Sister to Sister: A Shepherd’s Plea

One  of  my favorite holiday gifts this year was from my brother-in-law, Scotty Sparks. This gift originated with my grandfather, a shepherd in the church for many years in Jacksonville, Alabama. It’s a letter he’d thought about a lot and typed out to send to members of his congregation who had gone astray. Following his death in 1982, the letter ended up in my mother’s hands. She eventually gave it to Scotty at some point in the late 1980’s and, as you will see from Scotty’s note to me, he used it as an outline from which to preach the gospel. Every plea in the letter is just as pertinent to people who walk away from the Lord today as it was to wayward members of the body when it was first penned. I know my “Daddy Duncan” wrote this from a heart of grief at the lost condition of some soul that was under his care. Perhaps he sent it to several. Perhaps, he also preached from this outline.

 

Here are Scotty’s words prefacing the letter he gave me for Christmas:

This is a copy of a letter written by your grandfather, John Duncan, while he served as an elder at Jacksonville. I do not know the year. Your mother, Johnnia, gave it to me while I was at FHU to have as a resource. (She was always giving me good books or material.) I eventually developed this into a sermon. I hope you will overlook my “boxing in” the points. As a college student with a low inventory of sermons and an even lower inventory of dimes for the copier, I simply used the original letter for my notes. Perhaps the precious knowledge that your grandfather’s deep love for souls demonstrated in the words of this document and preached several years after his death to encourage people he would never meet on this side of heaven will compensate for the defacement. 

And here is my grandfather’s letter. If you have walked away from faithfulness, will you think about his words?

Dear brother in Christ,

I am writing this letter not to censure or criticize your any way, but that I may exhort you and cause you to think of what it means to live in a lost condition.

One of the most solemn questions that could be asked of a lost person is:

“What if you should die in your lost condition?”…Terrible thing to think about….Judgment. One day we will have to stand before the great white throne and give an account unto God for the way we live here. We need to read often Luke, the sixteenth chapter, beginning with verse 19; the story of the rich man and Lazarus, and also the other passages of the Scriptures that teach what an awful place hell is.

Another question just as solemn is:

“What if you should live in your lost condition?” At first, that question doesn’t sound to be very solemn at all, but let’s think seriously about what we are doing when we are living in a lost condition.

First of all, we lend support to the forces of Satan against the Lord; fighting, whether we mean to or not, with Satan against the Lord’s cause, because there is no such thing as being neutral in the conflict between Christ and the devil. Christ, himself, said, “He that is not with me is against me.”

Secondly, we will influence others to be lost. not intentionally, of course, but inevitably. As God uses His children to lead others to salvation, the devil uses all others to lead people into sin and to keep each other in sin. Wicked men and women are used to lure some into evil, but some people will not be tempted by them, so, to reach these, Satan must use good and upright people. For example, wives may keep their husbands from being saved; husbands may lead wives to hell; parents may cause their children to be lost; or children may even do the same for their parents. 

Thirdly, we will live a life less abundant than God intended for man. Jesus came to give life more abundantly (John 10:10). A more abundant life includes many things…for example, forgiveness, hope of eternal life versus no hope, hence no fear of death versus a fear of dying; fellowship with Christ versus no fellowship…and many others.

Fourthly, our hearts will become harder (Heb. 3:13). “But exhort one another daily, while it is called today, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” …Hebrews 3: 7,8… “Wherefore as the Holy Ghost saith, “To day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness…” …I Timothy 4:2…”Your conscience will become seared as with a hot iron.”

Fifthly, we will die in our lost condition. It is a mistake–a lie of the devil–to think that we might live in a lost condition  and die in a saved condition. In Numbers 23:10, Balaam wanted to die the death of the righteous, but he had refused to live the life of the righteous. And, if we die in this lost condition, we will be lost eternally. 

In conclusion, if we knew we would die tomorrow, we would want to be Christians, but if we knew we would live to be 110, we should still want to live each day for the Lord. There is one thing worse than dying in a lost condition–and that is living in a lost condition. 

 

My grandfather, to me, was that great friend who took us hiking in the woods in the fall and  fishing in the summer. He was that friend with whom we watched Bonanza on Sunday nights after worship. He was  the friend who went to town on my birthday to buy me the wonderful very hard plastic horse that I  still treasure and the silver necklace with the tiny blue bauble. He is the man who had such a credit rating in this small town that I could go in almost any store in town and pick up whatever he sent me for and simply say, “Put this on John Duncan’s bill.” He could build anything in that garage and he would take me to work with him and let me play on a giant old adding machine on his desk. He taught me to skip rocks and to bait hooks. He was the quintessential grandfather.

But to others, he was more. He did not, to my knowledge, have even a high school education, but he did important things. He faithfully raised two children of his own and three stepsons whose father left them at a young age. He was the progenitor of seven faithful preachers and of six women who married faithful preachers; of three elders in the Lord’s church and of four women who are wives of elders in the kingdom. 

Once, as a child, I enquired about why my grandmother all of a sudden had a lady coming every now and then, to help her do housekeeping chores. I had never seen a maid before and, though my grandmother was kind of ill by then, she was the hardest-working woman I knew. “Well,” she said, “…this lady needed some food and some help with her light bill, so your grandfather told me to try and think of some jobs she could do, so he could help her back on her feet.” I didn’t think so much about that then, but I have thought a little more about it as an adult. It’s a pretty good thing when you can help people without enabling indolence.

The congregation where he worshipped and served is now 99 years old. Next year, as it celebrates its 100th birthday, it will rejoice in the fact that its publication “House to House/Heart to Heart” reaches millions of people around the world annually with the gospel. The congregation will reach thousands who attend its Polishing the Pulpit conferences around our country. Of course, none of this is his doing. It is the doing of our great God who has used lots and lots of ordinary people through the years to keep the work that began with a gospel meeting in the year 1918 by Brother C.H. Woodruff alive in Him for the next 100 years. Each man in Christ is just one little link in a chain of events and lives and opportunities: one chapter in a book that will find its last chapter around the throne. But still, I’m glad for His tiny little part and I’m glad he was my friend.

As I write, I am sitting in the large Houston Cole library (pictured) on the campus of Jacksonville State University. It is one–the last, in fact–of several buildings that my grandfather helped construct on this campus. His secular job was to direct the maintenance operations for this university during several decades of the twentieth century. He was proud of its buildings and grounds and fiercely dedicated to a work ethic and the management of a team of hardworking men. He did not own his own home, but lived in university housing. (That’s me on the porch of that university house with a surprise from under their tree circa 1963.) He did not own his own car, but drove a university truck. His large and productive garden, where I learned how to grow things and what happened to people who didn’t like to work, was planted on university soil. He typed the letter that I am holding on a university typewriter and directed his team from a little university office. His sons would gather in a particular spot in one of the dorms that was acoustically wonderful and sing hymns. I even have a recording of one of those hymn-sings, and those young men were incredibly good for a country quartet. (I doubt that the dorms at JSU are often used for hymn-singing today.)

Now, I know that I am not unique in being able to reminisce about godly influences in my early years. I know that there are congregations all over this world that warm by fires that have been stoked through the years by faithful, yet very ordinary people. I know that my grandfather never once thought about the fact that I might someday sit and reminisce, from this chair, in a building constructed from a blueprint he once held in his hands. But here I am. In the same way, you and I do not know where and how our influence may live in the ensuing decades. But there will be a time and place in which someone will be thinking about me. I will be, to the world, an insignificant name on a grave marker. But to someone, I might be able to make an eternal difference. I hope I can do that for the little souls in my family, Ezra and Colleyanna, and I hope that difference will be for heaven.

My grandfather did not own much as he traversed a tiny little area on this planet. But he owns a mansion now. It would do a lot of people I know an eternally important good if they would heed the words transcribed above from a simple twentieth century shepherd. Can I help you live in a saved condition?

Sister to Sister: Not a Minimalist

I will never be a minimalist. In fact, I am a bit ashamed to say I think I am a maximist. ( Since “maximalist” has a political meaning, I made that word up.) It might not be right, but it’s true. So many people have blessed our family through the years with friendship and comfort and then tokens of those sweet relationships…and I am an avowed sentimentalist. I can’t part with anything that was my mother’s. I have a thimble that my grandmother gave to me when I was a little girl. She said it came over on the boat with my ancestors. My grandchildren are wearing the same clothes that my children wore. I even have a very hard time throwing away a dish when it breaks, if it was made by one of my children in a pottery class or given to me for Christmas by my father. 

But lately, I’ve been trying to make myself part with clutter. I’ve been making a conscious effort to trample a bit on the sentimental side of me and “see” what I can throw away. I give myself all those reasons: If you haven’t used it in three years, then…or…Do you want your kids to have to sort through all of this one day?…or…You know, you can remember the day he took his first steps out in the yard without keeping the stick he picked up off the ground. I know…I need this exercise, so, as I put the Christmas stuff away and put the “regular” stuff back out, I tried to put a little less “decor” back out and a little more in the trash. 

And I saw this book that had been lying on a desk in the study. “I’m going to get rid of that,” I thought. “That book always makes me sad, anyway.” It’s one of those journals that mothers fill out for posterity, telling children all about  how they grew up, how they met the children’s daddy, favorite toys and prices of things in the good old days. Our little family had given it to my mom for Mother’s Day during the year that she passed away, so she didn’t even have enough time left to fill it out. So I picked it up to put it in a give-away place…or at least to try. 

But I looked inside and saw our note to her. I saw the four-year-old and eight-year-old signatures of my kids. Then the note from my father when he gave the book back, along with a couple more notes that he’d sent through the years since her passing. The first one I read said this:

Cindy, 

If crying is wrong  for an old man, I’m sorry, but that is exactly what happened when I  came across this book given to Johnnia in her last year here. The pictures are Johnnia’s type thing. She didn’t have a chance to write diary things in it. 

The message of love from you, Glenn, and the children touched me. I thought of how obedient you were over the years and how miserable you would always be if you slipped a little and disobeyed her in a moment of weakness and how eager you were to rectify it quickly. You and (your mother) are influencing me every day of my life. Not unrelated to this is the Duncan-Smith bunch (her family)…fathers, mothers, grandfathers, grandmothers, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews and cousins…but of the good qualities of all, you got a double dose. 

Then there was another note, written following one of our big family holiday visits to his house:

…The sound of feet stomping…the sound of young voices (and old)…the sound of the bounce of the basketball…the sound of and sight of roller skating…the sound of the ultra-young to the older ones in offering thanks for the food, etc…the sound and sight of the splashing of the pool, in the summer…the much work done here when y’all come (allowing me to sit around). All of this is summed up in one word: LOVE. Cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, maybe a grandparent here and there. 

The sights and sounds described herein, at times have likely been annoyances, but to me, they have become music to my ears…Keep up (your mother’s) traditions. Love…

PS…the part I miss most on these occasions is her voice and joy.

Then next, I noticed a letter of encouragement written to my daughter, Hannah, from her grandfather during her teen years. Among other things it said:

“You have not, in any way, let us down…you are of sterling quality and good for the church and the family…Keep on doing what you’re doing and living like you’re living. I love you…You’re my tweetie!

Funny how I thought I could just throw that book away. Funny how words can re-appear and resonate with encouragement on days when you need it most. Funny how one of the people who’s had the most profound influence on me could make me believe that I could influence him! Funny how someone long gone to glory can still influence so many so deeply. Dad’s little notes made me want to encourage people more…especially in writing. I have friends, especially one (Carol), who do it constantly. But I need to be better at written encouragement. 

I didn’t throw the book away. Instead, I think I’ll write in it’s beautiful pages and pass it on down. Maybe when Hannah is a grandmother or when Caleb is a grandfather, one of them will think about throwing it away on another day. Maybe they can be minimalists. But I doubt it. 

Sister to Sister: Orphans Among Us

soccer-mom-1The following is an excerpt from a letter I received from a young Christian sister this week. Small editions have been made for clarity and anonymity. I want to thank this sister for giving me a bit of a picture of the struggles and needs of young mothers raised outside the body. Can you help? I know, if you are an older woman in Christ, you can. But WILL you? Here’s the excerpt:
In Bible Class this morning I was shaken up.
One of our congregations ministers  filled in for our class today and talked about Titus 2. The class was mostly older retired men and women.
He was brave enough to ask questions that made it clear God EXPECTS the older to teach the younger which is not only teens but for those in their 50s to mentor those in their 20s and 30s. He called many in that audience to step up to the plate. 
His wife commented and talked about how an older Christian man impacted her and she cried thinking of how he was more to her life than her physical grandfather.
I was especially moved by the wisdom of God because I, personally, have sought older Christian women and, although it’s only two or three women, I have made them the mothers in Christ that I need in order to raise my children in God’s ways and love my husband as God expects; to keep going when I feel defeated and to be my  hope when I do not know if I can persevere. 
I don’t know if you realize that it is hard for those of us who are NOT from Christian families to fit into God’s family because we feel lost many times. We even feel like we are intruding because the ones we look up to have kids (physical families) of their own. We need what older women are to us and are thankful when we get to be in their lives. We are orphans of a sort with emotional baggage but we “cry out” to the people of God and are blessed when people respond.
Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Titus 2:3-5

The War on Women

TV_Kelly_Trump-03b68-1973Yes. There’s a cultural war on women occurring in the United States today. Maybe even around the world. But it’s not perpetuated by the political right. It’s ideological in nature and it’s successfully stripping women of respect, purpose and integrity. In fact if I wanted to make sure that women were being sabotaged in this, the richest society in the world, here’s what I would do:

  1. First, I’d make her understand that she, along with her male counterparts, is just another rung on the evolutionary ladder; just another link in the Darwinian chain. No soul. No higher purpose. Just another animal. But the kicker for women, in this Darwinian scenario is that there is no explanation for her existence. No way to explain that she even is. Unlike the account she’s believed for millenniums about the fact that she completed and crowned God’s creation, I’d make her believe she was just a fluke somewhere in the billions of years of coincidences mixed with mistakes that made the universe and life what it is today. I’d do that first. Right off the bat I’d rip away that notion that she has spiritual or eternal significance.
  2. Next I think I would be sure I started young to make her “look” cheap. I think I’d put little outfits in all the stores that were composed of mini-skirts and halter tops and I’d start in size 2T. I’d make it difficult and expensive to dress a little girl like a little girl. I’d make the transition, in apparel, from little girl to worldly woman a very short leap.
  3. And I’d get her used to hearing demeaning terms for women and all kinds of sexual innuendos very early on. I would get her in front of the television as often as possible. I’d make her think that drinking and partying were the real “stuff” of happiness. I’d want her to play video games where the cartoon women are always scantily clad, provocative, tattoed, busty and brash. And then I’d play all this up in her real world the first chance I got. I’d want her to think wearing a tiny cheer uniform and moving her body provocatively was cool and, somehow (it’s beyond me) even respectable. I’d want her to have dance lessons, play volleyball in her panties or be on a running team or a swim team where the expected dress was almost nothing. I’d want her to start being comfortable letting people see her in a sports bra and I’d want her to have holes in her jeans in the places where cheap attention could be drawn to her body. This is an important part of what I’d do to make her forget the intrinsic value of her soul.
  4. Next, I’d target her heroines. I’d make the most important women in the country the rudest and the most immoral. I’d make the politically powerful women loud, dishonest and vulgar. I’d make the heroines of the entertainment world trashy. I’d make the top songs that women hear on the radio tout fornication, homosexual relationships and masturbation. I’d make women who are empty and unhappy be the role models. This would help me drain the very souls of  younger women of purpose and positive influence.
  5. Then, I’d make her believe she’s very dispensable by telling her that you don’t even need a woman anymore to have a marriage and a family. I’d do my best to get her to buy that lie.
  6. And based on that lie, I’d tell her that, in fact, womanhood is not even reserved for those who are born as girls. The female identity is easily taken by anyone who wants it.…It’s easy for Bruce to be Katelyn. All it takes is a change of wardrobe and a few hormones. Gender is not really a sacred assignment at all.  So quit spouting off about the virtues of womanhood, already.
  7. Next, I think I’d try to make her believe that a woman’s integrity is not all that important in a court of law. I’d tell her she’s too fragile to be able to withstand the pursuit of evidence. “If you cry ‘date rape,’ well they’ll just have to believe you, because your traumatized state is too weak and fragile to risk re-traumatization.  Your psyche might not be able to handle presentation of evidence, interrogation or cross-examination. You’re not strong enough to prove your own integrity.” (One story is here, but, be warned the triumphant victor in this courtroom is not discreet in her text messages. http://www.foxnews.com/us/2015/08/11/yes-means-yes-policy-coming-under-fire-from-judges/)
  8. But I wouldn’t stop there. I’d make her unashamed of the objectification of womanhood that happens to be the largest entertainment venue in America, today. In fact, I’d want her to go on and join the ranks of those who objectify people. I’d want her to watch “Fifty Shades of Gray.” Further, I’d want her to extol the literary virtues of the book, too. What better way to take away the dignity of women in our culture than to have them clamoring by the millions to the vile and cheap?
  9. Then I’d try to legalize the killing of life within her womb. I’d so mix up her sense of logic that I’d make her believe it is emancipating to let doctors come inside her womb and suction out the life that is dependent on her for survival. I’d take her sense of values to the very lowest possible point and convince her to be okay with selling the life that has her chromosomes, her hair color, her skin pigmentation and, yes, his or her own beating heart. I’d get her to have no conscience at all about the person who is being ripped apart and becoming merchandise. I’d somehow make her think she’s becoming more of a woman when she allows a violation of that magnitude to occur in her own womb.
  10. I’d make her believe her value lies in some numerical figure on a pay stub. I’d make her believe that true success can be counted in dollars and cents and that her intrinsic value is dependent on her ability to bring home the bacon (or wield power at the office or control accounts or successfully patronize important clients.) I’d do this in lots of ways, but I would not forget to build short maternity leave into job benefits and to build lots of day cares near, or in, her work sites. I’d try to make career pursuit in all situations seem normal and expected, and certainly guilt-free.  In fact, I might try and make women who were not career-minded seem lazy and worthless by comparison.
  11. Next, I’d try to downplay…no…remove from her psyche any maternal tugs. If she ever starts to cry when she has to leave that little six-week-old baby for the first day back at work, I’d make her think “Ah, this is just normal. All moms go through this healthy week of detaching from children. I need to get past this post-birth weepiness and be productive.” If her kids are getting sick a lot at daycare, I’d want her to, once again, justify her choices by thinking “Oh…this’ll be good for them in the long run…you know…build up their immunities.” In this step-by-step, day by day rationalization of dissonance in the plan, I’d slowly get her to stop feeling the tugs. I’d get her to incrementally forget that there is a reason for maternal pulls in her heart. Further, I’d get her to make investments and mortgages—I’d get her to buy things…lots of things.I’d get her in debt to the plan that’s silencing the maternal nature within. I’d do this until she couldn’t answer the cries even were she hearing them. I’d make those who are choosing riches for their kids over the raising of their kids defend this pursuit by always pointing out that “there are lots of women who have to work to put food on the table and we should not make those women feel guilty.”   I’d be happy about that argument if I were out to denigrate women, because, although that argument is irrelevant when the subject is choosing, it (the argument about needy women) would rally the troops who have already, to a large extent, driven our economy  and moral conscience to a place where, in some communities, virtually all women work full-time outside the home as their children are coming up.
  12. And finally, I’d give her applause. I’d give her lots of this and for all the superficial things.  I’d give her pats on the back and I’d make good, but deceived, women go, with a vengeance, after those who would call women back to the heart of womanhood. I’d make the cheapening, the immodesty, the brashness, the override of the maternal impulses—I’d make all that VERY politically correct. I’d make any reference to scriptures about submission or keeping the home seem terribly antiquated and out of place in any real discussion of the role of women. In fact, I’d make the phrase, “role of women” sound very oppressive and shockingly  outdated.

Oh…and after I’d managed to maneuver in all the above ways, I’d be sure to keep a close eye on the veritable army of faithful twenty-something and thirty-something moms within the Lord’s church who are in the Word and in prayer and determined that the devil is not having their kids. These are the ones, after all, who are raising up the fighters of the next generation. It’s not the millennials who are primarily about saving the trees, the right to “choose”, the rainforests or the human habitats that are protective of women in our society. It’s those millennials who are, first, about saving souls, respecting the Father, protecting life, itself, and aspiring to everlasting habitations that just may be able to raise up a generation that can secure all that has traditionally been good and right and holy about womanhood. And they are using the tools, too. They are networking globally, attending spiritual conventions and workshops, producing books, seeking mentors and studying THE manual for human elevation.  They are the ones I’d target if I were waging a war on women; and they’d be ruthless in their defense of traditional marriage, distinctive genders, disciplined children, ordered homes and moms who are, first of all, keepers of those homes.

So this is how I’d wage a real war on women. I mean if I really wanted to strip women in our culture of  power, I’d take away the legacy that is the inheritance of faith. If I wanted to rob women of dignity, I’d make them set, as their standards, the cheap, the undressed, the immoral. If I wanted to debase them, I’d dirty their minds with pornography and their hands with deceit. I’d make them say “abortion” when they mean “murder”.  I’d make them say “tolerance” when they mean “approval.”  I’d make them say “love” when they mean “lust.” I’d mix them up with terminology and I’d tempt them into thinking that the primary purpose of life is self-fulfillment. I’d make them think that truth for their lives and homes is not objective but “lies within themselves”.   All in all, I’d go for their hearts. That’s just what the devil has done.

The current war on women is not from the political right or from the oppressive religions of the Middle East. The war on women today is from hell, itself, and the devil is gaining ground. He is taking the spoils—the real commodities of value—from women. He is giving us a mess of pottage that is temporarily filling in exchange for the faith and goodness that has characterized great women from the dawn of time. And so it will not be in some presidential debate or even in Congress or the Supreme Court chambers that the war is won or lost. It will be in the hearts of women and in the families of America. It will all depend on whether women are smart enough and strong enough to recognize and resist the cultural attack on the real power of women.

Sin Celebration

images-2The pain in my soul is unspeakable. The promotion of damnation just hurts me deeply. I see it more and more each day. Millennials who have grown up in the body of our Lord, who have been to Bible classes multiple times weekly, attended our Christian camps and Christian universities—-those young people…OUR young people—boasting about their acceptance of homosexuality and encouraging their friends who are coming out of the closet. Some attend Sunday denominational services, on occasion, rather than meeting with the saints, to hear a message from an old friend, who once was a Christian and now is a gay “priest”. They quote scriptures about love as if love is a magical umbrella that erases sin. Sin, you know, is the very reason for the greatest act of love ever accomplished, the death of the Son of God at Calvary. If we believe the New Testament at all, we know that every one of these precious souls is lost; influenced by the culture to sacrifice eternal life for the protection and approval of what the scriptures call “vile affections”. The plain truth is “…though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” (Romans 1:32)

That part “…though they know God’s decree” really is painful. That puts young people who have heard the reading of Romans 1 and I Corinthians 6 all of their lives squarely in this verse. They know. The sinfulness of homosexuality is not an old wives’ tale that has nothing to do with truth. I do not know how God would have made it more clear than he did. These millennials know what He said. They’re just proudly and defiantly rejecting Him.

That part, “God’s decree” is scary, too. The condemnation of homosexuality is not a nuance in scripture—Old Testament or New. It is a strong “decree.” There are some passages that are shrouded in symbolism or must be read in context for clear meaning. These about homosexuality are not among them.

That part “deserve to die” grabs my broken heart, too. Jesus did NOT deserve to die. But He did it for me, a sinner—the one who did deserve to die. He did it so that I could escape the corruption of sin. How can young people (or old) who know the truth of His Word, proudly say “Bring on the sin!” ? And the young people of which I write tonight are the ones who DID escape. Most had parents who taught them how to escape. They knew the Lord. They knew the way of righteousness. That means the end of sin, for them, is worse than the beginning.

For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. (II Peter 2:20, 21)

And finally that part about “giving approval” is the most sobering to me. Most of the millennials I know who are speaking out in boastful tones about this sin are not practicing it. Most of them are not even tempted by it. Most of them are just on the bandwagon of “approval.” They are, in a sense, according to this verse, sacrificing their eternal souls for a sin that they do not even want to commit. They are lashing out at faithful young people who would dare to try and convert a homosexual from that sinful lifestyle. They are, in a big way showing “approval”. They reserve the word “sinner,” in fact, to describe those who would condemn, as God did, the sin of homosexuality.

The rhetoric of these “free-thinking” millennials is full of “Let Him who is without sin cast the first stone.”  Let’s examine that briefly.

It’s important to remember in that context of John 8:7, Jesus was talking literally about whether or not to stone a woman…to death. When people, on Facebook, caustically caution each other about casting the first stone, they are generally not speaking about picking up a rock and throwing it. (None of the young people I know who are still calling homosexuality a “sin” are literally picking up stones.) It is even more important to remember that our Lord said to the woman caught in adultery “…go and sin no more.” He identified the behavior as sin and commanded her to stop sinning. People who believe the Word and love souls today will still do the same.

I want the people of God to refrain from committing the sin of homosexuality, because those who commit it and fail to repent cannot have heaven (I Corinthian 6: 9-11) But, if I’m trying to reach a soul for heaven, I think my chances are better with a person who is practicing homosexuality while admitting that it is sin and being ashamed of that sin than with a person who is not practicing the sin, but is applauding those who do. Both are lost according to the text in Romans. Both are worthy of death. But one recognizes that God’s Word is truth while the other either rejects the very plain teachings of the Word or defies them. One is troubled because of sin. The other celebrates it. The Prodigal Son was not in the mood for coming home while the celebration and riot were happening in the far country. Neither are the celebrants today…these mostly millennials who are shouting their words of encouragement to friends who are “coming out”. They are enjoying the celebration.

But mark it down. Celebrations of sin never end well. Romans 1 is clear about that, too:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth (vs. 18).

Life is short and all the people I love who are suppressing God’s truth about homosexuality will die one day and stand before the King. The thought of those who “knew his decree” standing before Him having openly praised those who committed and promoted the sin of homosexuality or any other sin, makes me shudder. Such a waste of knowledge! Such a squandering of influence and opportunity. Such a blight on the body of Christ. Such a deliberate rejection of the Father’s will. Again, the words of Romans 1 come to mind: “without excuse.” To be without excuse before a fellow human being—my husband or my employer—is not fun. But to be without excuse before God on the day when he divides the sheep and the goats…?  I can hardly bear to think about it.

 

Sister to Sister: Like Mother, Like Daughter Part Eleven

Jezebal and Athaliah and Deathblood-sun

Maybe Athaliah had heard the words of the prophet in the vineyard of Naboth when he foretold the tragic deaths of her parents:

 

And you shall say to him, Thus says the LORD, Have you killed and also taken possession? And you shall say to him, Thus says the LORD: In the place where dogs licked up the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick your own blood (I Kings 21:19). 

 

And of Jezebel the LORD also said, The dogs shall eat Jezebel within the walls of Jezreel. Anyone belonging to Ahab who dies in the city the dogs shall eat, and anyone of his who dies in the open country the birds of the heavens shall eat (I Kings 21:23,24).

 

In fact, she likely had rehearsed these words many times in her mind.  She had seen other prophecies of Elijah come to pass.  Perhaps she had been startled in the night by nightmares about the dogs licking the blood of her father and the dogs eating her mother.  It had to come as no surprise when she heard about the death of her mother:

 

When Jehu came to Jezreel, Jezebel heard of it. And she painted her eyes and adorned her head and looked out of the window. And as Jehu entered the gate, she said, Is it peace, you Zimri, murderer of your master? And he lifted up his face to the window and said, Who is on my side? Who? Two or three eunuchs looked out at him. He said, Throw her down. So they threw her down. And some of her blood spattered on the wall and on the horses, and they trampled on her( II Kings 9:30-33).

 

Jezebel must have anticipated the mission of Jehu.  She must have known that her time was at hand.  She even called Jehu a murderer as he approached that infamous wall of Jezreel.  But she wanted to go out in a blaze of glory.  She made sure every hair was in place and her make-up was just right, including her eyeliner and mascara (II Kings 9:30).  Maybe Jezebel thought that since she wasn’t likely to get a proper funeral, she’d at least look good as she perished.  She looked pretty as the servants shoved her from the top of the wall.  But then as her body bounced on the side of the stone wall, she wasn’t very pretty any more. Her blood spattered the wall and the very horses that trampled her body.  A little while later when Jehu’s men came to gather her remains for burial and they found nothing but her hands, her feet, and her skull, she was certainly not the vision of loveliness she had envisioned in front of the mirror earlier that day.  The dogs in Naboth’s neighborhood once again had fulfilled the words of the prophet. It was not a pretty picture.  It was so grotesque that Jezebel’s body looked like refuse on the ground so that she was not even recognizable.  Since they were gathering her remains for burial, one might suppose that Athaliah could have seen those remains.  Jehu, after all, indicated that there should be some ceremony for her burial, “since she was a king’s daughter” (II Kings 9:34).  Athaliah at least knew about the situation of her mother’s demise.  She must have been nauseated by the images.   But then again, the end result of sin is never as lovely as the sinner has imagined.

And finally, the end came for Athaliah. She must have pushed the images of Ahab’s death in the vineyard from her mind.  She must have silenced the haunting voice of her mother Jezebel’s scream as she was pushed from the wall of Jezreel.  Every time she heard a pack of dogs bark, she must have quickly diverted her attention elsewhere.  She had seen every detailed prophecy of the Lord against her family come to pass. The terror of the Lord must have haunted her as she reigned over Judah for six years following the death of her son.  She was unaware of the little boy, Joash, who was quickly growing up in the house of God.  It’s ironic that they could successfully hide Joash in God’s house.  I guess that was the one place they were sure Athaliah would not visit!

It was just another day, when Athaliah overheard a tumult around the temple.  People were running jubilantly and there was a loud sound of cheering. And then Athaliah saw him. It was young Joash, the seven year old son of her husband Jehoram.  “How had this happened? Did I miss one of the children? Why they are blowing the trumpets, shouting ‘Long live the king!’ and singing to this little boy? Look! There is a crown on his head!”

And then, above the sounds of the trumpets, all of the instruments, the shouting and the singing, Athaliah’s all too familiar voice could be hear hysterically shouting “Treason! Treason!”  As she rent her clothes and screamed her dissent, the priest Jehoida was ready for her.  His commanders were at bay just waiting for the directions once they had seized her.  Jehoida’s orders were to take her away from the temple before they put the sword through her. After all, there were impressionable children around the pillars of the temple, one of whom needed a clear mind as he grew into the kingship of Judah (II Chronicles 23:1-21; II Kings 11:4-21)!

 

“And the city was quiet because Athaliah had been slain by the sword” (II Chronicles 23:21).

 

How will it be when you die?  Will there be a “city” or group of people around you who find some measure of peace because you are gone?  More importantly, will your children find any comfort when your spirit leaves your body?  Will they know that you rest with the Lord?  Will heaven become dearer to your children after you’ve passed from this life, because they know you will be there?  Will you face the terror of the Lord when you die?  What of your children?  Will they, as it were, be running and screaming and tearing their clothes? Or will they be carried by the angels to a place of bliss (Luke 16:22)?  They will likely follow you in death.  But where will they follow you?