Sister to Sister: Happy 95th…to Both!

Yesterday was my Dad’s 95th birthday. It is hard to believe that he lived in an era in which an automobile was a very rare sight in his community, but then traveled the world during World War Two in a ship called the San Saba. When he was a small lad, he disassembled a radio to try and find the “people” who were “talking in there”. Now he asks us how that tiny phone can possibly contain the answers to any and all questions we ask Siri. He owns the bell and a wooden desk from that one-room schoolhouse in Peaceburg, where he attended when he didn’t have to be in the fields picking cotton (or hiding under the cotton basket so he wouldn’t have to pick). But then he went on to be one of the first in his family, if not the first, to graduate from college. It’s hard to believe he grew up as one of eleven children, a sharecropper’s son, and now he is the single remaining person of that generation of family. He watched the world take flight, man travel to the moon, the building of interstates and infrastructures and internet, as well as the destruction of the Nazi Regime and the Soviet Union. Ironically, he served in a huge worldwide war against injustice in the 1940s while blinking his eyes in 1973 and opening them to the injustice that would take millions more lives than all of the wars in which the US has ever been involved. 

So I took my dad in the golf cart to the back of the barn on Saturday, where he thought he was going to see a new fire-pit, When all of his family shouted “Happy Birthday!” as we rounded that corner, he knew this party was all about him and he had lots of fun opening Alabama and Mayberry trivia books and clothes and blankets and collar extenders. He loved a hat that one of his nephews had made for him bearing the name and insignia of his U.S. navy ship all those years ago and a forty-eight star encased flag like the one under which he served our country. But the best surprise of the day was the news of the upcoming birth of his third great grandchild, Baby Nicholas! That was the best news for all of us. 

It’s profound. Really. Yet, it happens all the time. This 95-year-old grandfather seems so very far removed from that 95-day old baby undergoing gestation. So many years, history, trials, victories…just so much living between them. And yet, there is coming a day when they will both recall the tiny dot on a vast eternal timeline in which they both existed on planet earth, that place of preparation for what is real and never diminishes or passes. Then, it will surely seem so distant and fleeting—that dot on the eternal timeline (If one could even say “eternal” and “timeline” in one sentence)—that they, having been mortals in generations that touched briefly on earth, will seem to have existed even in the same relative moments of time. What is 95 years, anyway, on the timeline of God, to whom a thousand years is as a day? 

Of course, the oversimplification of the profundity is this: We’d better all be able to get our tiny focus out of the wars, the accomplishments, the education, and the advancements and look at time and triumphs through the eyes of our Maker. He knew about flight and WW2 and globalism and the internet when he called Noah to save a seed line for the Messiah. He knew about all of the passing productions of men when He called Abraham out of Ur. He knew he was moving a patriarch so that He could call all men through Jesus to Himself one day, where no invention or amount of progress can bring men even close to matching the perfection of heaven. The answer to that call is all that matters. It is what links the 95-year-old grandfather and the tiny baby in gestation for eternity. It is, when that baby one day puts-on our Lord, what will truly make them blood kin. It’s the blood of Jesus coursing through spiritual veins that makes us eternal family. 

But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day (II Peter 3:8)

It’s just profound.

Obedience: Finishing the Climb

 

When Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth,
and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed.
And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the tomb. Mt. 27:59-61

The progression to the foot of the cross had been a grueling and sorrow-filled climb. Mary had followed the Lord from the halls of Pilate to the hill of Golgotha. She watched the agony of the cross from a distance. She felt the earth move under her and witnessed the tearing of the rocks (Matthew 27:50-56). She was present when the centurion at the foot of the cross made the good confession: “Truly this was the Son of God.” She and the other Mary followed the rich man, Joseph of Arimathea, as he laid the body of the Lord, wrapped in clean linen in his freshly hewn tomb. She watched as Joseph rolled the stone over the opening of the sepulcher (Matthew 27:56-61).

I once had a study with a woman who was contemplating becoming a member of the body of Christ. She was unashamed in asking me just what would be required of her family. “Would we need to be there at every service? My kids have a lot of practices and games and our youngest really has a strict bedtime. The older two have loads of homework. Wednesday nights would be really difficult for us. I just need to know what kind of commitment we would be needing to make.”

I recall an elder in the church in one of the places we lived. Through every sermon, he constantly looked at his watch. He became visibly upset if the service exceeded the hour. I have observed, in some congregations, an exodus of a large number of people after the communion is served, but before the final song and/or prayer.

Somehow, I don’t think Mary was looking at the sundial. I don’t think she was wondering if the commitment from here on out would require more time and money. I don’t think she was thinking about how nice it would be to get home and wash her tired and dirty feet that had climbed the hill to Golgotha. I don’t imagine her thinking about what was for supper or whether there would be time before the Sabbath to go shopping at the market. In short, this woman, who had originally been demon-possessed, was now committed to the Conqueror of demons, of the grave…of sin.  She was the kind of disciple that willingly stayed till the end. Are you?

Sister to Sister: Bind Us Together

For several days now, I’ve been thinking about and praying for a righteous perspective about relationships…friendships…the sisterhood. Like most areas of living, if we can get HIS view into our own focus, we can get this right. After thinking and maybe even overthinking, I believe the age-old secret to preserving godly relationships is deeply embedded in the concept of agape, itself. And it really seems pretty simple to me.

I think there are two premises that are required for friendships that cannot be severed. It’s important to remember that BOTH premises must be central to BOTH parties in a relationship. It seems to me that, if they are, you have a friendship that can’t be annulled; a kinship that will never end. If they are not, the friendship is severely compromised.

The first premise is this: I will never intentionally offend you, unless I must offend you to obey God.

The second premise is this: I will never be offended by something you inadvertently do, unless it is sinful, and thus offends God. 

Perhaps this is an oversimplification, but it seems to me, that if BOTH parties in a relationship are willing and able to maintain BOTH of these premises, there will be no end to the “green pastures” through which he leads and protects us. Adherence to the first premise means that I will love you enough to do whatever it is that would keep you safe from insult or injury in my relationship with you, up to the point of offending my Lord. The second means I will love you enough to give you the benefit of the doubt when I am tempted to become offended, unless you are sinning in the offense.

I believe this is Biblical. The first premise is based on many passages, including I Corinthians 10:24.

Let no man seek His own, but every man another’s well-being.

The second premise finds a home in many places, too. Among them would be I Corinthians 13:4-7

Charity suffers long, and is kind; charity envies not; charity vaunts not itself, is not puffed up, Does not behave itself unseemly, seeks not her own, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil; Rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

The first premise makes me pray “Lord please help me to be only an encouragement to this, my sister, and help me never to be a stumbling block to her in any way.  Let me show her always your grace and your light and place my own desires below her needs and desires.”

The second premise makes me pray “Lord, please help me to think the very best of this, my sister. Please help me to be longsuffering enough to know that she loves me and that she would never intentionally hurt me.”

If we both are thinking both ways, we can’t ever lose relationships over things that are less important than the gospel. I believe a great example of this is the relationship of Jonathan and David. Surely Jonathan placed his own desires below the needs of David as he risked his own life in the advancement of David, even against his own flesh and blood (I Samuel 20—premise 1). Surely David must have always been thinking only the best of Jonathan, even as Jonathan died fighting in the army of David’s own enemy, Saul. It is encouraging to see David’s memorial honoring of Jonathan even after he lost his life in service to Saul (II Samuel chapters 1&9—premise 2). 

I hope and believe I can rely on these Biblical principles to guide me to godly relationships…those relationships that can always promote unity and evangelism among and by His people today. 

Vegas: Every Face a Soul

I just watched the slideshow of the faces of those killed in the mass shooting Sunday night in Vegas. It’s just more than you can handle emotionally to think of the young lives (almost all of them young) taken violently, senselessly in that horrible scene. It is WAY more than you can handle emotionally to think of the destination of many of those souls who were unprepared to leave this planet. This much we can rationally know: If one soul–the right soul– had been taught and had embraced, early on, the precepts of HIS gospel, these people would be home with their loved ones tonight. We cannot know the potential good that is done each time we share the Good News. We are debtors to Christ, but also to all potential victims of sin’s destruction, to share the gospel at every opportunity.

As I left Shreveport on Sunday afternoon, only two gates in that little regional airport, were full of people. I did not have a gate number on my boarding pass, so I walked up to the first gate and asked the attendant if this gate was for Atlanta. He said, “No, these folks are on the way to Vegas.” I looked around for a moment as I walked away. I actually looked into faces, thinking about how many of them were probably going to go and spend money, …money that people somewhere needed badly, in gambling casinos. I had seen, on my way to the airport that Shreveport is a gambling mecca. I wondered how many of them were addicted. Perhaps some in that large airport crowd were flying into Vegas to attend concerts…maybe even the concert or music festival that we all saw on Monday morning. It’s certain that almost everyone waiting to board that plane would soon wish they could be anywhere but Las Vegas. Every face at that crowded gate had/has a soul. I thought of that as I looked into their preoccupied eyes.  More correctly, though, every eternal soul has a passing face. It’s just that we don’t know the date of passage from mortality’s smiles and fun and plans and flights to eternity’s final destination. May I be more cognizant of life’s frailty, death’s certainty and eternity’s finality.

And may those who lost loved ones in the Vegas tragedy be led by his people who may know them to look to the Word and find the peace that passes understanding.

Sister to Sister: High School Heroes

Things just aren’t like they used to be in reference to morality in our country today. Homosexual advocates have had a champion of their cause sitting in the Oval Office. The icons of our teen girls are a sad lot of extremely immodest, fornicating, pro-choice, feminist and/or vulgar-mouthed screen stars. Television sit-coms would have us believe that there’s a homosexual man or woman living in every third household in America and that conversation is incomplete and flavorless without cursing and taking God’s name in vain. We kill 1.2 million of our innocents every year and we have paid for many of  the murders with tax dollars. Our schools are battlefields in this culture war and, as a result, our kids are often safe from neither physical harm nor molestation of their values systems. Many public schools today, which have outlawed student-led prayer through Christ and/or prayer around the flagpole, grant excuses from classes at certain times of the day so that Muslim children can pray toward Mecca. More and more, children need the solidity and emotional safety of parents who can always be depended on for real answers to social issues, for values that are unchanging, and for the provision of a real home; a haven where they can count on being protected physically and emotionally, but most of all spiritually.

And our own “Christian” teens are living in this moral vacuum. More and more of our children raised in “Christian” homes are coming of age and leaving home without the moral underpinnings that they need to make wise choices. Many have already made serious mistakes before high school or even middle school graduation. Our kids are experimenting with pornography, alcohol, and sex of various kinds during high school. They have often been indiscriminate in their television and movie viewing. They have allowed their minds to become subtly controlled by the materialism of television and the movies while becoming anesthetized to blatant sin. They’ve slowly come to laugh at what should make them, as Christians, cry. They’ve incrementally given their real allegiance to the world while giving only a token Sunday/Wednesday nod to the things of God.

And then, with a little hope, thankfully, many find their way to the Christian university. At Freed Hardeman University, where my son and daughter have both attended, there are some amazing faculty members whose lives are wholly given to the Lord. There is a Bible faculty, on that campus which, in my opinion, is second to none in the world. And, many times, thank God, those students, who arrived as freshmen in a very weak spiritual condition, find themselves growing closer to God, wanting to know the freedom from guilt, and finding joy in heartfelt service to God. Sometimes these kids have the will to truly change during these college years and many of them will be faithful for the rest of their lives. Praise God.

But there is a sad phenomenon that sometimes occurs in this college scenario. Sometimes, those students who walked away from God during high school and became dangerously involved in alcohol abuse, sexual sin or pornography, etc., somehow feel that they have the spiritual edge over those kids who made the better choices in high school. You may be wondering, “Now where could she be going with this?” Let me explain.

More and more I am hearing college devo leaders say things like “If your life has never been totally messed up with sexual sin, then you can’t fully appreciate Christianity like I can.” Or, “I am not going to stand here and tell you that I have led a sexually pure life. You wouldn’t believe me if I did, since there probably aren’t two out of every ten people in this room who could say that. I’m going to tell you I’ve done about everything you’ve done, maybe as much as several of you put together and he still reached down for me.” Or, “I wouldn’t trade places with any of you out there who always walked the straight and narrow because I love the Jesus who came to the wide path and rescued me.” Or, “There may be those of you who think you made all the right choices through high school. You may have. But, if you did, I doubt you really know a lot about reaching the sinner with His forgiveness.”

What’s wrong with this sort of message in a devotional talk? Well, I can think of some definite dangers. First, let’s take this sort of teaching to its natural conclusion. If I can eventually put the greatest appreciation of the Savior in my kids by encouraging them to participate in sin, then shouldn’t I just provide the alcohol for their high school parties? Shouldn’t I encourage fornication and experimentation with homosexuality, porn, vulgarity and lewdness? Shouldn’t I get the raunchiest forms of satellite TV and download the most explicit computer images for them to view? Second, there are many lifelong consequences that come with various forms of sin (even forgiven sin). You can think of lots of these off the top of your head. With fornication comes the fear of STDs and/or the effect that this behavior has on your later marriage. With abortion comes the hauntings of guilt and the cry of the dead baby that you may hear for the rest of your life. With alcohol comes the possibility of alcoholism. With porn use comes the addiction you may have to fight till you die. The high school student who had the foresight, fortitude and faith to leave these sins alone should never be tauntingly stereotyped as the pharisaical, righteous one as I often hear in college circles. Third, It took a lot of courage and conviction to avoid the typical high school sins. It was not an accident that this purity of life was maintained. In fact, it was the same Christ who offered you His forgiveness that reigned in the heart of your friend there, as she worked so hard to never let King Jesus down. Did he ever need his forgiveness? Oh absolutely. Can she appreciate that forgiveness? Definitely. But he or she doesn’t have to walk away from the light to know the power of darkness. Fourth, we have to be really careful not to make a lifestyle of sin appealing to young people. Many—no, most young people who become enamored with the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life during the very young teen years, do not emerge on the side of the Savior as adults. We are losing huge percentages of our kids as they experiment with the sins of the devil in high school. Parents and mentors who are really focused on eternity will do all that’s within their power to enable their kids to get in the safety of His will and to stay there every single day as they face the huge challenges of life in high school. Just one time, be on the receiving end of that phone call from a grief stricken parent informing you that a teen has been prematurely snatched from this life while under the influence of alcohol and you will desperately want your child to be among the number of “pharisaical” righteous ones on that college campus one day.

I understand that the one forgiven of much will love much (Luke 7:47). I know, from the life of Paul that the chief of sinners can be the most devoted to the cause (I Tim. 1:15). But there is a real sense in which each of is chief of sinners. There is a sense in which we all have obtained the ultimate forgiveness. We cannot afford to make the depth of depravity to which one has slipped the barometer of perceived spirituality. Let’s stop viewing those who remained faithful to God through what was arguably the most difficult years of life as some sort of self-righteous, sub-Christians. Let’s look to their examples and perhaps even to wisdom they gained for encouragement. I know many of these heroes. Among them are Joseph, Daniel, Samuel, Esther, Mary, the mother of the Lord and Timothy. And I know many of them who are now in college, as well. I can look at the short inexhaustive list above and know that God has a special place in his heart for those who stood relatively alone for truth and right in the high school years.

Sister to Sister: Hefner– A Life of Instant “Heaven” for an Eternal Hell

I began my day by reading this blurb from my son-in-law, Ben Giselbach:

Consider how many families have been crushed and how many hearts have been torn to pieces because someone believed Hefner’s gospel of free sex, “decent” pornography, and erotic liberation. When he was born, his Methodist mother wanted him to grow up and be a missionary – and in a way she got her wish. He did not invent pornography, but he was the first to institutionalize by making it “respectable” and mainstream. He was the harbinger of the new sexual ethic, fueling a revolution that has changed the globe in a way far worse than any war or disease ever could. He was a missionary who taught his message to the ugly end. He died yesterday as a pathetic, wrinkly playboy, perhaps still in those silk pajamas. We do not rejoice in his death (Eze. 18:23; 33:11). But we must recognize he died not as a successful philanderer, but a loser and a con man. He duped many into buying into his gospel of death and now stands before his Creator, explaining why he exploited so many made in precious His image. Lord, please have mercy.

Hugh Hefner is dead. His legacy lives on. He converted many whose influences have now converted millions. According to Family Safe (familysafe.com), these are fairly recent statistics. (However, pornography statistics are outdated very quickly because of the dramatic daily increase in porn use.) Hefner’s influence is compounded every second in our country. 

Pornography Time StatisticsEvery second – $3,075.64 is being spent on pornography

Every second – 28,258 Internet users are viewing pornography

Every second – 372 Internet users are typing adult search terms into search engines

Every 39 minutes: a new pornographic video is being created in the United States

Hefner died today with a net worth of about 40-50 million dollars, all of which remains here, forever inaccessible to him. According to his own testimony, he had sex with over a thousand women, all of whom are forever inaccessible to him now. He has already entered a state of torment that will never end. The leader of the sexual revolution, the iconic king of sexual pleasure, will never know a single moment’s pleasure again. He will remember with pain and deep regret. He will wish for a Lazarus to dip a finger in water and come and cool his tongue, but no man can help him now. Hugh Hefner was instrumental in building a 97 billion dollar industry. He died a spiritual pauper. He will be buried beside Marilyn Monroe in Westside Village Memorial Park in Los Angeles, CA. 

Imagine that! One day when the graves are opened, rising up next to one another will be the bodies of Marilyn Monroe and Hugh Hefner. But Entertainment Tonight and Star magazine will not even be looking that way. All eyes will be heavenward. 

If you are one among the masses of people who are living under the influence of Hefner’s industry…if you are contributing to the coffers of pornography or suffering from its addiction, you are still on the right side of eternity. You can still die a rich woman. You can still have heaven. I hope you will make conscious choices now to that end. If you are toying around with the idea of reading that salacious book or clicking on that inappropriate site or posting that seductive picture, I hope you will take a moment to think about where that “missionary” you are thinking of following is living— right this very moment.

Marvel not at this: for the hour comes, in which all that are in the tombs shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment [damnation—KJV]” (Jn. 5:28-29).