Posts Tagged 'Days of Our Lives'

The Days of Our Lives, Part 4

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Depending on your spiritual state, your impending demise is either the greatest fear you’ll ever face, or the greatest journey you’ll ever take.  For the Christian, it’s the latter.  For unbelievers, the end of life is a tragic time filled with fear, anxiety, and uncertainty.  But Christians understand there is no tragedy in death, and there is no need to be anxious because there is no uncertainty.  We also understand that this world is temporal; that nothing on the earth, including us, is meant to last forever.  In his novella, The Langoliers, author Stephen King describes how time is winding down for everybody and everything, and how nobody can stop that from happening:

We know what happens to today when it becomes yesterday.  It waits for them.  It waits for them, the timekeepers of eternity.  Always following them behind, cleaning up the mess in the most efficient way possible: by eating it. 

Well, Stephen King is no theologian, but he is right about one thing:  you can’t outrun what he called “the langoliers,” those timekeepers of eternity, that stalk all of us. They are called other names:  Father Time, the Grim Reaper; but Christians call the great enemy of all men Death.  But Death’s days are numbered and he is nothing more than an inconvenience to Christians.  Death has been taken care of:

“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”  “Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?”  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  (1 Corinthians 15:54 – 57 | NIV84)

The Bible gives us some powerful and profound insights into eternity and the blessed hope that sustains believers through all the days of their lives.

We belong to the Lord

Upon the death of his friend Lazarus, Jesus had a conversation with his sister that went like this:

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me will live, even though they die; 26 and those who live and believe in me will never die. Do you believe this?”. (John 11:25-26 | GNTCE) 

The story of Lazarus “coming forth” from his tomb is well-known.  It’s so well-known that a lot of people miss the subtle nuances of its details.  “Lazarus,” the name of Jesus’ friend who was so ill he died, means, “one whom God helps,” and it’s a good thing that was his name because he needed a lot help.  When our Lord was notified of his good friend’s looming death, here’s His curious response:

When Jesus heard it, he said, “The final result of this sickness will not be the death of Lazarus; this has happened in order to bring glory to God, and it will be the means by which the Son of God will receive glory.” (John 11:4 | GNTCE) 

Lazarus’ death wasn’t about Lazarus, it was about Jesus.  It’s always about Jesus – everything in our lives, or our eventual death, has little enough to do with us but everything to with our Lord.  Paul glommed on to this idea when he wrote to a couple of churches:

Everything you do or say, then, should be done in the name of the Lord Jesus, as you give thanks through him to God the Father.  (Colossians 3:17 | GNTCE) 

Well, whatever you do, whether you eat or drink, do it all for God’s glory. (1 Corinthians 10:31 | GNTCE) 

Your life should glorify God, and so should your death.  When Jesus showed up a little late, Lazarus was dead and, as everybody’s knows, “Jesus wept.”  There’s no question as to why Jesus, the Son of God, wept.  Lazarus’ sister Martha came up to Jesus and this happened:

Martha said to Jesus, “If you had been here, Lord, my brother would not have died!  (John 11:21 | GNTCE) 

We human beings must seem mighty odd to the Lord.  Martha obviously had faith in Jesus, but her faith was not so much based on Him but on what she thought about Him. She thought He needed to be there personally, and so she was distraught when He didn’t show up in time.  Poor Martha.  If she only knew the truth.  What Martha thought others thought:

But some of them said, “He gave sight to the blind man, didn’t he? Could he not have kept Lazarus from dying?” (John 11:37 | GNTCE) 

These folks weren’t being mean, they were filled with grief.  There’s nothing wrong with grief, but how a Christian grieves speaks volumes about his faith – or his lack of faith.  Jesus was about to not only help Lazarus, but also Martha and Mary; He’s going to teach them something about what faith is all about.  Martha definitely had a dynamic faith, but it wasn’t complete.  He was about to make it complete.  Martha, for her part, believed in a “final resurrection,” as most Jews of her day did.  But Jesus, in His next few comments, points out how close the resurrection really is:  The Resurrection is right beside her; it’s not just a future event, it’s a present reality.  The basis of our Lord’s statement about His being the resurrection and the life is summed up nicely by William Law:

You are to think of yourself as only existing in this world to do God’s will.  To think that you are your own is as absurd as to think you are self-created.  It is an obvious first principle that you belong completely to God.

Jesus’ response to Martha’s grief shouts hope to all grieving over the loss of a loved one:

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me will live, even though they die; and those who live and believe in me will never die. Do you believe this?”  (John 11:25-26 | GNTCE) 

All life is in the hands of Jesus.  He is the giver of life, and for those who believe in Him, even though they appear to die, they don’t really.  To prove the point, Jesus called out Lazarus from his tomb and the man who had been dead for three days, walked out alive, in need of a shower and a good meal.

But this event is incomplete without something Jesus said earlier, at another graveyard, under different circumstances:

“I am telling you the truth: those who hear my words and believe in him who sent me have eternal life. They will not be judged, but have already passed from death to life. I am telling you the truth: the time is coming—the time has already come—when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear it will come to life.  Just as the Father is himself the source of life, in the same way he has made his Son to be the source of life. And he has given the Son the right to judge, because he is the Son of Man.  Do not be surprised at this; the time is coming when all the dead will hear his voice and come out of their graves: those who have done good will rise and live, and those who have done evil will rise and be condemned.”  (John 5:24-29 | GNTCE) 

After reading that, Jesus’ question to Martha needs to be answered honestly:  Do you believe this?  If you do, God will be glorified in your death or the death of your loved one because you will grieve according to what you believe and you will face your death in faith, using the last event of your life as a way to testify to what you believe. Paul tried to explain this “big picture” attitude to the Romans:

We do not live for ourselves only, and we do not die for ourselves only. If we live, it is for the Lord that we live, and if we die, it is for the Lord that we die. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.  (Romans 14:7-8 | GNTCE)

It takes faith, and Spurgeon expressed the essence of the issue best when he wrote:

When the time comes for you to die, you need not be afraid, because death cannot separate from from God’s love. 

No fear of death 

The one thing all human beings have in common is the fear of death.  From the first moment a child figures out what death is and to varying degrees the fear of dying dogs that person until it is realized.   Unlike so many fears we have that never materialize, fear of death will – death is absolutely unavoidable.  However, for the Christian there ought to be no fear of death.  Apprehension, perhaps.  Some anxiety, maybe.  But fear?  Never!

Psalm 23 was written by David.  He was uniquely qualified to write a psalm from the shepherd’s perspective.  Over the course of his life, David was a shepherd, a writer, and a king.  

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.  (Psalm 23:4 | KJV) 

It wasn’t unusual to view one’s King as a sort of shepherd; many other ancient cultures did.  For example, the god of the Babylonians, Marduk, was viewed as a divine shepherd.  Of this god was written:

You shepherd all living creatures together, you are their herds-man, above and below. 

One ancient Sumerian wisdom text has a couple of sentences that parallel closely Psalm 23:

A man’s personal god is a shepherd who finds pasturage for him. Let him lead him like sheep to the grass they can eat. 

All this proves, of course, is that deep within all people is this universal need to be led, cared for, and protected by someone greater than themselves.  

The KJV’s translation of “the shadow of death,” may or may not be 100% accurate.  David might have meant, “deep shadows,” as in, “the valley of deep shadows.”  Either way, the sense is the same. Through all of life’s moments of uncertainty, fear, and anxiety, the Good Shepherd leads His sheep – His people.  The ultimate period of uncertainty, fear and anxiety surely occurs when one is facing the end of life.  The thing is this, though:  If you’ve trusted the Lord through all the dark valleys of your life, how can you NOT trust Him as you approach death?  You and I view death as the end of life, but a more accurate way to view death is merely a continuation of life – a sort of “getting on with” our promised eternal life.  Hellen Keller’s thoughts on the subject are meaningful:

Death is no more than passing from one room into another.  But there’s a difference for me, you know.  Because in that other room, I shall be able to see. 

Now there’s the right attitude!  No fear for Ms Keller!  She was looking for something better after death than what she had during her life.  And so should we.

And so we come back to what Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

O death, where then your victory? Where then your sting? For sin-the sting that causes death-will all be gone; and the law, which reveals our sins, will no longer be our judge.  How we thank God for all of this! It is he who makes us victorious through Jesus Christ our Lord!  (1 Corinthians 15:55 – 57 |TLB) 

When a Christian dies, Death has no victory.  There is no sting in death for the Christian.  The thing that causes people to fear death is the way they lived their lives.  Did they live well enough to avoid punishment?  Some may regret that they didn’t express some kind of faith in God, “just in case,” and now it’s too late.  This is what people think of as they feel the cold breath of the Grim Reaper on the back of their necks.  But the Christian never needs to worry about that because Jesus Christ, through His work on the Cross and His resurrection, has done away the worry about your life.  If you’ve confessed Jesus Christ as Savior, then you may experience the same kind of victory over death Jesus did.  It didn’t hold Him in the ground.  Jesus experienced the death you should have so would never have to.  You get to avoid all that He experienced in dying because He experienced it for you.  

Now, granted, it takes faith to believe that.  But isn’t that what Christianity is all about?  Except for Christians who are alive at the Second Coming, everyone will face death.  You can’t avoid it.  If you aren’t sure about the state of your soul, why take the chance?  Trust in Jesus – make Him Lord of your life and the Savior of your soul.

The Days of Our Lives, Part 3

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Admit it, you have a love/hate relationship with late middle age, or the “senior years.”  That hate part begins around age 50 when you get your first letter from the AARP.  Why are they sending me this?, you may ask indignantly. The love part kicks in when your car insurance goes down because of your age.  The kids are grown and gone, the house is paid off, and if retirement is your thing, then you may look forward to that.  Still, you cope with aches and pains you didn’t have before, yet all of a sudden it seems as though the print in books or labels and newspapers got small and people mumble a lot more than they used to.  And where once you took only an aspirin once in a while, now you’re having to count out your pills before you drink your morning cup of coffee.

There can be great joy in getting older, but also anxiety and, for some of us frustration and sometimes even a little bit of melancholy, as we stare into the mirror at the that old person looking back and we wonder where the years went.  And for some, when they realize the years ahead are far fewer than the years behind, the gloom of depression hangs on and won’t let go.

Bruce Springstein, surely the luckiest entertainer in America, wrote a song about some friends who live in the past because they don’t like the way their lives turned out.  To them, the “Glory Days” are long gone.

But Springstein isn’t the only one who feels that the best years are past.  A lot of folks in their middle age think this way.  Christians may also be tempted to feel this way, but we should think twice, and here’s why.

God remains ever faithful 

If the Lord delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.  I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsake nor their children begging bread.  They are always generous and lend freely;their children will be blessed.  (Psalms 37:23c-26 | NIV84) 

David wrote this psalm, and of course that last verse is simply the Lord saying that He will keep the promise He made to Abraham and successive generations.  But that small paragraph really packs a wallop, though.  The NIV84 is correct in making things conditional:  “If the Lord delights in a man’s ways,” then He will do something good for that man – he will “make his steps firm.”  In other words, if God likes what He sees a man doing, God will “establish” – “make firm” – that man’s steps.  This is a righteous man, not an evil man.  God will give a righteous man what he needs to help him along.  The righteous are not left up to their own devices.

Something else David learned in his old age was that though a righteous person be poor, they may still be blessed by God.  And if they “stumble” and if they fall off the spiritual wagon, God will be there to put him back on.  The psalmist has realized only what may be discovered when looking in the rear view mirror of life:  God was always wanted faithful, He remains faithful now, and he knows that God will always be faithful.  Charles Spurgeon wrote:

A changeable God would be a terror to the righteous; they would have no sure anchorage, and amid a changing world they would be driven to and fro in perpetual fear of shipwreck.  Our heart leaps for joy as we bow before the One who has never broken His word or changed His purpose. 

An odd thing that happens as we age, for most of us anyway, is that our hair turns gray.  Some folks like to wash that gray out every few weeks, but the book of Proverbs tries to make us feel good about the gray:

Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life.  (Proverbs 16:31 | NIV84) 

Now, this is a proverb and it’s very general.  We all know gray-headed people who are not at all righteous.  What this particular proverb teaches is that generally speaking, throughout history a person who has lived long enough to have gray hair is proof of God’s blessings.  Lifespans during Old Testament times was quite a bit shorter than today; a lot of people didn’t live long enough to have gray hair. God’s blessings will always be evident, but no more so than a long life.

Here’s an interesting contrast:

The glory of young men is their strength, gray hair the splendor of the old.  (Proverbs 20:29 | NIV84) 

God blesses His people in different ways at every stage of life.  Just because you’re older and don’t have the energy you had a few years ago, doesn’t mean the Lord is finished with you.

Victories ahead! 

Just because you’re older and gray headed, doesn’t mean that you should retire from serving the Lord, either.  Somebody who lived a long life was a fellow by the name of Caleb, and here’s how he felt about his old age:

I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh Barnea to explore the land. And I brought him back a report according to my convictions…  (Joshua 14:7 | NIV84) 

“Now then, just as the Lord promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the desert. So here I am today, eighty-five years old!  I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then.   Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.” . Joshua 14:10-12 | NIV84) 

Can you imagine?  Eighty-five years old and still fighting – not forgetting God’s promises and still looking forward to victory!  And Caleb was indeed victorious once again.  The idea of “retirement” is a fairly recent phenomenon in America.  Once upon a time, a generation or two ago, people didn’t retire; they kept working as long as they could.  The notion that you could stop working while still in good health and travel or garden or whatever was unknown to our grandparents.  Not that retirement is a bad thing, but the attitude that says, “I’ve worked long enough now I’m going to take it easy,” isn’t a Biblical one and it certainly doesn’t apply to serving the Lord.  You’re never too old to work for God; there is always something you can do for the kingdom.

They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The Lord is upright;he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.”. (Psalms 92:14c-15 | NIV84) 

The overall theme of Psalm 92 is God’s faithfulness and enduring love.  That’s a common theme throughout all of Scripture; the God who was faithful when you were young is the same God now that you are old(er) and He’s still just as faithful and loves you just as much.  Neither of these two divine attributes dwindles with the years.  Using the metaphor of trees, the psalmist makes it clear that age doesn’t diminish the believer’s ability to prosper and “bear fruit,” that is, live a life of righteousness that it is obvious to all that you are a believer.  A big, leafy tree cannot be hidden and an older Christian shouldn’t hide out of sight, either.

A good reason to live a fruit-bearing life into old age is so that the younger generation may be inspired.  Never underestimate the power of your good example.  A.B. Simpson made the comment:

Begin to rejoice in the Lord, and your bones will flourish like an herb, and your cheeks will glow with the bloom of health and freshness.  Worry, fear, distrust, care – all are poisonous!  Joy is a balm and healing, and if you will but rejoice, God will give power. 

He’s absolutely right!  You may not be in perfect health; you may creak a little when you walk and bend over, but you should ever rejoice in the Lord!  It’ll make you feel better and it will cause spiritual fruit to grow in your life.

Serve the Lord faithfully 

In your so-called golden years, you could sell your house, buy a boat and just sit on it all day, never interacting with anybody, or you could make yourself useful to the Lord, like good old Simeon did:

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.  It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. (Luke 2:25-26 | NIV84) 

Jesus was just a baby when His earthly parents brought Him to the Temple in Jerusalem to dedicate Him to the Lord, a custom of the day.  An elderly, devout believer was there, too.  Simeon, though old, wasn’t traveling the world and he wasn’t laying about his boat, or sitting on his porch in his rocking chair, but he was right where he should have been:  the house of the Lord.  God had told Simeon long ago that he would live long enough to see the Messiah, so we can understand why, holding God to His word, he hung around the Temple in expectation.  Who knows how long old Simeon held onto this Word from the Lord?  Yet here he was, waiting and looking and his patient faith was rewarded when he saw the baby Jesus.

But it wasn’t just an old man who was faithful.  There was an old lady too, a prophetess named Anna.  Like Simeon, she was faithful and never gave up on the Lord.

She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.  Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.  (Luke 2:37 – 38 | NIV84) 

Just like Simeon, Anna was still waiting for the redemption (the salvation) of Jerusalem.  But it wasn’t so much the event as it was the Word of God she clung to.  For her, and indeed for all faithful believers, there is joy in expectantly waiting for God’s Word to be fulfilled.

There are so many challenges in growing into middle age and passing middle age.  So many things change as we age; our circumstances, our bodies, some relationships, but serving the Lord and remaining faithful to Him should be a constant.  Billy Graham wrote some words of wisdom concerning this that deserve to noted:

Old age may have its limitations and challenges, but in spite of them, our latter  years can be some of the  most rewarding and fulfilling of our lives. 

He’s right, and sometimes it all boils down to your perspective.  You can spend a lot of time commiserating about the state of the world today and pining for the glory days of your youth, or you leave the past behind and embrace what God wants you to be doing now.  It’s certain that there is something He wants of you.

The Days of Our Lives, Part 2

 

boomers

In our series, All The Days of our Lives, we’ve looked at Millennials.  Now to tackle what some would call “Baby Boomers.”  This is the second-largest demographic group in America, and takes in those born between 1946 and 1964.  Baby Boomers range in age from 52 to 70.  This particular generation, sometimes referred to as the “post World War Two generation,” is marked by these characteristics:

  • They are generally competitive. Especially those born just after the end of the War who took advantage of a booming economy and the GI Bill, they had to face overcrowded schools and stiff competition for jobs.
  • They are work-centric. Baby Boomers are defined by what they do.  Many are workaholics and cannot understand why Gen Xers and Millennials aren’t.
  • They are independent. In the 60’s they were the counter-culture crusaders.  They were against “the man,” and wanted to change the world.  Traditionally, Boomers like to challenge existing systems and institution and relish the conflict which results.
  • They are goal-oriented.
  • They are achievement-oriented.
  • They are career-focused.
  • “Career” means so much to them, Boomers don’t want anyone “nipping at their heels,” so they compete for promotions and recognition and take those things very seriously.

Many – probably the majority – of Baby Boomers were raised in the church.  Though they may not have had a “conversion experience,” they are very familiar with the Bible and it’s values tend to shape their worldview.  It’s not unusual for a Boomer to talk about their faith but not attend church and, in fact, often view dedication to one’s church as “provincial.”

Yet the Church and the Bible have much to say to the Baby Boomers.  Let’s look at three issues in particular.

Blessings of Godly living 

Those in their 50’s, 60’s and 70’s are usually entering or well into their peak earning years.  The kids are out of the house, which is close to being or already paid off, and many Boomers face a sort of second chance to do the things they may have wanted to do but couldn’t because of the challenges of buying a home and raising a family.  Along with this new-found freedom comes the responsibility to live (or to continue living) a Godly life.  Boomers need to understand that living a righteous life will result in blessings flowing into it.  This goes against their habitual way of thinking:  Blessings are earned.

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.  But his delight is in the law of the Lord,and on his law he meditates day and night.  He is like a tree planted by streams of water,which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.  (Psalms 1:1-3 | NIV84) 

The thing that jumps off the page is not what the Godly man does, but rather what he does not do.  Generally speaking, Christianity is a very positive faith, but here the blessed man – who is blessed because he’s a Godly man – is known by some negatives.   He does not pay attention to what wicked people say; he does not fellowship with sinners or identify himself with those who mock the righteous.  The downhill progression is clever and obvious:

“Walk” suggests a casual or passing association with non-believers to the point where one takes their advice. “Stand” is a continued fellowship with persons consistently sinful in attitude and act. To “sit” with sinners  implies feeling right at home  with those who mock God and religion. The godly person is able to discern the downhill direction of wrong associations.

On the positive side, the Godly man loves the Word of God and it’s teachings are a part of his daily life.  He has successfully made the Bible the center of his thinking and decision making.  As we used to say in Sunday School,

The Christian is “Bible-bred, Bible-led, and Bible-fed.” 

Those who live Godly lives will be blessed.  It’s a fact; there’s no “perhaps” or “maybe” here.  God promises to bless those who live the righteous life.  Paul was somebody who discovered this to be true.

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through him who gives me strength.  (Philippians 4:11-13 | NIV84) 

You may not see the word “blessing” in that paragraph, but it’s there nonetheless.  “Contentment” might be the greatest blessing of all.  But it doesn’t mean what you think it does.  The Greek is a little complicated, but essentially what Paul is saying in verse 11 is something like this:

I  am adequate for every situation, having learned that circumstances don’t add or take away from my happiness. 

The Greek word carries the idea “competence.”  That’s a blessing!  A Godly person is competent in any and every circumstance of life.  That’s why the great apostle was able to write what he did in verse 13.  And mean every word of it.  David Brainerd observed:

We are a long time in learning that all our strength and salvation is in God. 

Blessing of the local Church 

Many pastors refer to “the church family.”  They’re referring to the members of a local congregation, and they are correct to do that.  When you regularly attend a local church, whether your name is on the roll or not, those people sitting in the pews all around you are members of your “church family.”  Here’s what Jesus said about that:

While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him.  Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?”   Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”  (Matthew 12:46-50 | NIV84) 

This little incident is so brief and apparently innocuous, most of us miss its significance.  Some commentators miss it, too.  It’s not that we ought to treat believers as though they were family, as far as Jesus was concerned, other believers ARE our extended family.  We become members of God’s great family when we become born again.  Richard Cecil, Anglican clergyman, remarked:

The Union of Christians to Christ, their common Head, and by means of the influence they service from Him, one to another, may be illustrated by the loadstone.  It not only attracts the particles of iron to itself by the magnetic virtue, but by this virtue it unites them one to another. 

But being part of this family necessitates actually fellowshipping with them.  If you aren’t in regular contact with your spiritual family members, you are estranged from them; there’s a rupture in that relationship.  Christians were created for fellowship, not only with God, but with each other.  Going to church is more than an excuse for take up a collection or the pastor getting you to mow the church lawn.  Paul put it best when he wrote to the Ephesians:

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.  Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.  From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.  (Ephesians 4:14-16 | NIV84) 

This paragraph speaks about the purpose for the various ministries that occur within any local church.  Baby Boomers may feel because of their hectic schedules or education or maturity they don’t need to regularly attend church.  That thinking is disastrous.  Here are Paul’s reasons for being part of a church family:

  • In verse 12, the ministries of the church serve to build up the faith of its members and teach it’s members how to share their faith with the lost;
  • Verse 13 indicates that church members are mature Christians. Maturity – spiritual growth – won’t take place outside of the church;
  • Verse 14 tells us that the world outside of the church is a dangerous place and that being a member of a local church and regularly participating in the life of that church enables you to stand firm in your faith; to discern truth from error. You’ll stand a better chance of staying out of the spiritual high weeds of error if you are in church.
  • Finally, we become more Christ-like the more we’re in church.

But belonging to a church is more than making sure your name in on the roll.  To be a part of God’s family resulting in receiving the blessing of being part of a local church begins with belonging to God first.  In Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament, we read this:

Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored his name.  “They will be mine,” says the Lord Almighty, “in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him.   (Malachi 3:16-17 | NIV84) 

A blessing of belonging to God is that He is always aware of us, all the time.  “They will be mine,” God said, indicating how He views His people:  We belong to Him – we are His possession.  Belonging to God guarantees our future as though we were His only child.  A.W. Tozer said this:

An infinite God can give all of Himself to each of His children.  He does not distribute Himself that each my have a part, but to each one He gives all of Himself as fully as if there were no others.

Blessing of honoring parents 

One of the challenges Baby Boomers face is taking care of their elderly parents.  Both the Old and New Testaments speak about the responsibility God’s people have for looking after – honoring – their parents.

Listen to your father, who gave you life,and do not despise your mother when she is old.  (Proverbs 23:22 | NIV84) 

“Listen” means not only hear, but “pay attention to” and “heed” what your father says.  Boomers are never too old to ignore the wisdom of their fathers.  To “despise” one’s mother is worse than hating her; the Hebrew means thinking your mother is “insignificant” or “unimportant.”

No doubt it’s challenging for Boomers, who have so many irons in the fire, to be as thoughtful as they should be where their parents are concerned.  But Billy Graham hit the nail on the head when he wrote:

A child who is allowed to be disrespectful to his parents will not have true respect for anyone. 

How a person treats their parents is a good indicator of that individual’s character.  But even more, remember the sixth commandment is the only one that comes with a blessing attached to it:

Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.  (Exodus 20:12 | NIV84) 

There are many ways to honor your parents, but as we grow we should be aware that even though we may not live at home and we may have raised our own families and maybe even live in other cities or states or even countries, our parents are still our parents and remembering them and caring for them are simple ways to honor them which result in God’s blessings upon their lives and ours.

The Days of Our Lives, Part 1

days

In America today, the largest demographic group is the Millennials – people born between 1980 and 2000.  As near as we can tell, there are upwards of 80 million of them, and not all of them are living in their parent’s basement, although many are.

In addition to that curious characteristic, here are a few things that characterize Millennials:

  • They are the most educated demographic in Western history;
  • They are technologically savvy, with mobile tech their passion;
  • They are civics oriented;
  • They are “conscious capitalists;”
  • They are less patriotic and more global in their thinking;
  • They are entrepreneurial;
  • They “pragmatic idealists,” believing in making their “dreams come true.”
  • They are socially liberal;
  • They are team players;
  • They are waiting much longer to get married;
  • They are non-religious but spiritual.

When we “baby boomers” understand how Millennials think and how they view their world, the things they say on YouTube and Twitter, how they vote, and why they don’t go to church make all the sense in the world.  As Christians, we need to understand something else:  The Bible speaks to the needs of Millennials, as it does to every other demographic.

Millennials, marriage, divorce, and the single life

Jesus’ disciples then said to him, “If that is how it is, it is better not to marry!”  “Not everyone can accept this statement,” Jesus said. “Only those whom God helps.  Some are born without the ability to marry, and some are disabled by men, and some refuse to marry for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. Let anyone who can, accept my statement.”  (Matthew 19:10 – 12  | TLB) 

Jesus had been talking to some Pharisees about marriage and divorce.  As was their style, these religious types had asked Jesus some tricky questions in order to trip Him up.  But they were not prepared for this Jesus’ full-throttled endorsement of marriage.  It came about like this:

Some Pharisees came to interview him and tried to trap him into saying something that would ruin him. “Do you permit divorce?” they asked.  “Don’t you read the Scriptures?” he replied. “In them it is written that at the beginning God created man and woman, and that a man should leave his father and mother, and be forever united to his wife. The two shall become one – no longer two, but one! And no man may divorce what God has joined together.”   (Matthew 19:3 – 5 | TLB) 

The Pharisees belied their view of marriage in the question they asked Jesus.  To them, marriage and divorce were a matter of legislation; to them it was about the law of the land.  But Jesus set them straight by taking them to the origin of marriage:  the Bible, and in particular, He went back to the very beginning, the book of Genesis.  While the Pharisees expected Jesus to talk about Deuteronomy and the law of Moses,  Jesus’ view of marriage predated Moses and was connected to the creation of man by God.  By our Lord’s reckoning, marriage is not the product of a particular culture or of a society’s evolution, but a creation of God Himself for man. 

And this is what Millennials, and in particular Christian Millennials, need to understand.  Marriage is based on the fact the God created “them” male and female, and “on that account” (KJV) of that, a man leaves his parents and shall become literally “glued” to his wife.  That’s a truth so subtle, most Bible readers miss it.  A man leaves home primarily to become forever (in life, anyway) attached to and identified with a woman!

But Jesus goes even further by indicating that no human being can break the bond between a man and woman that God Himself has created.  The implication of verse 5 is that any man who divides what God has, by His own creation joined together,  not only divides up two people, but he separates those two people from God’s will.  And that’s a serious thing!

Marriage is serious, but the Jews of Jesus’ day didn’t think so.  They, not the Americans, were the first to make divorce easy.  Originally, God’s concession to His people was that a divorce was permitted only on account of adultery.  But by now, a man could get a divorce for just about any reason.  Jesus, now talking to His disciples, said this:

Jesus replied, “Moses did that in recognition of your hard and evil hearts, but it was not what God had originally intended.  And I tell you this, that anyone who divorces his wife, except for fornication, and marries another, commits adultery.”  (Matthew 19:8, 9 |TLB) 

Jesus isn’t teaching His disciples about divorce, but about the serious, spiritual nature of marriage.  The disciple’s view of marriage, like that of Millennials of today, was shaped by their society.  They couldn’t get their minds wrapped around what the Bible really said about the issue.  What they said to Jesus proved that they didn’t yet have a Biblical worldview, but a secular worldview.  Essentially, their argument to Jesus was this:  If adultery is the only charge a husband can bring against his wife, isn’t it better to just stay single?  Making a statement like that shows that the disciples still thought that their societal norms carried more weight than the Bible and God’s will.  It wasn’t that the disciples were against marriage, but that they were reluctant to give up the Jewish ease of getting rid of a wife.  This whole exchange gave Jesus the chance to exalt marriage in order to show the seriousness of it.  Being in a committed marriage relationship is God’s plan for most people since the days of Creation, and the only way that happens is with the help of God:  “Only those whom God helps…”

Millennials and purity 

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins people commit are outside their bodies, but those who sin sexually sin against their own bodies.  Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.  (1 Corinthians 6:18 – 20 | TNIV) 

This is good advice for people of almost any age, but especially for Millennials.  In Paul’s day, Corinth had the deserved reputation of having a very immoral culture.  It was full of prostitutes and sex was a part of the local religious worship services.  Paul had become known as the preacher of the Gospel of freedom, and here’s how that sounded to the Corinthians:

You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.  (1 Corinthians 6:13 |TNIV) 

Paul was the master at theological tight rope walking.  He had written to another congregation this:

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.  (Galatians 5:1 | TNIV) 

But that freedom FROM sin didn’t mean freedom TO sin.  To the Corinthians who were concerned about what kinds of food to eat, freedom in matters of what to have for supper did not equal freedom to pursue immorality.  Which, apparently, was happening.  In verse 13, Paul quoted a saying that was popular in Corinth:  “Food for the stomach and stomach for the food, and God will destroy them both.”   Even though God is mentioned, this saying is about as far from Biblical reality as you can get.  That saying equates something temporal – food – with something permanent – the body.  The body is permanent in that at some point in the future, it will be resurrected.  The Corinthians had a misunderstanding of the resurrection, which the apostle addresses in depth in chapter 15.  But for now, he barely hints at it by linking their ignorance of Christian resurrection to their treatment of the human body.  The body, contrary to what the Corinthian Christians thought, is just as eternal as the spirit and the soul, and therefore it should be treated as something of infinite value. 

Unfortunately, the secular view of the body prominent in Corinth found a home in the church.  That tendency to view the body as unimportant was behind three separate issues Paul addressed in this letter:

  • A immoral member of their congregation involved in a heinous sexual sin, 5:1 – 13;
  • Lawsuits among believers, 6:1 – 11;
  • Sexual relations with prostitutes, 6:12 – 20.

Paul’s overriding point in these three separate issues is that a Christian can’t do what he wants with his body.  Each of the three issues he dealt with involved serious immorality.  The Christian was set free, but that freedom had nothing to do with getting involved with any kind of immorality, sexual or otherwise. 

Millennials tend to think a lot like the Corinthian Christians.  They are not in church and a lot of them have never been exposed to the teachings of Scripture and are therefore unaware of what it really says about issues, in this case, the issue of the human body as it relates to  moral purity.  “It’s my body, it’s my choice,” is the rallying cry of the Millennials.  And yet it isn’t.  Verse 15 drives home a point:

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never!  (1 Corinthians 6:15 | TNIV) 

In the context of this chapter, this verse makes it clear that union with a prostitute incompatible with the unity that exists between the Christian and Christ.  Immorality has a dreadful, real effect on the Christian that it doesn’t have on the non-Christian because the Christian has been united to Christ, but having sexual relations with a prostitute unites that Christian to her!

Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.”  (1 Corinthians 6:16 | TNIV) 

The Corinthians and Millennials, and indeed Christians from all age groups, need to understand that the unity achieved by any immoral sexual union is greater than they imagine.  It’s not just a physical union but a spiritual one.

But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.  (1 Corinthians 6:17 | TNIV) 

A born again Christian is in an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ – it’s a comprehensive union of both spirit and body.  The material and spiritual are one in this relationship, which is why immorality is a sin against the body and against God because the body is the temple of the Spirit and has been bought by the blood of Christ.  Therefore, nobody – no Corinthian and no Millennial – is free to do what he wants to with his body.

The ultimate purpose of the body is to manifest the character and person of God, not one’s own lusts.

 

 

 


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