Sister to Sister: Guard the Perimeter

 

 

One evening recently I was visiting and enjoying sweet fellowship on the lawn of a church building in our area. It was almost dusk and cars were passing regularly on the highway several  feet away.  I had my grandson, Ezra, who is two years old with me that night, and he was having a good time running on the sidewalk, climbing the stairs and playing in the bushes. I noticed a frantic sister go and catch him when he neared the sidewalk that paralleled the highway. “Come back! Don’t go near the road,” she said as she ran to make sure he didn’t go in the street. I appreciated her care for Ezra.

That sister probably thought I was a negligent grandmother, letting Ezra play in that yard adjacent to the street. I appreciated her concern. The truth was that while, of course, I wanted Ezra to stay far from the highway, I really didn’t think he would go past that sidewalk. Earlier that day, I had experienced a very hard time convincing Ezra that it was okay for him to ride his scooter on our asphalt driveway…because he thought our driveway was a “woad”. Ezra doesn’t go near the street because his parents have trained him to keep a certain distance between himself and the road. 

We parents and grandparents do this. We give our children boundaries that keep them from danger. They know not only to keep out of the road, but to keep a prohibited space between themselves and the street. They know not to touch the fire, but also to stay back from it. Not to jump off the cliff, but also to stay back from its edge. We do not sit our young children down in front of a mixture of M&Ms and deadly drugs and let them pick out the M&Ms to eat. 

But do we do this spiritually? We fail to guard the perimeter of sin—the area that may still be out of the world, but is so close to its dangers that our children let their guards down. It’s the perimeter…the area all around the danger. It’s the places where the world backs right up to the church. It’s that area where the “ pleasure of sin” (Hebrews 11:25 ), allures the senses of our children but its stench can’t quite reach their noses. While we do not want our children to stop attending worship, do we give them our permission to miss it for a very hard test or a very “important” ballgame? (The root word “game” is operative. It’s a game.) We do not want our teens to commit fornication, but we let them “play” in the zone of temptation. We let them watch movies that glorify it. We let them go to dances that promote lust. We let them read books that normalize it and we let them dress immodestly to attract the attention of those of the opposite sex. We let them play very close to that street. We don’t want them to grow up to be gambling addicts, but, of course, we would never deny them the opportunity to participate in the raffle to raise money for their school. (One day the whole state lottery will be about “money for education”.) Do we not see the spiritual danger of allowing our kids to be casual around the perimeter of the world? …Of getting too close to the fire, too near to the street, or of letting them choose the M&Ms before they can distinguish the difference?

Every one of us has the roaring lion (I Peter 5:8) seeking and we may even have the devil sifting (Luke 22:31). His best efforts are expended on the young. His best chance to get your kids is around the edge of your spirituality. Oh that we, as parents, would be as diligent about those dangers as we are about the ones that can only harm our children in this lifetime. The devil’s street traffic can make your kids die eternally. Let’s make spiritual safety zones that make it safer for them. It’s just easier to keep them far from that street while they are young than to watch them venture out when we no longer get to set the perameters for them. 

Let’s guard the spiritual perimeters.


 

 

Sister to Sister: Seminar with a Guarantee

unmadebedA father who wears the name “Christian” reveals to his recently divorced wife and to his teenage children that he is a practicing homosexual. A young minister’s wife leaves her husband for another man. A young married couple walk down the aisle to ask for the prayers of their church family as they struggle to hold a marriage together in the wake of revelations of adultery on the parts of both spouses. A young woman, raised in the body, lashes out at Christians who try to convince her to stop living in fornication with her boyfriend. A young woman stops just short of fornication after inviting a friend into her apartment when he drops by to return something she had left in his car. She’s not sure if he is a married man or not.

These scenarios have a few things in common. First, they are all real scenarios–situations about which Glenn or I have been contacted within the last two weeks. Second, and sadly, they all involve people who were once faithful New Testament Christians. Third, they all involve sexual sin.

The devil loves to attack the people of God with sexual temptation. He did it to one of the families in the church of Christ at Corinth (I Corinthians 5). He did it to the church in Thyatira through that wicked woman, Jezebel, in Revelation 2:20. We should never let our guards down in our homes and congregations when it comes to sexual purity. If the devil can get us to succumb to fornication, he has succeeded in defiling our temples (I Cor. 6:19), inflicting injury to our bodies (I Cor. 6:18), grasping glory from our Lord (I Cor. 6:20) and endangering our congregations (I Cor, 5: 6). It’s a big win for the devil.

Through our society, which is saturated with pornography, sexual content in entertainment venues and so-called “tolerance of sexual choices”, our children are often targeted by Satan at very early ages. In fact, I would venture to say that if your children enter God-approved marriages having maintained sexual purity throughout the dating years, it will not be accidental. It will result from intentional parenting and early decision-making that happens primarily in the home.

But intentional parents will also take advantage of resources that help enable kids to make early choices for purity. Let me illustrate it this way:

Suppose I told you that a seminar was occurring in a couple of weeks about ACT test preparation. Suppose I told you that tips would be given at this seminar and that I could guarantee that, if you diligently applied all of these tips, your child would be able to score a 33 or above on the ACT during her senior year of high school. You, being the smart mom you are, would have made your plans in the first thirty seconds of a New York minute to be at that seminar.

Suppose I told you that a seminar was occurring in a couple of weeks about preparation for sexual purity. Suppose I told you that tips would be given at this seminar and that I could guarantee that, if you diligently applied all of these tips, your child would be able to navigate the single years in sexual purity. Would you make plans to be at that seminar?

The difference between the two scenarios may be more than singular. But one difference is this: No one can guarantee your child a 30 on the ACT. But I really can guarantee that tips will be given at any purity seminar at which I speak that, if diligently applied, will take your child through the single years in purity. This, of course, is true, not because I’m giving the advice, but because it emanates from the Creator Who knows what’s good for your child and Who made a way of escape from every temptation (I Cor. 10:13).

I understand that you can get this advice without coming to a seminar (We all read the same book.) I know it may not be possible for you to come. I know your child can navigate the teen years in purity even if she doesn’t come to a seminar. Many have successfully done it. All the same, though, using every tool available is a great idea in this sex-saturated climate.

So here is just one upcoming seminar. If you live within driving distance of Pulaski, Tennessee, I hope to see you there. It’s just one stop on a long journey we’re making together to a place where impurity will be a thing of the past. Can’t wait for that! Register Here!

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That Was Epic!

So perhaps we do go a bit overboard on the fireworks display for New Year’s Eve on the Holder side of the family. But this year we really had a lot of fireworks on hand. Grandaddy had asked Ben to get them at the Fireworks Superstore on the Alabama/Georgia state line, since he thought his local store wasn’t going to be open. Turns out his store did open up and he bought a bunch, himself. But, somehow, through splotchy family transmission lines, Ben didn’t get that memo. So we had a Grandaddy-sized double stash on the premises.

It was kind of hard to wait till dark. It was going to be a good, clear and relatively warm night for fireworks and some of the guys had them pre-stacked and ready to rock, out on the basketball court. “A smooth, hard surface that’s a good distance from any trees” –that’s what the directions required.

“Well, since the court has trees, on either side, let’s just set this concrete block out in the pasture a few feet from the court. We can launch them from there and the kids can all watch from the basketball court.” Good plan. Good stash. Good food, first, and then we’ll just wait for dark.

It was sweatshirt weather. Nobody even had on a coat. We extinguished all lights, so the glow of the fireworks would be brilliant. And it was. We could only ever-so-briefly recognize each other in he momentary reflection of the vibrant exploding gases in the sky. We’re always all over that court, taking photographs, laughing, bumping into each other and jumping at the loud blasts. “Piedaddy,” as the grandfather is affectionately called, was sitting on one end of the court in a chair positioned where he could get the full effect.

Then something went frightfully wrong. One of the huge boxes of fireworks jolted when the fuse hit the first rocket. The entire box of near professional-sized displays fell sideways off the block and the remainder of the rockets fired off with super speed in the direction of the cars, the house, the grandfather and all eighteen spectators. Laughter, for those who knew the danger, quickly turned to screams of terror. My brother, John went over and stood in front of our dad, to protect him from the speeding balls of fire. Children were shouting at each other as they looked for hiding places. I was shouting from behind a bush at Glenn to “Please get off the concrete!” as he lingered around the exploding box in a useless effort to try and stop the seemingly eternal blasts from continuing. It was reminiscent of some of the war movies I have seen.

But when the last blast had sounded and the last ball of fire had been extinguished, we immediately accounted for every person. Only two men had taken direct hits: Caleb, who had his hand in his jacket pocket and (believe it or not) whose large ring had deflected the fireball, and Blake, who had a small cut on his abdomen where he had actually been hit and somehow it cut him, even through his clothes. A few moments earlier, the patio had looked like it was on fire. There was fire on top of the house which had to be 60 yards or so, at least, from the launching site. There were people running and screaming and Glenn was dancing a jig out there on the court. And, then, at the crucial accounting moment, everyone was safe and we just might all live to do this (well not this, EXACTLY) next year.

Here are a couple of lists that come to mind upon reflection.

Things that could have prevented potential disaster:

  1. The “fireworks director” could have used a little more experience. Sometimes lots of things in life require a bit more.
  2. The base of the launching site could have been a little more solid and smooth. Sometimes a better foundation is very helpful.
  3. The spectators could have been a little further from the launching pad. Sometimes distance from the action is a plus.

Things that likely did prevent potential disaster (or at least a mishap):

  1. Enoch, who is the shortest member of the family had just been instructed to “Go and put that bag of potato chips back in the kitchen. Those are to go with the dip, later.” Now if he had been hit, it would have been in the face and not the abdomen.
  2. Sami, who has a knack for bringing up the rear, was in the house–in the bathroom, to be exact, so she was not bringing up the rear in escaping the explosion site. She hadn’t even made it out there yet. (It would have been good if we could have heard her yelling that she was okay, however, when, at the accounting moment, she was nowhere to be found.)
  3. Someone shouted, “Close that door, Enoch!” just as he slammed the sliding patio door and it was immediately hit by a ball of fire headed directly for him.
  4. The ring.
  5. The amazing safety precautions that were taken for the rest of the show once we gathered our senses and continued with the rest of the fireworks.
  6. Those who hit the ground behind the bushes or the workshop.

Lessons:

  1. It’s a bit ironic to think about the fact that the beautiful exploding balls of fire that we “ooh and aah” about when they are up in the sky aren’t pretty at all when they are chasing us at waist height. It’s kind of like some of God’s blessings. They are very pretty when experienced in the place God intended them to be. And they are quite dangerous when experienced otherwise. (I’m thinking of marital intimacy vs. fornication, here.)
  2. It’s sobering to think about how that, once those little bombs are detonated, there’s no stopping them, slowing them or reversing their direction. Sometimes sin is like that. We can reverse our sin as long as it is in the thought stage or the desire stage. But once we take certain actions, we cannot alter decisions. There is often no undoing the damage of sin.
  3. It’s strange to think about how that not one of us out on that concrete pad was thinking about imminent danger. We were doing the same activity that has brought us delight on so many prior occasions, when, suddenly, we found ourselves in a seemingly desperate situation. Sometimes temptation is like that. The devil loves to find us when we are comfortable and unaware of danger. It’s at those times when we feel relaxed being close to the fire that we become susceptible to being burned. “Can a man take fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burned?” (Prov. 6:27).
  4. There was no chance that Sami was going to be burned because she was not at the event. All of the people out there on the court were at risk. But, since she was not there, she never even felt threatened. She was completely safe because she was somewhere else. Sometimes events are best unattended. While the fireworks show was an innocent event and the mishap was unexpected, some events where sinful activities are occurring, should be permeated with the absence of Christians. Parties where drinking is involved, dances, and places where the normal clothing (or lack thereof) might cause lust are best completely avoided. You will not be in danger of participating in the typical sinful behavior that occurs in these environments if you are simply not there.
  5. Unselfish big people can protect weaker, smaller people.My brother is 6’8 1/2”. While my dad was behind him, there was no worries about Dad’s safety. Isn’t it that way spiritually,as well? If bigger, more mature Christians will watch out for the weaker Christians, their survival rate will soar. Galatians six, verse one, tells the one who is spiritual to restore the one who may be overtaken in a fault. I Corinthians 8 is all about the stronger taking care not to wound the conscience of the weak. And Jesus pronounced His woe on the one who would offend the little one or cause him to stumble. He actually said it would be better for a millstone to be hung about the offender’s neck and for him to be cast into the depths of the sea (Matthew 18:6).
  6. Sometimes it is better to just get out of a situation in which you face danger. All I wanted that night was for everyone to clear the area. I did not want my husband staying behind to try and manage that box of fireworks. I wanted EVERYONE to get gone and get hidden. Some “fires” in our lives are like that. Joseph ran when faced with the temptation of Potiphar’s wife. I often tell young girls that the best defense against fornication may be a good pair of Nike’s and the king’s highway. If you feel tempted to commit a sexual sin, just get out of there!
  7. It was really good that Enoch obeyed the voice that yelled “Close that door!” He didn’t know there was a war zone outside. He could not have known there was danger. But he obeyed anyway. We, like children, must obey the Father’s voice even when it doesn’t compute in our human brains. Obedience just when it makes perfect sense to me is not real obedience.
  8. The distance traveled by those little fireballs was truly amazing. The launching site really was pretty far away from the house. Yet, when those rockets started traveling an unobstructed path in the wrong direction, they were unstoppable. Sometimes influence is like that. It can go a long way and do a lot of damage if it gets started in the wrong direction. I have talked to older members of the body who would give anything if they had just been faithful to the Lord while their children were growing up. But now they are old. Their children are grown and are far away from the faith. These elderly Christians are full of faith, but their influence went a long way in an earlier time when it was pointed in the wrong direction.

Miriam, who is thirteen said this: “Now that it’s over and everyone is safe, I am officially allowed to say, ‘Those fireworks were EPIC!’” They were. It’s funny now to think about that picture of people who are fairly large and who had just overeaten running like crazy from colorful little bombs and tripping over each other. It’s cartoonish now to think about Blake on the ground and Abel (who weighs a hundred or more pounds less) thinking he could go “scoop up whoever was wounded over there.” It’s nice reflecting on lessons learned from the fireworks Armageddon. But I don’t think I want to do it again anytime soon.