traditional and new, I’m not fussy.

Family and friends.

Church–the carols we start singing around Thanksgiving, the special music prepared by people in the choir; the piano solos and the brass choir that played before the morning service got under way.  I especially look forward to the Christmas Eve service, which is always joyous and sweetly quiet at the same time, usually a candle light affair in a beautifully decorated auditorium, with everyone all dressed up in their Christmas finery.

The smells of Christmas are a memory I treasure, especially because I’m losing my sense of smell.  I love the aroma of pine, the crisp cold of fresh snow, the warmth of a wood fire; cookies baking, a ham or a turkey in the oven, fresh rolls, and spiced cider. I love the smell of the smooth, chilly cheeks of my grandchildren when they come in from the cold.

And speaking of grandchildren, there is nothing that melts the heart like the sparkle in their eyes when they open gifts.  That they are  thankful is a beautiful thing, and makes giving the gifts even more of a joy.

Sometimes, we sit in the living room and play music, and sing.  Many in the family have very good voices, and the children all play musical instruments.  Even the youngest pianist is eager to play for us.  We have brass, woodwind, strings, and our voices.  This is perhaps one of my favorite things.  My own voice is growing old and tired, but I still manage to sing for a little while with my kids and their spouses and their children. We make a joyful noise.

So. The gifts are waiting to be wrapped.  I have to make a jello salad and my  always-popular dinner rolls, but the rest of the meal is my daughter’s job on Wednesday.  She loves hosting Christmas, and I’m more than thankful to move over and give her that honor.

As we all gather to enjoy the day, my prayer is that we never forget Who it is that we’re celebrating; that we continue to have and treasure our freedom to say “Christmas” instead of whatever the politically correct folks want us to say; that we love each other and love our God.

One of my most treasured verses:  Micah 6:8. “He hath showed thee, O man, what is good: and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”

The Good Ground

Matthew 13:23. “But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”

We’ve been here before, and this verse is completely self-explanatory. Tonight, I’d just like to give you an example of someone whose heart was “good soil,” and who produced much fruit.

A friend of ours died today.  He was, I believe, in his early 80’s.  He’d been sick for a long time, so his homegoing was truly a release.  He’s with the Lord now, and his family is rejoicing that his long journey is finished.

This man was saved, if memory serves, in his late teens or early 20’s.  He soon felt the call of God on his life, and prepared to become a missionary.  He and his wife traveled first to minister to the Pygmies; later, they worked in what was then the Belgian Congo, and finally in Kenya. Their story is full of adventure, joy, victory, and also of loss and sorrow.

The thing I want to emphasize here is that this man bore much fruit.  I don’t know how many souls came to the Lord because of his ministry.  I do know that there are churches in Kenya today that are a direct result of his ministry, and that are now led by national pastors who studied under him and those who came to help him.

Not only was his heart fertile; he influenced many others to go into missionary work as well.  One of them was his second-oldest son, who ministers in Kenya today.  His influence, along with his wife’s,  is felt in four generations now; he and his wife have several grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.

John 4:35

Porn Prevention

This is going to be a very practical post, I hope.  There really are things you can do to help guard your family from the plague of pornography.  You may find some of what I’m about to suggest difficult to accept.  I want to remind you that, as parents, it is your job to protect your children.  You wouldn’t spare any measures to protect them from a deadly rattlesnake; don’t be afraid to do whatever you have to do to protect them from something that will alter their minds and their hearts.  That’s how serious this is.

First and most important, teach them truth.  Teach your family biblical principles of behavior.  Help them memorize verses that teach us  to keep our hearts and minds pure.  Start with Philippians 4:4-8.  Do a word search on purity.  Make it a topic of conversation so that it’s easy to bring up on a regular basis.  Warn them that once a picture is in your mind’s eye, it is very difficult to erase.

I’ve always been impressed with this example:  In order for a bank teller to be able to identify a counterfeit bill, he studies the real thing.  He gets used to the feel, appearance and even the smell of the true dollar bill so that when a fake passes into his hands, he won’t be fooled by it. Some people feel that we need to study the counterfeit in order to understand the enemy. No! What happens when we do  is that we get pulled in to the enemy’s plan.  I don’t need to look at the centerfold of a girlie magazine to know it’s wrong for me to do so.  I just need to know the truth: Psalm 101:3.  “I will put no wicked thing before mine eyes; I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me. “

Second, be a snoop!  If you have any inkling that your child is being exposed to literature, pictures, or any other forms of porn, search!  It’s your job as a parent to protect your child. Don’t listen to his wails about his privacy.  If you knew there was a poisonous spider under his bed, would you shrug and let him go to sleep in that bed because he tells you that you have no right to look under his bed?

This ridiculous society we’re living in has us convinced that the kids make the rules. Don’t be taken in by that philosophy.

Third, supervise what they read, watch on TV, play on video games (have you ever really looked at the art in a lot of video games?  Women are all voluptuous and scantily clad, to say the least!); check their iPhones, iPads, iPods, and computers on a regular basis.  If you don’t know how to check the history, ask your kid to show you. They all know.  And it is very likely that they know how to erase the history, too, so . . . . .

Fourth: Learn how to work the parental controls on all your kids’ devices.  Get an accountability program like Covenant Eyes that sends you a detailed list of all websites visited every month.  Most important, please NEVER allow computers etc. to be in your child’s bedroom. Put them in high-traffic areas of the house so that  the screens are visible to anyone passing by.

I learned from a client who was dealing with his pre-teen son’s fascination with porn that you can use your X-Box to communicate with others in the same way you would browse the internet on your computer.  Be aware.

Fifth:  Get over the idea that your kid can be trusted; that he would never lie to you; that he’s just not interested in that stuff.  Of course he is. God created the male of the species to be intrigued by what he sees in the female of the species. Why do you think your kid would be any different, say, than you were at his age?

Look, the best, most upright kid around can be tempted to do wrong. This is especially true if his buddies are all moving in one direction and he’s the only one going a different way.  Sometimes, his first glimpse of porn is not of his own choosing: A friend on the school bus flashes a picture and says “Look what I found under my brother’s bed!” and the glamorous image is burned into his eyes before he can look away.  Believe me.  Yes, even on a Christian school bus.

Pray with your kids about staying pure and unspotted from the world.  Support them when others tease them about being a goodie two-shoes.  Help them learn to take a stand firmly and kindly, without being obnoxious.

Please, above all, realize that this is no longer an issue restricted to certain kinds of people who have no morals.  The use of porn is sweeping the Christian community just as it is the secular. We can hide our heads in the sand and pretend it doesn’t affect us.  That’s just stupid. We have so many ways to access porn these days that there’s really no way you can be too vigilant.

Next time:  How to get help if porn has you caught in its web.

Seed Among Thorns

Matthew 13:22. “He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word.”

Riches as thorns?  Really?  Who among us wouldn’t dearly love to be rich?  Some can handle it–being a believer and having great wealth.  Others, however, find that the cares of the world, of life, and of all those riches eventually choke the life out of the seed. Once again, there is no fruit.

I have deep concerns over the “prosperity gospel” that has been with us for some time now. I don’t believe that God called us to be wealthy or to be poor.  I believe He will provide our every need, as He has so often done in the history of my family. We aren’t rich by worldly standards, but we’re rich in faith, in hope, and in love.  We have eternity waiting for us where there will be no end to joy. What more can we ask?

Don’t be caught up in a theology, and I use the word loosely, in which gain is the primary reward. That is not what Jesus taught.

Stony Places

Matthew 13:20-21. But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it: Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.”

The stony ground represents the person who hears the Word, and seems to receive it joyfully. Older believers may become quite excited at this person’s early enthusiasm for the Word, but as time passes they are disappointed to see that the early joy does not last.  When trouble comes, and it always will, this person is seen to have no depth, no place for a root to take hold. The heat increases, and the quickly-springing plant withers under the blast.

No fruit. This person is offended; that is, he is easily caused to stumble off the path set by the Word, and he fails in his journey.

Psalm 119:165. “Great peace have they which love Thy law; and nothing shall offend them.”

The Sower, Explained by the Master

Matthew 13:18-19. “Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received the seed by the way side.”

In verse 19, Jesus explained the seed that was cast onto the wayside, which was trodden down and hardened.  He said that the seed was sown to the heart; however, the heart would not receive it, and refused to understand it. The birds who came to devour it represent the Evil One, who is always ready to snatch the seed from the field, which is the world.

“Oh,” we may say, “But if the seed were truly sown to the heart, then wouldn’t the receiver of the seed WANT to understand and accept it?”

The answer is, sadly, a resounding NO.  There are hearts down through history that have deliberately and arrogantly refused the word.  Think of Noah’s day when his preaching was mocked and scorned.  Or think of the time of the judges of Israel, during which men did that which was right in their own eyes.  Think of the Israelites when Jesus walked the earth, who chose as a nation to reject Messiah because He did not come as they  believed He would. And think of our own day, when the gospel is so readily available and yet the hearts of so many in America mock and reject  true Christianity.

It’s nothing new for hardened hearts to reject the good seed, and for Satan to snatch it away.

My son shared this video on his page yesterday.  I think it’s worth passing on to you.